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What's the TRUE Cost of a Helical Screw Pile Foundation?

August 22, 2023

If you've heard anything at all about helical piles, then you've likely heard or read that they're cheaper and easier to install compared to concrete piles.
But are they actually cheaper?
What's the real cost of a helical pile here in Canada?

We don't want to disappoint you, but there's no short answer to this question.

No, that's not because helical foundation contractors want to make your life more difficult or be secretive in order to charge you more money.
(At least, the professional and trustworthy helical contractors aren't looking to do that.)
The reason we can't give you a simple answer is because, despite the fact it seems like a straightforward question, there's actually a surprising number of factors that influence the final cost of a helical pile foundation.
If you can learn these "cost factors" and see how they affect the price of your helical pile foundation in Canada, you'll be able to identify if a helical foundation contractor is being honest with their pricing or trying to take advantage of you.
So, join us in this article as we break down the factors that influence the cost of your helical pile foundation and learn how to avoid dishonest contractors.

How Much Does a Helical Pile Foundation Cost in Canada? (Short Answer)

We know you came here today with the expectation that we'd give you an easy answer to the question, but unfortunately one doesn't exist. That said, if you want the "too long, didn't read" version:
Your helical pile foundation could cost you $500 per pile or $25,000 per pile.
Admittedly, that's a bit of a wide gap between those two numbers, and there's in fact a good reason for it. Here's the reality when it comes to helical pile pricing:
There are so many factors involved in determining the price of your helical pile foundation that giving you a "ballpark figure" for the cost is completely impossible as it would (likely) end up being wildly inaccurate. Since any helical foundation contractor worth their salt isn't interested in guesswork, they can't give an off-the-cuff answer to the question of price.
Really, if you do find a helical contractor willing to give you a "rough guess" of the price, you might want to take a closer look at their reputation. If a contractor is willing to play fast-and-loose and rely on guesswork before you've even started your project, imagine what they'll do after you hire them.
Our team would love to be able to provide instant pricing that's 100% accurate on a helical pile foundation without needing any information about your project. That would make our job a whole lot easier. Sadly, we don't have that ability.
What we can do for you, however, is walk you through the factors that influence the overall cost of a helical pile foundation. If you understand these "cost factors", you'll be able to identify which factors in your own project could affect your foundation cost.
If you want to jump to a specific section, use the Table of Contents above. Otherwise, let's dive in.

What is a Helical (Screw) Pile Exactly?

If you've been doing research on helical piles, one of the first things you noticed might be the different names used to, seemingly, refer to the same technology. Screw piles, helical piles, ground anchors, ground screws, screw anchors... you get the idea.
What you need to know is all of those names in fact do not all refer to the same technology. The terms "screw piles" and "helical piles" are the only ones on that list that refer to a true "helical pile" foundation. 
Helical piles were originally called "screw piles" when invented in the early 1830's, and some places in the world still use this nomenclature today (particularly in the United Kingdom).
How is a "true helical pile foundation" defined? The best definition comes from Howard Perko, in his book "Helical Piles: A Practical Guide to Design and Installation". It reads as follows:

"Helical Pile: “A manufactured steel foundation consisting of one or more helix-shaped bearing plates affixed to a central shaft that is rotated into the ground to support structures”"

- Howard Perko


An example of a true helical pile - note the constant-pitch on the helix plates which ensures the pile turns into the ground at a constant rate while causing virtually no soil disturbance

Notice how Perko specifically outlines that a helical pile must have "helix-shaped bearing plates". This is important, as it's the interaction between the helix-shaped plates and the soil that gives a helical pier it's unique abilities as a deep foundation solution.
That also means that anything not falling within that definition is, by nature, not a helical screw pile.
Let's examine some of the foundation technologies that are often mistaken for screw/helical piles, but are in fact quite different in design and not comparable to a true helical pile.

Ground Screws

These can be a source of confusion when researching helical (screw) piles, as the similar name and installation method make it seem as though there's a connection between the two.
In reality, ground screws are very different to helical screw piles.


