“I’ve heard screw piles are good for decks and patios, but can I really use them as the foundation for a garage?”
At Postech, we’ve been asked that question often during our years of helping customers find the best foundation solution. It’s a fair question, too. When you hear “screw pile” or “ground anchor”, you might think of the short “screw piles” that are sold at local building centers.
Those kinds of “screw piles”, for reasons talked about here, can’t be considered a true screw pile. They’re too short, too lightweight, and installing them by hand is too unreliable. You would never want to put a garage on those “screw piles”.
But, if you’re talking about actual screw piles that have the right length, are heavy-duty, and are installed by trained professionals with special equipment; then yes those screw piles can absolutely be used as a garage foundation.
Even better, screw piles can provide a easier, faster, more reliable foundation compared to traditional choices like concrete piles.
Why Build a Garage on Screw Piles?
Let’s talk about why you might want to build your garage on screw piles.
First, a brief history lesson.
Screw piles are not a new technology. In fact, they’ve been around for over 180 years.
Originally, screw piles were designed as a foundation that could be used for structures where traditional foundations weren’t an option. Lighthouses, piers, and bridges commonly used screw pile foundations.
Screw piles supported these structures for decades, even well over a century, in some of the most treacherous conditions. With their relative ease and speed of install combined with excellent reliability, screw piles began to be a popular foundation for other structures, as well.
However, with the industrial revolution, other types of foundations became popular and screw piles declined. Thankfully, in the 1950’s, engineers began to revive this fantastic foundation. Now, in the 21st century, screw piles have become a popular foundation option in North America – especially for places (like Manitoba) that have difficult soil and weather conditions.
With the history lesson out of the way, let’s cover why you would want to use a screw pile under a garage.
Reason 1: Ease and Speed of Install
With traditional foundations, such as concrete piles, the install process can be long. Excavating holes, laying supports, pouring concrete, curing concrete – it’s a lot of waiting!
Screw piles, on the other hand, can be installed in a fraction of the time with far less effort. Unless install crews hit an obstacle, there’s usually no excavation needed to install a screw pile. In the case of our installers, they simply mark the locations of the piles, install each pile, and use a laser-level to ensure they are even. Depending on how many piles you need, the crew can finish the foundation install in a few hours or less! And, once the pile is in the ground and leveled, you can use it immediately. No waiting for concrete to cure!
Reason 2: Guaranteed Weight Capacity
At Postech, we use special computers attached to the machines that install screw piles. These computers show exactly how much torque we’re putting on a screw pile.
In turn, we can do some math and figure out exactly how much weight your screw pile will hold. Using this information means you can have a foundation that’s guaranteed to hold the weight required for your garage. Instead of other foundations where the weight capacity is an “educated guess”, you’ll know with certainty how much weight the foundation will hold. That means you get a foundation with a guaranteed weight capacity, no guesswork.
Reason 3: Resistance to Movement
Screw piles are fantastic at resisting movement caused by shifting soil or frost. Just look at the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse from earlier. That’s been standing for over 140 years on screw piles – and that’s being subjected to vicious maritime storms and ice floes!
Because of the unique design of a screw pile and how it anchors in the ground, it’s better suited to withstanding the forces of frost and soil movement.
When used under structures like garages, a screw pile will make sure your investment doesn’t get pushed around.
Reason 4: Cost
Often, although not always, screw piles will be an affordable alternative to other foundation options. Because screw pile contractors don’t need to mix concrete or manage large install crews, they’re able to offer screw pile foundations for less than you might think. In our case, you will generally pay less for a screw pile foundation than you would for a concrete pile foundation. Of course, each install is unique which is why we’re happy to chat with you and see if screw piles make sense for your project.
These reasons aren’t to say that screw piles aren’t the “be all end all” foundation. There’s no foundation that’s “perfect for any situation”.
However, screw piles do have several benefits over other foundation options, especially under a structure like a garage.
We mentioned that a screw pile install is easier and faster than other foundation options. Now, let’s show you how the process works when you want to get a screw pile foundation installed.
How To Get A Screw Pile Foundation Installed
We can’t speak for how other companies handle their foundation process, but we can tell you how we do it at Postech. Our foundation process has been carefully built, improved, and then improved some more through what we’ve learned by installing thousands of screw piles.
Step 1: We Talk About You
The most important step is learning about you and your project. We start by going over your project with you, and ask you questions like:
- What kind of garage are you building?
- Where is it being built?
- How big is it?
- What type of floor?
