How are Steel Sheet Piles Installed?

Steel sheet piles can be installed using a few different methods. The most common methods for driving sheet piles include the following: vibrating with the use of hammers, impact driving, jetting, and hydraulic installation. The type of method appropriate for a particular application will often depend on the type of sheet pile used as well as factors like the ground conditions.

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Steel Sheet Pile Installation: Machinery

The following types of machinery are used to install sheet piles:

Vibratory hammers

Hydraulic impact hammers

• Hydraulic excavator-mounted vibratory pile drivers

Diesel hammers

• Air-steam hammers

• Hydraulic pushing rigs

• Single drop hammers

• High pressure jets with jet pumps

Vibratory hammers are one of the most popular options because they can drive sheet piles quite quickly and efficiently. They also minimize the potential for damage to the top of sheet piles and can be used to extract/uninstall piles as needed. A hydraulic impact hammer may be the preferred choice over a vibratory hammer under extremely hard driving conditions.

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Installation Steps Using a Vibratory Hammer

If a vibratory hammer is used to install sheet pile, the following steps typically occur:

  • Sheet pile is placed above the exact location where it will be driven.

  • A crane or other similar type of machinery lifts the pile upright.

  • The vibratory hammer is lifted and attached to the top of the pile.

  • In dense soil areas, contractors may opt to pre-drill the soil to prepare for driving. This step is not always necessary.

  • The vibratory hammer uses spinning counterweight to drive the sheet pile with the use of vibration. As the pile vibrates, it penetrates the soil and is driven underground to the desired depth.

In soft soils and sand, a pile can be driven using a vibratory hammer in as little as 30 seconds. In harder soils, it may take up to 20 or 30 minutes.

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The installation process will differ based on the pile driving machinery, and the process outlined above only pertains to vibratory hammers. Advances in pile driving machinery allow for optimized installation in certain scenarios. For instance, hydraulic excavator-mounted vibratory pile drivers attach to sheet piles at their tops and their sides, creating a side-grip clamp and boosting the stability and efficiency of driving.


Oftentimes, templates or guide structures are used to help keep piles properly aligned as they are driven and to allow for adequate plumbness of a sheet pile wall. As a sheet pile wall is created, individual sheet piles are typically interlocked. The method of interlocking depends on the built-in interlocks of the sheet pile. Some interlock styles include: Larssen, ball and socket, and thumb and finger, each of which comes with unique advantages and considerations for certain applications.

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As you can probably tell, sheet pile installation differs slightly based on the type of sheet pile used and the type of machinery used to drive piles. No matter the installation process, it’s important to drive sheet piles with precision and care to ensure their performance and longevity.

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