Vibro compaction is a ground improvement technique that densifies clean, cohesionless granular soils with a downhole vibrator. It’s a technique first developed by Keller in the 1930s that we’ve used on thousands of projects since.

Vibro compaction technique illustration

Common uses

Reduce foundation settlement
Increase bearing capacity, allowing reduction in footing size
Increasing stiffness
Increasing shear strength
Reduce permeability
Mitigate potential for liquefaction
Provide slope stabilization


The vibrator is typically hung from a crane and lowered vertically into the soil under its weight and vibrations. Penetration is usually helped by water jets integrated into the vibrator assembly. After reaching the bottom of the treatment zone, the soils are densified as the vibrator is raised in lifts. During vibro compaction, clean sand backfill is typically added at the ground surface to compensate for the decrease in soil volume from the densification process. The vibratory energy reduces the inter-granular forces between the soil particles, allowing them to move into a denser configuration, typically reaching a relative density of 70 to 85%. The treated soils have increased density, friction angle, and stiffness. Compaction is achieved above and below the water table.

The improved soil characteristics depend on the soil type and gradation, spacing of the penetration points, and the time spent performing the compaction. Generally, the vibro compaction penetration spacing is between 6 feet and 14 feet, with centers arranged on a triangular or square pattern. Compaction takes place without stresses in the soil exceeding the overburden stress, which ensures permanent densification.

The use of clean sand backfill during vibro compaction allows the original site elevation to be maintained. However, on sites where the planned final grade is below the existing grade, no backfill is added, resulting in lowering of the site surface elevation during compaction.

Vibro compaction allows the use of economical spread footings with acceptable settlements and design bearing pressures generally in the range of 5 ksf up to 10 ksf. The process also reduces the seismic liquefaction potential. The required treatment depth is designed for each project and is typically in the range of 15 to 50 feet with a maximum depth of 120 feet.

Vibro compaction rigs can be fully instrumented with an onboard data acquisition system. Data from the system, such as amperage and lift rate, are recorded and displayed in real-time alongside specified target values on an in-cab monitor. Monitoring allows the operator to correct any deviations in real-time during the construction process to keep the vibro compaction within project specifications.


A versatile ground improvement method that can be adjusted to a wide variety of soil conditions and foundation requirements
Offers an economical solution for ground improvement
Only a small quantity of soil has to be removed during the process so avoids the cost of spoil removal
Relatively quick execution so subsequent structural works can follow very quickly
Soil improvement enables standard shallow footings which can lead to savings
Extremely quiet with low vibration

Quality assurance

The vibro equipment we use is designed and manufactured by our in-house equipment manufacturer exclusively for use by Keller companies.

In-house quality production manager software enables us to capture and analyze data in real-time and valid the performance of the ground improvement being carried out. A variety of production parameters are generally logged during execution including depth, current, pull downforce, uplift/pull-down sequence, time and date, and element number. Field trials can also be used to verify column production parameters, along with static load tests, single or group, column material compressive strength tests, and column diameter verification.