Pile testing performed during the planning phase is the best way to ensure that a deep foundation will meet the engineering and load-bearing demands in all soil conditions. Depending on the pile material and site-specific conditions performing a pile test before the project begins ensures that structural integrity will be delivered across all pilings. Some projects perform these tests immediately prior to construction, but in some situations, it makes more sense to conduct these tests much earlier in the design phase.
Typically a geotechnical engineer will make foundation recommendations that estimate the pile capacity and piling depth based on a professional boring and soil analysis. Following this, during the pre-construction test pile phase, piles will be driven to depth, and the geotechnical team will confirm the load-bearing capacities as well as the actual pile depths necessary during construction. This can expose discrepancies in bearing capacity as well as pile lengths to avoid costly mistakes during the later phases.
Another reason this is an essential test is that rig operators may need to adjust the pile driving equipment to meet higher or lower capacity demands. Many operators find that pile driving equipment rental makes more sense than maintaining a fleet of rigs to meet varying capacity demands. If the proper capacity is not matched to the pile material, it can result in damage to the piles or equipment, which can cause costly downtime or expensive repairs.
One consideration is that conducting a pre-design pile test will increase upfront costs. Though, it will help ensure a successful project and is often necessary for larger projects that have varying soil conditions across the site. Another consideration is that a pre-construction test can remove the number of piles necessary to achieve structural integrity and can help minimize costly last-minute adjustments because piles are driven in situ, and actual capacities can be developed prior to engineering estimations and plans are created.
Structural engineers can take the results of these tests and account for soil variations to develop plans that won’t need adjustments after the ground has been broken.
Overall Cost Savings of Pile Testing
Pile capacity will increase over time as the surrounding soil settles and consolidates, and is commonly referred to as soil set-up. This is another important factor to consider when engineers are developing pile capacities. Knowing how much capacity piles can bear, and the proper depth for resistance, allows for more accurate foundation designs, which will help reduce material costs and increase the bottom line.
This can also help reduce overall costs as true capacities that are tested in long-term intervals can indicate higher bearing strength as soil sets up. By reducing the number or length of piles across a design, it’s often possible to pare down the total amount of necessary piling. This can help drive sustainability measures by saving raw materials like steel, concrete, lumber, or PVC.
It can also reduce the overall schedule, which offers savings on pile driving equipment rental, labor costs, and variable costs like fuel and other lubricants. Because of the associated costs, pre-design test programs are better suited to larger projects where significant savings can be found by reducing material.
Verifying Pile Testing Results
Optimized pile designs make it easier to forecast fixed costs and develop a comprehensive scope of work to establish a schedule and cost estimate. A great deal of data is collected during pre-design tests and should be analyzed by a professional engineer to develop structural plans. Short-term results can be analyzed and compared to pile test program results to test the performance of pile driving equipment and ensure that the right rig is being employed and won’t result in damaged piles of machinery.
These tests also help establish depth-dependent driving criteria for every substructure. Performing these tests is especially important for projects that cover considerable lengths like transportation infrastructure, including highways and overpasses.
Measuring hammer performance can also be an early indicator of mechanical or hydraulic issues which may occur before a significant malfunction. By verifying hammer performance, owners and operators can confirm that their equipment is operating at peak performance. If you notice a low hammer performance, you should contact a local vendor and have a professional technician inspect and troubleshoot your equipment before considerable breakdowns occur and cause unnecessary downtime or repairs.
A Trusted Partner
RPI Equipment has a full range of drilling and pile driving equipment, and we believe in transparent communication from day one. We offer competitive pricing, and our success depends on your success. We can help you identify the right equipment for your next project to ensure structural integrity and proper pile installation.
With more than fifty years of experience selling and renting pile driving equipment and all-in-one CZM rigs, our dedicated team of salespeople and service technicians can help operators identify the proper machinery and troubleshoot or repair equipment in the field helping to reduce costly downtime.