Everything to Know About Helical Pile Foundations for Ready-to-Move Homes

Discover this fast-growing foundation solution that's making it faster and easier to build RTM homes in Winnipeg and throughout Manitoba



As demand for affordable (and available) housing continues to rise in Winnipeg, Ready-to-Move (RTM) homes are one solution to answering it. Built to the same standards and quality as a site-built house, a fast-growing number of prospective buyers see them as a ticket to their dream home.

Unlike a "traditional" house build, where the construction is done on your property, RTMs are built at a facility and then moved onto your prepared foundation.

While they can be constructed faster and more economically, you do need to answer an important question:

What foundation is right for your ready-to-move home in Winnipeg?

Your choice of foundation won't just have an impact on the stability and longevity of your home. It also affects financing options, insurance rates, and even your resale value.

Common foundation solutions tend to involve pouring concrete, building basements, or placing pads and blocks. But, there's another option that can deliver outstanding performance while minimizing installation time and disruption to your land:

Helical pile foundations.

They're an efficient technology that allows RTM homes to be placed on-site faster without compromising safety or strength.

Today we'll be exploring this robust, versatile solution and uncovering why they're fast becoming a go-to foundation for RTM homes. Join us and learn:
● What helical piles are● How they work● What makes them an ideal fit for RTM homes

Whether you're a prospective homeowner, RTM builder, engineer, or simply interested in constructing homes more efficiently, you won't want to miss this article!

What is a Helical Pile Foundation?

Helical piles, also known as screw piles, are a type of 'deep foundation' that's designed to transfer structural loads down into the ground. This is in contrast to a 'shallow foundation', which are built much closer to (or even on-top of) the surface.


The problem with shallow foundations is they can be very prone to shifting or movement, especially during our tough Manitoba winters. As the ground freezes and thaws, it causes the soil to expand and contract.
This effect is most pronounced near the surface, meaning a shallow foundation is more likely to sink or heave.
Helical piles reach further into the earth to find consolidated and firm layers of soil below our frost-line, resisting the pressure of ground expansion or contraction. It allows them to provide confident support even in areas with very saturated or loose soil conditions.
However, if you've never seen a helical pile before, your first thought might be something along the lines of...
"How does something that looks so simple hold up an entire ready-to-move home?"
Don't worry, that's a common reaction! Because at first glance, we admit, a helical pile might not seem like the most impressive foundation.


But, like many things in life, looks can be deceiving when it comes to helical piles!
Let us explain what we mean.

How a Helical Pile Works

At it's core a helical pile consists of "helix plates" (pl. helices) which are attached to a central steel shaft. The helices are shaped in a way that allows the helical pile to rotate into the ground, kind of like a giant screw.


As the pile is installed, the soil exerts pressure on the helices. These plates provide a wide surface area that uses the pressure of the soil to hold the pile in place and prevent it from moving. Once anchored firmly in the ground, it's the helices which deliver much of the pile's strength.

This is a unique design for a foundation, so a good way to understand how it works is to start by briefly exploring the components of a helical pile.

1) Pile Adapter


Starting at the top of the helical pile, we find a pile adapter. This component is tasked with transitioning from the pile in the ground to your ready-to-move home. Pile adapters come in a range of off-the-shelf and custom designs, including ones specifically intended for RTMs. Our adapters include vertical adjustments, making it easy to secure a perfectly level support.

2) Pile Shaft


The body of a helical pile is comprised of a round steel pipe, typically in 10' or 15' lengths. You may also see solid square shaft piles, but they're more common for commercial or industrial applications. Round pipes are incredibly strong, durable, and easy to acquire, which makes manufacturing the piles more economical.

3) Helix Plate


As mentioned, helices help the piles install smoothly into the ground and provide much of the load capacity. In order to be considered a "true helix", they must have a specific pitch that prevents them from displacing (auguring) the soil as they advance downwards. Additional helices may also be added to the pile shaft for increased strength in weak soils.

