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Soil Test Cost Guide
Updated: August 18, 2022
Your soil’s content around your home and backyard can impact your family’s health and landscaping efforts. Whether you are considering a renovation project, digging for a well, or adding new plantings around your home, testing the soil can alert you to possible problems. Considering the costs of dealing with problems, such as an infected water supply, if soil issues go untreated, it is well worth the cost of these basic tests.
The national average cost for soil testing is around $700 and $1,800, with most homeowners spending around $1,200 for a pH level test along with pesticide residue, heavy metal, and industrial chemicals. This project’s low cost is $400 to test soil pH levels. The high cost is $5,000 to test for harmful contaminants, pH levels, petroleum products, solvents, and soil-shifting factors.
Soil Test Cost
|Soil Test Prices
|National average cost
What Is a Soil Test?
Soil testing is when the various elements in the ground are removed and measured to determine the soil’s contents. The amount of various nutrients, such as zinc, phosphorus, copper, potassium, manganese, calcium, sulfur, magnesium, and sodium, are measured from a sample. The amount of each substance can determine relevant fertilizers, if the soil has enough strength to place a building, or if deficiencies need to be corrected.
Taking a soil sample involves removing a core or slice of soil from the Earth. This is typically about 4” deep for yards and up to 8” deep for gardens or farms. These samples are taken from around 10 to 12 areas on a property. The samples are mixed in a bag and labeled to indicate where they came from. Next, the soil is analyzed to determine the amounts of substances.
Labs interpret the soil analysis to show if different nutrients are high, medium, or low. Taking soil samples before building or throughout the process of running a garden or farm can ensure changes to the soil are noted and handled when they occur.
Soil Test Price by Test Type
Checking your soil for contaminants can be as simple as checking the pH level or as complicated as determining whether your soil can support your proposed construction project. The degree of testing you administer depends on the reasons you are doing it and how much information you need. The more comprehensive the analysis, the more expensive the testing.
|Turf Soil Testing
|$20 - $100
|Sulfur and Boron Testing
|$25 - $100
|A La Carte Services
|$30 - $50
|$35 - $75
|$50 - $80
|$50 - $300
|$55 - $65
|Heavy Metal Screening
|$70 - $200
|$100 - $125
|$270 - $300
|Oil Tank Soil Testing
|$500 - $550
|$500 - $570
|$600 - $675
|$600 - $800
|Boring (15' Deep)
|$1,000 - $1,200
Turf Soil Testing
Turf soil sampling cost is $20 to $100. Turf, also known as grass, needs the proper conditions to thrive. Homeowners can spend thousands of dollars replacing a lawn that repeatedly dies because of soil issues. Even grass that appears nice and green may develop problems if ingredients are missing from the soil. A healthy environment for grass ensures it can stand up under drought, insects, disease, and cold weather conditions.
Sulfur and Boron Testing
The average cost for this testing is $25 to $100. Sulfur and boron testing detect deficiencies in soil nutrients. The proper amounts of sulfur and boron are needed for crops to grow. Correcting an inadequate amount of sulfur and boron allows farmers to fix the problem before plants are impacted. Plants subjected to low sulfur and boron produce significantly smaller vegetation, stunted stems, and harvest less herbage.
A La Carte Soil Test
The cost of a la carte soil testing averages $30 to $50. A la carte soil testing determines specific components in the soil. These are single tests that look for contaminants like lead, pesticides, or E. coli. These tests are used when a specific contagion is suspected and in areas where older homes are located. Historic area soil can contain substances that were not always known to be harmful and could include oils, petroleum, solvents, or industrial chemicals. These tests are called a la carte because the homeowner can choose test items.
Soil Ribbon Test
The soil ribbon test usually costs $35 to $75 to test the soil’s texture. Soil texture testing determines the type of soil present (sand 2, clay, etc.). This simple test helps you know what to mix with your soil before planting. Soil texture is vital because many plants do not grow in certain soils. It is similar to the composition test, but the soil texture test is less extensive and is not used for construction purposes.
