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How can I test for soil type(s)?

You wanna be a soil tester? Nice! Below are a few ways you can test your soil, but it is best to always consult with a qualified professional builder, contractor or engineer to determine and verify which material you have and if it's applicable for your situation... I know... too wordy, right?

OK, so as we talked about in the last issue, OSHA classifies soils into three (3) main types. These are...

  • Class A

  • Class B

  • Class C

Testing what type of soil you have is really quite simple and easy. It does take a little elbow grease and getting dirty, but don't worry. It'll wash off...

Here we go...

First things first, do a visual inspection of the soil. When examining the material in your hands, see if it stays clumped (A), clumps but falls apart (B), or doesn't clump at all (C).

Note it is always best to test soil upon excavation or as early as possible for most accurate results.


Plasticity Test

The plasticity test, which is sometimes called the “pencil test”, is used to determine if the soil is cohesive. This test is performed by rolling a moist soil sample into a thread or pencil shape that's one-eighth of an inch thick and two inches long.

If the sample can be held at one end and bend without breaking, it is cohesive. Notice how the sample stays in one piece. This would be considered Class A soil. If the sample does stay together by itself but easily breaks apart upon bending, it is considered Class B. If the sample does not stay together at all, then this would be Class C.

Thumb Test

Another way to test soil is called the ol' thumb test. Simply place a clump of material in one hand, and press your thumb flat into the material. If it takes great force to just make an indentation, this would be considered Class A material. If your thumb presses to your thumb nail with some ease, this would considered Class B material. If your thumbs sinks all the way through the clump, this would be considered Class C material.

So you little Dirt Tester, what type of material do you have, and what type do you need? Hopefully this will help you make the right decision for your application. But as stated earlier, talk to a qualified pro to help make the right choice.




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