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Danbro's Nick Gill Provides Valuable Information About Tools for Helical Pile Installers

Helpful Tools for Helical Pile Installations

At Danbro, we believe that our installers are our most valuable asset.  We invest in our dealer network by providing them with the best support and service in the industry and excellent products manufactured by the IDEAL Group.  IDEAL products provide our installers with advantages over the competition due to a more extensive product line with higher capacity piles at the same cost as competitive products with lower capacities.  That is a real dollars and sense difference.

We also invest by providing our valued partners with field training and job-site-specific support to help them be more productive and profitable.  This blog, by Nick Gill, our field support specialist, provides an overview for busy installers of the tools necessary to help their jobs go more smoothly.  Many installers may benefit from Nick’s advice and all are welcome to contact us if you think you could benefit from a distributor who values and invests in their relationships.

Tools & Supplies

Let’s look at the basic hand tools, supplies, and consumables you should always have in the truck.  Marking paint and heavy-duty sharpies or permanent markers are needed to mark out pile locations and establish cut-off heights on piles.  A piece of dirt or concrete used as a rudimentary crayon mark out doesn’t work nearly as well as the paint and markers.  A heavy-duty claw hammer, with a steel frame, is a must.  I’ve broken three wooden ones while hitting bolts through extensions or putting anchor bolts into an underpinning bracket to fasten it to a footing.  You need an adjustable wrench, preferably a spud wrench with a bull pin on the other end for a handle. Because the bolt holes tend to oblong, this helps TREMENDOUSLY when you are taking a pipe pile to a higher torque.  Having the bull pin as a handle, you can adjust the bolt holes to fasten the extensions more quickly.  A level should be on every job. This is to ensure that a vertical pile is plumb. An angle finder or angle gauge is a must on the work truck.  This is used to ensure the proper angle on a tieback or battered pile.  A spare set of hydraulic hoses for the drive head is a good idea.  We have all had a hose blow up on us on the job or get pinched and cracked while in transit to the job: you turn the excavator on and there is a torrential downpour of hydraulic oil.  Spare hydraulic fittings are good to keep around for your machine and torque indicator if it needs them.  You will want to keep a spare battery or charger for your torque indicator, spare pressure transducers (if you have a Marian), and any spare parts for other torque indicators.  Finally, be sure to inventory spare hardware for extensions and thread bar for underpinning brackets.  We have all dropped a nut or bolt into the hole we were working next to or had a threaded bar with rolled threads from someone dropping it on the ground; it can take 30 minutes to get the nut past those threads.

I know many people reading this will think this is all a given. However, how many times have you gone into the tool box on the truck and discovered something is missing?   Maybe you took the level home over the weekend to hang that new flat screen.  Good housekeeping on the work truck before it goes out on a job goes a long way towards increased productivity.

Additional Considerations

A portable band saw for cutting piles to the correct height can speed up your installation.  Some people use angle grinders and they work, but the portable band saw is quicker, cleaner, and more accurate. People have used gas demo saws, but that is not a safe way to cut the pile. Most major tool manufacturers like Milwaukee, Dewalt, and Bosch make these saws, so if you already own one of their cordless drills, you can buy just the saw and use the battery from the drill you own.  People also often overlook the value of a cordless battery-powered impact gun.  You can put a socket on the end of the impact gun and tighten bolts much quicker than using a wrench. It may seem like an unnecessary investment at first, but if you do the math, you’ll figure out quick that it will pay for itself as it speeds up installation time.  Make sure the saw and impact gun are the same brand; then you will only have one type of battery and charger, instead of two.  Another thing to consider adding to the work truck is an oxygen acetylene cutting torch set up.  What is nice about this is it helps tremendously when you are underpinning and are using steel angle under the footing; it is a quick way to cut the angle to size or make a quick adjustment.  Furthermore, if you need to achieve a minimum depth on a pile project but the helicals are torqueing out, you could remove or trim the larger helices and potentially get that depth.  If you are two hours away from the DANBRO material yard on a 10-pile job, this would be the quicker and less expensive thing to do instead of running back for a two-helix lead to replace the three-helix lead specified for the job.

Caveat: Be sure to call the Engineer first to get their approval.

A mag drill and drilling fixtures for drilling new bolt holes on piles is very valuable.  We have all been on a job and heard “oh, by the way, the engineer wants the caps bolted.”  You may be installing tiebacks and can’t get the extension behind the sheeting to attach a threaded bar adapter.  This can be a real “pull your hair out moment” if you are not ready for it.  A Magnetic drill and the right sized annular cutters to match the bolt hole size will get you out of the woods often during your installing career.  DANBRO can help you make a fixture for drilling new holes to help save time.

These are all tools that I have used on jobs or wished I had on a job during my career at DANBRO.  If any of you have tips or tools that have helped you out of a bad spot, feel free to share your experience with me.  I would be happy to add them to the list andshare with others.  I hope this blog helps to prevent a few more gray hairs and heartburn.

Nick Gill is the field support specialist for Danbro Distributors, providing training and site-specific support to Danbro’s network of certified Installers.

by Pat Haffert

Danbro Vice President

September, 2018

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