6 Tips to Help You Understand How Pile Driving Works


An important component of modern construction, a pile driver is what allows ground to be leveled and to ultimately serve as a foundation. The machine itself, a pile driver, drives piles into the ground so that they can create the base needed to support buildings and other large structures.

A fairly straightforward concept, there are nevertheless several different types of machines and attachments. Depending on the specifications of the project, pile driving will also have a different role to play.

Let’s take a closer look at how pile driving works, including the different kinds of pile drivers used to get the job done:

1. Jobs that require a pile driver

The vast majority of construction projects do require a foundation upon which to be built. However, not all of these endeavours will require a pile driver to be executed successfully. A foundation only needs to be piled prior to be being used if it is determined that it will not be able to bear the weight of the structure being built.

This might be the case if the surface of a given construction site is covered in a soft layer of soil or if the job entails an especially heavy building. In either case, the ground beneath the construction will need to be reinforced to preserve the structural integrity of the building down the road. In addition, it must provide a safe working environment during construction.

2. Transfer of weight

Essentially, the pile driving works by transferring weight during the construction process. A heavy building might not be able to be properly supported by the soil’s surface, but there is more robust soil or rock below that can handle the weight.

The pile driver is there to access this stronger support and transfer the weight of the project to a surface that can hold it.

3. Traditional pile drivers

Of the two main types of pile driving machines, the traditional pile driver is probably still the most common. These apparatuses function by using a weight placed above a pile that releases, slides down vertically and hits the pile, hammering it into the ground.

The weight itself is then raised again mechanically, through a process that is powered by either hydraulics, steam or diesel (see below). When the weight has reached the highest point on the apparatus, it is manually released.

This is where gravity comes into play, drawing the weight downwards and dropping it onto the pile. The force of this weighty impact is what hammers the pile into the soil. The hammer will be dropped over and over again until the pile has been fully driven into the ground.

4. Types of pile driving hammers

When it comes to traditional pile drivers, the types of hammers available include diesel hammers, drop hammers, single and double-acting steam or compressed air hammers. A diesel impact hammer, which is also called a diesel pile hammer or a diesel pile driver, is a type of traditional pile driver that is powered by a bulky, two-stroke diesel engine.

A steam impact hammer, on the other hand, is still a type of traditional pile driver, but in this case it is powered by compressed air or steam. Finally, a hydraulic impact hammer is the third type of traditional pile driver, which is powered by a hydraulic system. Generally speaking, hydraulic impact hammers are considered to be better for the environment than their diesel equivalents.

5. Vibratory pile drivers

A more sophisticated approach to pile driving, the mechanism by which a vibratory pile driver functions is a bit more complicated. Also called vibratory hammers, these machines operate by using a series of spinning counterweights to generate a vibration. The force of this vibration then causes a pile to cut its way into the soil below.

Whereas a traditional pile driver can largely be understood as a hammer and nail, a more helpful analogy for a vibratory pile driver would be that of an electric knife that is used to slice through a large piece of meat. The speed and force of the vibration displaces the soil and allows the pile to cut its way easily into the ground.

6. A less noisy affair

One of the reasons that vibratory pile drivers have become preferable to the traditional version is due to the fact that they create a lot less noise. Generating a lot of noise pollution, a traditional pile driver makes a loud smash not only with every impact of the hammer hitting the pile, but also with each impact between the components of a hammer.

These loud and aggressive sounds can be disruptive to humans in the surrounding area, in addition to wildlife. Vibratory hammers, alternatively, make a great deal less noise because they are not reliant on the hammer-weight system and operate more diffusely.


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