Installing Test Helical Screw Pile in a Frozen Lake for a Dock and Boathouse in North West Ontario

Typically a dock or boathouse rests on steel poles which are pounded into the lakes until they meet total refusal.  This means a few things but often it means huge dollars to drive the poles deep enough to reach refusal.

Recently Postech Winnipeg was contacted by a cottage owner who in getting started pounding in steel driven piles found that refusal was at 80 feet!

Because a steel driven pile has to be installed to refusal to be effective, this meant a very costly foundation for the customer.  So how are Postech’s helical screw piles different and more effective than a steel driven pile?  Great question:

  • Screw piles are made with a one or more helicals (blades set at a pitch) which create bearing capacity in any nearly any soil, including lakes.  Steel driven piles, like a screw pile include smaller diameter shafts but without a helical they do not achieve much of any bearing capacity until they reach hard pan or bed rock.
  • The helicals on a screw pile anchor the pile within the soil, creating a strong resting place.  Steel driven piles will likely sink if not driven to total refusal.  Think about hitting a nail vs. screw which are installed several inches into a piece of wood but not all the way; the nail will proceed easily and depending on the amount of force applied by the hammer, the screw may not proceed at all.
  • Helical screw piles are installed using low impact equipment which does not create vibration and that operates at a low noise level.  Steel driven screw piles are pounded into the ground using heavy machinery and installation creates heavy vibrations and is very loud.  Obviously, when installing piles in a sensitive environment such as a lake in cottage country, low impact solutions are ideal.

The best time of the year to install piles for a dock or boathouse is in the winter when installations can be performed from a solid ice surface.  The challenge of course is creating a hole in the ice large enough to allow the installation of a helical screw pile.  This is where steel driven piles offer an advantage; without a helical they only require a small hole which is easily drilled with an ice auger.

To install the test screw pile with a 16 inch helical we needed a larger hole than what a typical ice auger can drill.  The solution was to use an ice auger to drill 4 corner holes and then a chainsaw to essentially connect the dots.  The excavator broke the pile through the last couple inches of ice without much effort.  Total time to get a 16″ X 16″ hole in just over 2 feet of ice = 20 minutes.





Are you looking for an alternative foundation solution which could save you money?  Perhaps you are concerned about using a loud and high impact foundation in a sensitive environment?  Either way, contact Stan Higgins, Independent Owner of Postech Winnipeg for a free, no-obligation review of you project to see if helical screw piles might be an answer.  Call toll-free 1-855-474-5464 or in Winnipeg 204-793-0653 or visit

About screwpiling

We install premium pile foundations which are guaranteed against movement due to frost heaving. Our piles are affordable and professionally installed according to torque, this means you get a perfect install every time! We proudly serve the Greater Winnipeg Area, Steinbach, South-East Manitoba and Interlake regions. Start off on a solid foundation with a Postech Thermal Piles, the most solid and stable piles ever designed.
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