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From outstanding helical pier contractors who value good engineering to lazy hacks who couldn’t care less about “design limits” or “best practices”, I’ve seen the best and worst of the helical pier foundation industry.
There’s plenty of outstanding companies who do fantastic work, but there’s also dangerous “cowboy contractors” who do slap-dash work.
When it comes to the “cowboy” type of contractor, the story is usually the same:
● Structural engineer recommends helical pier foundations…● RFP’s go out…A variety of helical contractors respond…● Builder/client chooses cheapest option (often against engineers recommendations)…● “Cowboy contractors” show up and wreak havoc…● Budgets are overrun (change orders), timelines are ruined, progress is halted…● The cowboy contractor is fired and a true expert is finally brought on to fix the mess…● After avoidable delays, mistakes, and extra costs, the project is finally back on track.
The big demand for helical pier foundations has opened the floodgates for unscrupulous contractors to sweep into the market looking for a quick buck. I call them “cowboy contractors” because they remind me of renegade cowboys on the American frontier.
They don’t think they have to answer to anyone.
These contractors are doing lazy, slap-dash, dangerous foundation work that’s delaying projects and causing budget overruns across the United States. I’m tired of seeing them scam companies out of their money and give helical piers a bad name, so I’m doing something that might annoy them…
I’m going to tell you exactly how to avoid them.
Despite being invented nearly 200 years ago, the past 3 decades (or so) has seen a huge increase in demand for helical pier foundations in the construction industry.
Industrial construction, in particular, has seen fast adoption of helical piers everywhere from compressor stations to renewable energy infrastructure. The fast, efficient, and economical nature of helical piers makes them ideal for the demands of industrial construction.
The tough demands of industrial construction makes the versatile and durable helical pier foundation an ideal match
Here’s the downside…
Hiring a helical pier contractor can be a tricky challenge.
While engineering standards and accepted best-practices do exist for helical piers, not all contractors abide by them. In fact, I’ve seen some actively ignore these standards simply because they’re “inconvenient”. These contractors believe helical piers are a magical “fool proof” foundation that can’t be installed incorrectly.
Reality check: helical piers are not foolproof. They take skill, time, and attention to install. If a helical pier is installed wrong it can (and likely will) fail.
A while back I was replying to emails at my desk when my phone rang. On the other end was a fellow from a cryogenics plant in North Dakota, and they were trying to build a slug catcher on helical piers.
Except they had a massive problem.
They had unknowingly hired a cowboy contractor for their helical pier foundation and everything was a mess. Progress was slower than promised, poor communication caused constant issues, and endless delays were eating into the project budget. The issues were so great that their business relationship ended in a lawsuit.
Their experience with a cowboy contractor cost them money, time, and slowed their growth.
Thankfully we were able to get them back on track and save the project. Our crews installed 154 helical piers that would ultimately support over 1 million pounds.
Despite the initial chaos caused by the cowboy contractor, through hard work and collaboration our team was able to turn the entire project around and complete the installation quickly.
Now, I’m not saying that to brag. Many helical pier contractors have stories of times they had to step-in and take over from another operator who wasn’t getting the job done right. And even though I was pleased we could help their project, the experience made me realize how serious the problem can be.
Imagine you hired a cowboy contractor.
Even if they manage to put your helical foundation in the ground, can you be confident in it? Will it provide years of firm support, or did your contractor cut dangerous corners?
Your foundation contractor is (ultimately) responsible for the success of your project. Going cheap can be tempting in the short-term but I’ll tell you from first-hand experience it only causes long-term pain.
You need to find the best helical foundation contractor, not just the cheapest.
Meet the Industrial Helical Pier Buyer’s Guide. It’s an easy to read and jargon-free 5-page guide that shows you how to hire the right helical foundation contractor.
Think of it like your own cheat sheet that takes the painful process of finding a great contractor and makes it fast, easy, and efficient.
And it’s 100% free for you to download.
This simple guide could save you a world of headaches on your industrial project
Inside you’ll find 7 specific questions you should be asking that will instantly help you identify if the contractor you’re talking to is a dangerous “cowboy contractor”.
You’ll get an explanation to why you should ask these questions and what responses you should look for, so no contractor can hide behind slick sales or marketing. You won’t just be mindlessly repeating questions, you’ll actually improve your own understanding of how to find great contractors.
Not only that, but on page 4 you’ll find a 10-step checklist that summarizes the guide into an easy “contractor assessment” you can use to sort through quotes in record time. Keep it handy when going through your quotes from helical pier contractors. If a contractor doesn’t check the boxes, they could be a renegade waiting to cut your project off at the knees with their inexperience and carelessness.
This checklist alone will make your life 10 times easier when sorting through that stack of quotes for your helical pier foundation.
The included checklist makes it a snap to quickly assess a helical foundation contractor step-by-step
This free guide will help you:
It’s frustrating when I hear about companies having bad experiences with helical pier contractors, because they’re avoidable. Despite the fact that most folks in the helical pier industry are dedicated professionals, it only takes one bad contractor to do lasting damage to your project.
Think of it this way: If you’re buying a new car there’s a good chance you spend a lot of time researching and reading reviews. You want to make sure you’re getting the best vehicle for your needs and budget. Makes sense, right?
Your helical pier foundation is no different. You need to get the best product from the best company, period. In order to do that, it’s going to take some research.
Download your copy of the helical pier buyer’s guide, and if you have any questions or comments about it, scroll down to get in touch with our team of foundation experts at S&B Helical.
We’re happy to help you navigate the world of industrial helical piers and make sure you get the right foundation the first time.
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