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Getting started with a basic soil laboratory

Getting started with a basic soil laboratory

Getting started with a basic soil laboratory

Dear Seniors,

First of all I will like to thank for your attention, basically i am a Civil engineering who just graduated a few months ago and do not have too much experience, I work for an environmental laboratory in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is trying hard to conserve the environment and diminish the contamination and to improve that we want to start a soil laboratory to obtain soil samples in gas stations to verify if there is contamination of the soil due to gasoline leakage.

In order to obtain those samples i believe we would need an SPT equipment but our goal is to use the equipment not only for samples but also to provide Soil Strength data.

While searching I found out about the CPT which is new to me and i have never heard of anyone in this country that would use that equipment, so I will like to know if it is better to use CPT over SPT? and if you could advice me as the nob that I am with a few tips on how to start, most likely we would have to purchase all the equipment from the US so I would really appreciate if you could recommend brands and sellers who you know have good quality and good prices.

with nothing else to add i thank all of you in advance, by the way those who help are invited to visit my place in Costa Rica and enjoy some days at the beach :)

RE: Getting started with a basic soil laboratory

Is it possible for you to go and visit a geotechnical company in the States for some training? Or could you folks hire a consulting engineer for a few weeks to advise you? Sure you can get tips here, but there is nothing like a mentor to help in this situation.

RE: Getting started with a basic soil laboratory

Hi Carlos
I think it is better for you to read the soil mechanics books to find out the advantage & disadvantage of both CPT & SPT.

RE: Getting started with a basic soil laboratory

Thanks a lot for your kind answers, I find it hard to visit the states and it would be more possible to hire a consulting engineer Oldestguy, i already entered in contact with a few companies and I got a few quotes regarding SPT equipment.

And look may I know exactly which book are you talking about? I would love to take a look at it to enhance my understanding of this tests

RE: Getting started with a basic soil laboratory

First, good luck and I'm glad that you and Costa Rica are trying to make a possitive difference. I'll actually be traveling to Costa Rica (San Jose and west) for a couple of days on vacation at the end of next month.

As for your specific question, CPT does not provide samples. Therefore you can not test the soil for contamination.

There are other drilling methods that are quicker and generally cheaper than SPT borings that are often used for environmental projects. However those drilling methods do not provide strength data, which is one of your secondary goals.

Mike Lambert

RE: Getting started with a basic soil laboratory

In order to get set up for the SPT you need power equipment. It can be done by hand but very difficult.
I suggest calling Central Mine Equipment company that sells a great inventory of drill rigs and equipment. I don't see a book from them, but do some searching on the NET for "Split Spoon sampling" Or "Standard penetration Test".

CME phone number is 314-291-7700
Here is the CME catalog in PDF format.


Also there is Acker Drill Company who were about the first company to have drill rigs capable of doing what you need. I had my first experience out doing STP jobs on a Acker Drill rig in 1954.

Their phone number is 570-586-2061

Each of these companies probably should be called and explain your situation. I think it really is not wise to try to get going on yur own since too many details in doing this work are involved.

Take a look at this U tube video. No sound, but you can see a drill rig and the sampler.


this video is about as low cost a way to do it, but you need at least a powered cat head. The diagram leaves out some important details.


These guys (India?) are doing it but the hard way. Only goes to shallow depth with that rig.
You's get pretty tired of this method quickly. IN most cases you need a hole (cased) to the depth yu need to sample.


RE: Getting started with a basic soil laboratory

Mr. Gow started the Spt work and this note has some history of it. Mr. Fletcher noted there did a lot of the early work with it for Raymond Concrete Pile company. Mater of fact the procedure was call Gow sampling once.


Note there are references to some ASCE papers on the subject, probably somewhat difficult to find.

This one is more recent. On the video note how by hand the speed of work slows down.


ASTM has a standard procedure for this test,

You can buy it from them.


You can see it is not something to just read about and do.

RE: Getting started with a basic soil laboratory

hand auger and a shelby tube driver.

RE: Getting started with a basic soil laboratory

A good source of reference information on laboratory and field testing of soil for engineering works is the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. They had a text for this years ago called "earth manual". However, now it is published in three parts. It can be purchased from their "book store". Here is their listing of books and you can find the various editions there.

However, on line, at usbr.gov I see that it is in pdf format there. However, today (Saturday) the Internet is so busy I could not bring it up.

As to soil testing laboratory equipment, one of the suppliers is Humboldt.


At their web site you can see there is a dealer representative in San Jose

RE: Getting started with a basic soil laboratory

Hello, Thanks Mike I hope you have a great time here.

And OG thanks for all of your help I already got the ASTM standard for this Test and I am currently studying some documents one of them from the usbr.gov now you got me quietly some info to read about I am in debt and thanks for thos contacts, I will be studying more about this Test before we do the purchase of the equipment.

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