Specific Gravity of Soil Test
The price for the specific gravity of soil test averages $50 to $80. Gravity soil testing is figured by the ratio of the unit weight of soil solids to water. The results show how much water your soil can hold. This is a vital part of the growth process. Too much or too little water can kill entire crops. In terms of building, soil that holds too much water shifts and creates foundation problems. Soil that is too dry may also move, causing cracks in the home’s base.
Soil Fertility Test
Fertility testing costs $50 to $300. Soil fertility testing is useful for determining the growing capabilities of the soil. The outcome is a comprehensive report on the chemicals and minerals found within the soil (nitrates, potassium, phosphorus, etc.) Farmers use this testing to see which plants prosper and prepare the soil for a better harvest. One example is an NPK test, which focuses on nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels.
Haney Soil Test
The cost of the Haney soil test is $55 to $65. Farmers use the Haney soil test to learn about the soil’s overall health. It is often a deciding factor in crop management. This method is popular because it provides information on what should be done to improve the soil for maximum growth potential.
Soil Testing for Heavy Metals
This test ranges from $70 to 200. The excessive presence of heavy metals in the soil, such as lead, arsenic, copper, zinc, cadmium, chromium, nickel, and selenium, affects the health and wellbeing of your family or plants. These tests specify which heavy metals are in the soil so that proper measures can be taken to decrease levels to a safer amount. This can be a problem in older or residential subdivisions where commercial work was previously done.
Soil Compaction Test
The soil compaction test costs $100 to $125 per testing location. The number of locations depends on the property size and if there are different areas with multiple soils. Only one test is required for a small ¼ acre lot with the same soil throughout the property. A soil compaction test checks the soil’s moisture content, searches for air pockets, and calculates soil density. Once the test is done, the results help the builder determine what should be done to make the soil compact so that the home does not shift or crack. Repairing problems with air pockets also prevents frost damage and improves ground stability.
Basic Soil Profile Test
A basic soil profile test costs $270 to $300. It determines the soil profile from the ground to the rock bed. Basic soil profile testing reveals the soil’s characteristics. It offers an overview of organic matter and substances like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, sulfur, magnesium, iron, and copper. It does not include information concerning toxins or pollutants that could harm you and your family.
Oil Tank Soil Testing
The cost of soil testing for oil contamination is $500 to $550. When an oil tank is buried in the ground, it is essential to make certain there is no leakage into the ground surrounding it. This problem can lead to several health issues if left untreated. Oil tank soil testing involves taking samples from the entire perimeter of the tank as if it is leaking in one area and not another.
Soil Advanced Profile Test
The cost for this test is $500 to $570. An advanced profile test determines the soil’s structure and components, including fertility. It analyzes various contaminants, such as arsenic, copper, lead, mercury, zinc, soil acidity, and substances tested in basic profile tests. It is a complete look at the soil makeup in preparing land for construction or farming. An advanced profile test is essential when poisonous or harmful substances are suspected.
Soil Composition Test
The soil composition test costs $600 to $675. A soil composition test determines the soil type for constructing a building or home. There are three soil compositions: clay, sandy, and loamy. Clay tends to expand and is slow draining. Sandy soil drains quickly, which is a problem because it dries out and cannot retain nutrients. Loamy soil is the perfect combination because it drains properly and holds the correct amount to stay strong and hold. Once the test is completed, the builder can determine the right action to add dirt and modify the soil composition.
Soil Perc Test
Expect to pay between $600 and $800 for this test. A soil percolation or perc test determines the best location for a well or septic system. It measures the time it takes for water to penetrate (or percolate) into the soil. The test is done by digging a hole, filling it with water, and calculating how long it takes for the water to absorb into the soil. Before starting construction, the test may be performed in several areas.
Soil Boring Test
This test can be expensive, depending on how many boring tests must be done and how deep. Borings start at 15’, and it costs $1,000 to $1,200 for two borings. Soil boring is done where the ground is very sandy, wet, or consists of expanding clay. Foundations in these conditions shift and crack. Builders or owners can be held liable for homes that later sink or move. A soil boring test is a good preventative. A 15’ boring is typically done in two places, but it may require more, based on the findings. The analysis determines many factors, including the appropriate foundation, how much drainage is required, where groundwater is directed, and what fill dirt should be added.