4) Pile Extension


Sometimes, helical piles need to be installed deeper to find supportive soils. In these cases we use extensions to increase the pile's length, an efficient and effective solution. This allows us to reach 30, 40, even 50 feet and beyond with a minimal amount of effort. It also makes it far easier to overcome challenging soils, such as those located near a body of water.

You can see that helical piles work a little differently to other foundations you may be familiar with. And it's exactly this difference that makes them a great fit for the demands of holding a ready-to-move home!
They're more than capable of delivering tens of thousands of pounds of load capacity, yet create virtually zero disturbance to the ground.
We don't expect you to take our word for it, though. Time to look at how helical pile foundations are installed and discover their proven benefits.

How We Install Helical Piles for Ready-to-Move Homes

Again, if you're familiar with how other foundations (like concrete piers) are installed, helical piles can seem a little odd. In fact we've had people tell us that it seems too easy, wondering if we're hiding parts of the process to make us sound better.
The reality is that helical piles really do require less work than other foundations. Here's the actual, complete, start-to-finish process for installing a helical foundation for ready-to-move homes:

1: Foundation Design


Every good foundation starts with a precise and careful design, and helical piles are no different. Your foundation plan needs to account for factors like soil conditions, ground water levels, size of home, geographic location, and more. An engineer will handle this step to create a plan that is safe, economical, and compliant with building codes.

Step 2: Site Preparation


Once the design has been finalized, the site needs to be prepared to accept the helical foundation. Thankfully this step is often quick and easy depending on your property. Debris, brush, trees, or other structures that are in the way should be cleared. Organic material like grass should also be removed at this point.

Pile locations are marked according to the foundation layout of the home. While many people use spray paint to mark where piles should go, we prefer using large nails for increased installation accuracy.

Line-locates should also be performed to identify and mark underground utilities, which ensures a safe foundation installation.

Otherwise, there's no other site prep that's required! This can save you significant time, effort, and cost.

3: Install Helical Piles


To actually rotate a helical pile down into the ground, you'll need something called a "helical drive head". This is a special attachment that, typically, mounts to an excavator and is kind of like a giant drill. These drive heads can deliver huge amounts of torque using hydraulic power and give us the muscle needed to anchor the pile in quality soil layers.

The pile connects to the drive head using heavy-duty steel pins, so it can be manoeuvred into perfect position. Once aligned to the marked pile location, we begin to turn it down into the earth. It's critical to maintain a constant and steady speed, trying to install a pile too quickly can result in a faulty foundation.

As the pile advances, the helical plates help pull it deeper to bypass soft layers of soil. A solid foundation even in difficult ground conditions!

Step 4: Extensions (If Needed)


If necessary, extensions can be added to the initial pile shaft to reach the required depth. Like most things with helical piles, this is a straightforward task.

The extension is attached to the helical drive and positioned over the pile that needs to go deeper. It can then be connected with bolts and the installation can resume.

We can keep adding extensions until the appropriate depth is reached. Usually coming in 5' or 10' lengths, extensions allow us to address the specific needs of each RTM home regardless of soil type or conditions.

Step 5: Torque Monitoring


This step technically takes place throughout the installation process, but it's so important we wanted to specifically highlight it.

Because the soil provides resistance to a helical pile during installation, we can measure this force in terms of the torque we have to apply. Picture a long screw going into a dense piece of wood - the deeper you go, the more force you need to apply to continue advancing that screw.

But, why should we care about measuring torque?

It's because researchers discovered there's a direct connection between how much torque we exert to install a helical pile, and how much weight it can hold. They even came up with an equation to help determine load capacity based on the installation torque.

What this means is we can monitor our torque readings to ensure each pile will achieve the needed load capacity. It's like being able to perform quality control on the installation, while we're still doing the installation.

There's a lot more science that goes into the relationship between torque and capacity, but we don't have time to get into that today. The most important thing to know is that through the power of torque monitoring, we can confirm your foundation's load capacity in real-time!

