Whether it’s pool rooms, sheds, or home extensions, timber frames make a popular choice for construction projects. Timber frames are often more cost-effective. They make it easier to create a bespoke design.  And they are known for enabling greater accuracy in terms of plumb walls and square rooms, vs other solutions. But there are questions about the best foundations for the job. And many people ask us if they can use screw piles for timber frame buildings.

Are Screw Piles a Good Idea for Timber Frame Buildings?

Foundation types for timber frames

There are several different foundation types suitable for use with timber frame structures. They vary according to the type of structure and its projected load.

Pad Foundations

Typically used to support single columns or posts, pad foundations involve the excavation of ground in the area in which each post is to be situated. This is often used for garden structures, such as decorative archways.

Strip foundations

One of the most widely-used options for larger structures, strip foundations involve laying a strip of concrete as a base for each wall. Usually completed with a three-course layer of brick below floor level. These foundations last for a long time. However, as a non-sustainable product many newer developers are trying to find ways to avoid the use of concrete. 

Raft foundations

Consisting of a ‘raft’ of reinforced concrete slabs on a base of compacted hardcore, rafted foundations cover the entire footprint of the structure, to aid with weight distribution. This foundation type is often preferred on loose soils. But, again, lacks green credentials.

Screw piles

Requiring little in the way of groundworks, screw piles are one of the easiest and least invasive foundation methods for timber-framed structures. And they are suited to most soil types, with obstruction filled ground and bedrock being the only real exceptions. Just check with your screw pile supplier that you have the right kind of pile for your conditions.

How do you install screw piles for timber frames?

Screw pile installation is the same regardless of the project you’re using it for. There are two main methods.

Screw pile installation by hand or hand held machine

If you’re working in a small space, on a small project, or you’d simply rather not go to the expense of hiring groundworks vehicles, you can install screw piles by hand. You simply need two willing people, an install kit, and two 1.5 metre crowbars. Once you’ve laid out your plans, and worked out where you need each helical pile to be sited, just make a small pilot hole. Then insert the tip of the pile and slowly rotate it until it has reached the required depth. For larger piles, you can also hire a handheld installation machine to speed things along.

Sometimes, there are occasions when you need to install by hand but you need to install with more torque. In these cases you may need an eclectic install machine or a generator powered installation machine. Your screwpile supplier should be advise you in these cases.

Screw pile installation with groundworks vehicles

For larger projects, many people opt to use ground works vehicles, such as excavators or skid steers for screw pile installation. The process is broadly similar, if markedly faster, than hand installation! You need one person to control the vehicle, another to guide the piles. Then, simply screw the piles into the earth until they reach the appropriate level and torque requirements. 

How do you attach screw piles to a timber frame?

Once your screw piles are in place, you can complete them with flat, U or L brackets, depending on the size of your timber. These brackets allow you to anchor your timber frame to your screw piles.

Timber frame structures have a lot of benefits. And screw piles present a workable way to streamline construction and strengthen the structure. So, if you’re looking for a practical foundation solution for your next timber-frame project, it’s very much worth considering screw piles.

If you are looking for screw piles for your next timber frame project, get in touch with UK Helix.  

Disclaimer –Information in this blog does not in any way constitute building advice or guidance for private or commercial building projects.

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