Working with a new product always brings questions. So, if you’re thinking of making the move from traditional concrete foundations to helical screw piles for your next project, there are probably a few things that you’ll want to know. In this blog, we’re going to tackle the practical screw pile questions we’re asked most often.

What are screw piles used for?

Screw piles essentially provide deep-rooted foundations for structures. They’re designed for rapid construction, on any scale. They can be used for garden rooms, deck building, or seriously large-scale commercial projects. Looking for examples? Many of the 2012 London Olympic sites, including the BMX venue, were constructed upon screw pile foundations.

What are screw piles made of?

Made from construction grade steel, screw piles consist of hollow pipe sections with attached helices. The helical flights vary according to the type of ground they’re designed to be used on.

How do screw piles work?

The leading helix on screw piles allow them to move through the ground much like a screw through wood – hence the name. Because they are normally hollow, they are relatively easy to sink into the ground, with minimal noise and disruption. Once the pile has reached the intended depth and torque rating, the pile is left in place. A cap, bracket or steel frame may then be attached to the top of the pile to aid in attaching support beams or a concrete raft. 

How are screw piles installed?

In the early days, screw piles were installed by hand or with pony power. In fact, in the early 19th century, that’s how all installations were made, even those in open water. Today, most large-scale installations are made by bobcats, excavators, or mast mounted cranes with hydraulic attachments, depending on the size of the piles. For smaller DIY projects, you can install them by hand with an installation kit, or with an electric handheld machine.

Can I install screw piles myself?

This really depends upon the size of the project. For simple decking, fencing and garden sheds, then most of the time “yes”. Screw piles can often be installed by hand, using the appropriate install kit. For larger jobs, unless you’re a confident operator of earthmoving vehicles, then it can be worth seeking help.  

Do screw piles rust?

This is a fairly complicated question to answer. Because although screw piles are made from steel, which is subject to corrosion, the inherent design prevents rust from impairing the performance of the product. Some screw piles are galvanised, and others are given cathodic protection to prevent the formation of rust. But the most fail-safe method is to work with screw piles that possess a sacrificial wall thickness designed to accommodate the intended lifespan of the project. For buildings designed with permanence in mind, you can find screw piles that will easily last 50 to 100 years.

Are screw piles cheaper than concrete?

Oftentimes, yes. But not always. They do hold several advantages over the use of concrete though. e.g. They allow for all weather installation, avoiding costly delays. They require less equipment – and can be installed by hand in areas of limited access. And their installation involves fewer materials. There’s also no need to dispose of spoil following installation. There is less environmental impact, less mess and less installation time. It is typically a more environmentally sensitive product, is quicker and quieter to install and can be a solution in difficult ground conditions.

How deep can screw piles go?

In theory, there is no maximum depth for screw piles. They can be extended in two-metre lengths, so the possibilities are endless. In reality though, few projects are going to require screw piles of more than around 12-14 metres. After that, you’re confronted with a range of practical issues. And your overall project costs start rapidly climbing.

So, these are just a few of the most common questions that we get asked at UK Helix. We’ll be covering more of your queries in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we’re always here to help!

For a free quote, or to discuss your screw pile needs, contact UK Helix today.

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