Precast Concrete Piers

By Todd Fratzel on Decks & Porches, Foundations

Precast Concrete Piers

precast concrete piers 300x225 Precast Concrete PiersIn a previous posts I wrote about Porch and Deck Pier Footings and I highlighted a really great construction product, the precast concrete pier. Precast concrete piers are really great and we use them exclusively for porches and decks when we build new homes.

On a recent project, Total House Construction Series – Foundation to Finish, I wanted to point out how we used precast concrete piers. The new house has a front porch and rear deck for a hot tub so we installed the precast concrete piers to support the structural framing.

Old School = Sonotubes

Traditionally you would dig a hole in the ground, install a sonotube and then pour concrete into the hole. In theory that works pretty well but my experience over the years has been nothing short of frustrating when it comes to building piers with sonotubes. If the weather goes bad, which it does around here all the time, then the sonotubes can get wet and collapse before you get the concrete in them. Then you also face the issue of whether or not you have sufficient bearing capacity.

Precast Concrete Pier Benefits

precast footing 300x225 Precast Concrete PiersPrecast concrete piers offer several benefits compared to sonotubes.

They have a very large base for increased bearing capacity. The piers have a threaded insert cast into the top so you can connect your porch or deck posts to them. And the best part is you don’t have to worry about the weather.

Now the flip side of this is these are really only good when you have an excavator to dig a large hole and something to pick them up with.

The piers are 54″ tall so you can have the base at 48″ (depth of frost protection here in NH) and still have 6″ above finished grade. Be sure to come back and continue to follow this series as we build this new home.

Where To Buy Precast Piers

Since writing this article quite a few people have inquired about where to buy precast concrete piers. We purchase them from a local precast concrete supplier that makes septic tanks, manhole structures and misc concrete products. Some of the local building supply companies are also starting to carry them. As the popularity of these increase they are likely to be more common place.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the author of Tool Box Buzz and Today's Green Construction. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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6 Comments

  1. Bob says:

    Hi.

    Where can I pick up these concrete piers in southern NH?
    They sound great for my farmer’s porch rehab project.

    Thanks.

    • Todd says:

      Not sure where in Southern NH. I know up here they can be bought at Michie Corporation in Henniker NH and at LE Weed & Son in Newport NH. Best of luck.

  2. Justin says:

    Hi,
    I am looking for more precise dimensions of these piers, particularly how wide the bases are. Also, what size sonotube could they be considered to replace? Thanks.

  3. Nat Saywell says:

    Todd,
    You may have some insight into this…
    I’m building a 16×20 shed in Kennebunk, Maine, and have been permitted to build it on pilings. I’ve dug 20 holes, each 4 feet deep. But, with all of the recent rain, the water table has risen, and there’s a foot of water in 16 of them. The ground is mostly very compacted sand with a foot of loamy topsoil.
    I am planning to have a cement truck deliver cement, so I will need to have each sonotube set in place and level the day before.
    How long do you suppose a sonotube could sit in standing water before it loses its structural integrity?
    Someone suggested pumping the hole, wrapping each sonotube in a large plastic trash bag before setting in place, and then back-filling around it. My thought on this is that as the water returns to its level, it will then push the whole thing straight up.
    Any advice?
    Many Thanks,
    Nat Saywell

    • Todd says:

      @ Nat – Sonotubes do not do well in water at all. If you drop them in the hole as you do the concrete they will work ok. This is one of the reasons we use precast concrete piers now.

      • Colette says:

        I found a neat product: Ecopiers. They’re polyurethane and reusable, as well as low cost (about $7-$8 per pier).

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