ICC Subscriptions
1806.2 Presumptive load-bearing values. The load-bearing values used in design for supporting soils near the surface shall not exceed the values specified in Table 1806.2 unless data to substantiate the use of higher values are submitted and approved. Where the building official has reason to doubt the classification, strength or compressibility of the soil, the requirements of Section 1803.5.2 shall be satisfied.

Presumptive load-bearing values shall apply to materials with similar physical characteristics and dispositions. Mud, organic silt, organic clays, peat or unprepared fill shall not be assumed to have a presumptive load-bearing capacity unless data to substantiate the use of such a value are submitted.

A presumptive load-bearing capacity shall be permitted to be used where the building official deems the load-bearing capacity of mud, organic silt or unprepared fill is adequate for the support of lightweight or temporary structures.

Where the load-bearing capacity of the soil has not been determined by borings, as specified in Section 1803, the presumptive load-bearing values listed in Table 1806.2 are intended to apply in the design of shallow foundation systems.

While fill material (unconsolidated), mud, muck, peat, organic silt, soft clay and other unprepared fill materials are considered to have no presumptive load-bearing value, soil tests may show that they do have some limited load-bearing capacity and, based on this type of evidence, the building official may approve the construction of lightweight structures upon such soils.

The presumption is that the building official possesses sufficient technical knowledge on the character and behavior of subsurface materials to render a valid judgment on the adequacy of the soil to support satisfactorily the lightweight or temporary structure, or he or she has sought and gained specific advice through consultation with professionals who are competent in the field of foundation engineering. It would be an unwise practice to authorize construction on exceptionally weak soils without the benefit of technical knowledge to make judgmental decisions.


(psf/ft below natural grade)
Coefficient of frictiona
Cohesion (psf)b
1. Crystalline bedrock
2. Sedimentary and foliated rock
3. Sandy gravel and/or gravel (GW and GP)
4. Sand, silty sand, clayey sand, silty gravel and clayey gravel (SW, SP, SM, SC, GM and GC)
5. Clay, sandy clay, silty clay, clayey silt, silt and sandy silt (CL, ML, MH and CH)

For SI: 1 pound per square foot = 0.0479 kPa, 1 pound per square foot per foot = 0.157 kPa/m.

a. Coefficient to be multiplied by the dead load.

b. Cohesion value to be multiplied by the contact area, as limited by Section 1806.3.2.

The values in Table 1806.2 are intended to be lower-bound allowable pressures to be used where the bearing value is not determined by borings as specified in Section 1803. The classes of soil and rock listed in Table 1806.2 are those materials most commonly found at construction sites around the country. The allowable foundation pressures expressed in terms of pounds per square foot (psf) for each class of subsurface materials listed in Table 1806.2 are based on experience with the behavior of these materials under loaded conditions.

Should local soil conditions be significantly different than those listed in Table 1806.2, then, with the approval of the building official, local experience can be employed in the design of foundations, particularly where actual load-bearing values are less than the allowable unit pressures given in the table.

Whether the allowable load-bearing values of Table 1806.2 are used or local conditions on soil capacity prevail, many precautions must be taken in the design of foundation systems that are not regulatory functions of the code, but rather are the professional considerations and design applications of those who are engaged in foundation engineering. The building official needs to pay particular attention to proper selection of the allowable load-bearing capacity of the soil because it is the source of many foundation failures. The problem arises when the load-bearing material directly under a foundation overlies a stratum (or strata) of weaker material having a smaller allowable load-bearing capacity. The selection of the load-bearing value to be used in the design of the foundation should take into account the load distribution at the weaker stratum (or strata) so that the pressure on the soil does not exceed its allowable load-bearing capacity. In this respect, it is important to have a soil profile showing the classes of material at the construction site or at properties in the near vicinity of or adjacent to the area of construction. Such information can be a part of the records or other data required by Section 1803.6 or the results of a soil investigation.

With this information, the building official can consult with the registered design professional in charge of the foundation design to ascertain that due care was exercised in adopting proper soil load-bearing values.