Reuben's Home Inspection Blog

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Goodbye Post Hole Digger

Goodbye post hole.

Goodbye post hole digger.

Goodbye worker bending over the hole.

Goodbye two-man auger,

and the gas that goes in it.

Goodbye concrete mix.

Goodbye wheel barrow.

Goodbye sonotube,

and the rebar inside it.

Goodbye frost heave,

and Goodbye heaved steps.

Goodbye heaved footings,

and Goodbye heaved decks.

Goodbye to the homeowner

cursing "what a mess".

Goodbye waiting for concrete to cure.

and Goodbye waiting for footing inspections.

Goodbye old-school deck footings everywhere.

OK, I don't really think standard footings are going to become a thing of the past just yet, but there's a cool new product in town that's making deck footings way faster and easier to install; it's called a Diamond Pier® Foundation System.

A Diamond Pier is basically just a small piece of concrete with four holes in it.  Long steel pins get driven through the holes at 45 degree angles, and these pins make the small chunk of concrete as strong as an 18" round footing, assuming it's the smallest Diamond Pier made, the DP-50.  No joke.

When I first learned about this foundation system I could understand how this might be able to hold a lot of weight, but my real concern was with frost heave.  As I mentioned in my blog post on frost heave and deck footings last week, frost heave can be a serious problem with decks here in Minnesota.

Diamond Pier foundation systems were introduced in to the residential market approximately ten years ago, and have been used in various cities here in Minnesota since 2007 to help gain ICC approval.  Of the nine deck installations listed in Diamond Pier's frost performance reports, four of the nine examples took place in Maple Grove.  I spoke with two building officials at the City of Maple Grove who said that in all the cases that have been closely followed for the last five years, there was only one documented failure of a single footing, and it was more due to 'user error' than anything else; the homeowner had a downspout discharging right next to the footing (no-no).

My next door neighbors had a deck that heaved so badly last year that the patio door wouldn't even open, and their deck stairway became downright scary to use because it was so badly tilted.  They tore their deck down last month and had it re-built, this time with a Diamond Pier foundation system.  The photo below shows one of the piers being installed; after digging out a little bit of rock and dirt, the pier gets placed in the earth.

Diamond Pier Footing

To help keep the pier steady, the pins need to get tapped in to the earth a little bit with a drilling hammer or sledge hammer, but they're not supposed to be fully driven in to the earth that way.  A demolition hammer needs to be used in conjunction with a specialized driving bit, shown below, to drive the pins into the earth.

Diamond Pier Driving Bit

The video clip below shows the pier being installed, along with the coaching of local Diamond Pier rep Ralph Schmidt.  First they tap the pins in to place, then drive them in using a demo hammer.

Diamond Piers are available in lumber centers throughout Minnesota, and I think they're well worth the extra money when compared to the amount of work involved with standard footings. Prices vary, but Hamel Lumber sells the DP-50 for $115.75 each, and they offer free use of the driving bit if the pier footings are purchased from them.

After hearing the rave reviews of this product from contractors and building officials, I think I'm pretty much sold.  If I ever have an upcoming project where these would make sense, I wouldn't hesitate to try them. Diamond Piers can still experience frost heave, but they perform as well as or better than properly installed traditional footings. I'll try to post follow-up photos of my neighbors' deck each year on this blog post to show how the pier footings are holding up.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections

        

Comment balloon 32 commentsReuben Saltzman • June 13 2013 03:27AM

Comments

My friend is right now building a deck. Just poured the footings :( Looks very interesting. I wonder if this system is available in CT. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 4 years ago

Hi James, not just yet.  It looks like it's only available in the midwest for now.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Minneapolis Home Inspections (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 4 years ago

That's a fabulous innovation and prevents you from having to move decks to a warmer climate to prevent frost heave!  I love it when innovation happens, and productivity is improved.  That's the American way!

And I like the fact those those metal tubes can be used like antenna to be able to call the Mother Ship in a pinch!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay!  Good call.  I'm pretty sure that's the only reason they invented these things :)

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Minneapolis Home Inspections (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 4 years ago

Hi Reuben,

Looking at the install instructions, it looks like there might be issues when not knowing exactly where the lines are when installing the unit. The posts or pipes once installed just might hit a sewer or electrical or gas line ETC.

Not sure if this is the best thing for our area. We have a ton of rock issues here.

Have a good day in Minnesota.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 4 years ago

Diamond Pier sounds wonderful. It would be great to have somethinbg oi eliminate a lot of old problems.

