How Much Does It Cost to Test Soil and What Does It Include?

Katy Willis
Written by Katy Willis
Updated February 24, 2022
Woman using soil PH meter in her vegetable garden
Photo: deyangeorgiev / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Home garden soil tests cost as little as $15

  • Soil sampling for a 500-acre farm costs up to $750

  • Geotechnical testing costs up to $5,000

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It might sound strange to test your dirt, but there are many reasons why it's a good idea, ranging from checking to see if you need to amend or fertilize your garden beds to checking for potentially harmful contaminants like lead or E.Coli. The cost of soil testing ranges from $15 for a home kit to test your garden soil pH or NPK, to $5,000 or more for a geotechnical test to establish whether the soil is suitable for construction. 

The cost varies so much because there's so much difference in the amount of sampling, labor, and reviewing required with each type of test, along with how much the test materials themselves cost.

National Average CostMinimum CostMaximum Cost
$1,410$15$5,000

Cost to Test Soil by Test Type

There are many different types of soil testing, and which one you need depends on what you're testing for. Simple at-home tests tell you the basics about your soil, such as the current pH or what nutrients your soil is missing. However, more comprehensive tests may be required before construction projects or if any kind of contamination is suspected.

Type of TestSoil Test RangeAverage Cost
Garden Soil Testing$15 – $200$110
Lawn Soil Testing$20 – $100$60
Sulfur and Boron Testing$25 – $100$60
Specific Contaminant Soil Testing$30 – $50$40
Soil Texture$35 – $75$55
Gravity of Soil Testing$50 – $80$65
Fertility of Soil $50 – $300$175
Heavy Metal Testing$70 – $200$135
Basic Soil Profile Testing$270 – $300$285
Oil Tank Soil Testing$500 – $550$525
Advanced Soil Testing$500 – $570$535
Soil Composition Testing$600 – $675$640
Geotechnical Testing$1,000 – $5,000$3,000

Garden Soil Testing

Garden soil testing costs $15 to $200. A basic at-home test that requires no lab processing comes in at the lower end of this range—but the results you get are pretty limited and usually just tell you the soil pH and nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels. More complete tests that require lab processing sit at the upper end of this range, but include more detailed information about your soil's composition and nutrient profile.

Lawn Soil Testing

Lawn soil testing ranges from $20 to $100. You can expect to pay closer to the $20 mark if you plan to do it yourself. If you're planning to seed a new area or have issues with an existing lawn with persistent dead patches, ill health, or just poor growth and performance, it's advisable to do a lawn or turf test. 

These kits contain everything you need to sample your soil at home. Some have at-home processing so you get basic answers fast, while others that provide more detailed results usually have to be sent away to a lab for processing. 

Testing the soil in your lawn tells you what your soil is lacking or has too much of and lets you strategically plan and add the right amendments to remedy the issues and grow a healthy lawn.

Sulfur and Boron Testing

Sulfur and boron testing costs $25 to $100 and is a smart test to order if your plants exhibit smaller vegetation, stunted growth habits, and reduced fruit yield. Sulfur and boron are important but often overlooked nutrients; they have a significant impact. So, if you already have problems or are planning a new growing space, this is a test worth using.

Soil Texture

Soil texture testing costs $35 to $75 and is also known as ribbon testing. It's an easy and inexpensive test that tells you the basic composition of your soil:

  • Sandy

  • Clay

  • Loamy

  • Silty

  • Peaty

  • Chalky

Once you know the basic makeup of your soil, you can find the plants that thrive in those conditions or add the right amendments to rectify issues such as compaction and lack of drainage in heavy clay or the lack of moisture retention in excessively sandy soil.

Specific Contaminant Soil Testing

Individual tests to look for the presence of single specific contaminants cost $30 to $50, on average. You'd use a test of this type if you suspect a specific contaminant may be in your soil, as these tests are less expensive than broad-spectrum testing kits. For example, if you suspect lead in the soil, it costs less to purchase a test for lead than a broader heavy metal contamination test kit. 

Homeowners often use these types of tests when they suspect or want to eliminate a single contaminant, such as lead, E. coli, petroleum, or solvents.

Gravity of Soil Testing

Gravity soil testing costs $50 to $80 and tells you how much water your soil can hold. It's an important test if you plan to grow a fruit or vegetable garden, as the water content of your soil, its ability to retain moisture, and to what degree will determine the success or failure of your growing space. 

