Don’t Delay Construction Until Spring: Helical Pile Foundations can be Installed in the Dead of Winter

civil engineers at construction site plan on installing pile foundations in Winter

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.

Contact Us

Determining the Cost of Helical Piles

engineers costing helical piles at an industrial facility

There are a number of factors which go into determining the cost of helical piles. Some are more obvious than others, but in the end, the chances of getting an accurate estimate will be much more likely when an experienced installer weighs the following criteria.

Geographical location of the job site

One cost factor which you might find a bit surprising is the element of geographic location. In a cost survey conducted by Helical Pile World in 2016, it became apparent that costs for the same kind of helical pile project would have a significant variance based on which part of the country work was done. Generally speaking, the more expensive pricing was in the Northwest and Mid-Atlantic states, while the least expensive cost of helical piles was quoted by companies in the Midwest and Plains states. So, if you have a project where helical piles will be used, the first cost factor will depend on which region of the country your project will be located.

Repair or new construction

The second most important cost factor in this survey is the type of project to be built. Participating companies universally quoted higher prices for remedial projects involving helical piles, as opposed to new construction projects with pile work. In many cases, the new construction was only about half the cost of the repair work.

After these two top factors, the cost elements tend to be closely related to the actual foundation installation work, which involves the piles themselves. We have broken these factors down as follows.

Number of piles

The number of piles needed on a given project is only partially determined by the size and footprint of the structure to be supported. The amount of piles necessary is also greatly influenced by the loading requirements, support requirements, structure type, and building codes applied to the project.

More importantly, because helical piles come in different sizes at different price points, one hundred piles of one size can cost less than fifty of another. The estimating contractor and the project engineers must be highly experienced in being able to determine how many of each size helical pile will need to be used.

Type of piles

The type of helical piles being used can also vary in diameter, shape and style, as well as whether they are being installed with or without grout.

The shape of the piles is either a square shaft or round shafts. Common square piles come in 1.5”, 1.75”, 2”, 2.25” and up. The common pipe piles come in  2 7/8”, 3.5”, 4.5”, 5.5”, 6.5”, 8”, 10”, etc. Typically, the bigger the diameter of the pile shaft, the more costly they will be.

Grouted shafts are a relatively new development in helical piles. As an anchor is being screwed into the soil, a grout column is gravity fed all around the shaft to reduce the likelihood of buckling under high stress. Such a technique is commonly used in soft soils, and has the effect of making the whole column much more rigid, while increasing the load capacity of the foundation itself. Grouted piles do not cost significantly more than un-grouted shaft installations, but can significantly improve performance. In many cases, small grouted square shaft piles actually cost less than un-grouted pipe shaft piles with similar loading capacities.

Once again, the type of pile used is very project specific and the best pricing will be determined by an experience estimator.

Depth of pile installation

The depth of the pile installation will influence the cost of helical piles simply because it takes more time and material to install deeper, more secure foundations. In many cases, anchoring will need to be drilled deep enough to a point where a more competent layer of soil resides. The load-bearing requirements of the project will also affect how deep piles need to be anchored.

For example, a pile going 40′ deep will add more to the material cost of a job than one going only 20′ deep. More pile extensions need to be added to the main shaft in order to achieve the greater depth. Installing longer piles also increases the time that drill crews need to be on-site.

Soil conditions

The design and selection of the piles being used for a specific project is directly affected by the encountered soil conditions. Buckling, liquefaction, density of the bearing layer to be penetrated, and density of the upper fill layers, all play a factor in which pile is chosen and the overall cost of the job.

In short, the soil conditions for a project will play a large part in determining the number, type, size and depth of piles to be used. As explained above, the choice of helical pile has a significant affect on the cost of helical piles material, needed for the project.

Cost of helical piles – The bottom line

Like all construction, estimated bids are subject to unforeseen developments. However, when an experienced contractor/installer/estimator work up an estimate for a specific installation of helical piles, and take into account ALL of the above considerations, you can be confident that the estimate you receive is realistic and accurate. Location, type of job (new construction or repair), the number, type, and depth of pile installations and the type of soil are all important factors. They, in combination, will determine your price and why only an experienced helical pile installer will be able to deliver a reasonably accurate figure for your project.

Need a quote on a helical pile job?

Request a Bid from Conte Company

or contact us

How a Helical Pile Foundation Can Speed Up Your Construction Project

A helical pile foundation can lead to faster construction and less down-time

Not many construction projects have the luxury of an open-ended time frame for completion, and in fact most projects have an understandably tight schedule which has to be observed. In construction, as in virtually all businesses, time is money, and this is especially true when all other tradesmen and contractors are waiting for the foundation of a structure to be installed. In many cases, a helical pile foundation can greatly reduce the time-to-build.

