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Helical Piers for Foundation Repair

Helical piers are a great repair tool for sinking foundations. How can helical piers benefit your home?

Helical Pier on Concrete

Helical piers, also known as screw piles, are widely used solution for repairing foundations. They consist of a steel rod with helices, or plates, that are screwed deep into the ground to provide support for the foundation. 

This metal rod is very strong and resembles a giant screw. It is installed deep into the soil and as more weight is added on top of it, the helical pier uses its special screw shape to hold everything up and prevent sinking. Imagine a huge metal screw that can hold up really heavy things like houses, buildings, or bridges!

To receive a free estimate and learn more about whether helical piers are the best option for your home, reach out to Groundworks today.

What Are Helical Piers and Helical Piles?

When researching foundation repair, you have likely encountered both terms  “helical piers” and “helical piles“. While these terms may seem like they refer to different things, they are actually interchangeable and describe the same product. Helical piers or piles are deep foundational elements that use compression or tension to transfer and resist vertical and horizontal loads.

During installation, helical piles are embedded deep into the ground to support the weight of the structure. They are also referred to as screw anchors, screw piers, screw foundations, helical anchors, and helical screw piles. The piers or piles are made of various materials, including concrete, long steel, or wood. End-bearing piles are placed in rock or dense soil to reach their intended carrying capacity, while piles can also rely on the friction between the pile and the surrounding soil to support the load.

Cement grout is often used to increase the surface friction between the soil and the piers or piles. Once installed correctly, helical piers or piles can be attached to an existing foundation or used for new construction.

How Do Helical Piles and Helical Piers Work?

Helical piers work by using the helices to “screw” into the soil, creating a secure connection between the foundation and the load-bearing stratum beneath. They can be installed with specialized equipment and are often used to repair sinking or settling foundations.

Installation of Helical Piers

The installation of helical piers involves several stages, including excavation, drilling, insertion, grouting, testing, and backfilling.

Firstly, the dig site is excavated to the specified depth using different types of equipment and then backfilled with gravel to improve the stability of the pier.

Next, a hollow drill bit is used to bore a hole through the soil and into the bedrock or stable soil below. After that, the pier is inserted into the drilled hole and secured in place.

To further secure the pier, a grout mixture is injected into the space around the pier to fill any voids. The pier is then tested to ensure that it can support the loads that will be placed on it.

Finally, the excavation is backfilled with soil and compacted to complete the installation process.

The Lifespan of Helical Piers

The lifespan of helical piers depends on several factors, including the soil conditions, the weight of the structure, and the quality of the installation. Generally, helical piers are designed to last for several decades, and some manufacturers offer warranties that can range from 25 to 75 years. However, in ideal conditions, helical piers can last for over 100 years. Proper installation and regular maintenance, such as checking for any signs of settling or corrosion, can also help extend the lifespan of helical piers.

Additionally, during annual maintenance, Groundworks technicians can check the benchmarks placed in the walls with a laser level to ensure the helical piers are still level and stable and make any necessary adjustments to maintain their effectiveness.

Helical Piers Load Capacity

Helical piers are a reliable and effective foundation repair and stabilization solution in residential and commercial structures. These piers can hold a significant amount of weight, and their load capacity depends on various factors such as the diameter, depth, soil type, and installation method. On average, a single helical pier can weigh between 10,000 and 20,000 pounds.

For example, the weight of a two-story home with a concrete foundation can range from 100 to 200 tons. Therefore, multiple helical piers are usually installed to evenly support the entire structure’s weight. With their high load capacity and resistance to soil movement and settling, helical piers are a popular choice for foundation repair and reinforcement projects.

Why Helical Piers are Effective

Helical piers are an ideal solution to fix foundation issues for your home. These piers drill deep into the soil and reach the bedrock layer, providing stability to the foundation. If you’re considering helical piers as a repair solution, it’s essential to understand why they’re effective. Here are the top reasons why helical piers are a long-lasting fix for your foundation:

Helical Piers Go Down to the Bedrock

The soil underneath your foundation might not have the structural capability to bear the weight of your home. Helical piers drill deep into the ground until they reach bedrock, which is much stronger and can support the weight of your home.

