It may seem at times that there are almost too many soil testing methods, but many are developed to fit certain scenarios or address issues with other testing methods. This is the case with the sand cone test, which is used to determine soil compaction and is an alternative to using a nuclear density gauge. But does this mean the sand cone test is worth using when working on construction sites?

The Pros and Cons of the Sand Cone Test

There are many benefits to performing a sand cone test, especially for those relying on a nuclear density gauge. With a sand cone test, you can get similar results at a much lower cost, without the need for radioactive material. The cost of the sand cone test apparatus is also fairly low, making sand cone testing relatively inexpensive. The apparatus consists of a plastic container, a metal cone with a valve and a high density base plate. Its also relatively small and portable, making testing possible pretty much anywhere.

The sand cone test has its fair share of negatives as well, including:

  • Easy to compromise samples during testing. Soil samples are sensitive to vibrations, shifting of particles, and any errors in set up of the test site
  • Samples that contain mixed particles can be less accurate
  • Samples that contain too much moisture content can be less accurate
  • Long result time: 20 minutes (vs. nuclear gauge which only takes 1 minute for results)

Technicians, of course, should be aware of the limitations of the sand cone test as many factors can skew its results. In other words, the sand cone test may not be worth using when working on construction sites, except to confirm observations and inform opinions about soil moisture and density. This is especially true when you consider that more accurate and advanced soil testing methods like Cone Penetration Testing are now readily available. Our S4 CPT Push System, for example, can be mounted to any commercial skidsteer and can offer consistent, accurate results, regardless of soil composition or conditions.
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