What is the difference between Helical and Push Piers?

What is the difference between Helical and Push Piers? - Image 1

Whether you’ve found cracks in walls or noticed sticky doors and windows, your house is showing signs of foundation trouble. But what’s next? One Google search results in a maze of options, but two of the most common solutions may keep appearing: helical piers and push piers. What is the deal with these? How do they differ? And which is the best for your home? Let’s break it down.

What is a Push Pier?

Imagine multiple steel poles, driven deep into the soil, supporting the weight of your home. This is basically how installing push piers solves your foundation problem. Push piers are long steel poles, which after being driven into the ground are attached to the home’s foundation using a steel bracket.

Push piers installed underneath a home to stabilize the foundation. View of what push piers look like underground.

Underground view of push piers installed at a home.

The Process:

After removing dirt surrounding the home, hydraulic jacks (in simpler terms, a cool machine to push rods down) install these piers 25 to even 60 feet into the ground. Rightfully earning the name "push piers"! After installing push piers, the weight of a home is automatically transferred and held up by the steel push piers.

What are push piers used for?

If the soil surrounding the home is unknown, push piers are a great option! You can have confidence the depth of the piers will remain stable even as the soil around it changes. Push piers both bear the weight of your home and can bring the home back to its original position.

When NOT to Use:

Push piers are the powerlifters of foundation repair. They're really good at holding up heavy structures, like your home or a building. But lighter structures, like stoops and decks, aren't heavy enough for push piers.

What is a Helical Pier?

Helical piers resemble giant screws twisted into the ground, stabilizing your home’s foundation. These massive, high-strength, steel corkscrews are designed to reach the stable soil beneath areas causing your foundation issues. Blades on helical piers also provide added stability in softer soils.

Helical piers installed underneath a home to stabilize the foundation. View of what helical piers look like underground.

Underground view of helical piers installed at a home.

The Process:

Soil is removed from around the home and then the piers are screwed into the ground using hydraulic equipment. Unlike push piers, helical piers can be screwed into the ground at an angle as well as vertically. Then brackets are attached to the piers, which are attached to the home's foundation.

What are helical piers used for?

Rain, snow, or sun, helical piers are versatile and can be installed in most types of weather. Helical piers are also good at bearing both light structures (stoops, decks, etc.) and heavy buildings. While bearing the weight of the structure above, helical piers can also level the home back to its original position.

When NOT to use:

Helical piers depend on being driven into strong soil. If the state of soil surrounding the home is unknown or shallow bedrock prevents installation, helical piers may not be the right choice.

The Dirt on Soil Differences

We’ve discussed a lot about how piers are installed deep into the soil surrounding your home to support it. But how specifically do different soil layers play a role in these solutions?

Many times, the cause of your cracking foundation isn’t due to how your home was built, but because of the settling of soil underneath the home. You may be thinking, “The soil used to support my home just fine, what changed?!” Each layer of soil is made of different materials and reacts differently to changes in weather. As time goes on, each layer can become more compact or loosen up, creating a chain reaction that can cause shifts across other soil types above and below it. Layers become stronger and less impacted by changes the deeper you dig.

3-D visual of different soil layers beneath a home. Description about which layers are the best to place piers.  

This is where piers come in! Installing either push piers or helical piers into these strong and deep soil layers ensures the home's foundation can't be shifted by regular soil changes up above. Pressure from the weight of the home spreads easily to these strong lower layers, typically bedrock is the best load-bearing layer.

Pier-based foundation solutions are a permanent fix. Other methods may initially solve the problem of cracking walls or sticky doors, but because they rely on the support of soil in the upper layers, natural shifts cause foundation problems to return. The soil around your home will shift and change, but a pier-based foundation system stays secure!

What is the difference?

Now that you know a bit more about each pier, let’s discuss what makes them different.

How long do push piers and helical piers last?

Both helical and push piers are expected to last the entirety of your house’s lifespan. Installing piers is meant to be a permanent foundation solution.  However, if the ground were to shift or installation problems occur, at Thrasher we offer a 25-year transferrable warranty to ensure a secure foundation for both you and any future owners of your home.

How many push/helical piers are needed?

Well, that depends on factors like the weight of your home, the severity of the foundation problem, and the soil conditions. A professional inspection will determine the exact number required for your specific situation.

How do the methods vary in cost?

Helical pier installation typically takes less time compared to push pier installation, resulting in lower labor costs. However, the length and number of piers necessary can result in different costs, as helical piers are more expensive per foot of pier. Receiving a free professional inspection can break down both labor and material costs in a few hours, helping you determine the best fit for your home and budget!

Visual list of what features helical and push pier systems include.

Similarities and differences between the two foundation pier systems.

So... what's next?

Whether you choose helical or push piers, both options provide a valuable solution to foundation problems and prevent further damage to your home. The choice between them depends on various factors, including your budget, the extent of the damage, and the recommendations of a qualified foundation repair specialist.

Ready to act and support your home's foundation? If you are located within our service area, our team at Thrasher Foundation Repair is here to help! Fill out this form to learn more information about which system is best for you and schedule a free estimate. You can also call us at 1-844-948-3306 to discuss your foundation concerns with a professional.

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