Soil Analysis Cost by Testing Laboratory
The soil analysis cost is the part of the test completed by the laboratory. There are many soil analysis labs in the country, and some specialize in certain services or regions. Prices for basic and advanced soil testing are provided. Basic soil testing includes testing for common substances in the soil. The advanced soil testing includes everything in the basic profile, nitrate, and ammonium. The sampling process must be done by a landscaper or soil engineer and carries an additional cost.
The four main nationwide testing companies are Waypoint Analytical, Ward Lab, Logan Labs, and Midwest Labs. Their soil test prices range from $10 to $45. Waypoint Analytical specializes in home and landscape, agricultural, and environmental locations and offers analysis of turf, soil, gardens, and drainage or sewer construction. Ward Lab provides feed, plant, soil, water, and manure analysis across North America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Logan Labs offers consulting and analytical services for agricultural needs. Midwest Labs provides tests in the commercial field for chemical and biological needs with a focus on water quality, agricultural production, real estate transactions, and more.
|Average Cost Basic Soil Testing (Lab Only)
|Average Cost Advanced Soil Testing (Lab Only)
|$10 - $20
|$20 - $30
|$10 - $20
|$20 - $30
|$20 - $30
|$50 - $60
|$25 - $35
|$35 - $45
Why Should a Homeowner Perform Soil Testing?
Soil testing is not something most homeowners consider. However, it is an essential step before beginning major digging. Here are a few examples of situations when soil testing is necessary.
|Type of Test Required
|$70 - $200
|$270 - $300
$500 - $570
$600 - $675
$600 - $800
|$500 - $570
|Adding an In-Ground Pool
|$500 - $570
$600 - $675
|Drilling a Well
|$600 - $800
The ground is full of natural minerals and heavy metals. Testing for heavy metals costs $70 to $200. Certain heavy metals can be dangerous to humans, especially if left behind by manufacturing or farming. Lead and mercury are two metals that have been linked to developmental problems in children, making it important to ensure levels are not high before you build. Other metals in your soil may include arsenic (common in old orchards), zinc, copper, and vehicle exhaust (if you are close to a major roadway). Most heavy metals are only present in the first two inches of soil, so it is often easy to fix the problem.
Soil Testing for Construction
Testing for toxins is vital, especially when industrial land has been converted to residential land or older areas. This requires a basic soil test and costs $270 to $300. An advanced soil test costs $500 to $570. This also requires a soil composition test to see if there's anything that needs to be added to the soil. This costs $600 to $675. Any time a foundation is laid, the soil should be tested for contaminants to see if the ground is sturdy enough to withstand the weight. A quality analysis tells your engineer what the soil is, its density and compaction, and if it is strong enough to support the construction. A perc test is also necessary to evaluate both the soil and the site to accommodate a septic system to dispose of sewage under the ground. This should be done for $600 to $800.
An advanced profile test should be done for $500 to $570. It does not matter if you are planning a family garden or adding an orchard to your property, it is always a good idea to test the soil for possible chemicals (pesticides), heavy metals, bacteria like E. coli, and more. Soil testing can also alert you to problems in the soil that could make growing plants difficult. Once you know what is in your soil, you and your landscaper can make the necessary adjustments to ensure it is ready for your favorite plants.
Adding an In-Ground Swimming Pool
Have an advanced soil test to check for toxins, which costs $500 to $570. It may also be necessary to do a soil composition test to determine if anything must be added to the soil. Testing for new pool construction costs $600 to $675. Testing the soil before digging for a new pool is essential to ensure the ground is sturdy and no bad elements can get into the family swimming pool.
Drilling a Well
Drilling a well requires a percolation test, costing $600 to $800. Chemicals, minerals, or pesticides in the soil can leach into well water, making your family sick. Even nearby runoff filled with E. coli that does not directly enter the well area can be dangerous. Information gathered during the testing process can help find the best location for your well and septic system and identify drainage issues.
Soil Engineer Cost
How do you know which soil professional to hire? That depends on why you are testing your soil in the first place. If you want an overview of the ground where you plan to add a garden or other plantings, a landscaper can handle the job for $50 to $100 per hour. However, if you plan a larger project like a home addition, well, or septic system, you may need a soil or geotechnical engineer to determine the soil’s characteristics and mechanics. This pinpoints the correct foundation to build and if soil conditions pose risks to the building project or people.