Step 6: Install Adapters Onto Piles


Remember the pile adapters we talked about earlier? These help transition from the piles in the ground to your ready-to-move home's foundation. There are many designs available, including one we provide that's expressly engineered for RTMs.

Our pile adapters also include vertical adjustment, so you can achieve a perfectly level platform to support your house.

Step 7: Move Home Onto Your Foundation


With your helical piles installed, your RTM home can now be placed on top! This process looks similar to other foundations and usually involves a crane to lift the house from the transport truck and onto your piles. The vertical height of the adapters can then be adjusted to form a perfect, solid connection for your ready-to-move home.

Benefits of Helical Piles for RTM's 

  • Fast Installation

    As you've probably guessed after seeing the installation process, helical piles are extremely quick to install. In fact, for many RTM home projects, our crews are able to complete the entire foundation in a single day. With no curing time needed, you can apply loads to the helical piles immediately after installation.

  • High Performance in Deep Frost

    As you've probably guessed after seeing the installation process, helical piles are extremely quick to install. In fact, for many RTM home projects, our crews are able to complete the entire foundation in a single day. With no curing time needed, you can apply loads to the helical piles immediately after installation.

  • Minimal Site Preparation

    As you've probably guessed after seeing the installation process, helical piles are extremely quick to install. In fact, for many RTM home projects, our crews are able to complete the entire foundation in a single day. With no curing time needed, you can apply loads to the helical piles immediately after installation.

  • Environmentally-Conscious

    As you've probably guessed after seeing the installation process, helical piles are extremely quick to install. In fact, for many RTM home projects, our crews are able to complete the entire foundation in a single day. With no curing time needed, you can apply loads to the helical piles immediately after installation.

  • Long-Term Support

    As you've probably guessed after seeing the installation process, helical piles are extremely quick to install. In fact, for many RTM home projects, our crews are able to complete the entire foundation in a single day. With no curing time needed, you can apply loads to the helical piles immediately after installation.

  • Supports Basements & Crawlspaces

    As you've probably guessed after seeing the installation process, helical piles are extremely quick to install. In fact, for many RTM home projects, our crews are able to complete the entire foundation in a single day. With no curing time needed, you can apply loads to the helical piles immediately after installation.

How to Find a Great Helical Pile Contractor in Winnipeg (and Manitoba!)


Choosing a helical foundation contractor for your ready-to-move home is a key decision that will impact absolutely everything moving forward. Actually, that applies to any foundation contractor you choose, helical pile or otherwise!

Unfortunately, finding the perfect foundation contractor for an RTM home can be a surprising challenge. There's quite a few options out there, some good and some bad. How do you tell the difference? Look for these qualities in a trustworthy and experienced foundation contractor:

Track Record of Successful Projects & Quality Work

A great place to start is simply by looking at a contractor's track-record. Do they have a history of successful, high-quality foundation projects? Browse through their social media to see if they post about their work. Read online reviews to understand how previous customer's felt about the experience. Check their website, does it have clear information about the company and what they do? A good contractor will be proud to showcase their work and customer feedback.

Puts Sound & Safe Engineering First

All solid foundations start with expert engineering. Beyond ensuring your RTM foundation design is safe and adheres to code, a great engineer will also find ways to maximize efficiency. Quality helical contractors will work with trusted engineering partners who are familiar with the technology and understand how to properly leverage it in Winnipeg's unique soil conditions.

Uses Properly-Manufactured Helical Piles

Not all helical piles are created equal. As their popularity has grown, it's encouraged many "backyard fabricators" in the region to begin building their own helical piles. This doesn't automatically make these piles 'bad'. But it does mean they aren't subjected to rigorous manufacturing standards and quality control. That's why we use helical piles from Almita, a Canadian-based company with over 25 years experience in manufacturing. It ensures a consistent, quality product that performs as expected.

