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Ground Investigation Techniques – Hand Sampling

Ground investigation techniques vary depending on the objectives of the investigation, the strata, and logistical factors such as access.

To assist with understanding what factors contribute to the decision on which technique to use, we have prepared a briefing note on the use of hand sampling techniques. Further techniques will be discussed, so keep an eye open for them!

Hand Sampling

Summary: Hand sampling of soils can be a swift and low cost approach to soil sampling, requiring short mobilisation time and significant flexibility.

Equipment: The equipment is normally hand tools, which may include a spade, scissor spade or a hand auguring tool (as shown in the picture).

Time: The sampling can be undertaken quickly, as it is often reliant only on one or two members of staff. The work can cover a large area in a single day.

Costs: This is a relatively low-cost technique, as it doesn’t require any specialist equipment.

Depth: Typical maximum of 1m.

Coverage: Up to 10 locations in a day, though this depends heavily on the ground conditions.
Constraints: Inevitably, hand excavations require ground conditions suited to unpowered excavations (no good if there is a significant covering of heavily compacted ground). Groundwater and ground gas monitoring installation not possible.

Best used when: Looking for surface or near surface soil contamination. Often used as a technique to validate imported topsoil, or delineate an area of contaminant impact within surficial soil.

Get in touch

agb Environmental has a team of geo-environmental (contaminated land) and geotechnical specialists that can assist with ground investigations and assessments for development projects.

To discuss what ground investigation technique may be suitable for your development, call Simon Pike (Principal Consultant) on 01638 663226 (Newmarket office) or email