These ground screws, manufactured by Krinner, feature a continuous augur flighting that extends up to half of the overall pile shaft

Unlike the helix plates seen on a helical pile, which only go around the pile shaft one time and rarely exceed more than four plates on a single pile, a ground screw features continuous flighting which comprises 40-50% of the pile length.
Also unlike a helical pile, which is an end-bearing foundation, ground screws are considered floating piles as they do not extend to till or bedrock.
Ground screws are a unique and useful foundation that can provide firm support in certain circumstances. The length of their flighting means they achieve good friction in the soil and can offer good lateral load resistance. Here at VersaPile we've installed Krinner ground screws when it makes sense.
However, a ground screw cannot be called a true helical pile as it does not fit the definition we saw above.

Ground Anchors / Earth Anchors / Screw Anchors

Ground anchors have been around since at least the 1990's and are a popular "off the shelf" foundation that can be found at retailers like home improvement stores. They're typically turned into the ground using a small hand-held tool or manually using a torsion bar and turning the anchor into the ground.


Ground anchors may look similar to a helical pile at first glance, but the two essentially have nothing at all in common

They were initially invented as a solution to easily anchor guy-wires in the utility industry. By the 90's helical pile foundations had become commonplace in utilities construction. However, in that era, it didn't always make sense to install a helical pile for a guy wire. Especially because it could be challenging to install helical piles for guy-wires in some locations.
Their solution was to create a small anchor that was inspired by a helical pile, but featured a much more aggressive pitch on the plate. This made them much easier to turn into the ground by hand and they worked reasonably well to support guy-wires while requiring less effort to install.
Unfortunately for ground anchors, their performance was too inconsistent to really catch-on in the industry. As true helical piles became easier to install with improved hydraulic drive technology, the utility sector stopped using hand-installed ground anchors.
In terms of a comparison to helical piles, ground anchors fall far short of even being considered in the same league. They're much smaller, have little engineering backing them, aren't designed for compression loads, and don't have a consistent-pitch helix plate.
While useful for small residential tasks like anchoring guy-wires for a shed or reinforcing corner posts on a fence, ground anchors are not true helical piles in any way.

"Augured" Piles

The term "augured pile" can be a tricky one, too. It can refer to augur cast piles, which are a type of concrete foundation, or it is sometimes used as a misnomer for helical piles.
Continuous flight auger piles (CFA piles) are a different type of concrete foundation technology that uses a hollow-shaft auger to install. Here's how it works:
A continuous flight auger is turned into the soil to a pre-determined depth in order to excavate a column in the ground.
The auger is slowly removed while, at the same time, concrete (or grout) is pumped through the hollow auger shaft down into the column at just the right rate to fill the void. Rebar reinforcements are then pushed into the wet concrete.


Ground anchors may look similar to a helical pile at first glance, but the two essentially have nothing at all in common

If everything goes to plan, the result should be a continuous pile in the ground. It won't be a helical pile, though. A continuous flight auger (CFA) pile is still a concrete pile that's simply being installed using a novel method. There's no relation to helical pile technology, which is a steel foundation that requires no concrete at all.
The term "auger pile" is also sometimes used to refer to helical piles, especially by those less familiar with the technology. It's not a technically-correct term, as the word "auger" refers to something that bores a hole or displaces dirt by design. This does not apply to helical screw piles.
A true helical pile will not auger the soil as it turns into the ground, and it isn't designed to displace material during installation. Thus, the phrase "auger pile" should not be used in reference to helical piles.

Why Getting a "True Helical Pile" Matters For Your Project

As you can see there are foundation technologies on the market that sound similar, or even look similar, to helical piles. Despite any similarities however, these foundation solutions cannot be considered as proper helical foundations because they don't adhere to the correct design principles.
It's a common misconception that helical piles are a sort of unregulated technology that can have many definitions. As seen above, there's a clear and accepted definition of what makes a true helical pile.
When you're looking at helical piles, make sure they abide by engineer-accepted design principles and meet the correct definition of the technology.


