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Sand Cone Test Equipment

Sand Cone Test Equipment

The Sand Cone Density Apparatus Set is an inexpensive method of determining in-place density of soils. The Voluvessel can be used to determine density of soil when testing compacted earth fills.

Certified Materials Testing Products offers Sand Cone Test Equipment as part of a expansive line of soil testing supplies and equipment. Our Sand Cone Test Equipment can be used to measure the density of soil in place by volume replacement of sand or liquids in a hand-dug hole. This includes the ASTM D1556 or AASHTO T191 Sand Cone Test or D2167 VoluVessel Methods.

The sand cone is a widely recognized soil testing procedure that measures the density of soils, primarily aimed at determining the soil compaction level of earth embankments, base courses under pavements, and other structural foundations. This test is essential in construction to ensure the soil has been compacted to the desired density, thereby achieving the necessary stability and strength for the proposed structure. The method involves using a sand cone, a base plate, and sand of known density to fill a test hole in the soil being tested.


The sand cone test consists of several key components and steps to accurately measure the density of soil and moisture. The primary equipment includes the sand cone apparatus, which is a bottle filled with uniformly graded sand, a base plate, and calibration tools to measure the density of the sand. The process begins by digging a hole in the soil to be tested, collecting the excavated soil to determine its moisture later.

Once the test hole is prepared, the sand cone apparatus is used to fill the void with sand from the bottle, allowing the sand to fill the hole completely and form a small cone on the surface. The weight of the sand required to fill the hole is measured, and from this weight, the density of the soil can be calculated. This calculation is based on the known density of the sand used in the test, the weight of the sand required to fill the hole, and the total volume of the hole.

Importance of Compaction

Soil compaction is critical to numerous projects as it increases the soil's density, reduces permeability, and enhances the soil's load-bearing capacity. Achieving the maximum dry density through compaction efforts is vital for the stability of the structure being built. The sand cone test method allows for the determination of the soil's max density and moisture at the time of testing, which are key factors in assessing the compaction level of the soil.

The Role of Moisture

Moisture plays a significant role in achieving maximum soil compaction. The optimal moisture level allows for the soil particles to move more freely and pack together more tightly when compacted. The sand cone measures the moisture content of the soil sample collected during the test, which is then used to compare against the optimal moisture content for the soil type being compacted. This comparison helps determine if the soil has been compacted to its maximum density or if further compaction efforts are required.


One of the main advantages of the sand cone test is its ability to provide results for density of soil and moisture content in the field. The equipment used is relatively simple and portable, making it easy to perform tests at various locations across a construction site. Additionally, this method can be used on both fine-grained soils with appreciable amounts of moisture and granular soils containing coarse material, offering versatility in its application.

Execution and Accuracy

For best results, the sand used in the test must have a known and constant density, which is typically determined through calibration procedures before testing begins. The accuracy of the sand cone test is highly dependent on the precision of the testing equipment, the uniformity of the sand, and the care taken by personnel performing the test. Proper training and adherence to standardized procedures are essential to minimize errors and ensure accurate, consistent results.

Considerations and Limitations

While the sand cone test is an efficient and reliable technique for soil density testing, it has its limitations. The size of the test hole can restrict the use of this method on soils containing large rocks or other debris that cannot be easily removed. Furthermore, the accuracy of the test can be affected by the moisture content of the sand and the environmental conditions at the test site.


The sand cone is an indispensable tool in the field of construction, providing critical information on soil density and compaction that directly impacts the stability and longevity of structures. By meticulously measuring the in-place density and moisture content of soils, construction professionals can make informed decisions to ensure the groundwork is adequately prepared to support the demands of the project. Despite its limitations, the simplicity, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of the sand cone method make it a preferred choice for density testing in various projects.

Browse our selection of Sand Cone Test Equipment from our variety of tools and supplies below.

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Even more on the Sand Cone Test 

The sand cone test, a vital soil testing method, plays a crucial role in construction projects by determining the in-place density of soils, particularly in scenarios involving wet soil or when assessing the compaction of soil samples. This test method is instrumental in achieving the desired soil compaction levels necessary for the stability and safety of various structures, from residential buildings to large infrastructure projects. Understanding the principles, procedures, and importance of the sand cone test provides insight into its significance in the construction industry.

Principles of the Sand Cone Test

The foundation of the sand cone test lies in its ability to measure the dry density of soil by displacing a portion of soil with sand from a calibrated cone device. This test method is preferred for its accuracy and reliability in determining the unit weight of soil in its natural state. The process involves excavating a small hole in the test area, filling it with sand from the cone apparatus, and then calculating the volume of the hole based on the weight of the sand required to fill it. This method allows engineers to determine the soil's density by considering the weight of the displaced sand and the excavated soil's moisture content.

Execution of the Test

The execution of the sand cone test involves several critical steps to ensure accurate and results. Initially, a representative portion of the soil is excavated to create a test hole. The volume of this excavation is then filled with sand from the sand cone, allowing for the displacement of the same soil volume with a known material. The weight of the sand required to fill the hole is measured, and this data is used to calculate the dry density of the soil in question.

During the test, special attention is paid to the control and precision of sand filling, ensuring that loose particles do not alter the final density values. The flow of sand is carefully managed to achieve uniform filling, with techniques and calculations meticulously applied to determine the soil's mass, volume, and ultimately, its dry density.

Importance of Accurate Measurements

Achieving accurate measurements is paramount in the sand cone test, as even minor discrepancies can skew the results and lead to misinterpretations regarding soil compaction. Engineers and construction personnel use scales, weighing apparatus, and standardized procedures to compare retained soil samples with the volume of sand used, ensuring that each portion of the test is performed efficiently and accurately.

The device and methods employed are subject to strict operation controls to minimize the possibility of errors that could compromise safety or lead to construction delays. Every step, from digging the hole to weighing the filled apparatus, is executed with precision to ensure the test results are representative of the area's soil conditions.

Adaptability and Training

The adaptability of the sand cone test allows it to be applied across various soil types and construction sites, making it an indispensable tool in the engineer's toolkit. However, the effectiveness of this testing method is highly dependent on the skill and training of the personnel involved. Construction companies invest in training their employees in the art and science of conducting the sand cone test, emphasizing the importance of accurate data collection, communication, and adherence to established testing practices.

Ensuring Construction Quality and Safety

The sand cone test results play a crucial role in making informed decisions about soil compaction, material selection, and construction techniques. By determining the dry density and moisture content of the soil, engineers can select the appropriate compaction equipment and methods needed to meet the project's specifications. This ensures that the foundation or embankment being constructed has the necessary strength and stability to support the intended load without risking damage or failure.

Applications and Considerations

While the sand cone test offers numerous benefits, including the ability to provide accurate and reliable results for soil density, it is important to be aware of the test's limitations and considerations. Factors such as the size of the excavation, the presence of rock or coarse material, and the soil's moisture content can influence the test's applicability and results. Engineers must select the test site and method carefully, considering these variables to ensure that the data collected accurately reflects the soil's condition.


The sand cone test remains a fundamental technique in soil testing, providing critical insights into the density and compaction levels of soils at construction sites. Its ability to deliver accurate, reliable results makes it an essential practice in ensuring the quality, safety, and longevity of construction projects. By understanding the principles, execution, and importance of the sand cone test, construction professionals can continue to build with confidence, knowing that the foundation beneath their projects meets the highest standards of stability and strength.