Despite the fact that screw piles were invented almost 200 years ago, and have been used broadly in commercial construction – from piers and lighthouses to festival staging – it’s only in recent years that they have become popular for smaller-scale projects. The perfect low-disruption choice for shed, decking, and garden room foundation construction, the demand for screw piles is growing. But how are screw piles installed? And can you do it yourself?

Five Common Screw Pile Installation Questions

How are screw piles installed?

As the name implies, screw piles work by being twisted into the ground. Just like a screw being turned into a piece of wood. So, the installation technique involves rotation. The form this rotation takes will depend upon various factors. The project, the size of the helical screw piles, the depth you need them to go, the type of ground you are working on, and the space you have to manoeuvre. Large scale commercial projects may require the use of heavy groundworks machines, such as excavators. Or skid steers for medium-sized developments. More modest home projects can be managed manually, with a simple installation kit.

Can you put screw piles in by hand?

Yes, you can. Because helical screw piles essentially work as giant screws, once you have made a small hole in the ground to gain purchase, you can simply rotate them by hand until they are at the desired height. This process is much easier if two people work together. And it can help if you have the right tools. But for smaller projects – such as creating foundations for a shed or deck – you can definitely put screw piles in by hand. In fact, it can be considerably easier than trying to fit an excavator into your suburban back garden.

How much does it cost to install screw piles?

For small to medium home projects, there is no reason why you can’t install screw piles yourself, if you’re so inclined. That means that, theoretically at least, screw pile installation can cost nothing. If you are not able to manage manual installation, the cost will come down to the contractor you are working with.

Can screw piles be removed?

Because screw piles work in the same way as a regular screw, they can be removed in much the same way. The only problem that people sometimes face when trying to remove helical screw piles is that you need more torque for removal than insertion.

How to remove screw piles

You can remove your screw piles by simply ‘unscrewing’ them. You reverse the direction of the torque, while applying gentle upwards pressure. When using groundworks machines, it’s a really easy process. You simply remove the steel caps on the piles, attach the tool and let it do the work for you. But if you’re working manually, you will need your installation tools. And you may need an extra person to help. For best results, you need to try to maintain the alignment of the torque while unscrewing. And it’s a good idea to avoid putting undue tension on the shaft pile. Once your piles have been removed, you’ll be left with a ground hole of the same dimensions. It’s always a good idea to backfill these holes to prevent them from becoming a trip hazard in the future.  

There are many benefits of using screw piles over traditional foundations. They’re non-invasive. They’re better for the environment. And they’re long-lasting, and easy to remove. But one of their greatest selling points is that they’re really easy to install. Especially for home improvement projects.

If you’re considering using helical screw piles for your next project, get in touch with UK Helix to find out how we could help.