Helical piers: what are they and what do they do?

Industry experts say that helical piers are the best solution for most home and business foundation repairs, but not everyone knows what they are, what they do, or why they work better than older foundation repair methods.

Here’s a quick rundown to help you decide if they’ll work for you.

helical pier vertical imageThe word “helix” has different meanings depending on whether you’re talking about science or construction. For our purposes, it’s just a fancy name for a spiral shape that’s formed around a central core. Helical piers are earth anchoring devices made for deep foundation support. To qualify as a true helical pier, it’s got to have three defining parts:

  1. a termination point at the top that connects to the structure you want to support
  2. a central shaft that distributes load to the bearing plates
  3. at least one helical bearing plate (usually several) to distribute load to the soil

This simplicity is one key trait that makes helical piers work so well. They’re backed with 100 years of engineering experience to give you the best load-bearing advantages, with the least disruption to your property. The ones we use, manufactured in the United States by A.B. Chance, are certified to meet ISO 9000 international quality standards, and they comply with all national building codes. This means you can install them with complete peace of mind.

So why are helical piers a better choice than old-school foundation repair methods like driven piles, cast-in-place concrete piers? For one thing, because they’re precision-designed steel, you can load them immediately without having to wait for concrete to cure. The helical shape of the bearing plates make installation fast and easy, and they don’t require the costly and extreme excavation needed to drill and place concrete piles under your structure.

Choose helical piers when:

  • You want durable, efficient foundation repair at a lower total cost
  • You’re concerned about the environmental impact of the materials you use
  • You want to avoid unnecessary excavation on your property
  • You have access restrictions that make heavy equipment impractical
  • You have a high water table or weak surface soils like the variable types in Alabama
  • You need assurance that your repair will be able to resist wind or seismic forces

Advantages of Helical Piers for homes & businesses

One of the biggest advantages of helical piers, especially for Birmingham area property owners, is that they create almost no visible soil disturbance. When you use the kind of industrial auger you need to install a concrete pier, the auger blades mix and loosen the surrounding soil, creating more instability around your foundation. In contrast, the helical bearing plates are designed to glide into place and transfer structural loads to deeper, more stable soil layers.

Another good reason to choose helical piers is flexibility. When you work with the right installer, they’ll be able to advise you on the right configuration to deal with variations in Alabama soil. The load-bearing considerations might change depending on whether your property sits on clay, loam, or a mix of the state’s 21 other soil types. Helical piers can be easily field modified and grouped for light, medium, or heavy loads, depending on the extent of the repairs you need.

Finally, because helical piers are environmentally friendly, they’ve become a preferred solution for sensitive areas like protected wetlands and forests. In Alabama, you’ll often find them underneath the boardwalks and walkways that allow people to access our natural wonders without disturbing habitats for plant and animal life.

Get a Free Helical Pier quote

We’d be happy to talk with you about helical piers and whether they might be the right choice for your property. If you think you might be dealing with foundation problems, give us a call and we’ll arrange for a trained technician to give you a free assessment – no pressure and no obligation. You might be pleasantly surprised to learn how affordable foundation repair can be.