Can Helical Piles Be Used For Bridge Foundations?

Can Helical Piles Be Used For Bridge Foundations?

Bridges are crucial in connecting communities, facilitating transportation, and supporting economic development. The success and longevity of these vital structures heavily depend on the type of foundation chosen during construction. 

Among the various options available, helical piles emerge as a superior choice, particularly for long-span bridges and areas with challenging soil conditions. 

How Helical Piles Work

Helical piles work on the principle of utilizing helical plates or blades to screw into the soil, creating a strong connection with stable strata below the less stable surface layers. This process provides lateral stability and prevents settlement, ensuring the longevity and safety of the bridge. The helical shape of the piles increases the bearing capacity and enhances their ability to resist both axial and lateral loads.

The Process of Building a Helical Pile Bridge Foundation

Helical piles should be fabricated and installed by a certified and experienced contractor to ensure safety and quality before, during, and after the process. 

1. Site Assessment

The first step in constructing a helical pile bridge foundation involves a thorough site assessment to understand soil conditions, geological features, and load requirements. This data informs the design and placement of the helical piles.

2. Helical Pile Installation

A specialized helical pile installation rig is employed to screw the piles into the ground. This process involves rotating the helical piles into the soil until they reach the desired depth, providing a secure and stable foundation. The piles are spaced strategically based on engineering calculations to distribute the load evenly.

3. Connection to Bridge Substructure:

Once the helical piles are in place, they are connected to the bridge substructure using specialized brackets. These brackets secure the piles and transfer the load from the bridge to the piles, creating a robust foundation system.

Top Benefits of Helical Piles for Bridge Foundations

What makes helical piles better than other types of foundations — in bridge applications and others? 

Load-bearing Capacity

Helical piles offer exceptional load-bearing capacity, making them ideal for supporting the immense weight and dynamic loads experienced by bridges. This is particularly crucial for long-span bridges where the foundation must withstand significant forces over extended distances.

Adaptability to Poor Soil Conditions

One of the key advantages of helical piles is their adaptability to various soil conditions. Whether dealing with loose or compacted soils, expansive clays, or areas prone to subsidence, helical piles provide a stable foundation by penetrating deep into the ground, reaching more stable strata.

Minimal Environmental Impact

Compared to traditional foundation methods, helical piles have a minimal environmental impact. Their installation requires less excavation, reducing disturbance to the natural surroundings. Additionally, helical piles generate less noise and vibration during construction, minimizing disruption to nearby communities.

Speed and Efficiency

The installation process of helical piles is faster and more efficient than traditional foundation methods. This is crucial for bridge projects that require timely completion, minimizing traffic disruptions and ensuring swift access for communities. 

Contact Elite Helical for Expert Helical Pile Installation

Helical piles’ load-bearing capacity, adaptability, minimal environmental impact, and efficient installation process make them a reliable choice for ensuring the stability and durability of bridge structures. As technology advances, helical piles continue to redefine the standards for bridge foundation construction, contributing to the development of safer, more resilient infrastructure.

If you have a foundation build, repair, or replacement project, get in touch with our team to learn how helical piles could work for you. 

What Is Underpinning? How It Works & When You Need It

What Is Underpinning? How It Works & When You Need It

In the world of large industrial structures, the stability and safety of the building are of utmost importance. When existing structures show signs of distress, such as settlement, cracking, or uneven floors, it’s vital to address these issues promptly. 

One solution to reinforce and stabilize these structures is underpinning. This article explores:

  • What underpinning is
  • Various underpinning methods (with a special focus on helical piles)
  • How underpinning works
  • Key signs to look out for that indicate when a structure requires underpinning

Understanding Underpinning

Underpinning is a construction technique employed to strengthen the foundation of an existing building or structure. It is a critical process for maintaining the structural integrity of large industrial or commercial buildings

The primary goal of underpinning is to provide additional support to the foundation, effectively preventing further settlement and structural damage.

Underpinning Methods

Several methods can be used for underpinning, but one of the most versatile and efficient techniques, especially in large structures, is helical piles. Helical piles, also known as screw piles, are steel shafts with helical flights that are mechanically installed beneath the foundation. These piles are a cost-effective, low-impact solution that provides exceptional load-bearing capacity and stability.

  • Helical piles are installed by drilling them into the ground beneath the foundation.
  • The helical flights provide additional stability by anchoring the piles deep into the soil.
  • They are an excellent choice for retrofitting and repairing existing structures due to their minimal disturbance and versatility.

Other popular underpinning techniques are: 

  • Mass Concrete Underpinning – A traditional method that involves excavating sections of the existing foundation and pouring new, reinforced concrete under them.
  • Mini-Piled Underpinning — A method that uses slender piles that are drilled into the ground using specialized equipment. It’s similar to helical piles but a little less strong.

How Underpinning Works

The process of underpinning typically involves the following steps:

1. Site Assessment

A thorough inspection of the structure and its foundation is conducted to determine the extent of damage and the required underpinning method.

2. Excavation or Drilling

Depending on the chosen underpinning method, excavations may be made around the existing foundation, or piles (e.g., helical piles) may be drilled into the ground.

3. Installation of Piles

In the case of helical piles, they are mechanically rotated into the ground until they reach a stable soil layer, effectively underpinning the structure.

4. Load Transfer

The weight of the structure is transferred from the damaged or weakened foundation to the newly installed underpinning elements.

5. Monitoring and Testing

The underpinned structure is continuously monitored and tested to ensure that it is stable and any further movement has been halted.

