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6 Tips to Protect the Foundation of Your Home

It’s easy to forget about the foundation of your home, especially since you can’t see it. However, if damage is caused to your foundation, you will more than likely experience damage to the rest of your home. Even the fanciest of properties can crack and leak if they are not built upon a solid foundation. Unfortunately, the repair costs don’t come cheap. That’s why it’s very important that you do all you can to protect your property. We have put together some tips for you:

  1. Avoid planting trees too close to your house. Although plants and shrubbery are lovely to look at, particularly during the spring and summer months, unfortunately the roots can damage your foundation.
  2. Water the trees around your home. If you fail to water the plants that surround your property sufficiently they could potentially soak up the water in the soil around your foundation and cause it to shrink.
  3. Ensure you have appropriate drainage. Every once in a while, make sure you clear away any debris that may have collected in your gutters to ensure that water flows through them correctly. They move rain water away from a foundation and if they become blocked, the overflow may cause damage.
  4. Check for pools of water after rain. If water collects after there has been substantial rain, clear it away and fill the area with dirt or gravel. This will control the moisture.
  5. Monitor changes in the area. Consider how any construction work in the area that could interfere with the foundations of your own property and take the necessary measures to counteract these problems.
  6. Water your landscape during summer. When the sun is out and the rain becomes infrequent, we recommended watering the land around your property to prevent the soil drying up and shrinking. This could cause your foundation to move and cause cracks in your walls.

Your Guide to Soil Types

When deciding which building foundation is most appropriate, one factor you must consider is the condition of the ground. An investigation of the soil should always be carried out before the design and construction of a new structure, so that you understand it’s bearing capacity. Will it be able to hold a heavy load without much movement or change in shape? You don’t want to build on the wrong type of soil and end up with cracks and leaks in your new structure. So, here is a brief guide to some of the many types of soil.

Chalk

You must bear in mind that chalk soils are disposed to erosion, so you should be cautious of things like caves and hollows. If the chalk is soft you must dig it out until stronger chalk is reached. Strip foundations are often used in chalk and they must be deeper than any frost action.

Clay

When it comes to clay soils, you must take extra care during excavation, particularly if there are some trees growing nearby. Throughout the year, the trees will interfere with the water content in the clay, causing it to shrink in summer and swell in winter. This, in turn, will disturb the foundations of your building and as a result, there are minimum foundation depths for each type of clay.

You may think that cutting down the nearby trees is a genius idea, however, in doing so the clay will not be able to contain the excess water during the rainier seasons and will expand significantly. Again, this results in structural damage. The best thing to do is dig below the area of clay that is affected by the trees and form your foundation there.

Rock

Types of rock such as limestone and sandstone have excellent bearing capacities, as they are strong and supportive. If the rock is even it will carry the foundation well, therefore you may need to strip it back and level it out.

Peat

This type of soil is usually black or dark brown in colour and is easy to compress due to the amount of water it can hold. Unfortunately, during the summer months peaty soil dries out and can potentially cause a fire. It is best not to build upon this type of soil, however, if it can be

Loam

Loam is the combination of sand, silt and clay and is actually the most ideal type of soil. As a result of its evenly balanced properties it’s great for supporting a structural foundation.

What to Consider When Choosing a Building Foundation

Foundations are a necessary component in spreading the load of a building safely across the ground. There are several factors that you ought to consider when determining the type of foundation you are going to build upon. These factors can vary from the condition of the ground to the structure of the building to nearby sewage systems. All are equally as important and none should be overlooked. So as long as you’re not too hasty with your decision, you will come to a suitable conclusion.

It’s very important that you understand the pros and cons of each type of foundation before you can possibly come to a conclusion. There are many advantages to using helical piles to support your building, for instance, such as the fact that they can be quickly and quietly installed with straightforward equipment. Alternatively, an advantage of concrete is that it’s highly resistant to fire.

When selecting a foundation it’s a great idea to base your decision on the success or failure of the foundations of neighbouring buildings, to determine what is likely to work for your own building and what you should avoid. It’s also important to make sure that the excavation for your new foundation does not weaken these nearby structures.

It’s also vital to consider the type of soil you will be building on and it’s bearing capacity, so that you know whether or not it will hold a large, heavy structure and what height and width the foundations should be. Make sure the strength of the soil is assessed sufficiently to determine how easily it moves or changes shape. When surrounding trees draw moisture from the ground with their roots, it may cause the soil to shrink (depending on the size of the tree and the type of soil). If you build on the wrong type of soil where this type of movement is likely to occur you will end up with cracks and leaks in your structure. The limited amount of ground vibration during installation is another advantage of helical piles.

What are Grillages?