Hiring a soil engineer to come out to your site for an inspection costs $65 to $300 an hour plus the test price, depending on the property location and size. In most cases, the soil engineer is hired by the homeowner, but some labs can handle this process. Soil testing may also be done by labs or technicians experienced with the process.
What Does a Soil Test Tell You?
Soil is found in many types. The type you have can impact how well plants grow and what construction can be safely completed. When scientists and engineers test the soil before a project, they are looking for several things. Knowing what your soil expert is looking for and why can help you better understand the final report submitted following soil testing.
- Color: the color can tell you about its composure, including its contents, drainage, and fertility.
- Compaction: loose soil allows water to drain and oxygen to flow, which is good for plants.
- Moisture content: soil needs the correct amount of moisture. Too little and nothing can grow, but too much and the wrong things can grow in it. Checking the moisture content can help see small problems and deal with them before becoming large ones.
- Organic content: the correct mix of organic compounds in the soil is vital for growing the right plants. Finding out what the soil always has versus what it may be lacking can go a long way toward growing the plants you want.
- pH level: the acidity of the soil can greatly influence plant growth.
- Profile: one of the best ways to determine the soil’s health is a complete workup or profile, which tests different components for several inches or feet.
- Structure: testing the soil’s structure shows how well roots, water, and air penetrate it.
- Temperature: soil temperatures can vary with depth and structure, affecting plant growth.
- Texture: sandy soil cannot retain moisture for long, while clay soil has difficulty losing it. This seriously impacts what can be grown in or built on. That is why it is important to test the soil texture before any project.
Soil Report Cost
Reading a scientific soil report is not easy without help. The report can be as short as a single page for a simple lead 2 test to dozens of pages for a complete report studying every aspect of the soil. Most reports run about 5 to 12 pages. In most cases, the report is broken into areas, offering results for individual tests.
While your soil expert should do their best to make this final report as easy as possible to read, there still may be scientific lingo that you will find hard to understand. Ask plenty of questions and have your soil engineer go over the report in detail, so you know exactly what it says. Expect results within 5 to 10 business days after taking samples. Additionally, the soil expert can recommend what can be done to improve the situation.
As some technical wording can be difficult to understand, an interpretation should be received with the report. If none is given, request one because it should be included in the pricing. Recommendations are an important part of the soil test results so that the next steps are apparent. There may be an extra cost of $10 to $400 per test report if multiple ones are needed. This may be the case if the property is large and several tests are needed. It could also be needed if different tests are needed for specific purposes. The cost for the soil report is part of the price of testing and is free with payment of soil testing services.
Geotechnical Survey Cost
Many people use soil reports and geotechnical surveys the same way, but these are two different services. Geotechnical surveys are created by traditional or engineering geologists. A geologist focuses more on seismic and natural conditions than an engineer. In many cases, both professionals create a full-featured survey. This survey includes information about fault zones, hillside areas, and high groundwater areas. On the other hand, a soil report focuses on the soil composition rather than the conditions and special features of a piece of land.
Two soil boring tests at 15’ of boring with a geotechnical report costs $1,400 to $1,600. A geotechnical survey is a test done in areas where building is planned. The testing determines which changes or improvements should be made to build safely. A geotechnical survey is completed if an area is prone to sinkholes, earthquakes, has the wrong soil, or requires special foundational safety regulations. An engineer completes the survey, and the report is done by lab analysis. We discussed soil boring in a previous section. This is the process for the survey results. Boring is done in sections 15’ to 20’ deeper.
How Long Is a Soil Test Good For?
When building a home, soil testing does not need to be done frequently. After the soil test has been done for the building, it is typically good for up to 5 years. Unless more buildings are installed, no further testing may be needed. Most homeowners only require soil testing if new buildings or homes are placed on a plot of land. However, there are exceptions. If the land is used for farming or gardening and manure is applied or the soil’s pH and nutrients must be verified, soil testing should be done every 3 to 5 years.
When to Soil Test?
Weather conditions impact soil test results, so they should be conducted during a dry time. If you are hoping to use the results to improve your gardening area, you may want to do the test in the early spring or fall. This gives you time to make necessary adjustments and improvements before planting season.
