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Why and When to Use Concrete Piles?

Concrete PilesConcrete Piles and drilled shafts are an important category of foundations. Despite their relatively high cost, they become necessary when we want to transfer the loads of a a heavy superstructure (bridge, high rise building, etc.) to the lower layers of soil. Another reason for choosing a pile foundation is the condition and quality of soil layers. Based on how they transfer the load into the subsoil, piles can be categorized as friction piles, and end-bearing piles. In friction pile, the load transfer is done through shear stress generated along the interface of pile and soil. In end-bearing pile, the load is transferred through the tip of the pile to a firm stratum. Drilled shaft, as its name implies, are drilled into the subsoil, and then filled with concrete. Generally, drilled shafts have larger cross sectional area (Barja M. Das, 2008)

Why and When to Use Concrete Piles?

Different types of concrete piles are used for different applications. Cast-in-place concrete piles, or driven shafts are two great examples of how the can be produced (made) and installed. When choosing a pile type, one should generally consider the following conditions:

1-  Poor quality of upper soil layers
2 - When we have expansive soil in construction site
3-  To resist uplift forces
4-  To resist lateral loads (horizontal)
5-  Bridge abutment and piers

Types of Concrete Piles

Concrete piles can be either pre-cast pile, or cast in-situ. Concrete piles are generally reinforced.

Pre-cast Concrete Piles

For pre-case piles, the reinforcement brings extra strength to resist bending moment during pile pick up, transportation, vertical loads, and bending moment as a result of lateral loads. They can be built in different sizes and shapes, as required for each specific use. Pre-case piles can be prestressed as well.
Cast in-situ piles are made by drilling a hole into the soil, and then filling out with concrete.

Cast-in-situ Concrete Piles

Cast in-situ piles can be divided into two main categories: cased, or uncased. Cased concrete piles are made by driving a steel casing into the soil. In this case, the mandrel is placed inside the casing. After reaching desired depth, the mandrel is withdrawn, and the casing is filled with concrete. In the case of the uncased piles, the casing will be gradually withdrawn.


Quality Control of Concrete Piles

Quality control of concrete piles is a challenging task. Engineers, and contractors rely on experience and well-established procedures and test standards to verify the strength, and consistency of pile materials. Non-destructive testing help reveal potential defects that might have happened during pile casting (in the case of cast-in-place piles), or transportation and installation (in the case of precast piles).

Different methods have been developed to evaluate the quality of concrete piles. Apart from general concrete tests (concrete cylinder samples, and slump test), different non-destructive testing (NDT) methods can be used to evaluate the quality and reliability of concrete piles. These test can help identify and quantify integrity and quality related issues. The following NDT methods are widely accepted and used for evaluating the integrity of piles:

+    Low Strain Impact Integrity Testing - Read More
+    Ultrasonic Cross Hole Testing for piles with accessible tip,
+    Parallel Seismic (ACI 228.2R) for piles covered up by pile-cap

Pile Integrity Test


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27 thoughts on “Why and When to Use Concrete Piles?”

  1. Piles are sometimes used to reduce superstructure settlement /differential settlement.
    You have not mentioned about micro piles used when foundation is near the existing structures.
    In this case Precast pile option not possible due to it may cause cracks on the existing structures but cast -in-situ bored piles with ground beam cantilevered is possible. It is possible to pile 1.2m away from existing structures.

  2. The helical piers are very versatile for all applications and do not require concrete unless lateral load in less than 4 blow count materials, then a grouted pull down micro pile eliminates shaft buckling concerns in poor blow count material.

  3. In the case of piles 15 feet away from a structure… What is recommended alternative to impact pikes to prevent structure damage.

  4. Concrete piles are the most popular in application but now a days use of screw piles are also another alternative specially in sandy soil.

  5. Jpsé Manuel Palacios Bonilla

    According my experience, piles of friction is used when the bearing capacity of foundation soil is very low, especially in heavy structures such as elevated tanks, edificiops many floors, but its cost is quite high. HOWEVER currently in my area City
    Chiclayo, the audience of rigid foundation is used in soft zone, necesiotandose paracumplir entire area of land with the solicitation of multistory building.

  6. What you say is very informative and useful, but I must say there is place for steel piles that I believe out perform concrete piles, especially when it comes to their flexibility needed in the newer double integral bridges being built now in New York State.

    1. Gary, I totally understand your point. I find your point valid. The reason it is missing, is because steel has never been main area of expertise. I may add another write up regarding steel piles, as I have seen may of them being used in jetty construction. Thanks for your comment.

  7. What is a screw pile? Are you talking about augured piles? This note on piles is quite brief. The type of pile used depends on the site conditions and availability of materials and techniques. some of these are proprietary techniques and would be available only if that particular contractor is chosen.
    Among cast in situ piles, there is driven cast in situ piles where a steel shoe is driven into the ground along with the casing and later the hole is filled up with concrete. The casing can either be left in place, or withdrawn depending on the site requirement. The compaction of soil in front of the shoe gives higher capacity for the same size of pile.
    There is also under reamed piles, which are generally used to resist uplift forces and also in black or yellow cotton soil to resist the shrinkage forces.
    Other than load bearing piles, there are also sheet piles and diaphragm walls to resist lateral forces, but that is another treatise.

  8. My brother recently found cracks in his foundation. He has been looking at options to secure his home. I didn’t realize that concrete piling can stabilize soils by filling large cylinders with concrete after drilling them. This could be a good option to help my brother with his home.

  9. Pingback: 5 Integrity Problems of Concrete Piles | FPrimeC Solutions

  10. It’s interesting to learn that when it comes to a construction site that there are a lot of uses for a concrete pile. The thing that you said that I find most interesting is that you pointed out that they should use them if there is poor quality in upper soil layers or it is expansive. Living in an area where construction is always constant, it’s good to know that there is a reason behind the things they do.

    1. We are happy that you found our article interesting. Please help us spread the knowledge around concrete piles by sharing this through your professional network. Thanks again and have a wonderful weekend.

  11. All the contributions to this discussion are quite commendable. I would appreciate more comment on helical screw pile applications and estimation of such pile capacity

  12. Pingback: 5 Integrity Problems of Concrete Piles – iPile

  13. I didn’t realize that concrete piles should be reinforced. I also like how you said that they could be any size or shape as well. My husband and I are looking into piling contractors; thanks for your post.

  14. It’s good to know that piling can be helpful when the quality of soil is poor. That can help add more support to the foundation of your home or building. I think I might want to add piles to the home I’m building.

  15. Thanks for these tips on how to find a good piling service. It would make sense to find someone who is qualified and experienced first. My husband and I are looking for a piling service, so we’ll have to check their experience first.

  16. If I had to use concrete piles, I would be sure that it would be for any of the reasons that you listed here. I’m not sure what is the most common reason but any of them would do. I’d just be sure to have the piles constructed by a professional since I don’t have the means to do it myself.

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