Piling is the process of drilling foundations through the ground to provide more structural strength to the weak soil underneath. Piling prepares the ground to carry heavy loads, such as a new home, office complex, road, or another piece of infrastructure.
Piles usually are long poles that are made of timber, steel, or concrete. Their shape, circumference, and weight may vary depending on the conditions of the soil and the demands of the project. Essentially, pile foundations work by distributing the weight of heavy construction across a wider surface area.
When to Use Piling Foundations in Construction
There are several factors to consider when using a piling foundation during construction. Their primary purpose is to ensure the safety and strength of the ground before workers build anything above. Here are a few situations when using a pile foundation system can be essential:
High Groundwater Table: When the groundwater table is high, traditional foundations might be vulnerable to water damage. Pile foundations, however, can be driven deep enough to bypass this issue.
Heavy Loads: When a heavy load of a superstructure needs additional support, such as in the case of large commercial buildings or bridges, piling becomes crucial to distribute this load effectively.
Cost and Feasibility: In some cases, other types of foundations might be costlier or not feasible due to the soil conditions. Piling can provide a more economical solution.
Compressible Soil: When the soil at shallow depth is compressible, piling can reach more stable soil layers below, ensuring the foundation’s stability.
Proximity to Water: Piling is commonly used near riverbeds, seashores, or areas prone to scouring to prevent erosion-related issues.
Poor Soil Conditions: When soil excavation is not possible up to the desired depth due to poor soil conditions, piling becomes a necessity.
How Are Piling Types Used in Construction?
Before choosing a piling type, engineers must assess the site conditions, including soil properties, climate, and project requirements. Consulting with architects is also crucial to understand the project’s scale. Here are three common methods of using piling types in construction:
Driven Pile Foundations: Common materials include concrete, steel, and timber. These piles are precast or prefabricated and then driven into the soil using a piling hammer. They are suitable for granular soils but not for saturated silty soils.
Cast-in-Situ Pile Foundations: Concrete piles are used here. Instead of precast piles, holes are drilled into the ground, steel reinforcements are placed inside, and the hole is filled with concrete. This method allows for customization of depth and diameter.
Combined Pile Foundations: This method combines the advantages of both driven and cast-in-situ pile foundations. A steel shell is driven into the ground, and then concrete is poured inside, offering stability, especially in water-rich environments.
Types of Piling
When determining the best piling type for a project, building engineers examine factors such as excavation depth, pile installation angle, and environmental impact. Here are eight main piling types construction workers can consider:
End-Bearing Piles: These rest on a layer of strong soil or rock to transfer the building’s load onto the stable layer.
Friction Piles: Cylindrical piles that use their full height to transfer forces into the soil, with load-bearing capacity proportional to their length.
Bored Piles: Augured into the ground and filled with concrete, providing secure foundations with minimal vibration.
Driven Piles: Hammered into the ground and suitable for non-cohesive or contaminated soils.
Timber Piles: Economical and efficient for temporary and permanent structures.
Steel Piles: Installed with impact or vibration hammers, suitable for sturdy soil and rock.
Concrete Piles: Used in offshore construction projects for stability in complex terrain.
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