Choosing the Right Piles for Your Project

One of RPI Construction Equipment’s CZM EK125HH pile driving rig rentals sits on soil to start the piling job

No two projects are the same and choosing the right piles from the beginning will save you time and money, while also ensuring you have a solid foundation that will last.

Generally speaking, there are two categories of steel piles that are commonly used in most projects. During the planning phase of your project, it is crucial to choose the right pile in your design, and this decision is made based on several different factors that are often site-specific.

When we make the distinction between load-bearing and support of excavation piles, we need to evaluate the function of the pile and its place in the overall design.

We’re going to dig into these types of piles and explore how to make the right decision when selecting piles for your job.

There are four types of load-bearing pile materials:

  • Concrete
  • Timber
  • Plastic
  • Steel 

In this article, we are going to focus on steel load-bearing piles.

A rented EK125HH from RPI is being used during a pile driving job

Typically, load-bearing steel piles are used to support vertical loads, and the number of piles and location will depend on the weight of the load. A certified engineer should provide these specifications from the earliest phase of the design process to ensure a safe foundation.

Another factor to take into consideration is the soil conditions and the depth of the bedrock at your job site. You should always conduct a thorough site examination, including a core soil sample that a professional technician analyzes.

Steel Piles and Sheet Piles

Steel is one of the best materials for load-bearing piles due to its resistance to corrosion, lack of porosity, and durability. Another benefit is that steel load-bearing piles can be driven to depths as far as 75 feet, offering unparalleled load-bearing capabilities. These advantages make steel piles ideal for both granular soil conditions and sites that have large amounts of clay in the soil.

Additionally, steel piles require less excavation, so there is significantly less damage to the areas around the piles, which can save time, money and offer a less impactful installation than other pile driving methods.

Advances in pile driving technology also make steel piles an excellent option as they can be installed up to four times faster than other materials.

During the planning phases of your project, it’s essential to measure the initial cost of the steel piles against the time, site work, and construction costs associated with less costly options; often, steel piles end up being more cost-effective in the long term due to their efficiency and durability.

Load-Bearing Piles vs. Support of Excavation Piles

Now, let’s identify the key differences between load-bearing and the support of excavation piles, as well as how to best determine which pile is needed for different locations throughout your site.

A crew of construction contractors are servicing a piling project onsite with pile driving equipment rentals from RPI

Load-Bearing Piles

  • Load bearing piles come in a variety of shapes, with the most common being the H-shaped steel pile.
  • This is a versatile pile that can be used for end-bearing and friction-bearing situations; they also feature a high individual load-bearing capacity, giving them incredible diversity for both live and dead load-bearing applications.
  • Steel pipe piles are another practical design that can be driven open or closed-ended and filled with concrete to handle loads up to 400 kips.
  • An added benefit of steel pipe piles in their range of sizes so that they can be tailored to your job’s specific needs without adding cost.

Support of Excavation Piles

  • Support of excavation piles are installed in a continuous wall and generally driven to retain earth and exclude water.
  • Sheet piles are the most popular type of pile for this application though some projects require beam and lagging or soldier walls.
  • Other materials are used for sheet piles, but steel is considered the industry standard due to its strength, availability, and efficient installation.
  • Steel sheet piles are installed in interlocking sections and are considered a beam under load.
  • Steel sheet piles are used in a large variety of applications, including bulkheads, dry docks, retaining walls, and other situations where water and soil meet, or land retention is the primary goal.
  • An important consideration for steel sheet piles is also the fact that they can be pulled after temporary use and reconditioned, so in some cases, it can be incredibly cost-effective to rent sheet piles instead of installing them permanently.

Choosing the Right Piles: In Conclusion

While there are many options for choosing the right piles for your project, steel piles in load-bearing and support of excavation piles usually provide the most durable solutions.

Installing steel piles is also more efficient and can be completed up to four times faster than other pile materials.

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