Helical piles/ground screws
This is an excerpt from “The Durable Dozen: Exterior Building Products That Battle The Elements,” written by Martin Zibauer for our June/July 2016 issue.
Helical piles, also known as ground screws and screw piles, look like oversized wood screws or ice-fishing augers. As a replacement for conventional concrete footings, especially sonotube-style footings, helical piles have one standout advantage: they’re faster. In most applications, hydraulic equipment screws them into the ground in minutes. Once in place, there’s no waiting for concrete to set or cure; the screws are ready to support structures as small as fence posts and mailboxes to decks and outbuildings and structures as large as multi-unit buildings.
In tight quarters, helical piles can be installed easily where digging a conventional footing would be difficult, time-consuming, and perhaps impossible. Techno Metal Post, for example, has an installation machine that’s only 29 inches wide – narrow enough to fit through a doorway – and it can install piles inches away from an existing structure without damage. Bayo-S ground screws can even be screwed into the ground by hand; a convenient option when you’re working in tight spaces or only need to install a small number of screws.
Helical piles are also effective in wetlands or lakebed applications for docks, boathouses, or footbridges; they can be installed in winter through the ice or in summer from a barge. For many projects, good footings and foundations are the first and most critical step to durable construction; where the footings are a challenge, helical piles could well provide the best solution.