Grillages are a flexible and eco-friendly foundation solution. They are used when groups of piles are necessary as an alternative to concrete and are often used at the foot of a column when weighty structural loads are required to be transferred to a soil of low bearing capacity. Grillages work particularly well if the ground is soft or wet and they are incredibly quick to install.

The steel grillages available from ScrewFast are manufactured from rolled steel joists, and are an economic, cost effective and speedy method for joining groups of piles to a superstructure. They can be used with any of our pile solutions and are designed to support any structure.

Grillages are a lot more convenient than concrete because not only do they significantly reduce the build time, they are also more environmentally friendly and can be recycled. What’s more, buildings and land that surround the project are less likely to be disrupted, because there is no need for the deep excavation that is required when using concrete.

At ScrewFast you can choose from a variety of standard grillage types which are highly versatile and can therefore be adapted to meet the requirements of your project. The types of grillages available include:

  • Cruciform
  • Y-shape
  • T-shape
  • 6, 8, and 10 pile grillages

Y-shape and T-shape grillages can be installed in under two hours and are commonly used to support CCTV cameras, signal posts and lighting columns. As a result of fewer necessary building materials, speedier installation and limited disruption to transport, there are significant cost savings when using grillages.

If none of these types of grillages are suitable for your project, you can have your grillages tailor-made to meet your specific needs. They will be a flexible, effective and sustainable solution. If you have any questions about steel grillage applications or any of our other services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The Disadvantages of Concrete Foundations

The foundations of our homes and other buildings are vital to the safety and longevity of the structure. In fact, the quality of your home heavily relies on the right foundations and, without correct planning and construction, there may be very serious and dangerous consequences. There are several different options for structural foundations, including concrete and helical piles, and homeowners should carefully weigh up their options before making a final decision.

Historically, concrete was used in construction because it is inexpensive, hard-wearing and resistant to fire. In fact, it is still a popular choice of material in the building industry because it is extremely strong and undeniably great at spreading the weight of large structures.

There are also several drawbacks to using concrete as a structural foundation and the building industry is starting to embrace the alternatives. As well as being extremely heavy and bad for the environment, concrete requires a toilsome and time consuming installation process. In fact, without the use of hefty special equipment concrete can only be used at a shallow depth. This leads to corrosion and soil compaction in the surrounding area, which is harmful neighbouring plants and buildings.

When concrete is not prepared properly, it can crack and will increase your home improvement costs. Leaks can also occur, caused by both rain and groundwater. Unfortunately, the source of the leaks are often difficult to trace and the entire concrete may have to be dug up. So, despite the fact that concrete is initially quite affordable, the cost to repair it is quite the opposite.

If you happen to be unsure of which type of foundation is right for your new-build, or perhaps you’d like some repairs done on your current foundation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch for some advice; we are happy to answer any questions.

What Are Steel Tubular Piles?

The quality of your building project relies on the right foundations, which is why we’re here to help you understand the different options available to you and the advantages of each. Steel tubular piles are large hollow tubes that are hammered into the ground using a form of proficient modern accelerated hammer.

Steel tubular piles are extremely robust, offering a strong and adaptable foundation solution for a variety of applications. They are frequently used on sites that have a restricted working area and for projects where a low vibration level is required.

Available in a variety of sizes, steel tubular piles can be used in the majority of ground conditions for most types of structures. During installation the shape and reliability of steel tubular piles is upheld, which means they can penetrate through rocks, boulders and other obstructive ground material without breaking. Several sections can be joined together to result in longer piles for deeper ground conditions, or the steel tubular piles can be supplied as one single length.

There are several benefits to this type of foundation. They can be installed quickly and loaded instantly, since no concrete is necessary. They are also environmentally friendly and the slender section design means they have reduced levels of vibration. What’s more, steel tubular piles do not generate any spoil during the installation process which is ideal in areas with contaminated ground.

The History of Helical Piles

Originating in the 1830s, helical pile elements were used effectively around the globe to bear a range of major civil engineering structures. They were invented and first used by a blind, Irish engineer named Alexander Mitchell, who recognised how effective they were at constructing lighthouses, beacons, ship moorings and other structures that sit on mud banks and shifting sands. The helix shaped blades were able to infiltrate bedrock deep below loose soil.

Some of the first structures to be built using helical piles are still standing, demonstrating the effectiveness of the materials and workmanship involved. There were many benefits to using helical piles; they were readily available and fairly simple to install with hand labour, they were environmentally friendly and excellent value for money. These advantages remain the same in modern day, proving that a truly good idea never goes out of style.

In the years following their invention, helical piles were not considered a noteworthy engineering achievement; however, they were a distinguished type of foundation across the world and given less credit than they deserved. In fact, they were arguably the most significant foundational development of the nineteenth century.

