By Shawn Kyles
The purpose of a foundation is to support and spread the weight of the structure that sits on top of it. A foundation can become damaged due to poor soil conditions, moisture and foliage. Foundation problems can lead to cracks in walls and tiles, bowed walls and sloping floors. It can even become difficult to open and shut windows and doors. One solution to stabilizing foundations is the installation of helical piles, also referred to as screw piles. A helical pile is a steel shaft with blades attached in a spiral pattern. The pile is attached at the foundation on one end, and screwed into the ground on the other. Not only do they stabilize a structure, they can also increase load bearing capacities in a retrofit.
Helical piles were first used in the 1800’s for English lighthouse foundations. The first recording of their use was in 1836 by a blind brick maker and civil engineer named Alexander Mitchell. These days, helical piles are used all over the world on many kinds of projects, including excavation, anchoring pipelines and light poles, supporting transmission towers and tunnels, tiebacks for soil retaining walls, and tie downs for manufactured as well as residential and commercial buildings.
Helical piles are installed at intervals around the perimeter at affected locations. They are then extended to the depth needed for the load. Special brackets are used to secure the piles to the concrete foundation. The pile is then torqued into the soil and connected to each bracket. The nuts on the vertical bolts of the bracket are then tightened to lock off the load.
Some of the benefits of helical piles include fast and relatively easy installation, reduced costs compared to other forms of foundation repair, and extremely high load capacities. Other advantages include installation with minimal excavation and without heavy equipment, as well as low vibration. Helical piles can also be used with a variety of soil conditions. They are considered as an alternative to pressed pilings which are attached to concrete and steel blocks; and steel pilings, which are driven into solid rock.
If you have foundation damage, contact an experienced foundation repair company and request an inspection of your property. A foundation expert can give you useful feedback regarding the problems you are experiencing and their source. You can find out the best way to repair your foundation, and whether or not helical piles are the right solution for your situation.