Helical Pier Foundation Repair Options With Techno Metal Post

Due to the recent earthquake and resulting damage,  many homes have foundations that have settled and suffered other damage. Below, I hope to explain how helical piers can successfully repair these foundations and briefly touch on other repair methods.

First, we need to understand what happened:

In many cases the ground underneath the foundations settled during the earthquake and the two main likley culprits are:

(1) Soil liquefaction – which occurs when a saturated or partially saturated soil substantially loses strength and stiffness in response to an applied stress such as shaking during an earthquake or other sudden change in stress condition, in which material that is ordinarily a solid behaves like a liquid.

(2) Improper and/or inadequate footing preparation or placement of  ‘man-made’ fill during the original construction.

Settled foundation and surrounding soils in Anchorage after the Nov 30 Earthquake – notice the settlement expands beyond the footprint of the building, but not beyond the likely area of original excavation.

How helical piers resolve this issue and prevent future settling.

Helical piers are steel piles that are driven deep into undisturbed soils and are considered a “deep foundation”. Simply put, they are drilled deep into the ground through disturbed or weaker soils into denser, deeper soils which are better able to support the weight of the structure above.

We have the ability to run our helical piers deep into competent soils, passing through weaker soils; such as peat, soft clay and other soils that are subject to failure under weight or in events such as earthquakes.  The installation into these soils allows the piers to hold heavy loads; such as a house. The installation process is engineered; meaning that when we install the piers we know the exact weight the pier can hold in that soil. If we need the pier to hold more weight, we simply install the helical piers deeper into denser soils.

The whole idea behind helical piers is to bypass that weaker soil and find deeper denser soils to hold the weight.

Techno Metal Post has almost 10,000 helical piers installed throughout the Anchorage and Mat-Su area and have had no reports of failures. In fact, this fall we recently re-supported a house foundation that had settled from the previous earthquake two years ago. We found almost 10′ of peat soils on this lot near Minnesota Drive and International – the same place we saw the dramatic failure of the Minnesota off ramp.

Scroll through the below gallery to see the repair process for this house:

How did our helical piers do in the Earthquake on November 30, 2018?

After the earthquake, we went back and took elevation measurements to determine if the house had settled. We found that the house’s foundation remained level and did not suffer any settlement during the quake. We have also checked similar projects and have seen the same result: structures supported by our helical piers were not affected by the quake and remained the same as the day they were installed.

Two story house intact and the deck piers used also remained stable.

What do we know about helical piers and earthquakes?

Until recently  helical piers have not undergone extensive testing during seismic events. That changed when the University of Oklahoma’s Amy Cerato PhD, PE decided to study and test the performance of helical piers (under load) in earthquakes.

A link to her blog and study can be found here.

And we also wrote a bit about earthquakes after we endured the January 24, 2016 quake which was felt throughout Southcentral Alaska. At that time, TMP AK also inspected many houses supported by our helical piers and found similar results – no damage and no movement of the piers.

Through testing and ‘real world’ events, Dr Cerato’s hypothesis remains true:

The international community has qualitative proof that helical piles perform well in earthquake prone areas”

What other methods are used to repair failed foundations? Do they work as well as helical piers?

Helical Piers are not the only method used to lift and stabilize houses. Other methods include:

* Slab Jacking – Where a concrete slab (or foundation footer) is lifted by injecting a concrete mix under the slab until it lifts the slab back level.

* Foam Jacking – Where foam is used in place of the concrete mix.

* Excavation-based Repairs – Where various methods are used to excavate the materials under the failed foundation and replace them with gravel, concrete or wider footers to support the weight of the structure.

The downside of each of these repairs is that they do not address the underlying cause of the original foundation failure – that the soils do not want to hold the weight of the structure. The above methods are reliant on the idea that the soils will not settle again and do nothing to solve the original problem.

In fact, we have many cases where we have seen failures of the above methods.

One example occurred in Anchorage where a contractor was called to fix a house that had settled 6″. Their “fix” was to excavate below the existing foundation, use jacks to level the house and create a new (much larger) and deeper footer to support the house. The failure was almost instantaneous, the house sunk about 8″ (more than the original settlement) due to the fact that the soils were not capable of holding the weight of the house, let alone the additional 20,000 lbs. of additional concrete.  TMP AK was able to install several helical piers down to 30′ to find soils capable of holding the weight and we lifted the house (again).

