Helical Piles vs Driven Piles

June 24, 2024

Foundation systems are the backbone of any construction project, ensuring that buildings will stand securely. Helical piles and driven piles both provide structural support for construction projects by transferring structural loads to deeper and stable soil layers. To promote longevity of a structure, the choice of foundation method must be appropriately evaluated. Find out how helical piles and driven piles differ in their design and installation methods to make the choice for your project.

What are Helical Piles?

Helical piles leverage simple mechanical principles to provide a reliable foundational support. They screw into the ground with the help of hydraulic machinery. Using a central galvanized steel shaft with helical flights, the blades displace soil to create a stable foundation. Their design and installation process allows for flexibility, making them an excellent choice for many construction projects.

Helical blades are suitable for lighter structural loads. Both the helices bearing against soil and friction along the shaft are used to support loads. They can be used in versatile soil types but they are most successful in clay, sand, and soft soils. The use of rotational machinery exerts minimal force on the surrounding soil. This reduces disturbance to the surrounding environment.

The installation process for helical piles is relatively fast since it requires only a few resources. After the soil condition is evaluated, the helical screw is positioned and screwed into the ground until it reaches its targeted depth. The diameter, pitch, and number of plates can be customized according to the specific load requirements and soil conditions of a project. If a deeper depth condition is necessary, extensions can be added to the central shaft.

Helical Piles vs Screw Piles

Screw piles and helical piles refer to the same type of foundation system featuring a central shaft with helical plates. The use of the two terms usually comes down to your region’s preference.

What are Driven Piles?

Driven piles use force and vibration to provide support for structures. They can be made of different types of materials to accommodate various load requirements and soil conditions. Steel and concrete piles are most sturdy and can be driven to great depths. Driven piles may be useful in challenging ground conditions because of their durability.

Even the most robust structures such as industrial facilities can be supported by driven piles. However, their installation can cause complications to the nearby soil and groundwater. The driving process also generates significant noise and vibration, which can be disruptive. Driven piles rely on friction and require heavy equipment for installation. Driven piles may require a more labor-intensive and time-consuming setup, meaning they are not cost-effective for most projects.

Engineers calculate soil conditions and load requirements to develop an adequate pile driving plan. Then, driven piles are installed through impact by being hammered into the ground. They compact surrounding soil to provide heavy load-bearing support. When working with highly compacted soil, pre-drilling may be required. They are a common pile choice in hard soils, but consequently have a harsh impact on the environment. 

Are Helical Piles or Driven Piles Better?

Both screw piles and driven piles provide a durable base when properly implemented and designed to fit the specific needs of your project. Screw piles are often preferred for their low-disruption installation. Steel and concrete driven piles are particularly robust, however, this may be at the cost of the surrounding environment. The best pile choice is dependent upon the specific project and soil conditions. By evaluating these factors, your construction project can stand the test of time.

Elite Helical will help you understand best practices for helical pile foundation design and installation. Need more support determining helical pile spacing and soil bearing capacity calculations? Contact us today to discuss how a helical pile foundation can support your next industrial construction project.

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From design, to supply, to installation, Elite Helical is your trusted turnkey helical pile contractor. With versatile tools and excellent customer service, we can provide an effective solution for your project.

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