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What Is a Push Pier & How Does a Helical Pier Differ?

Push piers and helical piers are crucial products used by the foundation repair industry. Their main purpose from a residential standpoint is to stabilize a settling home and provide much-needed support. In this article, we will cover push piers and go into depth about the similarities and differences that it has compared to helical piers.

Push piers and helical piers are important to you if you need foundation repair or stability. These are the two options you will typically be asked to choose from, and knowing the key differences and advantages can help you make the right decision when the time comes. This article is not intended to steer you in one direction or the other but intended to give you enough accurate information to allow you to feel confident in your decision.

Option 1: Push Piers

push piers

Push piers get their name from how they utilize a hydraulic press to push sections of pipe into the ground. These piers are hollow, which allows them to glide into the soil. Typically, they come in 3.5-foot sections that connect until the desired depth is achieved. Once it is to the desired depth, it is then attached to the footer of the structure’s foundation with pier brackets. These piers are then held in place by the weight of the structure it is supporting, which makes it a good choice for heavier structures, such as commercial buildings or factories. One advantage of push piers is that installation can occur in relatively tight spaces. However, there are quite a few disadvantages to using push piers as well, such as:

  • They can’t handle light loads – They cannot be used to support lighter loads such as one-story buildings or garages. The weight of the structure isn’t sufficient to push the piers into the ground and, therefore, not heavy enough to keep it in place if installed.
  • They cannot be moved – Once push piers are installed, they cannot be moved. This means that if a pier needs to be relocated after installation, it would not be possible. Moreover, if they were installed at a residence and as the homeowner you wanted to add an addition to your home, additional piers would have to be installed to support the weight of the addition.
  • They can only be installed vertically – Push piers have a compression-fit design, which means they can only be installed vertically, or else the pieces would not fit together.
  • They can’t be used with broken or cracked footers – Since push piers rely on the weight of the structure to keep it at depth and to hold it into place, a broken or cracked footer on your foundation would render a push pier useless.

Push piers have been used in the construction industry for over 100 years and are a good option for large brick structures. However, they lack versatility, and certain requirements must be met before they can be justifiably used.

Option 2: Helical Piers

helical piers

Helical piers are like push piers because they are made of galvanized, rust-resistant steel. The difference between the two, however, is both in their versatility and design. While push piers are long, cylinder-shaped poles, a helical pier is like a giant screw. These screws were originally designed over 100 years ago to be used in sandy soils. They are also used to support and stabilize settling foundations. Different from a push pier, where the weight of the structure is needed to achieve the proper load capacity, a helical pier has large helixes that pull it into the soil, and it does not need the weight of the structure for proper load capacity. These piers are also attached to the footing of the structure’s foundation by way of a steel helical bracket. Helical piers use a hand-held hydraulic motor instead of a hydraulic press for installation. Compared to a push pier, helical piers boast several other advantages as well, such as:

  • Supports small and large structures – As previously stated, helical piers do not need the weight of the structure to help installation, therefore, it can be installed to support small residential properties, garages, and large commercial structures as well.
  • Versatile installation – Unlike push piers, helical piers can be installed at an angle as well as removed and reinstalled quickly if a homeowner requires it for an addition on the home. Also, while push piers are rendered useless against broken or cracked foundation footings, a helical pier can still be used regardless of the condition of the footer.
  • Cost-effectiveness – Its mobility allows installation to be more efficient and therefore more cost-effective compared to push piers. Moreover, instead of needing to support the structure for it to be effective, helical piers can be installed to support just one section of a home or to a bowing wall.
  • Design – The helix design allows helical piers to strengthen as more components are attached, which makes it easy to drill through troublesome obstacles such as rocks or hard soils.

Helical piers are also less cumbersome than their push pier counterparts because installation does not cause any vibrations or shaking to occur in the surrounding soil. According to experts in the foundation repair industry, helical piers have the ultimate advantage against push piers because of their versatility.

In closing, both push piers and helical piers have their pros and cons. Push piers can be installed in limited space and are best used for large structures such as commercial properties. However, their versatility is limited when faced with ordinary residential properties such as single-story structures and garages. Helical piers are the preferred method of foundation repair experts because they can be used for both small and large structures. Their downside is that they cannot be installed in a limited space like their push pier counterparts. Given this information, you should be confident in your decision as to which products should be used to repair your home if that time comes.

Carolina Foundation Solutions is a family-owned foundation repair company that has been serving both North and South Carolina for the last 20 years. We aim to use the best products the market has to offer, and that is why we use helical piers for our foundation repair methods. We cater our repair methods to fit the individual needs of the customer, and as a family-owned company, we treat our customers like family, and we believe that sets us apart. If you need foundation repair services, contact us for a free inspection.

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