Pile Driving in Practice

This page concentrates on practical pile driving information, primarily for the contractor but also for engineers and owners as well.

More detailed information (especially for Vulcan hammer owners) can be found in the Vulcanhammer.info Guide to Pile Driving Equipment. A very complete reference for this kind of information is Pile Driving by Pile Buck.

Current Practice in Design and Installation of Driven Piles

Hal W. Hunt, Associated Pile and Fitting

Although undated, this monograph comes from the late 1970’s.Hal Hunt was Associated Pile and Fitting’s application engineer for many years.  He was a key figure in the founding of the Deep Foundations Institute, and the Hal W. Hunt Lecture (given each year at DFI’s Annual Meeting) is named in his honour. This gives you an opportunity to see the kind of work that Hal did himself.

Tests have proved that H-piles can dependably carry heavier loads than usually are assigned to them. Concrete and timber piles are being loaded heavier. Prestressed concrete piles benefit from improved splices. Gaining in use are H-pile extensions for precast. The H end, with cast steel protection, can assure penetration into compact material; it can prevent sliding of sharply battered piles or piles driven on steeply sloping rock; it provides protection t o the vulnerable end of a precast pile. An import from Europe is an interlocking deep-web H that can be used with sheet piles for cofferdams or a strong wall. Improved mandrels have increased use of corrugated shell piles. The wave equation is increasingly used for determination of driving stresses and selection of the optimum combination of pile and hammer. Dynamic measurement gives instant pile capacity information at minimum cost. More adequate soils investigation and foundation planning can reduce overall cost.

Efficiency and Energy Transfer in Pile Driving Systems

A description of the basic principles of energy transfer and efficiency ratings as they apply to pile driving equipment and the piles they drive.

Fabrication of Pressure-Treated Wood for Bridge and Pier Fendering Systems

James S. Graham
American Wood Preservers Institute

Pressure-treated wood ia the most commonly used bridge and pier fendering material due to its availability, durability, flexibility, impact strength, and economy. This paper describes the manufacturing process of pressure-treating Southern Yellow Pine, Douglas Fir, and Oak to engineered design specifications for use as a protective system in various types of coastal bridge and pier structures in the Northeast United States.

An Introduction to Capblocks

George J. Gendron, Raymond International

“Capblock” was the Raymond terminology for cushion material between the hammer and the driving accessory. This article describes the purpose of the capblock and specifically the development–and advantages–of the micarta and aluminium cushion stack. Vulcan incorporated this into its capblock follower while Raymond developed the capblock shield, essentially the same configuration.

Knik Arm Crossing Pile-Driving Noise Attenuation

Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority
Project 21132
November 2005

Noise attenuation is primarily needed during pile driving activities. Most other proposed construction activities are not expected to create significant amounts of underwater noise and potentially affected species can easily avoided the area. However, driving piles in the range of four foot diameter and larger with the high energy capacity hammers may cause significant harm and/or death to fish, marine mammals, and other marine animals. This is a complex interaction between the environment and different species and is discussed by others on the Study Team. A number of underwater noise attenuation techniques have been developed for pile driving projects. This report, in conjunction with a constructability report and the beluga whale mitigation report by others on the Study Team, evaluates which techniques should be considered. Knik Arm provides a unique and challenging construction environment that is not typical of projects else where in the United States so the effectiveness of one technique may be severely compromised due to the environmental conditions. There are three mitigation techniques that may be effective in Knik Arm. The first is the use of a confined air bubble curtain. A curtain has been tested in current up to 3 knots in California’s Oakland Bay. The configuration of this curtain would need to be modified to ensure that the fabric and seams remain intact during construction. The fast tidal currents (6-11 knots) of Knik Arm may make success of this option difficult or impossible to duplicate. The confined air bubble curtain is a different system than the unconfined air bubble curtain that has been used in low current project areas. The unconfined air bubble curtain system would not be effective in the Knik Arm environment. The second technique is a propriety device in development. This device attaches to the pile during pile driving and creates an air pocket. No testing has occurred and development of the device is in the early stages so the ability to provide more than a proto type for construction is small. The third potentially viable underwater noise mitigation technique is the sleeve or jacket. This is essentially a cofferdam with an air bubbler between the pile being driven and the outer sleeve. It is expected that the sound attenuation would be similar to that achieved with the Gunderboom® system in a California pilot study but the sleeve should be able to withstand the environmental forces from harsh Knik Arm environment. It appears this type of system has only been field tested once but its failure is likely due to material selection and not because of the concept itself.

Pile Construction

FM 5-134
18 April 1985

This manual is organized to be used as a field reference. Chapter 1 through 4 discuss piles, equipment, and installation. Information concerning design (less that of sheet piling structures) is provided in chapters 5 through 7 for use when tactical and logistical situations dictate original design. These chapters are of primary interest to engineer staff officers planning pile construction when the standard installations, facilities, equipment and supplies of the Army Facilities Component System (AFCS) are not used. The appendix presents information on piling materials not currently available through military supply. The glossary contains terms frequently used in pile design and construction, acronyms, and abbreviations used in this manual.