Another remarkable example happened during the November 30th earthquake at the house near Minnesota and International Airport in Anchorage — the same house mentioned above that we repaired from previous earthquake damage.  We were pleased to learn that it was not the helical piers that failed. It was the foam-jacking that had been used to repair the interior concrete slab portion of the house that suffered the significant failure. Helical piers were used to lift and stabilize the perimeter foundation, and could have been used to support this slab as well, but the lower cost option of foam-jacking was chosen for that section.  After the quake, TMP AK returned to the house to check for any failures. When we measured the house, we found that the slab (the part repaired by foam-jacking) had sunk up to 4-5″, while the perimeter supported by helical piers remained in place.

If your home has suffered earthquake-related foundation damage, we hope the information above provides some understanding of how helical piers may be the best choice to repair the damage. 

To get an idea of the costs associated with foundation repair, see our Estimated Foundation Repair Costs sheet and feel free to get in touch with any additional questions.

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Earthquake Damage?

    Photo Credit: Anchorage Daily News

Estimated Foundation Repair Costs

Sadly, many of us in Southcentral Alaska have homes that sustained foundation damage in the recent 7.0 earthquake. We’ve been receiving a big influx of calls about this and want to help you determine if Techno Metal Post Alaska can help you with the repairs.

We have a process to help us determine if we are the appropriate contractor for the job and you can help expedite that process. But first, make sure your house is safe. With foundations settling the main issue could be your utility connections. Make sure your gas, water, sewer and electric connections are secure. Your local utility company can assist you in this if needed. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to contact your home insurance company. They may have certain protocols and processes that you may need to follow which are important to be aware of before any repairs begin. As Federal and State Disaster funds become available, you will want check in on what assistance may be available.

Similar to the process we use to evaluate any foundation repair, we ask you to EMAIL us the following:

  1. A written description of the damage with as much detail as possible.
  2. A rough drawing of the house including dimensions of entire house and highlighting where the damage has occurred
  3. Photos of each side of your house – damaged and undamaged
  4. Close-up photos of the problem areas
  5. Any other relevant photos to help us assess the damage
  6. Your complete contact information (physical address, email and phone)
  7. Any engineering assessment or design can substitute for the above.

A recent foundation repair near Minnesota Drive and International Airport Road in Anchorage. This job remained stable during the earthquake.

Once we have this information, TMP AK will then do the following if you do not have an engineer already working on your solution:

  1. Review the failure and see if we are a candidate to make the appropriate repairs.
  2. Forward the information to our engineer (if needed) for a quick no cost analysis for repair.
  3. The engineer will determine the type of repair needed and provide us a budget for his design costs for engineering of the project.
  4. The engineer will provide TMP AK enough information for us to provide a budget cost for the actual repairs to you.
  5. The above items are done at no cost to you.
  6. If you are working with your own engineer, they will do the above and provide us with plans from which we can provide an estimate.

We have worked with Anchorage contractor Arctic Terra to provide the following Estimated Costs for Foundation Repairs document to help you get an idea of the budget and scope of repairing your home.

If the foundation failure is one that can be resolved by Techno Metal Post Alaska, the next steps would be…

  1. TMP AK will explain the repair process – here is a step-by-step detail of the repair process.
  2. TMP AK will have our preferred General Contractor/Excavator review the potential repair and provide a cost for their portion of the work.
  3. TMP AK will set up an engineering contract through our engineer to get the design process started. We can work with any structural engineer as desired or work through our preferred engineer. **We will NOT complete any foundation repair work that is not designed by a Structural Engineer**
  4. The engineer’s team will make a site visit to measure and inspect the failure.
  5. Engineer will complete the design and Municipal permitting submittals (if required).
  6. A General Contractor/Excavator will prepare the work for our repair.
  7. TMP AK performs the foundation repair.
  8. Engineer approves the work.
  9. General Contractor/Excavator completes their portion of the work.
  10. Municipal inspections occur, as required.
  11. TMP AK provides a record of the work and approvals from the engineer.

We hope this provides you with a clear description of the process and what we need to get started. As you imagine, we are receiving quite a few calls to look at similar type of work and you providing the above requested information is the quickest way to get the repair process underway.


The repaired foundation. This house was leveled and lifted about 6″ – notice the gap between the soils and the ground.

Techno Metal Post Alaska is based in Anchorage and Homer Alaska and specializes in helical pier installation. We have over 16,000 helical piers installed through out the state and have repair dozens of foundations. We have the ability to work on up to 3 repair jobs simultaneously and can bring up more of our certified installers from our dealers in the Lower 48 as needed to complete these repairs.


Some more repair photos:



When needed we can also work inside the house to repair interior portions of the foundation.
Reaching inside the house to access the footer for a repair to the corner of this houses foundation.
West Anchorage repair with our specialized equipment. 

Repair of Raspberry Rd in Anchorage.
A close up of a lifted foundation.

