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Drilled Pier Foundation


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By Bryan in San Jose, CA on 3/27/2007


Hi Everyone,

 I am considering purchasing some land that is in a fault rupture hazard zone and a landslide hazard zone (it sounds bad but it's overlooking a lake and a very good price!). 

The geotechnical report recommends that a drilled pier foundation with grade beams be used. The piers need to be 30" diameter and 50 feet deep at the front and 65 feet deep at the back!! Does anyone know how much this type of foundation will cost or had any experience with it?

Thanks in advance.


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By Michael in Cave Creek, AZ on 3/27/2007


$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

This will be an expensive foundation system. Do you have a plan that shows how much steel is in the foundation? The only real way to answer the question of cost, is to have a complete engineered design and get local bids from companies that specialize in this type of work. 

You could get some idea by determining the number of linear feet of drilling involved, pounds of steel and yards of concrete and then looking at an estimating book like the RS Means site work costs. Be sure to call a local steel and concrete supplier to get a feel for real materials prices.

Is the lot at least $50 to $100K cheaper than similar land that does not require an elaborate foundation? 


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By Tom in Stroudsburg, PA on 3/27/2007


Just a rough guess: Five to twenty thousand per pier plus the beam cost.

Rock types and amount of soil are key factors.  These are deep holes by Cassion standards. You are talking about a large drill. Which will probably require permits to get it down the road. Drill time could be 1 day to 2 weeks per pier depending on rock type.

They generally use a piece of thin wall drain pipe to prevent soil cave in. You are talking 9 + yards of concrete per hole, plus Rebar that they use to make a round cage.  They stick the cage in the hole and pour the concrete into it. Two to four thousand in material for each pier so far.

You have to anchor those beams. Standard anchorage is not that bad. It takes a of couple hours to make up forms. If they want some kind of fancy floating seismic anchor, you better have deep pockets.

Now, I know why it costs millions to build some of those homes out there. Just the thought of undertaking this made me cringe.


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By Bryan in San Jose, CA on 3/28/2007


Thanks for the replies. It gives me a much better idea of what I'm dealing with. The lot is about $200K cheaper than surrounding lots but I also have to regrade most of it since it is steeper than county safety standards. That will add about another $50-100K.

I don't have a plan or design to work from since I haven't even purchased the lot yet. The geotech specifies 30" diameter piers at a maximum of 3 diameter spacing. I only need piers at the top and bottom of the slope. I am assuming 6 across (12 total) which gives me a width of about 40 feet.

So far I have calculated about 12 yards per pier, or roughly $20K in concrete. Steel I have around $10-15K. The real question mark is how much does it cost to do the actual drilling? The only figure I have been able to find is $200/yd. and I'm not sure how reliable it is.


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By Tom in Stroudsburg, PA on 3/28/2007


You have to contact Caisson drilling companies and price them out. They have two types of general drills. One is a mobile rig that is about the size of a crane, the second  is a track machine of equal size but is hauled in on a tractor trailer. First charge of the job, mobilization. They will need a level road right over each pier line.

Once drilling begins, well you remember the 9 + yards of concrete, that has to go where rock and dirt was formerly. That means you'll have about 20 yards of milling unless it comes out in solid cores which you may need a machine larger than a backhoe to move. In any case this will have to be moved so you can get the concrete trucks in. If you can make the cages as needed close to the hole they may sometimes be set with the drill rig but not always, they may require a crane to set depending on weight.

You can get the rebar off the truck with a crane or a machine at each end, excavator, backhoe, etc. You'll need a crane again to unload the beams from a truck and set them. Again there are too many unknowns. Show the drilling company what you have. They will probably want to do a core sample to find exactly what their drilling if it is not in the geologic info you give them. This should take less than a day.

If you're serious about buying the property you can bid this out separately and use it to provide the drill companies. You might be able to cheat by contacting the well drillers for your neighbors and hope they logged what they hit as they drilled. If you don't give them specific geologic data they are going to bid worst case scenario. Remember the  twenty thousand per pier guess in my previous post, it should be close.
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By Bryan in San Jose, CA on 3/31/2007


Thanks for the advice Tom. My realtor gave me the contact information for the geotech engineer who gave me the information of the drilling company he spoke with before doing the report. I am meeting with them at the site to go over pricing and equipment coordination. Preliminary estimates are at $70K and they'll be able to fine tune that number after visiting the site.
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