SCREW PILES VS CONCRETE PILES
There is an industry myth that screw piles are always cheaper than concrete piles. The truth is that screw piles can be used for a wide range of projects and depending on the application may not be cheaper.
However, here is a bold claim – Screw piles are cheaper for lightly loaded structures.
It’s a bold claim and I wrestled with myself whether or not it was true. I determined that when you zoom out and look at the big picture, it’s true for Manitobans every time. Here is why:
Screw piles for lightly loaded structures are most often cheaper than a concrete sonotube (CIP) or belled (big foot) piles.
Screw piles are not always cheaper, because some concrete companies are willing to price themselves out of business (you’ll find some in the screw pile industry as well). Also, not all concrete piles are created equal; a 6 or 8 foot deep concrete pile will support your deck but it will not resist frost heave.
Concrete piles often heave when lightly loaded and especially when outside a heated space.
Concrete piles under your home have a very high chance of performing as designed. However, a quick stroll through any of Winnipeg’s new developments and you can’t help but notice cracking on the front steps from heaving.
You will also find frost effected piles under unheated structures like decks and sunrooms. The reason is simple, concrete is porous and frost forces are strong. Frost heaved piles are generally very expensive to remedy and most people will just suffer along with a deck or porch they aren’t happy with.
A screw pile for a lightly loaded structure (deck, sunroom, solar farm, etc.) in contrast is small enough to be considered a non-displacement pile which translates into English as a pile with a shaft small enough that the frost forces are negligible compared to the resistance created at the helical blade.
Screw pile installation won’t ruin the landscaping or leave an awful mess.
A zero displacement pile (like a screw pile) also means that there is very limited impact on a yard. The equipment required to install screw piles for light structures is also relatively light compared to a drilling rig, concrete truck and skidsteer.
The collateral damage from traditional concrete piling has a cost. For some folks, the highest cost is having their yard down for repairs and not available for enjoyment. Others have invested money, expertise and their own time grooming a manicuring their yard. In such cases the damage can range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars.
When you consider the big picture, a screw pile of a lightly loaded structure is a no brainer. Just remember, in the same way that not all concrete piles or companies are equal, not all screw piles or screw pile companies are equal; do your research and you will ensure worry free screw pile foundation for a great value.