This builder wondered if helical piers could be the answer after they purchased a plot of land in Columbia Tusculum with poor soil conditions. When planning a new build, not many people think about the soil underneath it.
Dirt is dirt, right?
Unfortunately, not so. Shifting or expansive or clay soils can lead to structural movement in the home. The tri-state/Cincinnati area has a lot of clay soil and this site was no exception. This area of Tusculum is also prone to flooding and poor soil conditions. In order to see what exactly they were dealing with they hired George Webb-a Terracon soil engineer, to test the soil. They found that they actually had a mix of sandy and clay soil, a great recipe for structural instability.
They hired Chris Schwartz of Schwartz Engineering to design a solution for the lack of supportive soil using helical piers. At his suggestion we installed and subsequently removed a test pier in order to verify the pier depth and load capacity. Our in-cab computer was able to record the depth, the torque and the working and ultimate load capacity to help with his calculations.
Once designs were in place we began our install of 17 helical piers at the site. At this point we discovered there was some large rocks under the ground, this meant we could not reach our target torque in some areas. However the on-site soil engineer determined that there was no concern for pier stability.
Below you can see Mr. Webb taking measurements and gathering data during our pier install.
A test pier can be a handy tool for checking the depth needed to reach stable soil. This is soil that is undisturbed and is able to carry the loads of the structure above. This can give your engineer more soil data to work with and a more accurate estimation of cost. And while you do pay for the initial test pier, the majority of the cost gets credited back toward any work you decide to move forward with.