How Long Will a Helical Pile Foundation Last in Manitoba?

May 25, 2022

The climate in Winnipeg and Manitoba is one of the toughest in the inhabited world. We see it all here, from vicious arctic winters to sun-baked summers. Our weather constantly eats away at everything we produce and build, rusting metal and rotting wood. It's a tough land out there, and few things have it tougher than the foundations beneath our feet.

Picture the life of a power transmission line erected in a remote part of Northern Manitoba. The soil is wet and swampy in summer but frozen like a brick in winter. High winds buffet the towers in violent thunderstorms while ice causes the ground to expand and contract. To top it off, the tower sits in a remote location that's difficult to constantly monitor.

Excavator installing helical pile foundation for internet tower in remote location in Manitoba

A brutal environment for a foundation, all things considered.

So, a reasonable question our foundation experts at VersaPile get asked from time to time is:

"How long should I expect a helical pile foundation to last?"

And the answer is...

Lifespan of a Helical Pile Foundation in Manitoba

...Not quite so simple.

Raw materials, soil composition, the surrounding environment, and the quality of installation all affect the lifespan of a helical pile. There's no "one size fits all" number I can give you. That said, we can make entirely reasonable data-backed estimates based on the vast amounts of data we have about steel and corrosion.

Because helical piles are made of steel, and because we know how steel reacts with soil, we can calculate how long a helical pile could last based on the soil and environmental conditions.

Excavator installing helical pile foundation for commercial project in muddy location in Manitoba

There's a reason people call our soil "Manitoba gumbo".

Some of the factors that influence the usable lifespan of a helical pile are:

  • Soil resistivity (how electrically conductive the soil is)
  • The acidity of the soil, expressed in pH
  • Moisture content
  • Dissolved salts
  • Oxygen levels
  • Organic matter like bacteria

Soil resistivity, acidity, and moisture content are the biggest contributors to the rate of corrosion a helical pile experiences. When it comes to especially corrosive and acidic soils, designers can increase the helical pile's corrosion protection by:

  • Adding sacrificial thickness to the steel used for the shaft and helices
  • Hot-dip galvanizing the pile to add corrosion-resistance - though on commercial projects sacrificial thickness is more effective and economical
  • Cathode systems that use DC current to halt the corrosion process (generally reserved for severely corrosive soils)

A helical pile engineer will reference a range of factors when calculating the usable lifespan of a helical pile. These factors aren't based on guesswork, but instead by studying the soil at the project site and assessing it against established scientific principles.

Engineer performing a load test on a commercial helical pile foundation

Load testing, geotechnical reports, and quality engineering are key to ensuring a long and healthy life for a helical pile foundation

Generally speaking, in soil conditions like we have in Manitoba, you might expect to see 180 years and beyond in terms of usable pile life. While local environmental factors will affect the helical pile's lifespan, odds are the helical piles will far outlive the structure they support.

Does a Helical Pile Require Maintenance?

We've seen that, while corrosion will ultimately consume all steel products, it generally takes a very long time. And we saw that even in particularly corrosive soils there's techniques we can use to protect the helical pile. Overall, the lifespan of a helical pile should be long and reliable.

So, what maintenance does a helical pile need in order to maintain performance?

Honestly, a helical pile foundation doesn't require any maintenance.

Yes, you should do regular inspections to ensure there's no surprises brewing around your foundation. But, in terms of 'maintenance items', there's really nothing to do. Once the piles are in the ground, provided nothing unforeseen happens, you should never need to worry about them again.

Don't we all need one less thing to worry about?

Conclusion

When you think about it, helical piles are a data-driven foundation fit for the modern world. Everything from the foundation design to the rate of corrosion can be measured and calculated against established standards. There's no guesswork when it comes to helical piles, just hard facts and unbiased numbers.

Helical pile foundations for housing project installed in the ground at a job site

For community projects in remote locations, helical piles are an ideal long-lasting and hassle-free foundation

That's why engineers, designers, and contractors are using helical piles for their commercial projects in Winnipeg and Manitoba. They offer ultra-fast installation, data-backed designs, and easily-sourced materials that are more environmentally friendly than concrete.

Helical piles truly are a zero-maintenance foundation solution.

Need a tough-as-steel, no-maintenance foundation that will stand the test of time? Our friendly helical pile experts would love to help - no sales pitches or obligations. Click here to get in touch with the VersaPile team today and put your project on a foundation that will outlive your grand-kids.

 


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