At most times in the past, there was literally no choice but to wait for a concrete foundation to be excavated, poured, and to dry before all other tasks associated with building construction could get underway. However, that model is changing more and more these days, as the advantages of a helical pile foundation become more universally known and understood.

When are Helical Piers Faster?

First and foremost, helical foundations are almost always installed more quickly than other piling methods such as caissons or driven piles.  While some common applications include support for bridges, boardwalks and industrial piping, engineers are constantly coming up with new ways to use helical piles as a time-saving alternative. Particularly useful for construction in wetland or flood-prone area, replacing a concrete foundation with helical piles can shave weeks and even months off a project.

One of the biggest advantages, especially for light industrial, temporary or above-ground structures, is the speed at which a foundation can be installed using helical piles.

How do Helical Piles Save Time?

Right from the very first step, helical piles save valuable time in the implementation of a foundation. No large excavating equipment is needed for the installation of the piles themselves, so as soon as engineers have tested the soil to determine the degree of anchoring which will be needed. A helical pile foundation can be screwed directly into the ground with machine-mounted hydraulics or machinery fitted with electrical drilling equipment. Almost any type of soil or ground is suitable for helical piles, other than bedrock itself, so virtually all locations are acceptable.

An aspect of helical pile installation which shouldn’t be overlooked is the actual installation itself. As piles are being augured into the ground, the rotation rate ranges anywhere from 6 to 10 rpm, which allows progress to proceed at roughly 2 feet per minute. That means that an anchoring requirement going 50 feet deep could be completed in less than an hour. Once all piles are in place, they can be used for load-bearing immediately, as opposed to having to wait up to a month for concrete to be cured, or grout to become dry.

At the end of installation, there’s also no major cleanup to be done, as there might be with any other kind of foundation installation. Installing helical piles is a very clean operation, which minimally impacts the surrounding environment, and does not require that excess soil be carted away in trucks to some other location. This itself saves an entire step which would be necessary in a major excavation, which in turn reduces the overall time needed to complete the foundation.

How do Helical Piles Keep Costs Down?

The bottom line is that when helical piers are used to anchor a new structure, there is no waiting for other construction processes to begin. Unless concrete footings or grade beams need to be poured, other aspects of construction can begin on the same day that piers have been secured. It would be hard to over-estimate the impact this can have on any kind of new construction project, since so much time is saved by the speed of installation, and the immediate readiness for subsequent contracting tasks.

Keeping costs down on a construction project can be the difference-maker on how profitable it is, and one of the most important ways that costs can be effectively managed is by reducing the overall time frame necessary for completion. There are several other very important advantages to adopting the installation of a helical piers over some other process for foundation installation, but when you’re thinking about your project’s bottom line, speed is one of the most compelling reasons.

 

Ready to speed up your next project? Talk to Conte

 

Construction Project Managers: How Do You Lighten the Workload?

construction-project-manager-workload

A construction project manager always needs to be in two places at once.

  1. In the office, planning the project and seeking out potential subs.
  2. And on-site, making sure the project is going well and that subs are doing the job right.

Has this ever happened to you?

“I need to work in the office today— no wait, there’s a problem, I gotta go to the job site.”

This dual responsibility may never go away completely. But by hiring the right employees and working with the best vendors, you can minimize problems on the job site and spend more time in the air conditioning.

Experienced Vendors Know What They’re Doing
(so you don’t have to babysit)

Finding a great subcontractor who can work autonomously, do their job quickly and efficiently is a construction project manager’s dream. Ensuring the result of all that meticulous planning often means being on the job site to field questions, check supplies and solve problems as they arise. Just imagine if all subs could be trusted to handle this kind of stuff on their own.

Being the Busiest Guy on the Job Site

As a construction project manager, it goes without saying that you have a lot on your plate. Maybe you build skyscrapers in busy cities, or help municipalities expand their airports or construct bulkheads at commercial marinas. Maybe you build luxury homes or shore up crumbling infrastructure on old college campuses. Whatever types of projects you work on, the workload and responsibility of a PM is more than just about anyone else involved.

On the construction site, you answer to your boss… and the client. You’re not the one hammering nails or guiding beams into place, but the buck will stop with you when it comes to staying under budget, on schedule and getting the job done right… all of which requires hiring the right subcontractors.

The responsibility of planning how and when the parts and pieces of a project come together takes some serious desk time. Endless phone calls, countless emails, erratic schedules, and constant research are a huge part of the job.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had more time to do that stuff instead of spending so much time on the job site?

Hiring the Best, Getting the Best

While we can’t speak for everyone else, the experienced crew at Conte Company knows how to troubleshoot and solve problems on their own. We arrive at the job site on-time and ready to roll. We have our team assembled, safety gear on and everyone knows exactly what they’ll be doing that day.

As a small company, every crew we send out has a supervisor who’s worked in the industry for a decade or more. We manage our own supply chain, provide our own insurance, rarely come in over budget, and are always on schedule.