Helical Piers Can Increase Home Stability

With helical piers, the weight of your home can be shifted to the bedrock layer, making it more stable than the soil underneath. This effectively manages the weight of your home and prevents further foundation movement.

Helical Piers Can Raise Your Foundation

Helical piers can lift the foundation back to its original position by pushing it from below without relying on the soil underneath. This is a great way to manage sinking problems and make sure your foundation stays in place.

Closeup of IMG push pier

Comparing Helical Piers to Other Repair Solutions

Helical piers are often recommended by foundation repair experts over other repair solutions for certain situations. Here are some comparisons:

Helical Piers vs Steel Piers

Helical piers differ from steel push piers in two main ways. First, helical piles are much shorter – usually around 20 feet long – while push piers can be up to 200 feet long. The length difference is due to where these piers divert loads. Helical piers add support via the helices on the steel shaft, while push piers to reach down to the bedrock to provide support. Second, helical piers are best for areas where the bedrock is very deep – deeper than 200 feet – or where the soil is sandy and friction piers cannot be used. Push piers are best for areas where the bedrock is close to the surface. Both piers provide a permanent solution to a sinking foundation system.

Helical Piers vs Concrete Piers

Helical piers are used more often for structural support – for an entire home – than concrete piers – which are more commonly used for lightweight applications, like patios and garage floors. Concrete piers and helical piers both provide permanent solutions to sinking concrete, but helical piers can support far more weight than concrete piles. Due to the difference in the quality of these options, helical piers are significantly more expensive in most cases.

Helical Piers vs Straight-Shaft End-Bearing Piers

Helical piers are usually used in areas where the soil is supportive but have issues with erosion or expansion and contraction. Straight-shaft end-bearing piers are more often used when the soil below an existing foundation – or below new construction – will not provide the support needed for the structure above.

FAQs About Helical Piers

Understanding more about helical pier installation works can help you feel more comfortable when a foundation repair expert recommends it as a lasting solution for your home. Here’s what you might want to know about helical pier installation as a whole.

  •  Prepare the Soil

The first step is to make sure the soil is ready for helical piers. To do this, an expert will expose part of the footing on your foundation, making it easy to ensure the helical piers go into the soil properly so they can lift the foundation.

  • Advance the Piers Into the Soil

Next, using a mechanical tool, the expert will advance the piers into the soil. Helical piers have a circular design, which means they twist into the ground. That makes it easier for the expert to ensure that the piers go far enough into the ground to shift the weight over.

  • Transfer the Weight

Lastly, the expert will attach a foundation bracket to the footing so the pier and the foundation come together. Utilizing these piers, the expert will transfer the load-bearing weight onto the strata. With some additional power, the expert can try to lift the home back to level if necessary.

Some people who have had problems with foundation sinking are suspicious when they hear that helical piers can raise their foundation back to the original level. After all, it’s absolutely true that your home and its foundation are incredibly heavy; that’s why the foundation is sinking, after all. Could these piers really make it easier for your foundation to stop sinking and raise the foundation up? 

  •  Incredible Strength

Helical piers have hydraulic drivers in them, which means they’re incredibly strong. This is one reason that helical piers can actually raise the foundation. Because they’re so strong, they can support the entirety of your home’s foundation without having to rely on the soil underneath the foundation.

  • Lots of Force

Once you have helical piers underneath the foundation, they can push up with a lot of force. You might have to see it to believe it, but it’s true that helical piers can make sure your foundation goes back to its normal space.

Get Expert Advice For Repairing Your Settling Foundation

Different underpinning and foundation repair solutions are available to address various home and situation-specific issues. While a particular solution may work effectively for one home, it may not necessarily be the best choice for another. Helical piers have proved to be a reliable solution for many homeowners, but their effectiveness can only be determined by consulting with an expert. Groundworks is committed to providing homeowners with permanent foundation repair solutions, regardless of the cause or complexity of the issue. You can reach out to their team today to receive a free estimate and learn more about whether helical piers are the most suitable option for your home.

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