What are Common Pile Driving Mistakes?

Some of the most common mishaps that occur while pile driving include failing to consider pile penetration requirements; driving piles deeper than expected; allowing old piles to move laterally when new piles are driven; driving piles out of alignment; and failing to account for deep pile obstructions.

1. Failing to Consider Pile Penetration Requirements

Problems with pile driving are usually a result of adverse or unexpected soil conditions, which can lead to pile damage and hammer-pile alignment problems. Before driving any pile, a soil analysis should be performed to predict the number of blows it will take to drive a pile to its planned depth. If the number of required blows is much higher than expected, it could indicate a problem with either the pile driving system or the soil. In order to prevent setbacks, ensure that the pile has enough drivability, and that the driving system matches the type of pile being used. Furthermore, once you’ve confirmed that the pile and driving system are properly matched, remember to check the driving system operation to ensure that it conforms with the manufacturer’s guidelines.

2. Driving Piles Deeper than Expected

An estimate pile depth should be calculated before the start of a project. If the piles are driving considerably deeper than this pre-estimate depth, it could indicate that either the soil resistance is lower than anticipated or the pile driving system is stronger than expected. In either case, you can perform restrike tests to evaluate the changes in soil strength. If the pile driving system is performing as expected (meaning the soil conditions are the culprit), your foundation piles will likely need to be driven deeper than originally expected, or you will need to include additional piles to support the load. Your structural engineer will be able to make the appropriate changes to your design before moving forward.

3. Allowing Old Piles to Move Laterally When New Piles Are Driven

Sometimes, when installing new piles around existing piles, the existing piles will move. This is often because of the soil displacement that occurs as new piles are driven. To fix this issue, you can redrive the old piles, change the sequence of pile installation, or predrill the pile locations to reduce ground movement.

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4. Driving Piles Out of Alignment

If piles are moving out of alignment, it’s usually because there are control issues with the hammer-pile alignment, or because of soil conditions. If the issue related to hammer-pile alignment, you can improve the alignment tolerance with a pile gate, template or fixed lead system. If soil conditions are the issue (such as an obstruction near the surface of the soil) further steps will need to be taken to prevent misalignment.

5. Failing to Account for Deep Pile Obstructions

If you encounter deep pile obstructions during installation, it’s important to contact your engineer for a review of the system’s design. Usually, this means reducing the ultimate bearing capacity of the piles that hit the obstruction, though the solution will be passed on potential pile damage and the soil composition. Sometimes, additional piles can be added to compensate for the obstruction.

Common Pile Sizes

Piles come in a range of shapes and sizes, including wide flange beam and h-pile beams. Listed below are common beam 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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