Getting Down to Business
Soiltesting, Inc. offers decades of expertise to ensure firm foundations
Lots of builders and contractors talk about completing a project from the ground up. But what about what’s going on under the ground? That’s where Jim DeAngelis and Soiltesting, Inc. come in.
Jim is the President of Soiltesting, Inc., a company specializing in subsurface investigation and foundation repair. Founded in 1958 by Jim’s father, Robert, a civil engineer, the organization has 60 years of experience in geotechnical investigations, such as test borings and rock coring. Jim, who holds a Master of Science degree in Engineering Geology from McGill University, came on board in 1984 and has been President of the company since 1991. Originally founded in Ansonia, Connecticut, Soiltesting, Inc. now headquarters in Oxford, Connecticut.
“Our primary business has always been completing test borings and subsurface investigations to gather geotechnical data on soils and rock,” Jim says. “The information we gather is used primarily for foundation design or design parameters for any construction below the surface. It’s a necessity for foundations, bridges, highways, dams, roadcuts and many other projects. The information we provide on soil types and soil strengths is vital.”
In 2001, Jim decided to expand by adding helical pile installation, foundation repair and foundation settlement issues to his company’s offerings.
“We saw the need for it and when we first began doing pile installation, it was for the remediation of settling foundations,” Jim says. “We used the piles as a method of underpinning foundations that have experienced settlement to stop or arrest the settlement, or to lift the foundation back to its original position. It was really an organic growth out of what we were already doing. It was taking the next step. When we’re asked to do subsurface investigations to find out why a building has settled, we also get the information to determine what the best corrective measure or pile system would be. Now we’re able to take it to the next step–not just gather information but also perform the fix.”
In addition to soil testing and foundation repair, Soiltesting, Inc. also does environmental investigations and well monitoring, and is OSHA-trained and certified to work on hazardous waste site investigations designated ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D.’ Jim says his business is approximately 85 percent commercial, industrial and municipal work, with the other 15 percent in residential. Unlike many industries, soil testing and test boring hasn’t changed much in the last 60 years, Jim says. There has been advancement in the machines and tools to make them safer, more efficient and more powerful, and potential productivity has increased as a result, but the basic work remains the same.
“Test borings are about 65 percent of our work,” Jim says. “Piles are about 35 percent of the work. We also work very closely with several geotechnical consultants. They give us assistance, as needed, with design recommendations for foundation work, underpinnings and so forth.”
While the work itself has changed little, the same does not hold true for the size of Soiltesting, Inc. itself.
“When I arrived in 1984, the company was doing $200,000 per year in business,” Jim says. “Our growth receipts doubled every year until leveling out at about $3 million to $4 million per year. We’re still a relatively small organization, but we’re now up to 20 employees. We subcontract out a very small portion of the work we do. We do 95 percent of our work in-house with our own manpower and our own equipment.”
Foundation of Success
The company’s growth is powered by a client list of more than 500 contacts, Jim says, who call on Soiltesting, Inc. again and again when they need the company’s services. Approximately 98 percent of Jim’s business comes from repeat customers.
“As long as we keep them satisfied, they keep calling us back,” Jim says.
That repeat business has kept Jim and his team busy. Recently, Soiltesting, Inc. completed a project in Bedford, New York, working on the site of a proposed sanitary sewer system. They completed more than 300 test borings and probes on the site, at relatively shallow depths of 15 to 50 feet, testing the strength and composition of the soil. They’re now preparing to start a micropile underpinning project at a condominium complex in Shelton, Connecticut, to repair a foundation that has settled over time and needs to be elevated again.
Boring is Never Boring
Soil is different in every location and a variety of factors above ground and below combine to make each job different in its own way, Jim says.
“We just completed several test borings with an electric powered rig in the subbasement of a major hospital in Manhattan,” Jim says. By its nature, digging holes in the ground can be a little dirty, and trying to do the work in the sanitary environment of a hospital required some extra attention to detail. “That was a challenge. We had to put up dust barriers all around the work area within the site and pay close attention to the containment of water we used in boring to prevent contamination in the hospital itself.”
“We had another very challenging project last year,” Jim adds. “We completed a micropile installation project on a very steep slope. Just to do the work, we required the assistance of a crane to get access for the pile installations.”
Jim is proud of the many years of success behind Soiltesting, Inc. and the way the organization has grown on his watch—as well as the network of contacts and relationships formed over time, and his track record of proving the value of his firm’s services to general contractors, developers and owners.
“It’s not uncommon for the property owner or the developer to be reluctant to spend any money on test borings,” Jim says. “Or they may attempt to spend the least amount possible—particularly if they’re new or haven’t experienced many problems before. But it’s very valuable information we provide. You need to know what’s going on in the ground beneath you. In the long run, it’s going to save you many times the amount of money you put into it.”