This is an example of what true helical piles will look like - note the helix-plates on the bottom of the piles that features a constant pitch in order to disturb the ground as little as possible

Which Helical Piles Are Worth Your Money?

Did you know that not all helical piles are created equal - even if they meet the accepted definition of one?
Over the 10+ years that VersaPile has been in business our team has seen countless helical piles from manufacturers across Canada and even the United States. Most of the helical piles we've seen are made from high-quality materials and have careful quality control at every step of the process.
Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that every helical pile is built with quality materials and tested with extensive QA processes. For example, in the past we've seen CCMC-approved helical piles that were actually manufactured from used oilfield casings - a terrible material that's a sure recipe for early pile failure.
To help you understand what to look for in a high-quality helical pile, here's the elements our team has learned to keep a close eye on...


When you install high-capacity helical pile foundations in some of the toughest conditions around, you can't afford to depend on anything less than outstanding materials

Is the helical pile designed for a Canadian climate?

Canada is cold. If you've ever experienced a winter here, especially in Central Canada, you already know that. In fact the lowest temperature ever recorded in North America was right here in Canada near Beaver Creek, Yukon. On February 3, 1947, the mercury plunged to a staggering -63°C and set a new record.
Point is, the climate in Canada is unique to almost any other country. From sweltering-hot summers to bone-cold winters, the climate has a big impact on the performance of your foundation.
For example, in VersaPile's home province of Manitoba, the frost line has been known to extend up to 10 feet in some regions. Other provinces in Central Canada face similar conditions.


Central Canadian provinces have some of the deepest frost lines anywhere in North America, creating difficult conditions for deep foundations

Is the helical pile built with quality materials to high standards?

Helical piles may look simple to manufacture at first glance. After all, isn't it just a steel pipe with a helix tacked onto the end?
Far from it.
Helical piles require just as much engineering, care, and precision, in their design and manufacture as any other critical component of a structure. By adjusting characteristics like the size and number of helix plates, shaft size, and wall thickness, manufacturers can design helical piles to suit any project.
Of course, like most things in this world, you get what you pay for when it comes to sourcing helical piles for a commercial or industrial project. And just because a certain helical pile is CCMC-approved doesn't mean it's high quality. As mentioned earlier there once was a company who used scrapped oilfield pipe to manufacture - and they were CCMC-approved. While they were eventually shut down, the shoddy piles ended up installed under many projects.
The best way to avoid that same fate for your project is to, of course, work with an honest foundation contractor who will source excellent materials. But, you can also learn what aspects to look for in a quality helical pile and judge them for yourself.
Here's what to look for in a high-quality helical pile:● Built from structural-grade rolled steel, not recycled pipe● Welds are clean and consistent on top and bottom of helix plate (no spot welds)● Helix plate has constant pitch, smooth edges, no cracks or warping● Has engineers stamp and is CCMC-approved (not failproof, but essential regardless for commercial or industrial projects


Note how the weld on this helix plate is clean, smooth, unbroken, with a bead that's more than thick enough to support the intended loads plus a safety margin

What Will Your Helical Pile Contractor Cost?

Remember how earlier we said that not all helical piles are created equal? The same goes for helical pile contractors and installers. Your contractor's expertise is a key ingredient that influences the final cost and timeline of your helical foundation project. By choosing a top-notch contractor, you'll avoid nasty surprises and save yourself from unexpected costs.
Thankfully, once you know what to look for, it's easy to hire an experienced helical foundation contractor. Here's some questions to keep in mind when you're talking to a foundation contractor...

Does the helical pile contractor have experience with your project?

In Canada and the United States, there are no regulations or standards currently that govern the helical pile installation industry. That means a surprising number of helical contractors in the market don't have adequate skills or experience with installing helical piles. Some manufacturers only require a few days of training to install piles, others even less.
Unfortunately, that creates an environment where a lot of "helical pile foundation contractors" are running around with too much confidence and not enough intelligence.
This problem isn't limited to the residential helical foundation market, either. Even commercial and industrial projects have lost money and progress to helical installers that looked like experts, but in practice didn't have the real-world experience to do the job right.
When hiring a helical pile contractor, confirm they have experience with projects similar to yours and have the case studies to back up the claims they make.
We're not saying that a new company can't be good at what they do or that you shouldn't consider hiring them. Everyone has to start somewhere. All we're saying is, when assessing helical pile contractors, you should give consideration and weight to their relevant experience.


