Even if you already have a solid grasp of what Cone Penetration Testing is and how CPT rigs test soils, understanding soil test results is a bigger task. You likely already know that CPT rigs are equipped with automated interpretation programs, but that doesn’t mean test results are easily readable right away. Fortunately, even if you aren’t a technician, it is possible to gain some understanding into soil test results. Read on to find out how.

The basics of soil test results

At the most basic level, the results of CPT testing are based on the relationship between cone bearing, sleeve friction and pore water pressure. With these three measurements, you can learn quite a bit about soil composition and conditions. For example, friction ratio measured by the sleeve is used to determine soil type. Soil is then classified according to the Unified Soil Classification System (USCS).

CPT can also measure:

  • Soil parameters
  • Computer calculations of interpreted soil behavior types (SBT)
  • Additional geotechnical parameters

It’s also possible to determine temperature shifts and zero load offset through the use of baseline readings. This essentially means comparing test results to those generated from initial testing before work begins on a site. With careful observation, it’s possible to determine even more about the soil tested. Some examples include noting trends in water content to determine the type of soil (ie, sand does not retain water as well as clay) and knowing that larger values of cone resistance and sleeve friction usually indicate coarser soils, while lower values tend to indicate fine-grained soils.
Although they won’t put you on the level of a trained technician, these basics should make soil test results much easier to understand. More importantly, with this information in mind, you should have a much greater understanding of CPT testing as a whole.