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Cost expectations for Soil testing

Cost expectations for Soil testing

Cost expectations for Soil testing

Hi all, I've been perusing the forums and am learning already; it seems there are many knowledgeable folks here.  I'm learning some of the skills needed to be an owner/builder for my future 32x24' 1.5 story SIP home in the eastern Ontario bush somewhere between Bancroft and Huntsville.  We don't have the land yet, but we are serious about learning and planning - I will likely provide a 24x32 general structural layout design for an engineer to fix/stamp then submit permit applications and do most labour myself with some help where heavy equipment and experienced advice is needed.  How do Geo Engineers charge for their work, and what work could I do (assuming I have land) that might help prepare for piers in terms of geo investigation/pier foundation prep?  Do geotechs charge by the hour or by the project?  What are some fee examples for soil parameter testing for foundation, well and septic selection?  Which soil properties should I look for to build a pier foundation?  With that, I can consider soil properties when buying my land.  I hope to gain some knowledge from those gracious enough to share their time and experience with me.

RE: Cost expectations for Soil testing

In my opinion to be truthful, it will be cost prohibitive for you to bring out any type of drillrig to your site unless you are very lucky and one is working "next door" and will not charge you any mobilization. Hopefully you bought a good site - see comments below.

When I was working out of Toronto some 17 years ago - the cost of an investigation went something like:

Mob/demob of drill:  Then about $60/hr or some charged by km.
Drilling - hourly basis - then over $100/hr
Expendables - not too bad

Sometimes backhoes may be enough - likely a local small contractor who would charge you by hour to and from his place.

Engr - mob and demob:  km for car and pay by hour for time.
Work:  hourly basis - likely $75/hr now.
Report - say $500, if simple
Lab testing: if on shoestring - say $150 assuming very straight forward conditions.

Septic field - percolation tests - take time - I have no idea but long ago, they might cost $200 or so as extension of time on site.

You might be better off, at a start, to discuss with the local building inspector - he would know what areas have "poor" house building sites and what areas are of little concern.  Sometimes you might get lucky and find previous data from nearby.

If you land is hilly, that creates some problems; if in lowlands - other problems.  This is where knowledge ahead of any involvement by a geotechnical engineer may prove valuable.

If you know of a backhoe around, dig a few test pits outside the planned area of your house.  See if rock is close.  See if soils are "soft" or "hard".  Do you have a lot of water coming into the test pit?  Having this information, then contact a geotechnical engineer; give him the information you have - be truthful.  If you have collected samples of the materials encountered, so much the better.  I know some Toronto area geotechs who have cottages up there and if you find one who is visiting, you might be able to get him to do a quick check for next to nothing - of course, he has to protect himself and his firm - and I believe, now, he will have some forms to fill out for the building permits.

The bottom line, costs may be relatively small if you have a good site - costs will go up especially for investigation if you have a crummy site.

RE: Cost expectations for Soil testing

The cost depends so much on the local geology of the area. Some area needs very minimal investigation which will cost less especially if the area is underlain by  shallow rock. You can do your own desk study by inquiring the neighbors if they conducted   getech investigation in their premises. Other suggestion is to consult a local geotech Engineer for advice who might have a knowledge of the area. I don't recommend to take backhoe and excavate yourself  for sampling  without the presence for geotech Engineer or experience guy because there many unknown under the ground.  

RE: Cost expectations for Soil testing

Mercycity had many very good points.
Consult a local Geotech Eng. (if one is available?)
The local consultant might have some idea if the soils are poor, acceptable of unknown for a house in your area.

Asking your neighbour about his/her house will also give you an idea if you are on a peat bog (more expensive foundation) or if the ground is hard/stiff (cheaper conventional foundation).

If you need to bring in a Geotech consultant and a drill rig from a distant town it can be pricey for residential structure, but we still do many of these types of investigation each month.
By my rough estimate, the prices Big H previously mentioned can be more than doubled for 2011.

Good luck
Keep me/us posted



RE: Cost expectations for Soil testing

Be prepared to be flexible about locating the structure on your site.  The location with the best view may also have the worst soil conditions.  I assume the Ontario government has a soil conservation service like in the US.  Get a map of your site from them.  Try to get an aerial photo of the site.  The types of vegetation growing will help identify water courses, bogs, etc.  Walk the site and take pictures.  Are there rock outcropings, tall trees, steep slopes, springs or seeps? Draw them in on the soil map and give your engineer a copy to aid the design.  Shallow borings can be done from a tripod but the SPT test is probably not doable with it because of the hammer weight and drop height.

The suggestions for discussions with the local building department and vacationing engineers are great and should be followed.  Discuss the project and the rates with some geotech engineers and drillers to get an idea of the price range.


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