When you are evaluating, estimating, and projecting a scope for your next piling job, it’s crucial to identify which construction equipment you will need to get the job done right on time and within your budget.
Depending on your specific site and soil conditions, as well as the size of your project, you can identify the right auxiliary construction equipment to ensure success.
Smaller projects can be completed with a telehandler or rough terrain forklift, while most projects will require at least an excavator and, in most cases, a crane or dedicated pile driving rig.
It is essential to evaluate your site conditions and have a professional soil analysis so that you know what the composition is at your required pile depths.
Non-Cohesive and more dense, cohesive soil compositions will require different pieces of construction equipment depending on site-specific considerations.
Another consideration is transportation costs and equipment availability which can affect the bottom line of your project.
Before developing your cost estimate and project scope, it’s best practice to identify the proper equipment and work with a trusted vendor to avoid malfunction and costly downtime.
The Most Versatile and Efficient Piece of Construction Equipment
It’s generally agreed that a crane is the best all-around piece of equipment for piling jobs.
It has the ability to accommodate almost any pile height and use numerous different attachments.
These options include vibratory hammers and piling leads with impact hammers. Vibratory hammers can drive different types of piles by attaching additional clamps.
These options include:
- Sheet pile clamp which is often referred to as a universal clamp. These are also capable of driving steel piles such as H beams
- Timber pile clamp for driving wood piles
- Pipe clamp or mandrel used to drive small diameter pipe pile
- Caisson beam and dual clamps for driving large diameter pipe piles or caissons
Piling leads equipped with an impact hammer can work with air pile drivers, diesel hammers, and hydraulic impact hammers.
The piling leads can be fixed leads operated by a spotter, swinging leads with a bottom stab section secured to the ground, or an offshore section of leads that hangs freely from the crane.
Impact hammers can be equipped with different pile caps or pile helmets that can accommodate every pile material. While it doesn’t happen often, sometimes pile leads will hold an auger with flighting to pre-drill for pile installation.
Compact and Cost-Effective Solutions can be Found with Excavators
Excavators offer a great value with a thoughtful design perfect for smaller projects, though they do have some limitations.
They can accommodate piles anywhere from 10’ to 35’ long, though they are limited by the height they can reach.
Excavator-mounted vibratory hammers have some advantages over crane-mounted systems.
Primarily the lack of a separate power pack makes the hammer easier to use in low headroom, indoor, or compact sites. The vibrator can be positioned more precisely for both installation and extraction. This setup tends to be lower cost and easier to move. Finally, downcrowding improves driving force without heavy bias weights on the suspension.
Vibratory hammers with excavator brackets and sequence valves can plumb directly to the excavator’s hydraulics to power the hammer, which reduces the need for an independent hydraulic power source. The limitation of this system is the overhead reach of the excavator which usually only allows the hammer to drive a pile of 22’ or shorter.
Specialized tools, such as MKT side clamp vibratory hammers, are able to grip piles from the side and allow excavators to drive piles that would usually be above their reach. A side clamp vibratory hammer mounted to an excavator can drive a pile of at least 35′ in height.
One of the most attractive features of the side clamp vibratory hammer is the rototilt unit that rotates up to 270° as well as tilts from side to side and fore to aft. These hammers make excavators an excellent option for a large range of projects where an excavator can replace a crane that would, otherwise, have been required with traditional pile driving equipment.
Impact hammers installed on a spud beam can also be mounted on an excavator.
However, this method can lead to higher costs with a shorter lifespan due to the torque created by the hammer against the mounting system. This mounting system is still preferred over free hung impact hammers which can create dangerous working conditions and less control over the hammer. One last consideration is that wear is accelerated when a hammer is not entirely secured, as is the case with spud beams and piling leads, and the risk of immediate failure increases.
It’s always wise to consult with a professional pile driving dealer or service technician to ensure your setup will deliver a successful project without malfunction and unnecessary downtime.
All-In-One Piling Rigs and Drilling Rigs
Self-contained units, such as pile driving rigs and drill rigs, do offer the best options for most larger piling projects and come equipped with tall masts with hydraulic pile hammers or rotarys with drilling tools installed.
These units come with everything you need, so they can reduce the need for auxiliary equipment rental. Because these rigs also require less crew to operate, they can help you save money by reducing the costs with associated labor.
Additionally, they have a greater capacity and can drive longer and heavier piles than a standard excavator. They can be equipped with an impact hammer, vibratory hammer, or rotary drill for all piling jobs.