Helical Piers Cost vs Concrete Footings
If you assumed excavation and concrete footers were your only option, there is another way: helical piers. What does this system entail, though, and what are the costs relative to the traditional concrete footers?
Steel poles are drilled into the ground until they hit solid rock or load-bearing soil. In a traditional concrete foundation, you dig down approximately ten feet, but your footers are still resting in dirt. This creates the potential for settling and foundation issues down the line.
Comparison Of Helical Piers Cost vs Concrete Footings
Every pier is around $175, and there are two piers required per hole. That puts you somewhere in the range of $350 per hole, of which a project typically needs six to eight. For hard materials, you’re sitting around $2,100 to $2,800.
With concrete, hard materials can range from a few hundred dollars to a thousand, depending on your specific build. The key, though, is that you’re also paying thousands in labor because of the time-consuming nature of digging and pouring concrete.
With excavation, there’s also the expense of yard repair to factor in when the project is complete. This can be anywhere from negligible to significant.
Overall, installing piers is at least 20 percent more productive than digging, and many homeowners find piers end up being the same price or cheaper for a stronger, more reliable system.
Now some of you may say that’s a hefty price to pay for a single pier, and you might be right. But consider concrete piers for comparison. These are another common pier wherein a hole is dug, and concrete poured. Concrete piers are likely the most commonly used alternative for backyards and other pier applications.
Cost Efficiency Relation Between Helical Piers And Concrete Footings
- No more digging holes. With helical piers, there’s no longer a need to dig massive holes or to brace them to prevent collapse. This speeds up the project, but it also means you don’t have to take on the expense of paying highly skilled, trained builders and contractors to manually dig holes.
- Less yard repair. When you use a traditional footer system, you’re potentially digging up and destroying large swaths of the homeowner’s yard. With the pier system, you don’t have to take on that expense or hassle.
- Quicker installation. Using the helical piers takes about thirty minutes a hole. For an entire project, that means you can allot about one half day. With digging, contractors had to allow at least two days for the actual excavation, one day for concrete, one days for inspection, and another day just in case something went wrong (foul weather, waylaid concrete delivery, inspection reschedule). That’s upwards of five days in hassle and labor expense with digging and less than one day with helical piers.
- No curing required: Related with the point above about the “Quick installation”. In the comparison helial piers cost vs concrete footings, a clear advantage for helical piers is that they do not have a curing time.
- Verifiable load capacity. When digging holes, the contractor had to verify the ground was solid by hand. With helical piers, you use a machine that actually gives you a verifiable, accurate, specific reading.
- 100 percent pass rate with the inspector. Because the machine tells us exactly how deep to go based on the torque being exerted back on that machine, we know we’re getting it correct every time. When the inspector comes out to assess the piers, we simply give him the printout of our digital readings, and we are given the green light. We have a 100 percent pass rate, and not dealing with multiple inspector visits also helps to speed up the project immensely.
- Installation can be performed year round: Can be installed well below the frostline, and is not susceptible to frost heave
- Helicals are a permanent foundation solution, that will last you a lifetime
Installing helical piers is not a DIY job, unless the installation is required for very small and light structures. The problem is that the homeowner cannot measure with precision the torque required for the installation of each pier.
The truth is that for concrete footings applies the same statement.
Disadvantages Of Concrete Footings In Relation With Helical Piers
- excavating down below frost line levels
- sliding in a form of some kind (sonotube)
- backfilling the form and then pouring in the concrete
Standard acceptable depths for this process are generally 4′. The further north you go though, as temperatures drop and the frost line gets deeper, more depth is required for the piers. This is to avoid heaving as the soils freeze and unfreeze, making the ground unstable.
- The footings are prone to frost heave if they are not placed deep enough
- Excessive excavating is needed to get below the frost line prior to placement
- Footings can settle due to shrinking and unstable soils, making it so the project needs done again
- The projects with Concrete footings are labor intensive, adding costs for labor.
- Concrete needs to cure
- The weather conditions need to be right for installation: Concrete has been used for hundreds of years and take excavating below frostline, sliding in a sonotube, backfilling the form, then pouring concrete. The frostlines can be deeper than 4’, the reason for needing to follow these steps is the soil freezing and unfreezing making the ground unstable.
- Often concrete posts cannot be installed the same day
DIY Approach In A Helical Piers Cost vs Concrete Footings Comparison
For smaller structures, like pergolas or even ground-level decks, DIY helical piers might work. You can find them at most local hardware stores for about $25 to $30 (non-standard brackets are extra). They work the same way as the helical piers we installed earlier, but with one big difference — you can do it yourself!
The biggest potential issue with these smaller options is knowing whether their installation is successful. Since you can’t measure the actual torque required to turn the pier into place, you won’t be able to tell just how much weight these piers will support. For this reason, you may only want to consider these for smaller projects. Also, these smaller helical piers usually have a powder-coated finish instead of the more durable galvanized steel finish.
Helical Piers as A Preferred Choice
They’re essentially giant galvanized steel shafts with screw-like flanges. To install screw piles, they are twisted into the ground to a depth that the torque required to turn them indicates proper soil bearing capacity.
Usually, installation extends to just below the frost line. They can sometimes even extend to hundreds of feet down, depending on soil conditions.
These piers can be driven into most types of ground. However, if solid bedrock is encountered, it requires some pre-drilling, which will add to your cost. Stony soils are okay, but sometimes you might hit a large enough rock to have to start the process all over again and reposition the screw.
Hello, I am Marcio. I am an architect and designer, alma mater is Mackenzie. Retired in theory, but an architect never retires completely. Along with architectural projects, I am a filmmaker and have completed some short documentaries. Filmmaking and design are my passions. In HomeQN I write about home decoration and foundations. The goal is to teach homeowners to DYI as much as possible, and when this is not possible, enable them through knowledge, to evaluate service quotations and choose the best service technicians.