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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.

Using Screwpile Foundations in Greenbelt Builds & Woodland

Helical pile foundations have a diverse range of uses across practically every industry. Most recently, self builders and property developers have been using helical pile foundations as a way to save time on new residential builds and even to help them build where they may not otherwise be able to.

Foundations and Tree Preservation Orders

Tree Preservation Orders, or TPOs, are orders made by the council giving legal protection to a tree. They can be the death-knell for some building projects and often require builders to replan their projects entirely. Carrying out work without consideration for the TPO and without approval can result in prosecution and a fine of up to £20,000. Often, planning permission will only be provided for a project if the tree is protected during and after the build.

While branches are avoided relatively easily, it can be difficult to avoid harming roots, particularly since their spread is relatively unknown. Building on a cantilevered floor slab with pile foundations keeps excavations to a minimum, and therefore means that you have less risk of disturbing trees on your property.

Reducing Environmental Impact

Planning permission is rarely granted on greenbelt land unless there has been considered effort made to mitigate the impact on the environment and the building is architecturally significant. An excellent way to reduce the environmental impact of any build is to use less concrete throughout. Replacing concrete foundations with helical piles can reduce the building’s overall concrete usage by over 30%.

To find out more about how a helical pile foundation can help with your building project, please get in touch.

Self-Builders Increasingly Use Helical Pile Foundations

As self-building becomes more popular in the UK, people are looking for simpler ways to build and techniques that will let them reduce spend and even build on more difficult sites. The cost of a site can vary depending on a variety of factors, and if it seen as more troublesome due to a significant slope (for example), it could mean that self-builders can buy more land or live in a more desirable location without exceeding their budget.

Commercial techniques are increasingly finding their way into domestic construction, especially when builders are willing to work outside the box to find solutions. This is where helical piles have become a savior for many self-builders who would otherwise have to spend considerable amounts digging out deeper foundations or wouldn’t be able to get out of the ground at all without significant additional borrowing.

Tricky building plots include:

  • Sloping sides
  • Numerous trees, or trees that builders would like to maintain in close proximity to the house
  • Made up ground on brownfield land
  • Unstable ground
  • Large amounts of clay in the soil

Since the government is working to make more brownfield land available to self-builders, even more will need to look at alternatives to standard concrete foundations.

In many instances digging down deeper is a viable option, but this has larger costs associated with it:

  • You will need to spend more time digging
  • You will need to spend more to dump the soil
  • You will need to pay for more concrete
  • You will need to spend longer waiting for the concrete to set

All of which can eat into budget reserves before the house is even begun.

Screw piles are an elegant solution to many of these problems. While some soil will still need to be dug out – especially on sloping sites that will need a level base for building work to begin – most of the piles can be installed with soil displacement. This means that you reduce the cost of all of the items listed above, and spend no time at all waiting for the foundations to set – they can be built upon on the very same day.

Choosing screw pile foundations means that self-builders can reduce the amount of time it takes to install their foundations from weeks to just a few days.

Screw Pile Installations in the UK

Screw pile or helical pile foundations have a number of benefits compared to traditional concrete foundations – not least of which is the reduced time it takes to install the foundations themselves. This includes less time digging out the foundations as well as installing the steel. Here is a brief guide to helical pile foundation installations for anybody who is new to the process.

Planning the Installation

The steel plates used in a screw pile foundation are unique to every project and created bespoke to meet the needs of the structure and conditions that the foundations will be subjected to. This means that their size, pitch, and thickness will be different for every install.

The factors considered when designing and building the steel plates are the load required by the project, the geotechnical parameters, the corrosive conditions (including proximity to the sea, type of soil, and water table), and how long the foundations are expected to last as well as the demands of the structure itself.

All of this must be decided based on a professional site survey and in-depth discussion of the final structure. Planning the foundations properly is an essential part of the process, and at Screwfast we pride ourselves on considering every detail to create long-lasting foundations that are perfectly designed for their purpose.

The Installation

The installation itself is relatively simple once everything has been designed and built; screw piles are literally screwed into the ground the way that you would secure a screw in a DIY project. There may be more than one helix involved, depending on the project, and machinery is used to install each screw pile securely and accurately.

Some ground may need to be dug out, but nowhere near as much as a traditional concrete foundation would require. This means that you have less costs associated with both digging out the foundations, the amount of time it takes, and the cost of dumping the results of the dig out.

Once the foundation has been installed, there is no waiting time for materials to dry or set – the rest of the structure can be added straight away, which is another reason builds including screw pile foundations are completed so quickly.

If you would like to speed up your builds and reduce a number of costs associated with them, get in touch to find out if helical pile foundations are suitable for your project.

Balfour Beatty Associate Highways England Osbourne Associate Kier Associate