Piles vs. Piers vs. Anchors

Oct 6, 2020 | Resources

Helical anchors are used to repair existing or stabilize new foundations. Boasting easy, quick installation and little soil disturbance, helical solutions thread deep into the ground in order to transfer weight to load-bearing soil.


When discussing deep foundation solutions, the terms “helical piles,” “helical piers,” and “helical anchors” are used so interchangeably, it can be hard to determine the difference. Let’s clear up the confusion when it comes to deep foundation solutions.


Helical Piles


Helical piles are capable of supporting vertical and horizontal loads in both compression and tension situations. They provide structural support by transferring the structure’s weight to deeper, sturdier soil layers.


Piles are typically constructed of steel, concrete, wood, or a combination of the three.


Helical Piers


Piers and piles have the same function—to provide structural support—but they differ from each other in two main ways. Firstly, piers have a larger minimum diameter. They’re defined by the Deep Foundation Institute as being “large enough to permit manual inspection,” implying the minimum diameter of a pier would be around two feet.


Secondly, piers, by definition, do not use steel or wood in their construction. Even if an anchor’s diameter is over two feet, it’s only considered a pier if it’s made from concrete or masonry, otherwise it remains a pile.




While the difference between piers and piles is blurry, anchors are quite distinct. Piers and piles are defined by the construction of the foundation solution, both in size and composition. An “anchor” simply refers to specific use in a tension or uplift situation—they are defined by the way they’re used.


In some cases, piers and piles can also be considered anchors, so long as they are being used in a tension or uplift application.


Anchors can be used horizontally (called “tiebacks”) or vertically (called “anchor piles”), and are frequently utilized in the construction of cantilevers.


Of course, while it’s important to understand the terminology, what really matters is making the right choice to stabilize your foundation. We can help! Landwehr Construction is a member of the Deep Foundation Institute, and with our years of experience and certified installers, we’re ready to assist with all your helical anchor needs.