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What is Foundation Piling?

Updated: Feb 28

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Foundation Piling Overview

Foundation piling is the method used by construction experts to set a deep foundation for structures. These can include a house, building, bridge, or tower, making them sturdier and better equipped for distributing load.

Utilizing different methods and materials for piling, a foundation piling contractor is able to customize the foundation based on the specific needs of the project, considering factors such as soil condition, load of the superstructure, and the groundwater table.

Radtke, founded in 1965, has years of foundation piling construction experience! To get started, please check out our main foundation piling services page for more information, or give our team a call directly today at (920) 582-4114.

What is Foundation Piling?

Piling is a ground engineering procedure used for when the surface soil’s stability is insufficient to support a structure. The process involves driving piles, which are long, slender, columnar elements made from materials like steel, concrete, or timber, deep into the ground until they reach the stable soil layers.

These piles act like a steady platform, transferring the load from the structure above to the strong, stable soil or rock strata below.

The Foundation Piling Process

Foundation piling is a detailed construction process that involves the installation of long, cylindrical piles deep into the ground. From the initial assessment to the final inspection and testing, let's go over what to expect when you hire the Radtke Contractors team for a foundation piling service:

  • Initial Site Assessment: Your contractor's initial assessment will help to identify the soil composition, depth of stable soil layers, and the presence of any groundwater to help determine the type of piles to use and the depth they need to be driven.

  • Selection of Pile Type: Piles come in various materials, including steel, concrete, and wood, and the choice depends on the ground conditions and the load requirements of the superstructure. (More on the different types of piling below).

  • Pile Driving: The selected foundation piles are then driven into the ground using heavy machinery. This equipment varies from hydraulic hammers to drop hammers and vibrating drivers, chosen based on the pile type and soil conditions. The goal is to insert the piles deep enough to reach the stable soil or rock layers beneath the weak surface layers.

  • Transferring the Load: Once the piles are securely in place, they work by transferring the load of the superstructure through the weaker soil layers down to the stable ground below. This load distribution is important for the safety and stability of the structure.

  • Enhancing Structural Longevity: By anchoring the superstructure to more stable ground, foundation piling significantly enhances the building's longevity. It provides a robust defense against subsidence and other issues that can arise from unstable or shifting soil.

  • Adaptability to Various Conditions: One of the major advantages of foundation piling is its adaptability. Whether dealing with soft soil, a high water table, or heavy structural loads, foundation piling is adaptable for various conditions.

  • Final Inspection and Testing: After the piling is completed, a final inspection and series of tests are conducted to ensure the integrity and stability of the foundation.

8 Uses for Foundation Pilings in Construction

You should use piling foundations in construction whenever the following 8 conditions are true:

1. High Groundwater Table

In areas where the groundwater table is notably high, conventional shallow foundations may prove inadequate. Piling foundations circumvent the challenges posed by water saturation by transferring structural loads to deeper, more stable soil layers, thus ensuring the foundation's reliability and effectiveness.

2. Heavy Load of Superstructure

For buildings that are either exceptionally large or bear substantial weight, the demand for a strong foundation system becomes critical. Foundation piling offers the requisite support to manage these significant loads, ensuring the structure's stability over time.

3. Cost and Feasibility

There are instances where traditional foundation solutions are either too expensive or impractical due to specific ground conditions or accessibility issues. Under these circumstances, piling foundations emerge as a cost-effective and feasible alternative, offering a viable solution to complex construction challenges.

4. Compressible Shallow Soil

When the upper soil layers are too compressible and unable to support the weight of the structure, piling foundations provide a solution by transferring the loads to deeper, more compact soil strata, thereby enhancing the foundation's capacity to support structural loads.

5. Risk of Scouring

Structures situated near bodies of water such as rivers, seas, or waterways are susceptible to scouring. Foundation piling mitigates this risk by anchoring the structure firmly into the ground, providing enhanced stability against the forces of water erosion.

6. Proximity to Canals or Deep Drainage Systems

The stability of structures located near canals or deep drainage systems can be compromised due to the potential for soil erosion or shifting. By employing piling foundations, these structures gain additional stability, safeguarding against potential ground movement or instability.

7. Poor Soil Condition

In cases where soil conditions prevent excavation to the desired depth, or where the soil is of poor quality, piling foundations offer a strategic advantage. By bypassing the weaker soil layers and reaching more stable ground, piles ensure a secure foundation for the structure.