Pile Driving Equipment

Supercedes and incorporates Technical Instruction TI 818-03, 3 August 1998 (also available)
Also supercedes TM 5-849-1, May 1982 (also available)
UFC 3-220-02
16 January 2004

This document presents guidelines to assist the preparation of specifications for pile installation and for assessment of construction operations. Descriptions of types of piles, advantages, disadvantages, and usage of piles, equipment, and installation methods are discussed in these instructions.

  1. Equipment. Proper equipment and installation methods are critical to prevent damage to the pile foundation during driving, to obtain adequate bearing capacity, and to minimize the cost of installation. Guidance is provided for monitoring the installation of piles including equipment operation, prevention of pile damage during installation, construction problems, and effects of driving on adjacent structures.
  2. General Guidance. Guidance is provided on selection of equipment, verification of design, construction considerations, and the care and maintenance of piles.
  3. Installation Methods. Special installation methods are sometimes required depending on the soil and the environment. Guidance is provided for pile installation assisted by jetting or where hammers or vibrators are not or cannot be used.
  4. Case History. A case history study is included as an example of how to proceed with installation of a driven pile foundation.

Note: the webmaster of site was contracted to write about half of this book. The case history is of special interest.

Pile Hammers and Equipment

Glen Barber, L.B. Foster

A general overview of different types of pile driving equipment, their application and differing methods of acquisition of the equipment (sales, rentals, etc.) The generalisations regarding equipment application are handy in some cases but very crude and should not be used uncritically.

Report on Marine Borers in Fouling Organisms in 56 Important Harbors and Tabular Summaries of Marine Borer Data from 160 Widespread Locations

Department of the Navy, Bureau of Yards and Docks
Washington, DC
April 1951

From painstaking research, such as is summarized in this report, we hare learned in recent times that most of the world’s coastal waters are Infested more or less with destructive marine borers. Some costly marine structures built in the last decade without due appreciation of the marine borer menace have been totally destroyed by their attacks. In other cases, structures of a relatively temporary nature have required extensive repairs after only two or three years of service. Detailed knowledge of the “biological conditions in a given
harbor is indispensable to those who are concerned with any type of marine structure containing timber. Before a marine structure is designed or constructed, it is extremely important that the degree and type of local infestation be accurately determined and that specifications he established which will assure its resistance to borer attacks. After it is erected, it is equally important to maintain regular, thorough inspections and tests if borer damage is to he averted. It is the relief of the Bureau that the information in this report will he of value not only to those officers of the Civil Engineer Corps who have cognizance over harbor Installations, but also to all others who are concerned with shoreside construction and the maintenance of timber marine structures and/or the relatively safe berthing of wooden vessels.

Update LADOTD Policy on Pile Driving Vibration Management

Mingjiang Tao and Mo Zhang
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
February 2012

The main objective of this project was to update the current Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD) policy on pile driving vibration risk management with a focus on how to determine an appropriate vibration monitoring area. The current best practice of managing the risk of pile driving by federal and state highway agencies was identified by conducting a comprehensive literature review and a questionnaire survey. Ground vibration data were collected from previous pile driving projects in the state of Louisiana, which were statistically analyzed on the basis of the scaled-distance concept to develop regression equations for predicting ground vibration Peak Particle Velocity (PPV) values. A rational procedure for determining an appropriate vibration monitoring distance (VMD) was developed for Louisiana’s local conditions based on a 99 percent prediction-level regression equation for predicting PPV values. The findings (the threshold PPV limits and the VMD) obtained from the empirical scaled-distance concept were further verified with dynamic finite element method (FEM) simulations. The results from this study indicated that the vibration criteria specified in the current Louisiana’s special provision are generally too conservative (i.e., a PPV limit of 0.2 in/s for residential buildings and a pre-construction survey distance of 500 ft.) and should be revised. Regarding the threshold PPV limits, the results suggest that 0.5 and 0.1 in/s should be used for a general scenario (neither historic buildings nearby nor loose sandy soil layers present) and for a special scenario (either a historic building or a loose sandy layer existing near pile driving sites), respectively. Consequently, VMDs of 200 and 500 ft. are recommended for general and special scenarios, respectively. The values of VMD in the case of a large pile driving hammer (i.e., its rate energy larger than 100,000 ft-lbf) being used were also recommended. The pre-construction survey distance was suggested to take the same value as the VMD. A specification draft was developed on the basis of the major findings from this study, which is included in Appendix E and ready to be implemented by LADOTD in future pile driving projects.

Use of Spiral Welded Pipe Piles

ETL 1110-2-577
18 June 2012

This engineer technical letter establishes guidance for expanded use of spiral welded pipe (SWP) piles Corps-wide to include sites having soft soils and low probabilities for seismic shaking and extreme cold temperatures.


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