Similarly, this test is commonly undertaken during the planning stages of a construction project. It's used to determine if the soil retains too much water or drains too well. In either case, cracks can appear in a building's foundations of any structure built on the site. Once the contractor has this information, they can determine what amendments need to be made to make the ground suitable for construction.

Fertility of Soil

Biologist performing fertility test at pineapple fields
Photo: Nitat Termmee / Moment / Getty Images

Soil fertility testing costs $50 to $300 and is a more comprehensive study of the soil's composition than the standard garden test kits. With this kind of test, you get a full nutrient profile of your soil, showing how fertile it is, what's lacking, and what you can do about it. This lets you replenish missing nutrients and plan to grow plants that will thrive in your specific soil.

Heavy Metal Testing

Heavy metal soil tests cost $70 to $200 and, as the name implies, test for the presence of potentially harmful heavy metals. This is a broad-spectrum test and looks for multiple heavy metal contaminants, including, but not limited to:

  • Arsenic

  • Cadmium

  • Chromium

  • Copper

  • Lead

  • Nickel

  • Selenium

If the test identifies any of these harmful substances, you can then take steps to rectify the issue. Heavy metal contamination is a common problem with soil in older residential areas or residential areas that were formerly commercial areas. 

Basic Soil Profile Testing

Basic soil profile testing costs $270 to $300 and provides a detailed breakdown of the composition of the soil, but it goes beyond the standard top few inches sampled in garden and turf testing. 

With a soil profile of this type, the test examines the soil's makeup from the surface down to the bedrock, giving you a more complete picture. However, it still doesn't provide you with any information about contaminants. 

Advanced Soil Testing

Advanced soil profiling costs $500 to $570 and provides a complete picture of your soil, including its structure, composition, nutrient profile, and levels of a range of potentially dangerous contaminants, including heavy metals. 

Oil Tank Soil Testing

Oil tank soil testing costs $500 to $550 and is essential if you have or previously had an oil tank buried on your property. This soil test identifies whether oil has been leaking from the tank and spreading through the surrounding soil, which would be a serious health hazard. It's costly because soil has to be taken from around the whole perimeter of the tank and sent to a lab for processing.

Geotechnical Testing

Geotechnical testing costs $1,000 to $5,000 and determines the suitability of the land for the construction of a home. This type of comprehensive test involves multiple individual tests that look for safety, suitability, and stability. It can also help to determine what type of foundation works best, how much drainage is required, where to put drainage, what fill dirt to use, and where to direct groundwater. 

Here are some of the key components to geotechnical testing and their typical cost ranges:

  • Soil Compaction Testing: $375–$650

  • Soil Percolation Testing: $100–$1,000

  • Soil Boring Testing (2 bores, each 15 feet deep): $800–$1,400

  • Soil Composition Testing: $600–$3,000

  • Advanced Soil Testing: $500–$570

Soil Testing Cost Breakdown

Generally, the materials for standard test kits cost $10 to $150. However, some tests, such as geotechnical testing, require heavy, expensive, specialized equipment, hence the higher price tags of these types of tests. 

Labor varies depending on the amount of work involved but, for a chemist or lab technician to review your tests, you can expect to pay $100 to $200 per hour, or $1,000 to $2,000 per day. While some test results are quick to process and review, others require a deeper, more time-consuming technical analysis. 

If you require a technician on site, expect to pay an additional $50 to $100 per hour, or a day rate of $300 to $800

Cost to Perform a Soil Test Yourself

You can perform a basic soil test yourself for as little as $15. However, at this price point, the information that you'll get will be fairly basic. But, in some instances, such as if you're just checking the pH to see if it's acidic enough to grow blueberries, that basic information is all you need. 

However, when a more detailed report is necessary, you cannot do the test yourself unless you have access to a processing lab and the skills to complete the scientific analysis. You can, however, often save money by collecting the samples yourself so you don't have to pay for an on-site technician. 

For specialized tests, such as geotechnical soil testing, you really can't do any part of it yourself. That's because the equipment needed to gather all the appropriate samples is cost-prohibitive to the average homeowner and requires a high degree of specialized knowledge.

FAQs About Soil Testing

What type of soil is best to build on?

The best type of soil to build on is a mixture of sand and clay, known as loamy soil.

Why is it important to test soil?

It's important to test soil in gardens to know the soil composition to improve crops and plants. During construction, soil tests are essential to ensure the home won't shift once complete. 

How often should I soil test?

You should test garden soil every 3 to 5 years. If the plants are not growing well, an additional soil test is wise.

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