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A look at this modern foundation solution.

Screw pile or helical pile schematics

(3 min read)

An Overview.


We get asked two questions a lot: “What are screw piles?” and “Why should we use them?”.  


    The first answer is pretty simple: A screw pile (also know as a helical pier, or helical pile) is a long steel tube with large welded-on blades, that twists into the ground like a giant screw. By drilling a group of these piles into an area you can quickly build a solid foundation for constructing a whole range of heavy-duty industrial, residential, and commercial projects.

    To answer the second question, we just have to look at the difference in the installation and effectiveness of screw piles against another modern foundation option: concrete piles.

Faster Installation.

An excavator installing a screw pile to build the foundations for an industrial construction projects.


    Concrete piles are one of the most common foundation solutions used in modern-day construction, but their installation can be a long and messy process. You have to fully excavate an area, mix and pour the concrete, and then wait for it to cure before you can begin building. It can take a team of workers a number of hours, and local weather can have a massive effect on the setting of the concrete, in both speed and quality. And you’d better make sure that you put that pile in the right place--adjusting the height or location of a concrete pile can be expensive and can require the complete excavation of the pile.


    In contrast, installing a screw pile can take as little as 15 minutes. A team shows up to the site, drills in a pile, confirms that they’ve reached the depth and torque levels needed to provide the best support for the current project, and packs up. That pile is ready to be built on—hours sooner than a concrete pile would be, and moving it is as easy as unscrewing it, and screwing it in somewhere else. 


A diagram showing how screw piles and helical piles perform in cold weather conditions, specifically against the effects of frost.

Better Performance In Extreme Climates.


    Screw piles don’t just have an advantage in installation time and accuracy, they can actually outperform concrete piles in terms of sheer effectiveness and long-term reliability as a foundation option. In addition to being designed to support the toughest loads, and being resistant to cracking, deterioration, and contamination, screw piles excel at handling one of most extreme challenges that foundations face in cold climates: frost heave.


    When the ground freezes during winter, it can exert a surprising amount of force per square inch on foundation systems. A concrete pile—with its rough exterior and large surface area—can experience an exponentially larger amount of pressure, “heaving” it slightly out of the ground, and causing damage to its attached structures. The blades of a screw pile are drilled deep underground, with only the central post left above the frost line. With only a small, smooth surface area for the frost to apply force to, and with the majority of the vertically supporting elements of the pile completely out of reach of the frost, screw piles handle the issue of frost heave significantly better than most other foundation options.


Increased Safety Through Data.


    If all of this wasn’t enough, screw piles can even have an edge in safety. A computerized drilling rig keeps a log of a piles torque readings through the entire installation process. A pile is only considered properly installed when it has reached its designated depth and torque level--and that electronic record is always available for review. This means that you can know with certainty the exact layout and strength of your foundation, and it lets us provide a life-time guarantee for all of our screw piles, with very few exceptions.


Your Project.


    If you’re contemplating doing any foundation work at all, call us. We will work with you to accelerate your project's timeline and control costs with a custom-designed screw-pile system. With the ability to provide service with incredibly short notice, and our custom fabrication capabilities, we bring you the foundations you need, the minute you need them.

An excavator installing a helical pile outdoors in a frozen winter environment.
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