Can You Build a Home on Helical Screw Piles?

August 20, 2021

Building a new home can be one of the most exciting, and stressful, events in your life. Mapping out the floor plan and dreaming of fixtures and finishes are some of the exciting parts. One of the not-so-exciting parts? Trying to figure out what foundation is right for you. Not only do you need to decide if you want a basement, crawlspace, or slab, but you also need to figure out how you're going to support the foundation. Concrete piles are one of the most common choices in Manitoba - but is it always the right choice?

What about a deep foundation like helical screw piles, which can be installed easier and faster than concrete? Can you build a house on screw piles?

The short answer is yes, you can build a solid home on a helical screw pile foundation.

Let's take a look at why a helical screw pile foundation might be the perfect option for your new home.

Why Use Helical Screw Piles Under a House?

To be clear, we're not here to bash other foundations. In fact, we'll be the first to admit that there's no foundation that's "best" for every situation.

That said, helical screw piles have some clear advantages when compared to other foundations.

This Home Was Built On Helical Piles Installed by VersaPile, Inc. in 2013

This custom home in LaSalle, MB is very near the river and the soil was very saturated, helical piles installed by VersaPile provided the support required.

Helical Screw Piles Are Faster and Easier

Concrete piles can be time-consuming to install and a big hassle. You need to excavate holes (leaving dirt to clean-up), form re-bar supports, pour concrete, and let it cure. Those steps add time and cost to your home build.

Helical screw piles are installed by turning them into the ground like, well, a big screw. Unless there are obstructions that we can't get around, screw piles don't need excavation. There's no concrete to pour, and no extra supports are required. Once we install the screw piles to specifications (more on that in a bit), they're ready to use! Simple, easy, and fast.

Installing helical piles 30 feet deep to arctic till along the Assiniboine River in Headingley, MB to support a custom home.

Helical Screw Piles Can Be Installed in Poor Quality Soil

Manitoba, unfortunately, has some of the most challenging soil in Canada. In fact, our soil has the nickname "Manitoba gumbo", because it can be so difficult to work with.

In some places, Manitoba soil is great for supporting a foundation. But, in many places, the soil is mucky, sloppy, and silty. This kind of soil is horrible for support. It shifts, moves, and in some cases makes it impossible to install a concrete foundation.

Helical Screw Piles Can Install in Silty, Sloppy Soil

When we install a helical screw pile, we use a system that tells us how much torque (force) we're putting on each helical screw pile to advance it in the ground. By measuring this force, and doing a little math, we can tell what kind of soil we're dealing with. It also means that we can go as deep as we need, until we hit firm, quality soil.

Various Systems Help Us Know The Weight Capacity of a Screw Pile

With concrete, loose soil can prevent a hole from being excavated at all. Sometimes, the loose soil won't be strong enough to support the foundation long-term. This can lead to your foundation shifting or sinking.

Since we know what the soil is doing as we install the helical screw pile, we can ensure the pile will support your home.

Helical Screw Piles Are Strong

There's a myth that comes up every now and then. It says that helical screw piles are fine for projects like decks or sunrooms, but can't support an entire house.

That is completely false.

VersaPile, Inc. - Helical Pile Contractor is equipped to install piles to more than 135,000 lbs so not only can we support homes, we support apartment blocks, recreation centres, malls and much more. Concrete piles, by comparison, as specified for homes support 20,000 to 30,000 lbs per-pile. So, helical screw piles can support more than double what most concrete piles can!

Helical screw piles are plenty strong enough to support a home for 70 + years.

Screw Piles Won't Break The Bank

Another myth is that helical screw piles are always more expensive than other foundations.

Again, not true.

A helical screw pile foundation can often be comparable (or less) than a concrete foundation. Helical screw pile foundations will not always be more than concrete foundations.

Sometimes, a helical screw pile foundation may cost more than the concrete alternative. It depends on soil quality, number of piles, depth of the install, location of install, and so on.

Even if a helical screw pile foundation costs a little more, they're still faster and easier to install. And, you're getting a foundation where the capacity has been verified and the peace of mind that comes from that engineered data.

This custom bungalow near the Red River in West St. Paul, MB is supported on helical piles installed to arctic till.

Okay, How Does a Helical Screw Pile Install Work?

You might be thinking, "Helical screw piles sound nice and all, but how does the actual install process work?"

Glad you asked!

I'll answer that question by telling you about a home that we installed helical screw piles for a little while back.

Panic and Stress

On a Thursday afternoon one week, we received a call from a stressed-out customer.

They were trying to excavate soil and install concrete piles for a 2,300 sq. ft. bungalow. Problem was, the silty soil kept caving back into the holes they were boring. This made installing concrete piles close to impossible.

The customer called their engineer for advice, and the engineer sent them to us.

After hearing about the situation, we sent out our crew that Friday (the next day) to install a test pile. We often use test piles to make sure that our foundation will be the right choice for a project.

Sure enough, the soil was bad. But, after getting the test pile down 22 feet, we hit solid soil and confirmed the pile held the required weight. We sent this information to the engineer and booked the full install for Monday morning.

By the end of Monday, our crew had installed 28 screw piles, ranging from 21 to 27 feet deep. Each pile was laser leveled, cut to height, and finished with our 8×8 cement head adapters.

In a few days, our customer had gone from panic to peace-of-mind. By Tuesday, the contractors resumed work and everything was back on schedule.

Had the foundation faced more delays, the contractor would have had to delay the project by a month!

It Took a Single Day to Install All The Screw Piles For This New Home Build

The Process

It was easy for that customer to get a solid foundation from their home, and in record time!

Here's the (usual) step-by-step of the process to get a helical screw pile foundation for your new home build...

  1. Contact us, and we'll help you figure out if a helical screw pile foundation is the right fit (we may install a test pile to check your soil or conduct a geotechnical investigation)
  2. If helical screw piles are a good fit for your project, we'll put together a quote for you
  3. Once you give us the thumbs-up, we'll schedule an install day
  4. Our friendly install crews show up on time and get the piles installed
  5. We finish it off by laser-leveling the piles and installing the required adapters
  6. That's it! You now have a sturdy foundation that will last for decades with an engineer stamped letter confirming the capacities required were achieved

Are Helical Screw Piles Right For You?

The big question is:

"Are helical screw piles right for me?"

The honest answer is... it depends. We can't pretend that helical screw piles are the perfect foundation for everyone. In fact, if you're talking to a business that claims to have the "perfect foundation", you shouldn't trust them.

A good foundation contractor should always be honest about your project. That's why at VersaPile, Inc. - Helical Pile Contractors if we don't believe a helical screw pile foundation is right for you, we'll tell you - we are in this for the long haul and would never risk our reputation for a single project.

But! More often than not, we find that most projects can use a helical screw pile foundation. Fast installs and guaranteed capacities give your family a solid footing for generations.

Want to find out if a helical screw pile foundation is right for you? If you want a free estimate on a professional repair, contact your VersaPile professional by clicking here.


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