How Piling Works

Published: 30th November 2016

The simplest way to explain what piling is, to somebody with no prior knowledge of construction industry techniques, is to describe it as a type of deep foundation: a foundation that larger buildings usually need, to ensure they have adequate support. This is of course, a very simplistic explanation and does not cover how piling actually works. If you are interested in the forces at work below ground and how the different types of piling provide support, we invite you to take a look at the details below.

How Piling Supports Massive Structures

There are two main types of piling as far load transfer mechanism is concerned, and a number of variants of these two types. Whichever type is being used, individual piles are driven or screwed into the ground to a certain depth before a cap, which consists of a poured concrete slab, is placed on top. Large buildings are normally supported by a number of strategically-located columns, each of which is built on a pile cap.

  1. End Bearing Piles – As you might guess from the name, piling that is comprised of end bearing piles transfers the load of the building it supports to the end of the individual piles. They are commonly used in locations where there is firm bedrock beneath the proposed construction site but the soil at the surface is relatively weak. By using long, end bearing piles, the weak layer of soil near the surface is bypassed and the weight of the building is supported by the bedrock beneath it.
  1. Friction Piles – This type of piling is designed to use the friction of the surrounding soil against the side of each pile to provide support for the building above. It can be used on sites where the upper layers of soil are fairly compact but where the bedrock is at a depth that makes it impractical to use end bearing piles. Even when end bearing piles are used, a certain amount of support will still be provided by the friction of the surrounding soil.

Whichever type is employed, architects and engineers responsible for the design and construction of the structure in question will know that they can rely on more support than would be provided by a simple concrete slab on the surface.

Designing Piles for New Structures

Because piling has to support a great deal of weight, it is important to use piles that are designed specifically for the site on which a new structure is built. Any area or volume of soil will have a finite load bearing capacity and the piles that are driven into the soil need to be designed to take account of this fact. They need to be spaced far enough apart not to overload any particular area and be designed to make full use of the available support.

If you would like to learn more about piling or to request a quotation for a specific project, please do not hesitate to call us on 0800 612 9590.