These days, there’s really no reason to wait through the entire frozen season before starting that major construction project you’ve been thinking about. The deep freeze which has held much of the U.S. in its grip this January might be a deterrent to building in some respects, but it certainly should not prevent you from installing pile foundations in winter, especially if you intend to use helical piles. When helical piles are being used, there’s simply no need to wait for the ground to thaw out – they can be installed in most frozen ground.
Installing Pile Foundations in Winter
Admittedly, there can be an added expense to winter installation of foundations, particularly if really frozen conditions prevail. Like almost every other outdoor pursuit in the dead of winter, there are special considerations necessary, which translate to a slightly higher cost for helical piles. For instance, in those cases where the ground is frozen solid, a more powerful pile might be needed to penetrate the frozen soil, after which it would be replaced with a ‘production pile’ for the actual foundation.
In really cold weather, it may also be necessary to keep concrete grout mixture warm for a period of time, after mixing and before it is placed in the ground. For this process, heaters have to be setup at the mixing site, and the concrete mixture must be entirely contained within this area prior to having it poured into the pile. While there would be some added expense associated with these measures, you can literally save months of construction time by installing pile foundations in winter, and not having to wait for favorable weather.
Pouring Concrete Foundations in Winter
It’s certainly possible to install concrete foundations in the winter, but some extra consideration is necessary for the whole process. For instance, the concrete supplier would have to mix the concrete with hot water, so it could survive the temperature drop when it comes in contact with the outdoor air.
Since it usually takes twice as long or longer for concrete to set in cold air, it might be necessary to use an accelerant in the mixture to speed up the setting process. It may also be necessary to install windbreaks or temporary enclosures, along with heating systems, to prevent the concrete from drying out too quickly, and to prevent sudden temperature drops from cracking the concrete before it has a chance to set.
Extra Installation Costs vs. Waiting Until Spring
If you really need to keep your building project on schedule, and don’t want to wait until a springtime thaw provides you with ideal conditions, you can definitely get your foundation in place during even the harshest winter conditions. And you can install a concrete foundation if you don’t mind all the added expense of winter excavation, warm concrete delivery, treatment with accelerants for fast setting, and all the protective measures that will be needed to maintain sufficient warmth for an extended period of curing.
The truth is, from almost every angle you look at it, employing helical piles offer significant advantages, especially in the winter. Even if you have your piles encased in grout, the concrete mixture settles below the frost line, where it can cure naturally without any artificial heat. And although larger structures typically require concrete slabs to be poured to complete the foundation, most of the foundational support lies well below surface, where temperatures are stable year round.
As always, there is far less disturbance to the surrounding area with helical piles, since they do not require any major excavation, and can be installed with much smaller equipment—this also allows for better accessibility for hard to reach areas. Installing pile foundations in winter can be done rapidly, and if there is ever a need to remove or replace them, that can be easily done.
Construction Doesn’t Need to be Seasonal
What would the financial cost be if you had to wait several months for warmer weather, before proceeding with your construction project? That doesn’t have to happen when you opt for installing helical piles during the winter months. With a cost that is only slightly higher, all the same terrific advantages can be realized by installing pile foundations in winter – with fewer worries about massive snow removal, properly curing concrete, or moving major pieces of equipment around on a construction site.
While everyone else is watching the snow fly and the ground freeze, you can be getting a foundation in place, and planning for all the other steps which follow afterward.
Ready to Start Thinking About Your Next Construction Project?
Talk to Conte Company. We can help you choose a stable, cost effective foundation for your next job.