Over the 12+ years that VersaPile has been in business, we've evolved from tackling residential projects to engineering and installing high-capacity helical foundations for large-scale industrial/commercial construction

Does the helical contractor have engineering partners / in-house engineering familiar with the technology?

Good engineering is the lifeblood of a safe and durable deep foundation. From structural engineering that assesses how the foundation interacts with the structure to geotechnical engineering that analyses soil conditions to determine an ideal foundation design, the expertise of experienced engineers is instrumental.
Having a good engineer isn't the only important part of the equation, either. Not only does the engineer or firm have to be good at, well, engineering, they need to be familiar with helical foundation technology and how to effectively use it. Designing an efficient and economical helical foundation isn't like dealing with concrete or driven piles, it takes specific training and experience to fully understand.
The best helical pile contractors will either have strong relationships with trustworthy engineering firms, or they'll have one or more in-house engineers to perform those services.
Working with a contractor who has in-house engineering can be more efficient and lead to a better design overall, due to the fact the engineer (should) be highly experienced in helical technology specifically.
That said, there's nothing wrong with a contractor who engages a quality third-party engineering firm who is familiar with helical piles. The most important thing is that your contractor puts good engineering first.
Make sure your contractor prioritizes working with trustworthy and experienced engineers familiar with helical pile technology, whether they're an in-house team or a qualified third-party.


Taking an "engineering first" approach to helical pile foundations ensures that our team designs and installs an efficient and effective solution

Is the helical pile contractor experienced, professional, and trustworthy?

Once upon a time, not that long ago, you had to rely solely on word-of-mouth and reputation when deciding whether or not to work with a business. These days we have much better ways to uncover what a business is really like.
Here's some tips on how to identify if a helical contractor is a professional operator:
Check Online Reviews and TestimonialsReviews and testimonials from previous clients are an excellent way to find out more about a contractor. Look on common review platforms like Google Reviews, Yelp, and the Better Business Bureau, for insights into the experiences of past customers. Positive reviews, and how the contractor responds to any critical reviews, can offer a strong indication of their professionalism and caliber of work.
Investigate the Contractor's ExperienceLook into the contractor's history and expertise in the industry. Examine past projects they've worked on and ask for references from their clients. A contractor with a proven track record designing, engineering, and installing helical piles in projects similar to yours, will understand the best practices and techniques to ensure success.
Examine Their Certification and TrainingWhile there isn't a governing body that regulates helical pile foundation contractors, a quality operator will pursue training and memberships that confirm they follow industry standards and safety regulations. Beyond that, a contractor who is committed to continuous education and improvement will also have a commitment to staying updated on the latest techniques and technologies.
Evaluate Their Communication SkillQuality service isn't just about having technical skills in foundation installation, but also "soft skills" like effective communication. A great contractor should be quick to respond to your contact, be enthusiastic about helping, and clear about what they can do and what's needed from you. Not only that, but they should be happy to answer your questions, address concerns, and offer advice based on their experience.


A great contractor won't just talk about how good they are. They'll demonstrate it by displaying qualities that show their true character and work ethic

Some Final (Important) Cost Factors for a Helical Pile Foundation in Canada

The helical piles you use and the contractor you hire aren't the only factors that will help determine the final cost of the helical pile foundation for your commercial, industrial, or municipal project.
There's a few more key cost factors to consider that will have an important impact on what it costs your contractor to source, and install, your foundation.