Soil testing that requires a soil engineer for construction in high-concern areas may require additional testing throughout the building of the home. This ensures nothing changes in the soil’s compaction or stability during the building process. The soil test should occur before the planning for home building is complete. For example, soil bearing capacity reports give you insight into how much weight the area can hold, which is needed to determine the subfloor. Sites that are difficult due to the soil composition are more expensive to build a home on. A soil test is also recommended when adding a new gardening area to ensure the area is suitable for plant growth.
Soil Testing Regulations
Regulations and laws related to soil testing vary based on your location. Speaking with the county health department can clarify if you require soil tests for specific situations. Ensuring you have the needed information reduces the chances of problems as you move forward with future projects.
In many cases, soil testing is required before a building project. Soil profile varies with location, so a soil report is needed before deciding on the final building plans for homes or other buildings. The professional builder handles this process in some cases, but this is not always the case. Make sure you find out beforehand so that it can be taken care of by you or someone on your team.
There may be other situations where soil tests are required, depending on the location. Certain soil test results can impact other projects on the property. Understanding the soil’s reactivity ensures there are no physical or chemical issues that could damage a building or create other problems.
What Is Soil Remediation?
Soil remediation is cleaning polluted or contaminated soil after the soil has been tested. The most common pollutants include lead, pesticides, petroleum hydrocarbons, and heavy metals. Contamination can also be caused by waste from landfills or ruptured underground storage tanks. Oil and fuel dumping, applying fertilizer, and mining can also create pollution in the soil. There are three major ways to remediate polluted soil.
Soil washing is the first and uses water and other products to clean the soil. Pollutants are suspended or dissolved in a wash that separates the soil based on the size of the particles. Fungi and bacteria break organic pollution in the second method called bioremediation. The last method is thermal desorption and involves heat. This increases how volatile the pollution is so that it can be removed from other materials. Contaminants are destroyed or collected in the end.
Soil Remediation Cost per Acre
Basic soil remediation cost per acre is about $1,000 to $2,000. When clean soil is being blended into existing soil, the price can go up to $12,500 to $17,500. However, this price option is uncommon because most soil remediation is priced by the cubic yard. Some professionals offer per-acre pricing for large amounts of land, while others do not. The companies that offer acre-based prices often clean smaller amounts of soil by the ¼ or ½ acre or cubic yard measurements.
Soil Remediation Cost by Method
If the soil is contaminated, there are ways to remove or immobilize the toxins. Soil remediation allows for the soil to be re-energized and purified. This must be performed by a professional who understands the science behind the remediation. There are five basic ways to remediate soil.
|Soil Remediation Cost per Cubic Yard
|$20 - $80
|$40 - $235
|$40 - $250
|$55 - $150
|$180 - $310
The cost of bioremediation is $20 to $80 per cubic yard. Bioremediation is used when organic contaminants, such as solvents, wood preservatives, or petroleum, are in the soil. Microorganisms are used to change the makeup of the toxins to a harmless product. This is used to treat fungus, bacteria, and other issues.
The cost for this procedure is $40 to $235 per cubic yard. Heat is the key ingredient in thermal desorption remediation separation systems. When applied to a toxin, it enables it to be separated and removed from the soil. Thermal desorption has limited use and is most effective on VOCs and fuels or SVOCs, PAHs, PCBs, and pesticides, depending on if it is a high or low-temperature application.
Soil stabilization costs $40 to $250 per cubic yard. Physical and chemical means trap contaminants within the soil and stabilize them. To ensure the toxins are immobilized, leachability testing is done. This is because some contaminants may still be present in the soil as they may have leached into it. The targets to stabilize are usually inorganics, but it depends on the system.
The cost of soil washing is $55 to $150 per cubic yard. Soil washing is a remediation method where a chemical additive cleans the soil and then is removed. It requires six steps: pretreatment, separation, coarse-grained treatment, fine-grained treatment, process water treatment, and residuals management. The soil is then used as backfill on a project. It is an EPA-approved technique to remove organic and inorganic contaminants.