These questions help us understand your foundation needs. We’re not interested in over-selling you, so this part of the process is important.
Once you know what foundation you need, we’ll put together a quote for the project and send it to you. You can look it over, ask us any other questions you have, and once you’re ready to go…
Step 2: Scheduling the Install
…we’ll help you schedule the install. It can be hectic to schedule everything for your project, so we’re happy to help by coordinating things like your Click Before You Dig Permit on your behalf. One less thing to worry about always makes a difference on a big project like this!
Every project is different, so we do our best to find an install date that makes sense for your schedule.
Step 3: Installing Your Screw Pile Foundation
On the install day, the crew will show up and get the work done in record time. They start by marking out where the piles need to go, based on your plans. Then, they install the foundation without leaving even a hint of damage to your yard or job site. They finish off the install by laser-leveling the piles, so you have a foundation that’s 100% ready-to-go. After they’re done, you can use your new foundation immediately!
That’s the install process; pretty simple, right? It shouldn’t be a headache to get a reliable foundation for your project, so we made it as easy as possible.
Now, there’s no promise that every screw pile installer is good and trustworthy. In fact, there are (sadly) some pretty shady installers out there.
You don’t want to risk your time, money, and project on a screw pile contractor that doesn’t have your best interests in mind. That’s why the next section of this post is going to show you how to find a quality screw pile installer, and save yourself a world of trouble down the line!
Finding An Expert Screw Pile Installer
Any time you hire a company, for any service, you need to make sure you’re hiring someone who has your best interests in mind. If they’re only concerned with getting your money, you don’t want to work with them.
Here’s some easy steps you can take when it comes to finding a reliable, trustworthy screw pile installer.
What is their reputation?
This is the best place to start. Take some time to search the company on Google and social media pages like Facebook. Ask yourself questions like:
- Do they have Google and Facebook reviews?
- If so, how many reviews do they have, and what’s the score?
- Look through the reviews, do they seem legitimate?
- Does their Facebook page look professional, accurate, and active?
- What about their website – does it look professional, accurate, and up-to-date?
- Ask friends, family, and co-workers about the company – what have they heard about them?
- Do they offer guarantees on their work?
- If you do contact them with questions, are they responsive, helpful, and friendly?
A trustworthy contractor will never hide from their reputation. And, if problems do arise, a good contractor will always tackle the problem ASAP and make sure you’re taken care of.
What is their product?
After establishing whether a contractor has a good reputation or not, you need to look at their product. Contractors can only be as good as the product they sell, so don’t settle for a contractor who is “nice”, but doesn’t sell the best product!
When talking about screw piles, some questions to ask about the product are:
- How deep do your screw piles anchor? (Screw piles should anchor at least 3 meters below the ground, to avoid frost damage!)
- Do you torque-monitor your installations? (We talked about this earlier. A company should always check the torque on a screw pile, so they can verify it’s weight capacity)
- Are your screw piles galvanized? (At Postech, we use only galvanized piles. A galvanized pile will last for decades, if not centuries, in the ground)
- Do you offer a guarantee on your screw piles? (Be wary of contractors who won’t guarantee their product. We have a 7-year performance guarantee on our screw piles!)
- What steel do your piles use? (Some contractors use recycled steel for their piles, so they have no idea what quality the pile has. We only use top-quality, cold-rolled Canadian steel)
- Do your quotes include pile adapters? (Some contractors don’t include pile adapters – the piece that goes from the pile to your structure – in their quotes. This means their quote looks cheaper at first, but then surprises you with extra costs later. We always include everything we reasonably believe you’ll need on the quote, to avoid surprise charges)
By asking the right questions, you can weed out contractors who aren’t using top-quality products. After all, this is going to be supporting your garage. The absolute last thing you want is to have a garage that’s tilted, shifting, and heaving after only a few winter seasons.
Asking the right questions can help you avoid bad contractors that don’t care about doing the best job possible. It might take you some time to find the right fit, but it is unquestionably worth it in the long run.
When planning a garage, your first thought might not be the foundation. There’s always more exciting things to think about, such as floorplans and finishes. Starting with a strong foundation ensures that all the other planning you do, like floorplans and finishes, stand the test of time. No one wants to invest time, money, and effort into a project only to be dealing with foundation repairs in a few years.
Tackle the foundation the right way, and you’ll enjoy a sturdy garage for decades.
If you’re curious about getting a reliable screw pile foundation for your garage project, click here to get in touch with our foundation experts. We’re happy to answer any questions you have, with no sales pitches!