Eiffel 101: All About Steel Pipe Pile

Steel pipe pile is used to create a strong foundation for large, heavy structures such as buildings, bridges and roads. The piles are made of steel pipe that’s driven or drilled deep into the ground in order to help distribute the weight of a structure down to the stronger soil or rock below. There are several different types of steel pipe piling including unplugged open ended, plugged open ended, bottom plate, steel pipe with rock shoe, and Franki pipe pile. Different types of pipe pile will work better for different projects, depending on the nature of the soil and the weight of the structure that’s being supported.

Pipe Pile Installation

To install pipe pile, steel pipe is forced into the ground. This can be done one of two ways, either by driving the piles or drilling the piles.

Steel pipe piles can be driven into the ground using a large impact hammer. Driving the piles is favored over drilling in situations where the soil is fairly loose, since driving the piles into the ground compresses the surrounding soil and therefore causes greater friction (which increases the load-bearing capacity of the pipe piles).

Steel piling can also be drilled into the ground using rotary boring equipment. Rotary boring is commonly used to install large diameter piles, and also when piles need to be installed in especially hard ground.

In both methods, the piles remain in place due to friction in the soil.

The design of a steel pipe pile system can be customized depending on the ground conditions and support requirements. Because pipe pile is made of steel, it can handle heavy loads and withstand extreme environments.

Types of Steel Pipe Pile

There are five main types of steel pipe pile. While all the different piling methods involve driving pipes into the earth, different soil conditions and structural needs make some pipe pilings better than others.

Unplugged open ended steel pipe pile has an open end. For this reason, once the pipes are installed the ground level will be the same on the inside and outside of the pipe. Unplugged open ended pipe pile transfers the weight of their load to the soil primarily through friction.

Plugged open ended steel pipe pile has a plug on the bottom of the pipe. For this reason, the soil inside the pipe will be lower than the soil outside of the pipe.

Bottom plate steel pipe pile has a steel plate welded to the lower end. The plate creates compression and increases friction to reduce movement. Bottom plate steel pipe pile is used on rocky terrain where not much soil exists between the rock and the pile, and therefore increased friction is needed to hold the pile in place.

Steel pipe with rock shoe is similar to bottom plate in that it helps increase friction when there isn’t enough soil around. The difference is that rock shoe is used when the pile comes into direct contact with a rock surface. The shoe is able to support the entire load and prevents shifting or sliding along the rock surface.

Franki steel pipe pile is meant to be permanent and is plugged with a concrete filling. This kind of pipe pile can withstand a much stronger driving impact than any other kind of pipe pile.

Common Sizes of Steel Pipe Pile

Pipe piles should have a minimum outer diameter of eight inches, and minimum wall thickness of 0.25 inches. Pile piles are available in many sizes, though 12-inch diameter pipe piles are some of the most common. For pipe piles with a diameter of 14 inches or larger, it’s recommended that they have a minimum wall thickness of 0.375 inches.

Benefits of Steel Pipe Pile

Steel pipe piles are favored for many reasons. They’re highly customizable. Because the pipe pile can be tweaked to exact load specifications, costs can also be reduced. Pipe piles are relatively easy to build, and they’re also easy to replace after construction is complete, so their maintenance and replacement costs are some of the lowest. For large structures such as buildings and bridges where a deep foundation is necessary, steel pipe pile is an excellent choice.


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