5 Signs a Structure Requires Underpinning

Identifying when a large structure requires underpinning is crucial for maintaining safety and preventing further damage. Here are some key signs to look out for.

  1. Visible Cracks: Cracks in the walls, floors, or foundation that are increasing in size or number may indicate foundation settlement.
  2. Uneven Floors: Floors that are sloping or uneven can suggest foundation issues.
  3. Settling or Shifting: If you notice your building settling or shifting, it’s a clear sign of foundation problems.
  4. Doors and Windows Sticking: Difficulty in opening and closing doors and windows can be a result of a shifting foundation.
  5. Structural Instability: Any noticeable structural instability or leaning should not be ignored.

Choose Elite Helical for Stronger Structural Solutions

By addressing foundation issues promptly, you can prevent further damage and maintain the integrity of your industrial structure. When it comes to underpinning, helical piles are a better choice compared to concrete solutions

Get in touch with our team to learn more about helical piles and our process. 

What Are the Best Commercial Foundation Repair Solutions?

What Are the Best Commercial Foundation Repair Solutions?

Foundation repair for residential properties is widely discussed, but foundation issues don’t just affect older homes. Commercial buildings and structures can also be subject to foundation issues, sometimes with financially devastating consequences.

Some of the most common foundation problems include

  • Damage from natural disasters, including earthquakes and hurricanes.
  • Settlement, where the soil contracts or becomes compacted beneath the structure and the structure sinks down.
  • Heave, where the soil expands when saturated and the structure lifts up.
  • Washout, where the soil is washed out from underneath the structure, leaving unsupported voids in the soil.
  • Age, as foundation materials will degrade over time.

When one of these issues occurs, repairing it quickly and cost-effectively is important to keep your operations going. Keep reading for three of the best foundation repair solutions for commercial applications.

The Best 3 Solutions for Commercial Foundation Repair

Our top recommendations for commercial foundation repair are underpinning, carbon fiber, and deep injection, or void fill.

1. Underpinning

Underpinning involves shoring up an existing foundation by expanding the depth or breadth of the foundation, thereby giving it more foundation over which to distribute the load of the supported structure. There are several types of underpinning: pit, mass pouring, beam and base, and pile underpinning. 

  • In pit underpinning, a pit is excavated beneath the original foundation, then filled with concrete and connected to the original foundation. This deepens the foundation and increases its load-bearing capacity. 
  • Mass pouring entails excavating shallowly beneath the structure and removing compromised soil, then filling the excavated space with concrete. 
  • Beam and base underpinning require the construction of a reinforced concrete beam above, beneath, or replacing the original footing.
  • Pile underpinning can include multiple different methods, using different piles, including helical piles. These piles or piers are attached to the existing structure of the foundation and installed into the soil, deepening or widening the foundation and spreading out the load over a greater area.

Helical Pile Underpinning

Helical piles are best known as a foundation in and of themselves, but they aren’t just for new construction; helical piles can help repair existing building foundations. Because poor soil conditions are the main cause of foundation failure, it makes sense to repair foundation issues with helical piles, which are designed to work in poor soil conditions.

To repair damaged commercial building foundations, helical piles can be installed into the soil with adequate bearing capacity and anchored to the existing structure, supporting it. These pile systems use the friction between the screwed-in pile and the soil into which it has been installed to not only support the pile but also keep the soil in place, preventing future issues due to soil expansion or saturation.

Helical piles are an excellent solution for foundation repair for the same reasons they’re good for new foundations: strength, durability, ease, speed of installation, and low construction footprint. Helical piles don’t require as much heavy equipment as other foundations and can be installed with minimal equipment in limited space, as well as installed at an angle — which is often necessary for commercial foundation repair situations. Helical piles have a long lifespan and can last over 100 years, ensuring that repairs last.

2. Carbon Fiber 

Carbon fiber foundation repair works by epoxying ultra-strong carbon fiber, woven into a fabric strip, to walls that have cracked, bowed, bulged, or turned in. Carbon fiber is incredibly strong and lightweight, and the carbon fiber strips will prevent the wall from further bending or movement.

While carbon fiber repair is valued for its low cost, low profile, ease, and speed of installation, it does have limitations. This method can only be used to repair foundation walls that have deflected by only two inches or less. It is also only effective for structures with accessible foundation walls (i.e., basements), which not all commercial structures have.

3. Deep Injection and Void Fill

Deep injection or void fill is a process wherein polyurethane is injected in liquid form into voids that have formed underneath foundations. The polyurethane then expands as a foam, filling the space, and hardens. This can reinforce soils that have washed out or settled beneath a foundation, as polyurethane does not react with water or soil. 

Lighter structures may use mud jacking to repair similar foundation issues, which involves raising the structure and filling the voids beneath it with concrete. This may result in other issues, however, as the concrete is heavy and may cause further settling. For commercial structures, mudjacking may be impossible, due to the size and nature of the structure in question. Since polyurethane can be injected into hard-to-reach voids, it may be the right solution for some commercial foundation repair applications.

Contact Elite Helical for Reliable Commercial Foundation Repair 

If your commercial building or structure is suffering from foundation issues, don’t wait until the problem gets any worse—get in touch with Elite Helical today to discuss how our helical pile offerings can repair your foundation issues. We focus exclusively on helical pile foundations and foundation repair, and we serve the needs of the commercial and industrial sectors, from oil and gas to manufacturing and more.