Laboratory Testing and Field Investigations

We have extensive resources on this subject. Below are general works on laboratory and field testing. In addition to these we have special pages with the following:

Earth Manual

U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation
Part I, Third Edition

The manual provides current technical information on the field and laboratory investigations and construction control of soils used as foundations and materials for dams, canals, and many other types of structures built for Reclamation projects in the United States of America. It contains both standardized procedures that have been found desirable for securing uniform results throughout the Bureau, and general guidelines intended to assist but not to substitute for engineering judgement.

  • Chapter I describes the Unified Soil Classification System developed jointly by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers, Department of the Army, from the system proposed by Professor A. Casagrande of Harvard University, and discusses the various properties of soils relating to engineering uses.
  • Investigations of soils are covered in chapter II which describes the various stages of investigation corresponding to the stages of development of the Bureau projects, and gives technical information necessary for planning and executing explorations and for presenting the results.
  • Chapter III presents information on the control of construction from the soils standpoint, for both foundation treatment and compaction control of fills. In addition to a general treatment of the subject applicable to all types of earthwork, separate sections are devoted to problems of rolled earth dams, canals, and miscellaneous construction features. For each of these, information on design features and usual specifications provisions are given to provide control personnel with a background to assist in implementing the recommended control techniques.

The appendix contains detailed procedures for sampling, classification, and field and laboratory testing of soils. Instructions for installing and obtaining information from instruments that measure pore-water pressures and displacements within and adjacent to earth embankments are also included. A tabulation of conversion factors commonly used in earth construction is included at the end of the appendix.

Book Currently Out of Print

Evaluation of Soil and Rock Properties

Geotechnical Engineering Circular No. 5
April 2002

This document presents state-of-the-practice information on the evaluation of soil and rock properties for geotechnical design applications. This document addresses the entire range of materials potentially encountered in highway engineering practice, from soft clay to intact rock and variations of materials that fall between these two extremes.

Information is presented on parameters measured, evaluation of data quality, and interpretation of properties for conventional soil and rock laboratory testing, as well as in situ devices such as field vane testing, cone penetration testing, dilatometer, pressuremeter, and borehole jack. This document provides the design engineer with information that can be used to develop a rationale for accepting or rejecting data and for resolving inconsistencies between data provided by different laboratories and field tests.

This document also includes information on: (1) the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Personal Data Assistance devices for the collection and interpretation of subsurface information; (2) quantitative measures for evaluating disturbance of laboratory soil samples; and (3) the use of measurements from geophysical testing techniques to obtain information on the modulus of soil. Also included are chapters on evaluating properties of special soil materials (e.g., loess, cemented sands, peats and organic soils, etc.) and the use of statistical information in evaluating anomalous data and obtaining design values for soil and rock properties. An appendix of three detailed soil and rock property selection examples is provided which illustrate the application of the methods described in the document.

Geotechnical Investigations

Click on the title above to download.

USACOE EM 1110-1-1084
1 January 2001


  • EM 1110-1-1804, Geotechnical Investigations, 29 February 1984
  • EM 1110-1-1906, Soil Sampling, 30 September 1996 (this manual includes a copy of that one)

This manual establishes criteria and presents guidance for geotechnical investigations during the various stages of development for civil and military projects. The manual is intended to be a guide for planning and conducting geotechnical investigations and not a textbook on engineering geology and soils exploration. Actual investigations, in all instances, must be tailored to the individual projects.

Geotechnical investigations are performed to evaluate those geologic, seismologic, and soils conditions that affect the safety, cost effectiveness, design, and execution of a proposed engineering project. Insufficient geotechnical investigations, faulty interpretation of results, or failure to portray results in a clearly understandable manner may contribute to inappropriate designs, delays in construction schedules, costly construction modifications, use of substandard borrow material, environmental damage to the site, post-construction remedial work, and even failure of a structure and subsequent litigation. Investigations performed to determine the geologic setting of the project include: the geologic, seismologic, and soil conditions that influence selection of the project site; the characteristics of the foundation soils and rocks; geotechnical conditions which influence project safety, design, and construction; critical geomorphic processes; and sources of construction materials.

Soil Mechanics Level I: Unified Soil Classification System

Soil Conservation Service

A training module for the Unified System of soil classification. Includes several lessons and an extensive glossary.