The Farmers Almanac is predicting Western Canada will experience much colder than normal temperatures through the 2020-2021 winter. Of course, you probably don’t want to hear that, and the Farmers Almanac could be wrong. But, it’s a reminder that, sadly, summer is over, fall is here and winter is on the way.

For most people this means wrapping up plans for building projects and putting them on the shelf, waiting for spring to come around again.  With the City of Winnipeg’s major backlog in permits that fall project is likely not going to be completed this year or if it’s still going to happen, additional costs related to cold weather are likely.

But, this doesn’t have to be the case.

Every year around this time, as both leaves and temperature fall, we begin hearing a common question:

“Can I get foundation piles installed in winter?”

The short answer is, “Yes“. A slightly longer answer is, “Yes, but it’s critical that you get the right foundation installed (and concrete might not be the best choice).”

Not sure what we mean by “the right foundation”? Read on, and we’ll explain.


The Problem With Concrete in Winter

You can get a concrete piled foundation installed in winter.

However, it’s not an easy process.

The ground is rather frozen making it difficult to bore the first few feet of soil. Once drilled, the concrete needs to be specially treated to ensure it doesn’t cure with bubbles and impurities that will weaken it. Plus, while the concrete cures, it needs to be covered and kept warm with heaters. These steps add to the time and cost it takes to install a concrete piled foundation in winter.

Pouring concrete piles in winter could lead to a product that might not be as reliable as it would be if installed in non-freezing temperatures.

That’s not the fault of concrete or concrete contractors. Winter is tough in Manitoba, and concrete was never really meant to be poured in sub-zero weather.

Good news is, a helical pile foundation doesn’t require any special additives or curing to be installed in winter!


Installing Helical Piles in Winter

Helical piles are uniquely suited for installation in Manitoba’s tough conditions. Why? Because helical piles don’t need to cure or set. This means that helical piles won’t run the risk of failing because of improper curing.

There’s only a couple differences when installing helical piles in winter.

First, our crews may need to warm up the ground with custom heating rods, or pre-drill the frost from time-to-time if the freeze has set in especially strong. Because snow is such a great insulator, we recommend that you leave the snow on your worksite up to the day of, or the day before, install. The heating or pre-drilling is really only typical for smaller helical piles for light weight structures; simply because a smaller pile need thawed ground or the torque required to advance the pile might exceed the shear limit. Larger piles for under a home, commercial structure or industrial application are robust enough to endure the torques and installed with equipment capable of providing the crowd necessary to advance helical piles in frozen soils.

In 2020 the friendly certified team at VersaPile installed in excess of 1,000 4-1/2″ diameter shaft or larger helical piles in frozen ground and only had to predrill twice where the soils were very saturated prior to freezing.

Second, some additional charges can be associated with installing screw piles in winter; but these additional charges max out at $75 a pile. Usually, installing a pile in winter only costs around $35 more per pile.

There’s no difference in the quality or longevity of a helical pile foundation installed in winter. They are every bit as strong and reliable as a helical pile installed in non-freezing temps.

Plus, our Postech install crews are always happy to be out installing screw piles – even in the winter chill!

Here are some low capacity, smaller, helical piles being installed in the winter.

Here are some of the larger helical piles being installed in the winter.

Why Install Helical Piles in Winter?

Being able to install a helical pile foundation in winter probably sounds great, but you might be wondering why you’d want to install a foundation in winter?

One of the big reasons we have customers asking us to install foundations in winter is because they’re making the most of their time!

If you’re considering helical piles for a commercial or industrial application, the old saying is “time is money” and helical piles can save you both time and money. For commercial and industrial applications, the installation of helical piles in the winter is generally the same as it would be in the summer – making helical piles a no brainer for frozen ground construction.

Manitoba goes through months of frozen ground every year. But, frozen ground shouldn’t be reason to postpone building a lighter structure! Decks, home additions, boat docks, even sheds or garages can all be built in winter. Why waste months waiting to get your project done? Not only can projects be built in winter, in many cases it’s easier to find quality tradespeople in winter because their calendars are less busy. You might even save some money by looking for tradespeople in the “off season”.

Another reason we are asked to install foundations in winter is because you’d appreciate a head start on your project. Even if you don’t want to finish the project in winter, you can still get the foundation done and ready to go. That way, when spring arrives, you already have a build-ready foundation.


Foundations That Out-Smart Winter

Even if Manitoba experiences a long, cold winter this year, it’s no reason to put your projects into hibernation.

A helical pile foundation can be installed by VersaPile, Inc. – Helical Pile Contractors can be effectively installed at any time of the year, in nearly any weather conditions. So, even after the snow falls you can still get a reliable, affordable foundation installed.

(Even if we install it in parkas and toques!)

If you’re curious about helical pile foundations, just click here to contact us and tell us about your project. Our friendly foundation experts are happy to help you find the perfect foundation for your needs.