When you hire Conte Company to install your foundation, you can get out of the heat and back to the office to plan whatever comes next. Our long-time customers don’t worry about these things, because they know their job is in good hands. When you hire Conte Company, you don’t need to be in two places at once.

 

Conte Company is a family owned company since 1948. We are New England’s premier deep foundation contractor because we bring the best tools, equipment and crew to every job we take on. 

Learn about our Foundation Installation Services or Request a Consultation

 

Here are a few photos from our latest residential job in Fairfield, CT

How to Choose a Helical Pile Installer: 10 Questions to Ask

 

Choosing a Reputable Helical Pile Contractor

Hiring a helical pile installer can be complicated when you don’t know what to look for. We’ve put together this list of questions to help project managers better screen their contractors, and determine if they are capable, experienced, reliable and trustworthy potential partners.

Ask your potential contractor:

1. “Are you certified, insured and bonded?”

Making sure vendors are qualified and covered is the best way to safeguard your project from major delays and accidents. Removing liability is important for every contractor, but maintaining a high standard for safety is the best way to keep your project on-schedule and running smoothly. Your contractors’ first priority should be the wellbeing of job-site workers, so make sure they have all the right paperwork, before signing a contract.

2. “Do you guarantee your foundation with a warranty?”

If a helical pile foundation doesn’t measure-up to industry standards, at some point it will need to be repaired or replaced. A reputable, helical pile installer will always stand by their work, so if the warranty that comes with it seems suspect, walk away. If they do offer a guarantee, as do most CHANCE Certified Installers, read the fine print to avoid costly surprises down the road.

3. “Can you provide 3-4 client references we can talk to?”

Few things are as valuable to the vetting process as talking to recent, real-life customers. They’ll be able to give you unique perspective on contractor’s knowledge, expertise, communication and customer service. Obviously, be considerate of their time by having some questions ready, but listening carefully to their answers will often tell you all you need to know about your potential vendor.

4. “Do you have a helical pile project portfolio we can look at?”

A good list of successful projects will help you understand the depth of a contractor’s experience and the scope of their capabilities. Looking through photos of helical pile projects to find examples of jobs similar to yours can confirm that they’re able to do what they claim. You can also get a feel for their level of professionalism, their attention to detail and their ability to address unexpected challenges that inevitably come up.

5. “Do you have experience working on projects similar to ours?”

Each helical pile installation project is different, so it’s important to know that your contractor is capable of solving the issues unique to your project. If your helical pile installer is working with unfamiliar soil conditions or structure types and sizes they haven’t worked with before, chances are they are going to run into problems and that means scheduling delays. Avoid the stress and choose a helical pile installer whose track record includes projects like yours.

6. “Do you provide design-build services?”

Keeping the design and installation aspects of a job under one roof is a great way to streamline planning, execution, overall communication, and keep costs down. When unanticipated challenges come up, as they often do, a design-build firm can move much more quickly to resolve the problem and get the project back on track.

If your contractor is not a design-build firm, you’ll want to know who is designing the project, and go through this checklist with them as well. It’s also nice to know if the two companies have worked together before, and have successful joint-projects under their belts.

7. “What’s your safety track record and what on-site, safety procedures do you practice?”

Nothing grinds a job to-a-halt like accidents and injuries. Avoiding mishaps should be a primary concern for both you and your contractors. Definitely ask the contractor about relevant safety and training certifications. But it’s also essential to ask about the specific, on-site safety procedures they use to protect their crew and yours.

8. “Who manufactures your piles and who supplies them?”

The difference between high-grade and low-grade steel and concrete may not be obvious when the project is first completed, but good-quality materials can add decades to the life of a foundation and it’s superstructure. If a contractor’s bid is lower than the rest, they may be cutting corners by getting cheap, second grade steel from various parts of the world. Material quality is not the place to cut costs, so make sure you know exactly where your helical piles come from.

9. “Who will be our on-site supervisor and what is their experience with helical pile installation?”

Knowing that you have a full-time supervisor on-site and available at all times is mandatory for any major construction project. Beyond managing the day-to-day of a project, an experienced supervisor is critical to making good decisions, if and when things go wrong. During a helical pile installation, a capable manager needs to be in charge of communications, scheduling, materials, equipment malfunctions and everything that keeps the project running safely and smoothly.

10. “What information do you need from us to provide an accurate proposal for this project?”

Your contractor should be willing to have an open conversation about the details of your project and collect the information required to provide an accurate and responsible estimate for your work. If you don’t have specific information on hand, a good contractor will tell you and explain how to get it. A not-so-good contractor will provide a quote anyway and hit you with change orders later on.

How well are you vetting your contractors? Get Conte Company's 2017 Guide to Evaluating Geotechnical Contractors: 22 Mandatory Questions to Ask Before Getting a Bid.