cabled concrete pressed pilings

Cabled Concrete Pressed Pilings Explained (Concept, Pros and Cons)

*New Terminology Alert* What’s a cabled concrete pressed piling and how is this concept different or better than other foundation repair options? Are there any advantages or disadvantages? In other words, what’s the big deal with cabled concrete pilings?

Anchor Foundation Repair Bryan College Station

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been in the foundation repair industry for 35+ years and are well aware of the different methods out there that homeowners have to choose from. We’ve evaluated how these methods work, whether they have merit, or offer something beneficial for your home.

In all honesty, we do not use cabled concrete pressed pilings in our foundation repairs. We use another method but recognize that there are no *perfect for all occasions* repair choices. Homeowners have to weigh foundation repair options and make decisions based on what will work best for them at the time – and we want to support you in that. 

This article will objectively define and explain the concept of cabled concrete pressed pilings. We additionally delve into the pros and cons to help you better understand what, if anything, cabled concrete pilings have to offer.

Defining Cabled Concrete Pressed Pilings

foundation repair definitions

Since cabled concrete pressed pilings is a complex four-word term that isn’t in the dictionary, we’ve got to define this foundation repair industry terminology in *segments* (maybe later you’ll get why using the word segments is funny here). Let’s start at the very beginning . . .

What do we mean by foundation repair in the first place? Well, we are talking about an existing home that has experienced foundation settlement and sunken down, and the remedies added to the home to address this problem. The settlement has caused undesirable cosmetic and functional issues for your home and it needs to be fixed.

In a nutshell, foundation repair aims to raise a home back up to where it’s supposed to be so that it works right and looks nice again. 

Cabled concrete pressed pilings are a variation of one category of available foundation repair methods. There are many styles of cabling and every company will have its own take on the matter. But we’re going to take it slow and define just “pressed pilings” first and build from there.

Pressed Pilings

Pressed pilings aka pressed piles are a category of foundation repair methodology. Small sections of material are inserted into the ground under the home. The segments are stacked one on top of the other and pushed down repeatedly until no more will go into the ground.

So these pilings are essentially made of a stack (or pile) of sections of material. They get there by being pressed into the ground. Maybe the term “pressed piles” is starting to make sense now.

Concrete Pressed Pilings

Within the category of pressed pilings, there are concrete pressed pilings and steel pressed pilings. Right now, we are just talking about concrete pressed pilings.

concrete pressed piling foundation repairs

Concrete pressed pilings are made of cylindrical pre-cast (that means pre-made) concrete segments. Each concrete section is 6 inches in diameter and 12 inches tall. The concrete cylinders are one solid piece of non-reinforced concrete – that means there’s nothing else inside them to make them stronger, just concrete.

Pre-cast concrete piling sections are a standard home repair product that you can even buy yourself at a hardware store.

Cabled Concrete Pressed Pilings

Within the realm of concrete pressed pilings, there are a few variations. You can just have plain ol’ concrete piles or concrete pressed pilings with various *enhancements* like cabling. There are also hybrid piles that use cabling along with a combination of concrete and steel portions of the piling. 

Companies often promote that their cabling system is a one-of-a-kind, trademarked, or patented method. These proud declarations are made in their marketing to make them sound very innovative or “better than the rest” somehow.

cabled pressed piling materials
These are available for purchase at national chain hardware stores.

In essence, the “cabling” of concrete pressed piles is a way to attach the stack of cylinders together from bottom to top. Most frequently, the cabling is done by using a different kind of concrete cylinder with a hole through the center. The cable is threaded through the middle of the cylinder and tightened so the sections stay connected, like beads on a necklace.

Cabling can be done with a flexible galvanized steel cable or even with a piece of steel rebar. We’ve also spotted a variation of cabling where the concrete sections are attached together with a steel cable spiraled around the exterior of the pile, in addition to a cable going through the center of each cylinder. Not sure how widely used the spiraled cable variation is, but somebody tried it at some point.

How Concrete Pressed Piles Work In the Ground (Concept)

Regardless of whether the pressed piles are steel, concrete, hybrid, non-cabled, or cabled, all pressed pilings work based on the same principle. In other words, no matter what these pilings are made out of or whether they’re attached or not, the physics concept is the same.

Tension is created between the earth and the cylinders as they are pushed into the soil. It’s called “skin friction,” but that’s a weird-ish confusing engineering term. 

how pressed pilings work in the ground

It makes a tad more sense to normal humans when you imagine the soil pushing up on the cylinders and the house pushing down. Think of a battery and how it’s held in place by a spring on one end (the soil) and the rigid end (that’s the house). But there’s more to it . . .

It’s the interplay of gravity from the house weight from above and the resistance of the soil from below. Add in the soil gripping or sticking on the sides of the piling stopping it from going into the ground further. When you put all those forces together, this *friction coming from all sides* holds the cylinders tight and in place.

Then theoretically, the cable keeps the pile tighter together and prevents the individual segments from displacing in the stack. The cable idea is to make the pile stay straighter, be more rigid yet somewhat flexible, and help to maintain cylinder alignment. 

I’m not going to say that this concept is not without flaws (which we will discuss later). But that’s the basic idea of how pressed pilings generally work and what part the cabling plays. 

Are Cabled Concrete Pilings Better Than Non-Cabled?

