What Are Friction Piles?

Friction piles are a type of underground piling system used to create a strong foundation for large, heavy structures such as stadiums, bridges and roads that could not otherwise be supported by the topsoil.

How Does Piling Work?

Piling works by transferring a structure’s weight from the loose topsoil to the stronger soil or rock below. There are two main types of foundation pilings: end bearing piles and friction piles.

End bearing piles

With end bearing piles, the bottom end of the pile rests on an underground layer of strong soil or rock. The end of the pile presses against this dense layer to keep the structure from shifting. Furthermore, the load of the aboveground building is transferred from the weak topsoil (which could not support its weight) through the pile, and onto the stronger stratum below.

Friction piles

Friction piles work more like a wedge in the soil. These piles, also called floating piles, earn most of their bearing capacity by shear stresses along the sides of the pile, and they are best used in instances where the hard underlayers of soil are too deep to efficiently reach. Friction piles transmit the load from the loose topsoil above to the soil below by adhesion or friction between the surface of the pile and the soil. In other words, the friction of the soil around the pile is what holds the steel pile in place.

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

What Is Friction Pile Made Of?

Friction piles are made of long, slender elements, much like columns. They are typically crafted from steel or reinforced concrete, though they can also be made of timber. The piling extends below a structure by at depth that is at least three times the structure’s width.

What Sizes Do Friction Piles Come In?

Friction piles are often made of H-pile and wide flange beams, which are two of several different types of piling options. H-piles are as wide as they are deep and have the same thickness in the flange and web. When compared to standard beams, H-pile beams provides better weight distribution over a wider area. Because of this, H-piles are an excellent choice for friction piling since they can support larger and heavier structures; each pile can withstand loads of up to 1,000 tons.

Common H-pile sizes include:

  • 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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