Homeowners who are new to the concept of dealing with a foundation problem, soon are faced with the issue of correcting their problem with steel piers vs. concrete piers. It’s always a conflict because of the questions of durability and price of installation.
Here’s a good presentation of the issues:
To better understand the difference between steel and concrete piers, first consider the installation method of each:
Hydraulic Push Piers – Hydraulic push piers are made of strong galvanized steel. To install one, a small hole is dug next to the damaged foundation and the foundation footing is notched. A lift bracket is then permanently affixed to the foundation and a hydraulic drive is mounted on it. The steel pier is then driven by sections into the ground until it reaches a load-bearing stratum. Once all piers are in place the foundation is raised all at one time back to level and the lift brackets are permanently attached to the piers. The holes are backfilled, covering the repairs.
Drilled Concrete Piers – Drilled concrete piers are poured in place under the foundation. Installers begin by digging a large diagonal shaft under the foundation from the exterior. When the shaft is dug, a special auger bit is used to widen the base of it into a bell shape. The shaft may be reinforced with steel rebar before it is filled with concrete mix. Once the concrete has cured, the house is lifted with individual bottle jacks to sit on top of the piers.
Advantages of Steel Push Piers
- Install all the way to load-bearing stratum
- Unlimited capacity to lift structures
- Foundation is completely stabilized — no further dropping or settlement
- No heavy equipment required
- Short installation time depending on number of piers
Disadvantages of Drilled Concrete Piers
- Require major excavation and soil disposal
- Heavy equipment positioned next to house
- Don’t penetrate to load-bearing stratum, further movement possible
- Excavations can take several days and water can seep into shafts
- Once poured, concrete piers require 1 to 2 weeks to cure before house can be leveled
There is one advantage to using drilled concrete piers in that it is a less costly process than installing hydraulic push piers, which may explain their appeal to some homeowners. However, any short term savings are likely to be devoured over the longer term as additional repairs are required and there is a lifestyle cost to having a home’s exterior torn up and messy for two or three weeks.
Experiencing major foundation damage is just about as serious as it can get when it comes to common home repair problems because it compromises the stability of the entire home. It is not a problem to be taken lightly and definitely not a time to compromise on less than the best method of repair. Once steel push piers are in place under a home’s foundation, any homeowner can rest easy for as long as he or she lives there, knowing that the foundation is safe, stable and secure.
Foundation engineering is a critical factor is maintaining the stability of your home and protecting its value over time. It’s usually a good idea to seek out the professional opinion of several area contractors or service providers prior to proceeding with this important home repair.
Related: House Leveling