Helical piles were initially made from cast and wrought iron, which were both in ample supply at the time; however, nowadays they are made from recyclable steel and various other materials.

The decrease in their popularity was most likely the result of the mechanisation of the building industry as well as the development of alternative options. Over the years, with increased research and technology, they have been greatly enhanced, resulting in an effective and popular foundation for construction.

Are Helical Piles A Better Choice Than Concrete?

Before you can determine which type of structural foundation is more beneficial, you must first have a clear understanding of what each of them do and then weigh up the various pros and cons.

Concrete is used a great deal in construction because it is affordable, durable, flexible and strong. In addition, it is extremely resistant to fire. Although it is undoubtedly brilliant at distributing the weight of large structures unfortunately, unless special equipment is used or very arduous excavation is implemented concrete can only be used at fairly shallow depths. This results in the entire area becoming susceptible to the effects of corrosion and soil compaction, which is bad news for the surrounding plants and buildings.

Alternatively, helical piles can be quickly installed, with more convenient and easy-to-manage equipment. Once everything has been designed and constructed, the helical piles are screwed into the ground using machinery to ensure security. The piles act as an anchor, locking the structure above to the soil beneath. Unlike with a concrete foundation, only a small amount of ground may need to be dug out, saving time and money on both digging and disposing.

With helical piles, there is no need to wait for materials to dry or set, meaning the rest of the structure can be added immediately, again saving time. They have a limited impact on the environment because installation keeps noise pollution to a minimum and there is little or no ground vibration. They are also recyclable if ever removed.

As well as being environmentally friendly, helical piles are also cheaper than concrete foundations keeping your overall costs for the project down. Whilst they become progressively more popular, helical piles are now accepted as the preferred option for structural foundations.

Are Helical Piles Environmentally Friendly?

There are several advantages to using a helical pile foundation to support your structure; they are quicker to install than typical concrete foundations, they have reduced overall costs and they are also more environmentally friendly than other options. Originally, helical piles were used around 200 years ago but as their benefits come to light, they are being used more and more in recent years. Helical piles are environmentally friendly and economical in many ways, making them a desirable option for a deep foundation.

Upon installation, helical piles produce less noise pollution than driven piles and there is very little (if any) vibration of the ground, which is quite important when installing in environmentally sensitive areas, such as historical sites or wetlands. This is because helical piles can be installed using non-disruptive equipment, that tends to be smaller, more convenient and more energy-efficient equipment than for other types of structuring. It is possible to even use hand-held equipment in areas of limited access. Concrete slabs, on the other hand, require a lot of cleared space and hefty equipment which can disturb the area quite significantly and make them a less desirable option.

Considering helical piles are installed using smaller/less equipment, fewer vehicle trips to the site mean there will be less traffic on the roads and therefore less pollution. What’s more, as a result of their light weight, using helical piles reduces the carbon footprint.

The ease of removing helical piles is almost comparable to the ease of the initial installation, which means minimal energy is used to recycle them. In fact, they are often actually made with partially recycled metals, such as steel, which can be reused repeatedly. Recycling is important to the environment because it reduces waste.

As helical piles become increasingly more popular, they are now recognised as the preferred choice for structural foundations.

10 Benefits of Helical Pile Foundations

Helical pile foundations have a myriad of applications across both commercial and residential projects. Here is a clear explanation of the 10 benefits of these steel pile foundations, and the opportunities they offer compared to digging out concrete foundations.

  1. Quick installation – helical pile foundations are faster to install than standard concrete foundations, with no dig out time and no setting time required.
  2. No excavations – there is no need to excavate or cart away spoil, which makes builds even faster and saves money on every project.
  3. No curing time – helical pile foundations can be built on immediately, there is no need to wait for it to dry so building can continue as soon as the foundation is installed.
  4. Small footprint – you can use helical pile foundations in restricted areas, such as next to buildings, without having to take extensive extra measure to keep them stable,
  5. Flexible design – your helical pile is specifically designed for your project, the available space, the soil you are building on, and the load-bearing requirements.
  6. Environmentally friendly – helical pile foundations have less of an impact on the environment than concrete alternatives.
  7. Installations can be done all year round – unlike concrete, there is no down time in winter when it is too cold for concrete to cure properly. Helical pile foundations can be installed any time of year, in any temperature.
  8. Reduce noise complaints – the majority of helical pile installations are below 80db, so your site receives fewer noise complaints and you protect your builders’ hearing.
  9. Minimal vibration – you can work next to existing buildings without disturbing their foundations or causing damage. The majority of helical pile installations have less than 1mm of vibration, rising to around 5mm if the pile is driven through an obstruction.
  10. Can be installed in any ground – if you have soft ground, rocky soil, or even clay, you can still install a helical pile foundation.
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