8. Difficulty in Keeping Foundation Trenches Dry

In scenarios where it is impractical to keep foundation trenches dry through conventional means such as pumping, foundation piling presents an efficient alternative. This approach avoids the complexities associated with water management in foundation trenches, providing a solid foundation for construction.

Common Types of Foundation Piling

Each construction project is unique and demands a specific type of foundation piling. From pricing, to the best type of piling, your contractors can discuss all your options for your specific project.

Some common types of foundation piling include:

End-Bearing Piles

End-bearing piles are columns that bypass weaker ground layers to rest on stronger soil strata or bedrock. These piles are engineered to bear the significant load of a structure by transmitting it through the pile to the stronger layer beneath. This design facilitates the foundation's stability by anchoring it to the most robust layers of the subsoil.

Friction Piles

Shaped like cylinders, friction piles rely on their entire length to disperse the load from a building into the surrounding soil. The load-bearing capacity of a friction pile is linked directly to its length, meaning that the pile can support more weight as it extends deeper into the ground.

Bored Piles

Installation of bored piles involves drilling a hole into the ground, which is subsequently filled with poured concrete. One major advantage of this pile type is its inherent stability, achieved as it is cast in situ. Owing to their installation process causing less vibration, bored piles are preferred for construction projects in urban settings.

Driven Piles

Requiring substantial force for their installation, driven piles are hammered deep into the ground. These piles are commonly used in foundations with non-cohesive soils or soils with high contamination levels, offering reliable support under challenging conditions.

Screwed Piles

Resembling large metal screws, screwed piles are installed using a similar rotating motion as regular screws when affixing to other surfaces like wood. They offer a unique and robust solution for ground anchoring.

Timber Piles

Having been utilized in construction for millennia, timber piles offer a traditional, yet efficient, method for foundation support. These piles are precast off-site and installed using the driving technique, offering a cost-effective, safe, and efficient solution for both temporary and permanent structures.

Steel Piles

Steel piles are installed using either impact or vibration hammers, enabling them to penetrate even sturdy soil and rock. These piles come in various diameters, allowing a tailored fit based on the specific load requirements of a project.

Concrete Piles

Mostly found in offshore construction projects like bridges, oil rigs, and floating airports, concrete piles are a modern and effective tool for supporting vertical structural loads and withstanding lateral wave loads. They are often deployed to stabilize complex terrains due to their strength and efficient load distribution properties.

For more information, read more information on the different types of foundation piling for construction work.

Foundation Piling FAQs

Is piling foundation good/useful?

Yes, a piling foundation can be incredibly useful in many construction scenarios. It's especially beneficial when the top layers of soil are weak or loose, as the piles can be driven to reach deeper, more stable layers. Piling foundations also allow for the construction of structures on sites with high groundwater levels and are effective for supporting structures with heavy loads.

How many concrete blocks are in a foundation piling?

The number of concrete blocks used in a foundation piling construction project can vary greatly and will depend on numerous factors such as the height, load, and design of the building, as well as the conditions of the soil. In many cases, piles are made entirely from concrete poured and set in place rather than from concrete blocks.

What is the difference between a foundation piling and a pier?

Both foundation piling and piers are types of deep foundation, and while they serve similar purposes, there are differences in their structure and the way they transfer load. Foundation piling is typically a long, slender column that is driven deep into the ground, transferring load through both end-bearing and skin friction. On the other hand, a pier foundation, also known as a drilled shaft or caisson, is a cylindrical structure that is typically much wider than a pile and is constructed by drilling a large hole and filling it with concrete.

What are the disadvantages of piling?

While piling foundations have numerous benefits, they also have a few potential downsides. For example, they can be more expensive than other types of foundations due to the need for specialized machinery and skilled labor for installation. Also, foundation piling requires a thorough geotechnical investigation before installation to ensure that the piles reach the necessary depth and are not affected by underground obstructions or adverse soil conditions.

Why Choose Radtke Contractors for Foundation Piling?

When it comes to foundation piling, look no further than Radtke Contractors! Our foundation team has decades of combined experience when it comes to foundation piling and other construction services.

Our contracting and excavating company was founded in 1965. You can trust our team to professionally assess your site's conditions and determine the best piling solution for your property. Contact Radtke Contractors today for a foundation piling service!

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