What Are Aggregate Piers and How Do They Work?

One of the most expensive repairs to a business or home is having to fix or adjust a foundation. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as these kinds of repairs require having to get under the foundation and oftentimes lead to having to redo the entire building.

The other issue with these kinds of unfortunate repairs is that most of the time, it is not an isolated incident and the entire building’s foundation needs to be adjusted or face the consequences of repeated and oftentimes worse situations.

If this was an issue that only affected businesses or homes here and there, then perhaps it wouldn’t be worth anyone’s time to really worry about it. However, quite the opposite is true, with about 25% of homes and businesses running into some kind of foundation related issue at some point. Yes, that means between home and work, there is a 50% chance of something being wrong or eventually being wrong.

With that in mind, the next question becomes, what can be done to prevent these kind of issues? Afterall, nobody wants to be displaced from the office or their home while spending thousands of dollars to hopefully fix a problem down the road.

The answer is drilling, and in this case an aggregate pier inclusions.

What is a Aggregate Pier Inclusion?

As defined by CNC Foundations, pier inclusions are “stiff columns of stone aggregate that we inject into the ground. They reinforce soft soil conditions to make the ground strong enough to support multi-story buildings, large commercial or industrial facilities, warehouses, or liquid storage tanks, among other structures. Aggregate piers often work best with soils that contain soft clays, silts, or man-made fills.”

These ground improvement techniques allow a building to be built on a variety of different soil surfaces. Before, to have a truly strong foundation to build on, the ground had to either be rock or a really strong peat.

Prior to pier inclusions and other drilling options that help with the foundation, expensive man-made soils were almost essential. These were very costly and not nearly as effective as a pier inclusion because all ground, regardless of its content, has the tendency to shift and expand/deflate under different situations.

Unlike other kinds of drilling, like rigid inclusions or drilling piles, aggregate drilling is much more shallow and serves more as a reinforcement to the soil.

When to Use Aggregate Piers

Aggregate piers can be costly. However, when compared to the cost of having to do foundation repairs that often displace a business or home for weeks at a time, it is well worth the cost.

The two more important factors to consider are the size and the soil type. If there is easy access to good rock or soil (peat) and the building is a small 1,500 square foot home in an area that doesn’t flood, there probably isn’t much of a need. A ten story building near the coastline where most of the natural ground is sand and gravel is on the opposite end of the spectrum and should probably use piers to help stabilize and support the foundation.

Future of Aggregate Piers

As mentioned in the introduction, nearly 25% of all buildings suffer some kind of foundational issue at some point. Aggregate piers have only become common recently, and to this point have proven to be successful. It can be assumed that as this becomes more commonly known, more businesses and private owners will look to this to help ensure the safety and integrity of buildings.