What are Problems with Underpinning by Push Piers? (4 Potential Limitations)

If you’ve been around the block once or twice, then you’ve no doubt heard the dopey adage every cloud has a silver lining. This is what I refer to as the Pollyannaism-pop-champagne fallacy.

I believe it would prove more beneficial, at least more utilitarian, to consider the following statement – every silver lining has a cloudeven push piers.  

So, true to form, in this article we will outline the shortcomings of push piers in minute detail. 

*Authorial Note – Yes, we sell push piers. So, you’re probably wondering, why the unflinching critique? This article is meant to examine, categorize, and analyze problems with push piers through an unbiased lens. Push piers aren’t for everybody, they might not be for you.  

If you’re perusing this post, odds are high that –      

  •   Your foundation repair specialist has suggested push piers (and you want to know what you’re getting into)
  •   Your foundation repair specialist has suggested helical piers (and you want to know why push piers aren’t a good fit for your particular repair project because hell, they’re cheaper)

In this naked exposé (call the tabloids), we’re going to delve into the following push pier limitations –

  1. Push Piers have weight limitations
  2. Push Piers are not a viable repair option for cracked and broken footings (not unless the footing is repaired prior)
  3. Push Piers can only be installed vertically
  4. Push Piers are “compression-fit” – so they are permanent and impossible to remove

So, let’s dive in.

1. Push Piers Have Installation Weight Limitations

Don’t let the simplicity of the name confuse you, brothers and sisters, push piers are indeed pushed into the earth via hydraulic rams. Push piers rely directly on the innate weight of the structure for successful, deep installation to bedrock and/or load-bearing competent soil.

The push piers are attached to a remedial bracket that has been fitted to the manicured footing of your home. The hydraulic rams harness the weight of the structure to drive down the push piers.

Hydraulic rams boast incredible mechanical strength – reaching anywhere between 4000 to 6000 psi to drive down the push piers. If your home is a twiggy lightweight, it may begin to lift at 2,500 psi, which could be indicative that the push piers aren’t deep enough to combat settlement.

In instances like this, the home begins to lift before the desired depth is reached, leaving you with a still unsecured, slightly lifted home.         

In other words, when it comes to push pierpush pile, and push pin underpinning, the heavier the structure the better.  

This is why push piers are excellent at stabilizing second-story homes, brick/commercial buildings, or single-story homes of considerable weight.   

When a structure is too light for push pier installation, helical piers come into play as they don’t rely on the weight of the home for installation.

For a step-by-step walkthrough of push pier installation, read our article: The Five Steps to Push Pier Foundation Repair.

In short, push piers prefer portly projects.

2. Push Piers Don’t Work on Busted Footings

Turns out, grip and leverage are prerequisites for bench pressing a cool 280 at the gym as your fellow comrade gym rats cheer you on. To be redundant: hands are helpful.

Remedial brackets are the hands of the push pier underpinning process. And, to stick with our sweaty-protein-fueled gym analogy, their importance often goes unsung (as hands is to pecs).

It’s damned difficult to bench-press when there’s nothing to grip.

As mentioned above, remedial brackets are L-shaped brackets that fit your foundation’s footing. If the footing is cracked or compromised, it is not safe to continue with the push pier installation.

Or, as in many cases of water damage/spalling, footings can bust out and crumble away completely.

So, to follow suit, push piers have absolutely no shot in Dante’s Divine Comedy at bench-pressing your home’s 80,000 pound-to-160,000-pound load without a remedial bracket.

Remedial brackets are rendered impotent (though not from ‘roids) without a solid, secure footing (our proverbial barbell).

In all fairness, this seems more like a remedial bracket critique than a shortcoming of push piers; however, since they work in tandem and there’s no Cheech without Chong, my criticism stands.

After the footing has been appropriately repaired (if possible), then the push piers can be installed and the home can be lifted to maximum practical recovery.

3. Push Piers Can Only Be Installed Vertically

Push piers only go in one direction and that’s down. They are not the appropriate tool to anchor a retaining wall into a hillside, for example. For that, we in the industry refer to the wonderful anchoring properties of helical piers.

Push piers cannot be utilized at an angle or to anchor.

I realize at the outset of this article I promised a blistering commentary, but I believe the push pier’s only fault here is that it’s not a helical pier.

4. Push Piers are Permanent   

Wait, you might be thinking, this is the main selling point for your lifetime warranty of steel pier systems, how exactly is this a negative? Welcome to the great contradiction – permanence can sometimes be a problem (just like your Tweety Bird tattoo).

The push piers are permanent because they fit together via a compression fit. The pipes utilize the weight of the home to stay fit together. In other words, there is no interlocking mechanism, just downward pressure. This is not a barrel of monkeys – there are no interlocking arms.

If you tried to remove them – you’d only be able to retrieve the top piers (if that).

So, once installed – there’s no going back. No removal. You can’t pass go and collect $200. You have to deal.

Where this poses a potential issue is when it comes to additions. That rec room, man cave, or home theater you’ve been dreaming of could complicate things. The original piers cannot be dug up, relocated, and attached to the addition for extra support.

Remember our Mantra: Additions require additional piers.

Say it out loud. Memorize it. Get it tattooed next to Tweety in a dialogue bubble.    

Choose Dalinghaus for Your Underpinning Needs

In conclusion, push piers are not always the right fit and come with their own unique complications and limitations.

Be sure to check out our Ultimate Foundation Repair Guide for more information on push piers.

Your time is valuable and we respect that. If you choose Dalinghaus, you will receive a repair plan tailor-fit to meet your specific needs. 

Dalinghaus Construction Inc. can help you fix your sinking foundation once and for all with helical pierpush pier, and polyurethane underpinning

We do foundation underpinning and retaining wall repair the right way. With over 100 years of combined experience and 4.9 stars out of over 300 reviews – we are here to ensure that you never settle

If you live in SoCal or Arizona and would like a FREE crack inspection, click the link below –

WRITTEN BY

Brian Dalinghaus

Brian is one of the Co-Founders of Dalinghaus Construction. He has been in the foundation repair industry since 2005. During his career, he has been associated with helping over 4,000 homes and structures throughout California and Arizona.

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