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Summer is here….

Even though we can (and do) install helical piers year-round, for most people SUMMER is the big building season. Whatever you’ve got planned from decks to cabins to additions or entire houses….we’re ready to provide the foundation solution you’re looking for.

We’ll be all around the state this summer from Savoonga to Petersburg and many places in between. Give us a call at 907-299-3334 or send an email and let us know what projects we can help you with.

Installing new helical piers for a deck with failing sonotubes.

New helical piers are installed for a deck extension. One advantage of our small installation machine is the minimal impact it has on existing landscaping, as seen here.

Another deck repair overlooking the Kenai River.

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Now’s the time to think about DOCKS

Do you have a dock that is failing?

Are you thinking about putting in a new dock?

Winter is the perfect time to get that dock ready for the upcoming boating and fishing season. TMP AK’s helical piers make the perfect foundation for docks and all dock installations are 10% off until the ice goes out!!!

A completed dock on our piles in Anchorage. The ramp is fixed to the piles but the dock itself is floating to self adjust with different lake levels or ice conditions.

Why are our piers so great for docks, you ask? Here are a few reasons….
* They are guaranteed not to heave.
* Winter installation can be QUICK!
* We offer specialized brackets for your dock.
* We always have piers in stock.

Give us a ring at 907.299.3334 or email us at info@tmpalaska.com

As always, we offer year round installation of piers for decks, cabins or just about anything you can think of.

Our EM-1 machine installing dock piles on Big lake. We simply drill through the ice, add extensions and install the bracket at completion.


We installed post for this great 40′ x 40′ L shaped dock in Big Lake recently. The client took advantage of our 10% discount and we were able to fabricate some custom brackets for them as well.

A completed dock on our piles in Anchorage. The ramp is fixed to the piles but the dock itself is floating to self adjust with different lake levels or ice conditions.

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Coming Soon…..

Work is underway! We appreciate your patience as we work to renovate our website to make it bigger, better and more useful for YOU! The tabs above are still active and contain important information about what we do as well as resources to help you in plan your building project with helical piers. If you have any questions or are ready to schedule an installation, get in touch at 907-299-3334 or info@tmpalaska.com


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Summer 2016

With the summer season slowly coming to a close TMP AK has continued to grow to meet the needs of our customers.

2016 has brought a few exciting changes for TMP AK.  In March we moved into our Anchorage shop and materials storage facility.  This new space gives us a permanent much needed shop space for our Anchorage based installers to work out of.



Our new Anchorage location

This summer we acquired our 4th R2D Installation machine to serve our customers with, in addition to our larger EM1 machine.


P5 installation off bridge

Our New R2D installing some P5 helical piers off a pedestrian walkway in Anchorage , Alaska

With the acquisition of the new machine we have moved one of our R2D machines to be based in Sitka, to better serve our customers in South East Alaska.  This will greatly reduce the costs for our clients as we will no longer require a 1600 round trip drive to Haines for each job.  We will now ship materials directly to the jobsite and utilize the Sitka based machine for all our work in South East Alaska.


Clyde underpinning

Repairing a failed house foundation in Sitka, Alaska

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What we were up to last week…

Our helical pier can be used to support just about any type of structure in just about any location.  Last week was a perfect example of what we can do….

Monday – Aside from our regular deck jobs we started a repair job that required 3 P3 piers installed to lift the corner of a failing foundation.  Because of a nearby sewer line we could not excavate from the out side as we might normally do.  The nature of the house made it impossible to work from the interior as we have in the past so the only option left was to open the window.


Our Em1 installing helical piers through the window to save this failing foundation.

Tuesday – By the end of the day Tuesday we had the house stabilized and the work was signed off by the engineer.  Meanwhile Jeff and Justin were off on their own adventure on the south side of Skilak Lake putting in piers for a new cabin in very rocky soils.


Barge capacity 3000#?  No problem for the light but powerful R2D.


As Jeff said,’one of the most beautiful places in Alaska’.  And one of the toughest jobs that had them working until 8 PM…

A long day but they got the 15 piers in with oversized brackets welded on for the new building.

Wednesday – With an old cabin sitting 6′ in the air awaiting it’s new foundation, we sent all hands up to the shores of Nancy Lake to start putting the over 50 piers in for a new foundation.  The two R2D’s made pretty quick work in the confined spaces and the building was ready for new beams and new foundation by the end of the day Friday thanks to Jason’s leadership and everyone’s hard work.