I said this once already, but it fits here too:

Theoretically, the cable keeps the pile tighter together and prevents the cylinders from displacing or separating in the stack. The cable idea is to make the pile stay straighter, be more rigid yet somewhat flexible, and help to maintain cylinder alignment. 

Keeping each cylinder right on top of the other one would logically make it more stable – at least that’s the thought behind it. Let’s list out the alleged benefits of cabling:

  • Holds the pile segments tighter together,
  • Prevents the cylinders from displacing or separating,
  • Helps the piling to stay straight,
  • Offers more rigid flexibility, and
  • Helps maintain stability through cylinder alignment.

Are these things good? Well, they sure sound good, don’t they? 

foundation repair warranties

Olshan Foundation Solutions is a large national company that offers non-cabled, cabled, and hybrid cabled pressed pilings. They have the most favorable warranty for the hybrid cabled version, a mid-level warranty for the cabled version, and the least robust warranty for the non-cabled version. The pricing follows suit with the level of warranty: lower pricing for non-cabled, and the highest pricing for a cabled hybrid.

SO, what does any of that tell you? 

It tells me that they have the most confidence in their hybrid (and charge the most for that version as well). And they have more confidence in their cabled version compared to their non-cabled version. 

In comparison to non-cabled concrete pilings, the cabled versions appear to hold together better simply based on the warranty the company offers that goes with each variation.

Conclusion: Cabled versions are probably somewhat better than non-cabled versions of concrete pressed pilings based on the warranties offered. But these companies also don’t offer actual comparative data or evidence to support that conclusion so it’s still just a theoretical guess.

Pros and Cons of Cabled Concrete Pilings

Some of these pros and cons apply to pilings in general, while other pros and cons are specific to the cabled versions.

PRO: All pressed pilings are a speedier repair process compared to some other methods.

PRO: In general, pressed pilings are somewhat less expensive than other methods.

PRO: Cabled pressed pilings do seem to offer increased stability over un-cabled versions.

PRO: Cabled versions should keep the cylinders more aligned and still offer a bit of flex.

CON: Cabled and hybrid cabled pressed pilings are more expensive than non-cabled.

CON: You cannot verify that any style of pilings goes into the ground straight.

CON: The varying moisture content of soil is a big factor in the effectiveness of all pilings.

CON: Pressed concrete pilings often do not go in far enough to reach non-reactive soil.

CON: Pressed pilings are not used in any original foundation construction. Why is that?

Let’s explain a few of these cons a little more since we haven’t touched on some of these topics yet.

pros and cons of cabled concrete pressed pilings

Cannot Verify Straightness of Pressed Pilings

Think back to how pressed pilings are installed. They are simply pressed into the ground – you can’t see where they are going. 

You cannot verify if they follow a straight path because no path was created for them to follow. You cannot see if the path hits a random rock and veers off course. You can’t see if the pile begins to turn to the side or anything. All you know is that they push the cylinders in until no more can be pushed.

Problems With Pressed Pilings and Moisture Content of Soil

We talked about the “skin friction” or tension created when the cylinders are pushed into the soil. But think a little bit about how this would be different in very wet compared to very dry soil conditions. More piling segments can be pushed into the ground when the soil is wetter.

expansive clay
Mega dry clay soil in the summer

The moisture content of the soil is 100% guaranteed to change from when the pilings are installed. So the friction and tension between the piling, the home, and the soil will continually vary throughout the year. Sometimes your home could be well supported and then it will change due to the moisture levels and behavior of expansive clay soils.

To be fair to pressed pilings, I don’t want to spend a ton of time explaining all the cons as that’s not the intent of this article. 

If you want more detail on the pros and cons, follow any links that piqued your interest above and check out this article as well: What Are Concrete Pressed Pilings? Foundation Repair Pros and Cons.

Do Cabled Concrete Pilings Work?

seriously, do cabled concrete pilings work?

This is what you really want to know. Do cabled concrete pilings work or work better? I would say that cabled pilings likely work a little better than non-cabled versions. The slightly better performance is attributed to the fact that a mechanism is in place that keeps the cylinders tightly connected together and aligned via the cable.

However, all pressed pilings have inherent flaws and the cabling doesn’t overcome the issues in dealing with the basic installation and varying moisture condition’s effect on skin friction. In many ways, the cabling seems more like a *special yet meaningless feature* – designed to make their product seem better or give it a flashy-sounding trademark.

Listen, when pressed pilings were first making the foundation repair scene, we studied them. We seriously considered this method as a potential product for our business. We even asked esteemed Aggie engineers what they thought of pressed pilings and we have proof of their answer. It’s a heavy technical language read but check it out if you like.

What Other Foundation Repair Options Are Available?

The biggest benefit to any type of concrete pressed piling (cabled or non-cabled) is that they can be installed faster or are less expensive than other foundation repair methods. Now that you know a little more about cabling and pressed piles in general, perhaps you want to know more about other options so you can make the best decision for your situation.

foundation repair options
What other options can I weigh?

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we offer fair and impartial assessments, empowering education, and a fully transparent repair process. After 35+ years in business, we want you to know as much about foundation repair as we do and we’ve got no secrets to hide from the Brazos Valley community.

Anchor exclusively uses drilled bell-bottom concrete piers for all our slab foundation repairs. Bell-bottom piers take longer to install and cost a bit more, but they overcome the challenges we’ve talked about in this article. Check out What Is a Drilled Bell-Bottom Pier in Foundation Repair Terms for more specifics.