Eiffel 101: Types of Piling Equipment

Foundations are created using long, slender, columnar elements called piles that are usually made from steel or reinforced concrete. In order to install a pile into the earth, one of two methods can be used: replacement or displacement. Displaced piles are driven, jacked, vibrated or screwed into the ground, displacing the soil around the pile (rather than removing it). To install a replacement piles, on the other hand, the soil (spoil) is removed to form a hole in the earth, and the pile is installed into that hole.

Bored/Replacement Piles

Bored piles are installed using rotary augering equipment. The piling rig is equipped with a telescopic arm that slides vertically and holds a short length of auger on its end. The auger is a drilling device that usually includes a rotating helical screw blade. When the auger is rotated, it excavates the soil. The bar is then retracted, the rig slewed, and the excavated soil ejected by spinning the Kelly and tool.

Driven/Displacement Piles

Driven piles involve the use of pile drivers. These can be split into three categories: percussion, hydraulic or vibratory drivers.

Steel beams: wide flange, h-oile, and more

Percussion Drivers

Percussion drivers are hammers designed to deliver a blow to the top of the pile, which then “hammers” the pile into the ground. The main types of hammers used in pile driving include:

Drop Hammer

A drop hammer is a block of iron that’s dropped from a rig attached and suspended by rope.

Air Hammer

Air hammers use compressed air and can be either single-acting or double-acting. Single-acting air hammers are semi-automatic and consist of a heavy failing cylinder sliding up and down a fixed piston, which is raised by steam or compressed air. Double-acting air hammers are made of a cast iron cylinder that stays stationary on the pile head while the hammer delivers rapid blows using compressed air. Double-acting air hammers are most often used when conventional hammers are prohibited by reduced headroom.

Diesel Hammer

Diesel hammers are self-contained units suspended from a crane or slide-in leaders rested on the top of the pile. A falling steel cylinder creates the driving action, raised by the explosion of gas from the automatic injection of fuel.

Hydraulic Drivers

Hydraulic drivers are usually used to install sheet piles into the ground.

Vibratory Drivers

Vibratory drivers install piles through the use of vibration rather than hammer blows, which reduces the ground resistance around a pile and allows the pile to pass into the earth. Vibratory drivers can be either low or high frequency. The vibrators are powered by diesel-hydraulic power units.


There are many types of pile materials on the market that work accordingly with the aforementioned pile drivers. Steel pile types include steel pipe pile, steel sheet pile, steel wide flange beams (w-beams), steel h-pile beams, and more.

Common Pile Beam Sizes

Piles come in a wide range of sizes, including steel wide-flange and steel h-pile beams. The chart below outlines some of the most common sizes.

  • W8: W8x18, W8x21, W8x24, W8x28, W8x31, W8x35, W8x40, W8x48, W8x58, W8x67

  • W10: W10x22, W10x26, W10x30, W10x33, W10x39, W10x45, W10x49, W10x54, W10x60, W10x68, W10x77, W10x88, W10x100, W10x112

  • W12: W12x26, W12x30, W12x35, W12x40, W12x45, W12x50, W12x53, W12x58 ,W12x65, W12x72, W12x79, W12x87, W12x96, W12x106, W26x120, W12x136, W12x152, W12x170, W12x190, W12x210, W12x230, W12x252

  • W14: W14x22, W14x26, W14x30, W14x34, W14x38, W14x43, W14x48, W14x53, W14x61, W14x68, W14x74, W14x82, W14x90, W14x99, W14x109, W14x120, W14x132, W14x145, W14x159, W14x176, W14x193, W14x211, W14x233, W14x257, W14x283

  • W16: W16x26, W16x31, W16x36, W16x40, W16x45, W16x50, W16x57, W16x67, W16x77, W16x89, W16x100

  • W18: W18x35, W18x40, W18x46, W18x50, W18x55, W18x60, W18x65, W18x71, W18x76, W18x86, W18x97, W18x106, W18x119, W18x130, W18x143, W18x158, W18x175, W18x192, W18x211, W18x234

  • W21: W21x44, W21x50, W21x57, W21x58, W21x55, W21x62, W21x68, W21x73, W21x83, W21x93, W21x101, W21x111, W21x122, W21x132, W21x147, W21x166, W21x182, W21x201, W21x223, W21x248, W21x275

  • W24: W24x55, W24x62, W24x68, W24x76, W24x84, W24x94, W24x103, W24x204, W24x117, W24x131, W24x146, W24x162, W24x176, W24x192, W24x207, W24x229

  • W27: W27x84, W27x94, W27x102, W27x114, W27x129, W27x146, W27x161, W27x178, W27x194

  • W30: W30x90, W30x99, W30x108, W30x116, W30x124, W30x132, W30x148

  • W33: W33x118, W33x130, W33x141, W33x152, W33x169

  • W36: W36x135, W36x150, W36x160, W36x170, W36x182, W36x194, W36x210, W36x232, W36x256

  • HP8: HP8x36

  • HP10: HP10x42, HP10x57

  • HP12: HP12x53, HP12x63, HP12x74, HP12x84, HP12x89, HP12x102, HP12x117

  • HP14: HP14x73, HP14x89, HP14x102, HP14x117

  • HP16: HP16x88, HP16x101, HP16x121, HP16x141, HP16x162, HP16x183



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