Steel Bearing vs Timber Piles

Published: 30th December 2016

Timber piles have been around for a lot longer than their steel counterparts; in fact, they have been used for thousands of years and in parts of the world where cheap timber is in plentiful supply, they are still often the preferred choice.  However, there are situations where piles manufactured from trees are not the most suitable solution for a building’s foundation. In this article, we are going to take a brief look at some of the most important pros and cons of each type of piling.

Which Material is Best for Your Needs?

To work out which type of piling is the best choice for a particular application, you can run through the advantages and disadvantages of timber and steel.

Timber Pile Pros and Cons

  • Pro – They are often the least expensive option, making them a great choice for projects with tight budgets, especially those in less developed parts of the world.
  • Con – They will rot above the level of the water table, making them a bad choice for sites where the water table is so deep that it is not possible or economical to drive piles that go right through it.
  • Pro – Wood does not corrode so the presence of saltwater is not an issue when using timber piles on coastal construction sites.
  • Con – Timber piles are not suitable for sites where numerous rocks and large stones are present in the soil, owing to the fact they can be damaged very easily as they are being driven into the ground.

Steel Piles

  • Pro – They can easily be cut to any desired length, as opposed to timber piles, which are limited by the height of the trees from which they are cut. Timber piles can be joined together but if you want single continuous piles designed for particularly deep foundations, steel is normally considered a better choice.
  • Con – Steel piles will inevitably corrode over time so they need to be engineered to take account of this corrosion. In other words, they need to be slightly thicker than the weight they will be supporting demands, to ensure they will still be able to support this weight for many years to come.
  • Pro – They can be driven very hard with little to no chance of damage being sustained, making them the best option for sites where stones and large pieces of rock may be present in the soil.
  • Con – Steel is more expensive than timber so steel piling will increase the cost of a construction project, all other factors being equal.

There are of course many other factors to take into account when deciding on the best material to use for pilings, as well as other materials to consider, such as concrete. If you have a specific site in mind and you would like objective advice on which material you should use, along with professional design and calculation services from a team of experienced experts, please feel free to contact us during normal working hours.