Location of Your Jobsite / Project

Where your jobsite (project) is being built will have an impact on what it costs for your foundation. Specifically, it can affect the mobilization costs of your project.
It costs time, money, and effort, to transport the equipment and materials needed to install your helical piles. The further a jobsite is, the more it takes in terms of fuel, vehicle wear and tear, and time. Additionally, the logistics for long haul distances get even more complex and can incur more costs.
Fortunately, compared to other foundation technologies like poured concrete, helical piles are typically less expensive overall to mobilize. This is because helical piles are lighter than concrete, easier to move long distances, and the installation equipment is minimal.

Complex / Technically Challenging Installations

Our team thrives on tackling technically challenging and complex helical pile foundation projects. After navigating several difficult foundation projects over the years, here's some of the important factors that can make a technical installation more expensive:
Engineering & Team ResourcesIt takes time and resources to design a foundation. The more complex a foundation becomes, the more resources we have to dedicate to it internally to produce an efficient and safe solution.
Custom Components / DesignsWhile all the foundations our team installs are custom in some way, some projects are more straightforward in their design than others. If your pile-to-structure transition is a simple beam cap, for example, then it will cost less than if you need a custom-engineered grillage.
MaterialsIf your helical pile needs to be given special coatings to resist corrosion or be galvanized from factory, this will affect the cost of your foundation. These types of coatings can also make a pile more challenging to weld on, leading to added costs for special welders.

Large yellow CASE excavator in snowy field is installing large diameter helical pile at an angle for transmission line foundation, a VersaPile employee in hardhat monitors

Technically challenging or complex projects could have an affect on the cost of your foundation

Unexpected Costs

This is, perhaps, the worst of all costs on a project. The ones you never see coming. Usually this is in the form of the dreaded "change order" that throws your budget into the wind and makes the project manager queasy.
At risk of repeating ourselves, this is why it's so important to work with a quality foundation contractor. Because if there's one thing our team has learned over the years, it's that most "unexpected costs" can actually be avoided.
One of the things that comes with experience is the ability to identify potential "problem areas" in a project far in advance. Whether that's an obstacle to work around, restrictions to be met, or variable soil conditions. Our experience allows us to account for potential "unknowns" right at the beginning so there's no nasty surprises later. Of course we'll never claim to nail it 100% of the time, sometimes things really are unexpected.
Point is that, once again, your choice of foundation contractor plays a key role in the final cost of your foundation. So, take the time to research and choose a reliable and trustworthy contractor.


There was a lot of ground covered in this post, so congratulations if you read through the whole thing. We hope you have a better understanding of the factors that go into determining the cost of your helical pile foundation.
Here's a brief summary of what we talked about:

    The cost of a helical foundation is influenced by many factors, it's impossible to give a "stock answer" to the question, "How much will my helical pile foundation cost?"
    There can be confusion as to what constitutes a true "helical pile", be aware of other technologies that seem similar but do not have the same performance
    How your helical piles are designed can greatly affect their cost, be wary of contractors who offer "to good to be true" pricing as they may skimp on quality piles
    Your choice of foundation contractor could have the biggest impact on the cost of your foundation, a quality contractor may seem to cost more up-front but will likely save you money overall
    Other factors that will influence foundation cost are the location of your jobsite, complexity of project, custom components, and unanticipated costs
    The best way to get a price for your foundation project is to get in touch with a qualified and experienced foundation contractor and ask for a quote


As much as we wish we could give an easy and straightforward answer to this question, we'd be doing you a disservice if we tried. There's just too many variables to consider when pricing a helical pile foundation, especially for commercial or industrial construction.
What we do hope you have now is a greater appreciation for the different aspects your helical contractor considers when pricing your project. If they're quality, they'll want to provide an accurate estimate and do everything they can to stick to it. A contractor who is willing to do "napkin math" to price your project is someone you likely want to avoid.
Ultimately, the absolute best way to find out how much the foundation for your project could cost is to ask someone qualified. Our team has been designing and installing helical foundations since 2011, and we'd be happy to help with an estimate for your commercial, industrial, or municipal project. Use the form below to get in touch!

Contact Us


Box 849
Ile Des Chenes, MB
R0A 0T0


(855) 474-5464




Monday - Friday 09:00 - 17:00

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