What Is a Pile Driver?

A pile driving machine (also called a pile driver) is used to drive piles into the ground in order to create a foundation to support buildings and other large structures.

How Pile Driving Machines Work

There are two main types of pile driving machines: traditional pile drivers and vibratory pile drivers.

Traditional Pile Drivers

Traditional pile driving machines work by using a weight placed above a pile that releases, slides down vertically and hits the pile, hammering it into the ground. The weight is raised mechanically and can be powered by either hydraulics, steam or diesel. When the weight reaches its highest point, it is released. Gravity brings the weight down, dropping it onto the pile. The impact of the weight on the pile hammers it into the soil. This process is repeated until the pile has been fully driven into the ground.

Foundation Equpment

Vibratory Pile Drivers

Vibratory pile driving machines (also called vibratory hammers) use spinning counterweights to create a vibration, which causes a pile to “cut” into the soil below. While a traditional pile driver works like a hammer and a nail, a vibratory hammer works more like an electric knife cutting through meat. The high speed vibration causes the soil to give way, allowing the pile to slip easily into the ground.

The Necessity of Pile Driving Machines

Not all construction projects will require piling or pile driving machines. Foundation piling is only necessary if the soil cannot bear the weight of the structure that is being built. This might happen if there is a soft layer of soil at the surface of the construction site, so that the soil cannot support the weight of a new structure. Similarly, if an exceptionally heavy building is being built, the surface soil won’t be able to support its weight. In both situations, foundation piling can be used to transfer the weight of a structure from the soil’s surface to the stronger soil or rock below.

Types of Pile Drivers

Diesel Impact Hammer

A diesel impact hammer (also called a diesel pile hammer or a diesel pile driver) is a type of traditional pile driver that is powered by a large, two-stroke diesel engine.

Steam Impact Hammer

A steam impact hammer is a type of traditional pile driver that is powered by compressed air or steam.

Hydraulic Impact Hammer

A hydraulic impact hammer is a third type of traditional pile driver, which is powered by a hydraulic system. Hydraulic impact hammers are considered more environmentally friendly than their diesel counterparts.

Vibratory Hammer

Unlike traditional pile drivers which use a large weight to strike piles into the ground, vibratory hammers use vibrations to slide piles into the soil, as well as to extract old piles out of the ground.

Noise Considerations

Traditional pile driving machines that use a weight to ram a pile into the ground can have issues with noise pollution. The dominant noise from a pile driver is caused by the impact of the hammer hitting the pile, or the impacts between the components of a hammer, and can be disruptive to people and wildlife. Vibratory hammers, on the other hand, are relatively quiet, since they do not use the hammer-weight system.

Foundation Equipment for Sale


Eiffel Trading’s online marketplace hosts a wide variety of foundation equipment, including augers, drill rigs, hammer grabs, and pile breakers. In addition, our construction material inventory ranges from used sheet pile, to used steel pipe, and everything in between.

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Ready to sell your used heavy equipment or construction material? Contact us today!

If you have any questions or would like additional information, please call us at 1-800-541-7998 or email sales@eiffeltrading.com.