2 R2D machines made quick work of the 50+ piers needed to support this cabin.

Thursday – While the guys were hard at work in Nancy Lake we made a quick reconnaissance trip out to Judd Lake Alaska where we will be starting a remote 200 pier job in July.  No plane can go out to the bush empty so a few piers were loaded up with some insulation and off we went.  Much of the materials have already been flown in by plane or helicopter and we hope to fly in the Em1 for this job by helicopter as well.


Stay tuned for more on this job as we get started in the next few weeks.

Friday – Back in town and wrapping up the Nancy Lake job, Jeff headed to Soldotna to start some cabin foundations while we caught up on deck pier installations around Anchorage.


The Techno Metal Post R2D machines can put a helical pier just about anywhere.

It seems fitting that summer solstice fell during our busiest week of the year and that extra day light helped us get in the over 100 piers across the state.  I am convinced we have some of the best and hardest working installers and welders in the Techno Metal Post network…

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Techno Metal Post Alaska in Fairbanks and Southeast AK

It is summer and we are on the move!!!

A sunny day in Homer getting the summer started right with this new deck foudation.


We have a few spaces left in our schedule for next week in Fairbanks starting Tuesday June 7 for decks, additions and other projects.  We are also available to look at your next project with you.  We will be back to Fairbanks later in the summer as well if you are not quite ready for us this trip..


We are also planning a trip to Sitka / SE AK for some foundation repair and new foundation installations for houses.  The exact dates for this trip are not yet scheduled; but if you are looking for us to do any foundation work, please lets us know and we will see if we can help!!!

Foundation repair in Sitka Alaska. We installed foundation posts through the floor of this house.

Exterior foundation piers installed to re-support this 4-plex’s failing foundation in Sitka Alaska.

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Earthquakes and Helical Piers

We all felt the January 24th of this year.  The 7.1 magnitude quake rocked South Central AK and was felt as far north as Fairbanks and of course felt very strongly here in Homer.  Thankfully, damage was minimal and no serious injuries were reported.

TMP AK always knew that our helical pier foundations were suitable for earthquake regions, but there had yet to be a real world test here in Alaska.  That changed on the 24th.  An unscientific survey of our completed work thus far has given us raving reviews.  So far we have not heard of any issues of settling or other damage due to the over 20 seconds of shaking.


Grade beam piles installed

Helical piers installed to support a house.

We have inspected some finished projects and have not seen any signs of settling, pile movement or drywall cracking.  Several houses and cabins on the Kenai Peninsula are fully supported by our piles and seemed to pass the 7.1 magnitude test in January.

GB Side view Big Lake

Completed house on helical piers in Big Lake Alaska.

While it is known and widely accepted that helical piers preform better than traditional foundations in earthquakes; it is not quite known why.  The University of Oklahoma’s Amy Cerato PhD, PE is trying to better understand the science and performance of helical piers in earthquakes.  A recent news report report did a story on her study that was conducted in San Diego this winter.

You can read further on her about the study and testing on her blog .  She opens her study’s abstract  noting:

“After the series of earthquakes in 2011, the city of Christchurch was surveyed and it was found that all buildings/infrastructure constructed on helical piles sustained minimal structural damage, however, a large majority of the condemned buildings were constructed on other foundation types. The international community has qualitative proof that helical piles perform well in earthquake prone areas, but engineers have not quantified “why” those piles are superior foundation elements, and unfortunately, helical pile use in seismically active areas within the United States remains minimal. Therefore, this project seeks to find out “why” helical piles seem to behave so well in seismic regions by subjecting them to earthquake loads in the University of California – San Diego’s Large Shake Table.”

We are eager to see the results of her study and are grateful that these types of studies are being done, not just for retrofit work being done on buildings in CA but for all future structures built using helical pier technology.

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Repairing failed deck foundations

A high percentage of our work is repairing old deck foundations that have failed. Most deck foundations fail due to frost heaving issues, rotting wood posts or settling of the soils. Techno Metal Post’s helical piers are the perfect solution for any of those problems and our piers are guaranteed against settling and frost heaving.

Our small R2D installation machine is able to install new foundations with minimal disruption to the existing deck. Whether we are working on top of the existing deck or under it, there is usually a way to get the new helical piers installed.

TMP's R2D working on and under an existing deck

Recently we were called to replace two failed Diamond Piers in Homer. Apparently they had heaved up causing the owner to have to cut out a section of the wood post to alleviate heaving pressures on the deck above.

Failed Diamond piers

Failed Diamond pier close up

In just about an hour we were able to install the new helical piers in the same locations of the failed diamond piers and set new brackets for the deck supports. Since the base or helices are well below the seasonal frost layer, the piers are guaranteed to stay put in despite the seasonal heaving of the soils.

Piers installed where Diamond piers were.

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