A concrete slab has been the default go-to for most building projects for the last 100 years or so. It does the job well and can be adapted according to space and needs. But concrete does have its limitations, and there are other foundation options. Such as screw piles. So, what’s the difference between the two? And how do you know which option is best for your project?

Screw Piles vs Concrete Slab: What Do You Need to Know

The pros of concrete slab foundations

There are multiple reasons why concrete has become the number one choice for building foundations.

· Cost effectiveness – There’s no two ways about it, concrete is cheap. Meaning that you can create large foundations for very little outlay on materials.

· Availability – You can also get the materials to make concrete almost anywhere. So, if you don’t quite have enough, you won’t have far to go to get more.

· Strength – As well as being incredibly strong, concrete is highly durable and flexible. Which obviously makes it a great choice for supporting and distributing the weight of various types of structures.

· Fire resistance – And it goes without saying that this is a major requirement for the base of any building.

The cons of concrete slab foundations

But nothing is perfect. And there are a number of drawbacks to using concrete.

· Groundworks – Concrete only makes effective foundations after the space has been excavated. This can be expensive, messy, and intrusive. It also carries the potential of disturbing roots of trees and the foundations of any nearby existing buildings.

· Corrosion – If concrete foundations are exposed, especially to salt water (and a range of chemicals, including chlorides, sulphides, and nitrates), it can corrode. This means that over time, the structure of the concrete will weaken. And this can impact the integrity of the building.

· Environmental issues – Cement production alone generates around 8% of the global total of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. It also directly pollutes the environment in which it is used, causes soil compaction, and can increase local soil erosion and flooding.

· Time – Concrete can’t be rushed. It can only be set in the right conditions. And building work cannot continue until the concrete is fully set. Which can make the whole process extremely time consuming.

The pros of helical piles for foundations

Screw piles carry their own unique set of benefits.

· Speed – One of the most impressive features of helical piles is that they are so quick to install – each pile can take just a few minutes to correctly fix. And once they are in, you can continue work immediately. So, no time is lost.

· Ease – Because screw piles can typically be installed without groundworks, they can be really easy to install in a variety of ways. You can use a small groundworks vehicle, like a mini digger. For larger projects, where you have the space, a larger excavator can be deployed. In smaller areas, you can complete installation quickly and efficiently by hand.

· Strength – Because of their length and design, screw piles literally lock a building onto the ground. Providing the ultimate structural base.

· Bespoke – Every project is different. Screw piles don’t deliver a one-size-fits-all solution. You can order the exact piles you need for your soil conditions and your project load.   

· Environmental impact – Screw piles are made of steel, so their creation obviously has some negative environmental connotations. But they don’t impact the local environment upon installation. The soil structure remains the same. They don’t impact the flood plain (and are actually the perfect solution for flood prone areas). They do not pollute once they are in the ground. And they can be recycled if they later need to be removed.

The cons of helical piles for foundations

For a completely balanced view, it’s important to look at the drawbacks of working with screw piles.

· Cost – Screw piles will usually require a greater initial material outlay than foundations. But this is often mitigated by the lower cost of installation and time saved.

· Torque – There can be no guesswork with screw piles. Each pile type has a limit to the weight it can carry. Get it wrong, and it could lead to challenges for your future structure. So, you MUST plan ahead and calculate properly. We at UKHelix are happy to advise in this regard

· Versatility – Screw piles are fairly versatile. But they can not be used in some types of ground, for example where large obstacles may be present.  

So, screw piles vs concrete slab, which is best for your next project? Both have their advantages. So, do your research well before you begin. And you may find that screw piles could provide the quicker, cleaner and more sustainable option.

Get in touch with UK Helix to discuss your screw pile needs. 

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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