On this project a homeowner asked us to install helical pier support for a covered porch addition.
What is a Helical Pier?
Helical piers are an innovative way to permanently stabilize a settling foundation or prevent settlement in the first place. These round shaft piers are driven deep into the ground to reach undisturbed, stable soil. They can be utilized to help support existing foundations or to build new structures upon in situations where the soil is unstable. You can even use them to build structures over bodies of water!
While renovating their home, this homeowner wanted to add a covered porch. The foundation of the home did not allow for the attachment of a ledger board. A ledger board distributes a large portion (roughly half) of the weight of a structure to the existing home. Therefore, some kind of pier was required to support the new addition.
Here are a few reasons to use helical piers as support for a porch or deck:
- Fast Installation: Once installed, the piers are ready for immediate use.
- No impact from weather: We can install in wet and/or cold weather; unlike concrete.
- High load capacity: This allows for flexibility in the design process. It also ensures that the pier does not settle over time due to being overloaded.
- Accuracy: The in-cab computer allows us to instantly know the capacity of the pier and records it for our project files.
- Added depth: We can add depth to increase the load capacity or reach undisturbed, stable soil.
- Pier Coating: There are two options, steel and galvanized steel. Bare steel will not rust for at least 80 years, and galvanized will last over 120 years.
- Connection bracket: The brackets we use have an innovative design to allow flexibility during construction. This means we have wiggle room when it comes to pier placement. The bracket attaches directly to the pier and no concrete is necessary.
- No excavation required: and no soil to haul off.
For standard deck installation, we typically require a general sketch of the deck layout to start the project review process. Additional information may be necessary (such as load capacity required for each pier) depending on the complexity of the deck design. In this situation, since the helical piers were to provide support for a structure overhead: we required detailed stamped designs. This ensures that the design we are working from is the final one and has the correct load capacity and pier placement to support the structure.
Since the original design called for concrete piers, this engineer had to change the designs to include helical piers instead. Pro Tip: It is always best to work through these design details in the planning process prior to hiring a contractor. Remember that your architect or engineer works for you; do your research and be sure to discuss your options. We don’t want issues with permits or design changes to get in the way of enjoying your new addition!
Helical piers are a great way to stabilize structures and support decks/porches. And while they have been growing in popularity, there are still many engineers and architects who are unfamiliar with them. For more information on whether piers are a viable option for your upcoming project, please contact us and our staff would be happy to provide additional information.
The revised plans now called for the installation of four 7′ galvanized helical piers. Unfortunately, we hit a rocky surprise during the installation of pier #1. Typically, if we hit an obstruction, we can remove the pier and reposition it. In this case, we discovered that the original rock retaining wall in the area was still present under the ground and too dense to avoid. This meant we had to take the unusual step to excavate a small area around it.
Fortunately, after this rocky start, everything was smooth sailing.
Once installed, the piers were ready for porch construction. The homeowners can rest easy knowing that their porch has a stable foundation.