Soil excavation is typically a large project removal, priced at $180 to $310 per cubic yard. Soil excavation involves the removal and relocation of contaminants to a safer site. It encompasses a wide range of toxins. The contaminants are moved off-site for treatment or to a confined disposal facility.
Enhancement and Improvement Costs
Fast-Track Soil Test
Evaluating your soil samples usually takes about 2 weeks when working through a local college or university. While this is often the least expensive way to obtain the results, you may want to send the samples to a private laboratory if time is sensitive. They can often email you results within 2 to 5 business days. This may cost $30 to $100 more.
Soil pH Adjustment
A soil pH adjustment may be required if there are missing minerals, such as calcium, lime, gypsum, and potassium. To correct your soil’s acidity or alkaline, you may need to add limestone 5 or sulfur fertilizer. A fertilizer company can help determine what is needed and apply it to reach the proper levels. This costs $30 to $40 a month.
Testing water is an essential part of keeping your family safe. Water can be infected with bacteria, toxins, or other harmful substances that result in illnesses. Water testing costs $30 to $500. If there are excessive contaminants in your water, you may need a water filtration system that costs $2,100 to $3,300.
Additional Considerations and Costs
- Permits and licenses. If you are doing a pH test for your garden, you probably do not need to worry about obtaining special permission. However, you may need to obtain a building permit from your local zoning authority when drilling holes for a more intensive look. The best way to ensure you are not breaking ordinances is to talk with your soil engineer or call the municipality’s zoning office. The most important preparatory step before any digging project is to call 811 to be sure not to damage utility lines.
- DIY. Basic test kits are available at the local home improvement store. Remember, there are different tests to choose from. One that works for determining the nutrient level in a garden is different from the one meant to help you grow a thicker layer of grass. It is always best to call in a professional when trying to determine your soil type, where to drill for a new well, or the safety of an area.
- Testing analysis centers. Where you send your soil samples for testing can impact the results. For example, when looking for specific nutrients or lack thereof on a farm, you may want to consider sending them to an experienced farm extension university lab rather than a private one. Depending on where the lab is located, the cost of running the test could be higher. Still, having the most experienced scientists review your samples may be worth the added cost, depending on your circumstances.
- Soil testing after digging the foundation. In most cases, soil testing is done after digging the foundation and before the footings 3 are formed. This way, you do not pay for expensive drilling. Post-digging soil testing costs $800 to $1,200. If more holes need to be bored, the cost may rise to $1,800 to $2,000. Commercial projects cost more at around $3,000 to $5,000 because the tests must usually be done before digging. The process costs more because large machines must be brought in to bore multiple holes for the tests.
- Soil samples per size of land. In most cases, soil samples only need to be taken for every 20 acres of land. This means the average homeowner should only need one for most purposes. However, there may be situations where soil samples should be taken for smaller spaces. For example, you might want to sample soil in multiple places for farming or gardening. Speak with a professional to get the appropriate soil samples for your needs.
- How often should soil testing be done?
Soil testing is needed before building a new home or adding larger projects, such as a sewer system or inground pool. Soil testing also helps when planting a vegetable or fruit garden because the soil must be safe to grow these. If you live in an older area, testing the soil is wise because contaminants from the past may be buried in the soil.
- How much does a soil boring test cost?
A basic soil test runs about $270 to $400, but if you need to bore from the surface to the rock bed beneath, the cost can rise to $1,500 or more.
- How long does a soil test take?
Most soil tests can be completed in a few hours. If large machinery must be brought in to dig multiple holes throughout the property, the entire process can take 1 to 2 days.
- How much does a soil compaction test cost?
A more complicated endeavor, a soil compaction review costs about $100 to $125 per testing location.
- What will a soil test tell me?
Soil tests can tell you almost anything about the ground, including which chemicals are found there, nutrient deficiencies, mineral compounds, soil type, contamination level, and the ability to build safely.
- How do you do a soil test?
You can test the soil around your home in various ways. Basic tests explain how to dig the appropriate soil and mail in the sample, but hire a professional to come in and take samples for the best results. This may involve digging small holes in your yard and removing a cup of soil or drilling larger ones with specialty equipment.
- How long does it take to remediate soil?
It depends on the amount of soil and how badly it is contaminated. Soil remediation may only take a few days or turn into weeks or months.