Hidden Costs of Your Commercial Foundation - Beware This 'Budget Assassin'

April 11, 2022

It's no secret 2020-2021 was challenging for commercial and industrial construction in Winnipeg and across Manitoba.

Thankfully, 2022 looks to be a year of recovery and reopening. Still, if you're involved with planning, building, or budgeting a construction project you have to be more careful than ever with your margins.

Especially if you're planning small-scale commercial or industrial construction projects.

Maybe it's a few communication towers, a simple unheated structure, foundation repair, or a short run of power lines. In any case, your engineer determines you'll need less than 25 deep foundation piles for the whole project.

(Image: Communication towers and hydro lines are two great examples of common projects that demand an unshakeable foundation, but only require a small number of actual piles.)

On recommendation from your engineer, you contact contractors for both concrete piles and helical piles. Thumbing through the quotes you notice precast concrete piles are cheaper on a per-pile basis than the comparable helical piles. While its not a huge price difference, a dollar saved is a dollar earned. So, you and your team give concrete piles the thumbs-up and quickly move on to the next task.

Unfortunately, that decision may have just created a big cash-flow headache for your small project.

What a Deep Foundation (Really) Costs in Manitoba

Here's the reality of how much a helical pile foundation costs in Manitoba:

The per-pile cost does not accurately reflect the true cost of the foundation.

Per-pile cost can tell you how much each pile costs, but doesn't tell you what it takes "all-in" to install those piles.

If you want an accurate assessment of the cost of a precast driven concrete pile versus a helical pile foundation in Manitoba, you have to look beyond the per-pile cost.

You need to consider a silent, sneaky project cost that can creep up like a "budget assassin" and kill your cash flow:

The mobilization costs to have your deep foundation installed.

Mobilization Costs: Budget Assassins?

Mobilization cost is, essentially, a measure of the cash it takes to get things moving on your project. Left unchecked, these costs can kill your cash flow and can cause financial headaches later on.

(Image: The dreaded 'Budget Assassin' - responsible for delaying and destroying countless commercial and industrial construction projects.)

But, how are mobilization costs for your deep foundation potentially make-or-break for your small-scale project? And how could a helical pile foundation have a higher per-pile cost, but end up being more affordable than precast driven concrete piles?

To appreciate the true cost of a precast driven concrete pile foundation versus a helical pile foundation in Manitoba, we must look beyond the per-pile cost.

Let's consider the precast driven concrete piles, a mainstay of commercial construction. They're often recommended for projects simply because of their ubiquity. But, just because something is commonly recommended, doesn't mean it's always the right choice.

Now, to be clear I'm not hating on concrete pile foundations in Manitoba. Like many things, concrete piles have their pros and cons. When it comes to a smaller-scale commercial or industrial project with 25 piles or less, there's one big con to concrete piles:

The expense of mobilizing the pile install.

What's a Precast Driven Pile Foundation Cost in Manitoba?

Here's what it takes to get a precast driven pile foundation installation into action:

  • Transport long, heavy, brittle, awkward precast concrete piles to your job site
  • Move bulky equipment like 25 ton cranes, skid steers, pump trucks, pile cap rebar, sonotubes, excavators, and possibly more
  • If your project is in a remote area in Manitoba, factor in the high costs of transporting bulky materials and equipment down potentially temporary roads
  • Tough to maneuver big concrete piles into tight-access sites, like infill development projects in Winnipeg
  • May have to store equipment like cranes or excavators on your project site until contractor can move them

Whether you're installing 25 piles or 250, all of that equipment and material has to move to your site. Regardless of how many piles you actually need installed, you'll be paying (roughly) the same amount for mobilization costs.

(Image: To get a concrete foundation, you'll generally need a lot of equipment like cement trucks, pile drivers, water tanks, and more.)

Here's the thing: if you're installing 250 piles the cost of mobilization is spread out across a large number of piles. At scale, it might not be as noticeable. But, if you're installing 25 piles or fewer, those mobilization costs can be a huge burden.

What's a Helical Pile Foundation Cost in Manitoba?

Now let's compare the cost of mobilizing a helical pile foundation designed to meet the exact same requirements and specifications as a precast driven concrete pile foundation:

  • Transport install-ready helical piles to site - no awkward rebar, big transport trucks, or heavy concrete equipment needed
  • Installation equipment typically consists of an excavator, support truck, and a skidsteer (often only needed if larger helical piles need to be loaded onto the helical drill head with machine power)
  • Easy to maneuver helical piles, and their equipment, on tight-access sites like infill development projects in Winnipeg
  • Lighter materials and equipment means it's more cost effective to transport helical piles and equipment to remote northern Manitoba communities
  • You won't get stuck storing awkward cranes, concrete trucks, or drill rigs on your job site

Because helical pile foundations don't require the same materials and equipment that concrete piles do, it means lower mobilization costs for you.

(Image: The small equipment demands of a helical pile foundation makes it a favourite amongst engineers and contractors, especially for restricted access or remote building sites.)

Plus, you don't have to worry about the logistics headaches that come with handling a swarm of equipment and subcontractors on your jobsite.

The Reality of Commercial Foundations in Winnipeg & Manitoba

When we talk about helical piles versus precast driven concrete piles, there's more to consider than the "face value" cost.

For small-scale commercial and industrial projects in Winnipeg and Manitoba, you need a fast and versatile foundation. From communication towers and transmission lines to equipment sheds and utility fences, helical piles can provide a more affordable and economical solution.

At the very least, you shouldn't stop researching foundations when you see the "per pile" cost. It can pay off in a big way to dive a little deeper and see what you true costs are.

Planning a small-scale commercial or industrial project in Winnipeg or throughout Manitoba? Helical piles might be your budget-friendly hero! Click here to get in touch with our friendly foundation experts today, and we'll give you the no-BS "all-in" price for your foundation.


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