A concrete pile is a component in a pile foundation which is driven into the ground to ensure that the foundation is deep. Pile foundations can use large numbers of concrete piles during their construction, with the piles connecting to the footers of the foundation. The piles distribute the weight of the finished structure safely, reducing the risk of structural failure or collapse. People can often see examples of concrete piles at urban construction sites, as contractors tend to build tall in urban areas to maximize the potential uses for a building.
Deep foundations such as pile foundations can be chosen for a number of different reasons. In some cases, the sheer size of a building may dictate the use of a deep foundation because a shallow foundation could not support the building. The underlying ground can also be a factor, as some types of ground cannot support a building safely, and a deep foundation may be used to anchor a building to bedrock. Seismic activity is another thing which can influence foundation decisions, as earthquakes can be a safety concern.
There are two ways to install a concrete pile. One method involves drilling and casting on site. This is sometimes known as a “cast in situ” pile, because it is created on the construction site. The other method is pile driving, using a preformed pile which is driven into the earth sort of like a nail is driven into wood, except that a concrete pile is much, much larger than the average nail. Reinforced, prestressed, and precast concrete can all be used for piles which are driven.
A concrete pile can be used for things beyond a deep foundation. Sometimes piles are used to reinforce walls, in which case they may be temporary or permanent. They are also used to reinforce levees and other structures which might be at risk of collapse.
Piles come in a range of sizes. An engineer can determine what kind of concrete pile is most appropriate for a project, and can monitor the placement of the pile to confirm that it is not compromised, and to check to see that it will be able to withstand a support load. Engineers use a variety of techniques to monitor and test piles both before they are delivered and after they are installed to confirm that they are safe before proceeding to the next step of construction.