Follows Industry Standards & Best-Practices

This one might seem obvious, but again, we've personally seen operators who ignore industry standards or best-practices when it comes to helical piles. One example are helical contractors who will quote piles that are too small in order to reduce the price of your estimate. Once on site, one of two things will happen. They'll either install the small piles which can lead to an unsafe foundation, or pretend to be "surprised" by your ground conditions and sell you the properly-sized piles anyway. Quality contractors will never sacrifice safety or performance to save a few dollars.

Answers Your Questions & Has Respect

Ever asked someone a question, and they made you feel foolish for asking in the first place? It's frustratingly common in the construction industry. That's why you should work with a contractor who is happy to take the time and answer your questions in a friendly and respectful manner. Remember, if a contractor doesn't treat you with respect during the estimation process, they won't suddenly start after you pay them.

Finding the right helical pile contractor is not just about getting the lowest cost. Or at least, it shouldn't be! Instead you should focus on working with a respectful contractor who is focused on delivering a safe, sturdy, and code-compliant foundation.
After all, we're talking about the structure that's going to support your entire home. Better to find a great foundation contractor instead of a cheap one.

Frequently Asked Questions About Helical Pile Foundations for RTM Homes

  • ?

    What makes helical pile foundations ideal for ready-to-move homes?

    As we've seen, helical foundations offer a wide range of benefits for RTM homes. And we only covered a handful! Some of the big ones are their speed of installation, minimal footprint, and enduring performance in our difficult climate and soil conditions.
    But there's also an "overall" benefit of helical piles... they're just plain easier! They greatly reduce, even eliminate, many of the time-consuming steps (and waiting around) that can come with other solutions.
    Does that mean those other foundations are bad? Absolutely not! All it means is that if you're looking for speed, strength, and convenience, helical piles could be a great fit.

  • ?

    How does the cost of helical pile foundations compare to other options for RTM's?

    While the "per pile" cost of a helical foundation may be higher than some other options, such as concrete piers, it's important to think in terms of overall cost-effectiveness.
    The rapid installation, reduced labor, minimal site preparation, and long-term performance, typically makes helical pile foundations a more economical choice over time. Additionally, their durability results in lower maintenance and repair costs in the future.

  • ?

    Are helical piles more environmentally-conscious than other foundations?

    Helical piles do have a significantly smaller footprint than something like concrete. There's minimal disturbance at the surface and virtually no disruption to the soil underground. They require far less raw materials than other solutions, and we use compact and efficient equipment to install them.
    In addition, they leave no trace behind once removed from the ground and their steel construction allows for 100% recycling (or re-use) of the piles.

Summary & Conclusion


When considering which foundation is best for your ready-to-move home in Winnipeg and area, the answer truly comes down to your needs (and the conditions at your property). If you're looking for the added space and utility of a basement, for example, then a helical foundation might not fit.

(That said, you can use helical piles as sturdy footers for basements, crawlspaces, and even slabs, so they could still be a good fit!)

Our point is, choosing a foundation is really about you. There's no "one size fits all" foundation that's the perfect solution for every situation.

So how do you identify whether a helical foundation is ideal for you?

A great place to start is by connecting with a helical pile contractor and telling them about your project.

We know that sounds a little self-serving considering our company provides helical pile foundation services, but no matter if you talk to us or someone else it's still the best place to begin. A quality helical contractor will be able to assess your home, property, and location, to see if their foundation is suitable.

By the way, a quality contractor will also be honest if helical piles aren't a good fit, saving you time and headaches.

The foundation you choose will be responsible for supporting decades of memories with your family, dictating the longevity and structural safety of your home. Considering their impressive performance and range of benefits we've examined in this post, we're confident they could be perfect for you.

Have questions? Looking for an estimate for your ready-to-move home foundation? Scroll down and get in touch with our friendly team, we're happy to offer expert advice or a no-hassle quote.

Get in Touch With Glawson Piling

Curious about using helical piles for your ready-to-move home project? Need an estimate? Have questions? Our outgoing team is ready to help - just get in touch!