Foundation Repair Steel vs. Concrete Piers: Which is Better?

October 14, 2022

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Have you noticed that your house feels uneven? Are the doors of your home giving you trouble opening and closing them? Do you see large visible cracks that form a zig-zag pattern in the walls of your home? You may not be aware of it, but if your home is on a piers foundation, you may have experienced cracking or a foundation collapse causing these problems. As a result of this collapse or cracking, this could be causing noticeable issues in your house. As a result, you will likely need the piers repaired. But what is a pier and beam foundation repair, and is it better to get steel or concrete pier repair? Let's explore steel vs. concrete piers for your foundation.

What is a Piers Foundation?

steel vs concrete piers for a home

If you live in an area where flooding is common due to its proximity to a local creek, nearby river, or some other body of water, your house is likely built on a piers foundation. This type of pier and beam foundation has a series of vertical pillars under it that transfers the load of the house to the soil while lifting the house slightly off the ground. It leaves a space between the home and the ground called a crawl space, making it easier to repair pipes and electrical lines running beneath the home. Having this space beneath the house also protects the home from water that may flood the area from these nearby bodies of water. Piers foundation allows the water to run freely underneath the home without destroying your house. Start with your pier and beam foundation repair before it's too late!

Why Your Foundation Piers Failed?

Although this type of foundation can be better for your house, it isn't foolproof. Occasionally, this type of foundation may go wrong when the piers slip from underneath the beams. This usually happens when the soil keeps shifting. Moisture in the crawlspace is the biggest culprit, creating too much soil movement and weakening the pier's foundation. Another problem with piers may have occurred at the point of installation. If the builder didn't put the piers far enough down into the non-movable parts of the soil, this would lead to a shift at some point in the lifetime of the piers. One more reason your piers may fail is that you fail to get foundation maintenance regularly. Getting a foundation repair company to look at your foundation at least twice a year will allow you to prevent significant problems with piers. 

Types of Foundation Repair to Fix Steel or Concrete Piers

steel vs. concrete piers

If you have noticed foundation cracks or are having trouble with your doors, one of the first things you should do is contact a foundation company to perform an inspection. Upon completing an inspection, they may find that you need your piers repaired. As a result, they may suggest concrete or steel foundation repair. 

Concrete Piers

Concrete piers are typically 12-18 inches in length of cylindrical concrete pressed into the ground in several locations under your home until the home starts to lift in place. Usually, a stack of these cylinders is placed on top of each other and driven into the ground with a hydraulic press until it reaches the bedrock. Once all cylinders are added, a block is stacked on top of the cylinders along with steel shims. The house's foundation is then lifted back into place, closing off cracks that may have formed. These cylinders are typically about eight inches thick. This is a much more affordable option.

Steel Piers

Steel piers are another way to fix pier foundation problems. There are two types of steel pier repairs: push piers and helical piers. Push piers are inserted into the ground down to the load-bearing soil using a hydraulic ram. Helical piers are inserted into the ground like push piers, but it resembles a huge screw being driven down into the load-bearing part of the soil. As with the concrete piers, the house is lifted back into place, closing up cracks. And the soil is backfilled if the repair takes place on the house's exterior. If it takes place on the interior, the concrete slab is poured. 

Are steel piers better than concrete?

There is much debate about whether concrete is better than steel piers. Concrete certainly has its advantages. For instance, concrete piers are very heavy compared to steel ones. So, once the concrete reaches load bearing soil, the concrete piers will withstand the weight of the house incredibly well. Another advantage of concrete piers is that they aren't as susceptible to rust and corrosion over time as steel is. Concrete piers also cost less than steel piers. 

On the other hand, some good things about steel piers make them much more desirable than concrete. For one, the steel piers can penetrate the ground much deeper than the concrete. Additionally, it can also penetrate through most soil types, including clay, which is typically the cause of shifting with concrete piers. With steel piers, shifting in clay soil is usually doesn't affect the sturdiness of steel. Also, steel piers work exceptionally well with heavy structures and multi-level buildings such as apartments. 

How much does pier and beam foundation repair cost? 

Ultimately, a structural engineer will investigate the damages to your foundation and determine the best option to fix your foundation. The engineer may suggest steel piers in many cases because they are much more durable, particularly if your house rests on unstable soil types. Although they may rust with time, this may not interfere with the effectiveness of the steel for many decades. However, it may boil down to what you can afford. If your decision is primarily based on cost, concrete will be much cheaper than steel. The average pier foundation repair cost is about $1,000 to $3,000 per pier. Keep in mind that you may not need all of the piers replaced on your house. For those that need replacing, concrete ones will range less than steel ones.

So which piers are best? Steel could probably be considered the best for various reasons. However, concrete is still the more popular option primarily because it is cheaper and can handle the weight of the house quite well. The most important decision to make of all is choosing a great foundation company to do your repairs. If you want to a highly qualified team for your pier and beam foundation repair, contact Bloomington Foundation Repair. We will schedule an inspection and provide you with a FREE quote on foundation repair in Bloomington.

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