Betty

Posted by Team Honeycutt (Allen Tate) over 4 years ago

One of the amazing things about Active Rain is all the stuff that you learn about - this is a perfect example! Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Lise Howe, Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA, (Long and Foster) over 4 years ago

That is pretty interesting. I will keep my eye out for this product. Wonder if it would work well in hard soil of the high desert. Thanks for posting, Reuben.  

Posted by Jeffrey Stevens, Jeffrey Stevens Realtor®/Associate Broker (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Mexico Properties) over 4 years ago

Reuben, this was a very interesting and very descriptive post. I had not heard of this before.

Posted by Lisa Friedman, 28 Years of Real Estate Experience! (Great American Dream Realty) over 4 years ago

Reuben, I just clicked on your link and read all about frost heaves.  I have always been curious about them,  You did an excellent write up - very easy to understand and your illustrations and videos are great.  A+!

Posted by Lisa Friedman, 28 Years of Real Estate Experience! (Great American Dream Realty) over 4 years ago

Reuben, very cool---have you seen them deal with frost heave yet?  Looks promising.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 4 years ago

Good evening Reuben - great information! Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Wayne and Jean Marie Zuhl, The Last Names You'll Ever Need in Real Estate (Hallmark Realtors) over 4 years ago

Reuben,

It is alway nice to see something new.Someone put some thought in to this

Posted by Mark Artesani, Huntington & Newport Beach, Fountain Valley Homes (Keller Williams Realty) over 4 years ago

Interesting product. The weight distribution is absorbed with the pier and the pins are the anchors. Frost would be an issue and we have high moisture areas

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) over 4 years ago

Come on man... I love my post hole digger! Thank God, no frost heaves here... but looks like an interesting product!

Posted by Fred Hernden, Albuquerque area Home Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 4 years ago
This sounds like a very good product not just for Minnesota but for the rest of the country. I would imagine that they could get distributors for this product & make it a real success.
Posted by Jimmy Faulkner, The Best Of St. Augustine (Florida. Homes Realty & Mortgage) over 4 years ago

Looks very intersting..  Keep us posted on how this withstands the test of time.  It looks like some new technology that may make things a lot easier.

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) over 4 years ago

Love to hear about interesting new building products.  Thank you for sharing!

Posted by Derrick Guevremont, Rochester MN Homes for Sale (Counselor Realty of Rochester) over 4 years ago

Neat product! Thanks for sharing

Posted by Jeremy De La Garza, Corpus Christi, TX (Corpus Christi Realty Group) over 4 years ago

what a great idea.  Looks simple to use. Cost?

Posted by Stanley Stepak, Realtor - Avon Lake, Avon, Bay Village, Westlake, (Howard Hanna - Avon Lake, OH) over 4 years ago

There is something to be said for angllng for strength and support.  What a great product and yes, Good Bye all that 

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, Principal Broker (503) 810-7192, Buyer Focused ~ Buyer Results (BuyersAgentPortland.com | Portland Metro Exclusive Buyers Agent | 100% Buyer Representation ~ 100% of the Time) over 4 years ago

Very cool. We learn something new everyday. Always good to see what a little research and development can do to improve the home construction industry.

Posted by Aaron Hofmann, aka Mr. Smyrna Vinings (Atlanta Communities) over 4 years ago

I like this! It was pretty neat concept and the quick video was great! Thanks for posting!

Posted by Frank Harper, Broker/Owner, Realtor, GRI, SFR. (Idaho Family Real Estate) over 4 years ago

INteresting product. I like the idea of getting rid of post hole diggers and mixing concrete!

Posted by Than Maynard, Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862 (Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma) over 4 years ago

That looks like quite a complex, but simple innovation.  I think that I would like to have the patent on that little gem!

Posted by Roger Stensland, Let's Move! (The Cascade Team Real Estate) over 4 years ago

My concern with these is that the rods appear to be made of galvanized metal.  Great for a few years, but once the galvanized coating wears away in the ground, the rods would quickly deteriorate.  What is the estimated life span of these footings, and rods?

Posted by Nathan Jones (McClellan Gray Real Estate, LLC) over 4 years ago

Reuben, this is a first for me, too!  What an ingenious idea.  These guys deserve to get very rich.

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, For Your Home in the Capital (Evers & Company Real Estate, Inc.) over 4 years ago

Seems like it would work well in many situations. I supose people should check with their local building inspection dept to see if these are allowed, and of course, call Miss Utility to locate any underground wires before driving posts.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) over 4 years ago

Reuben, That is way cool. I have not seen much frost heave in my area. But those are some pretty darn cool piers. Looks like the company is in our back yard here, Gig Harbor.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

I'm doing  a deck myself.  10 holes @ 115.75 each is $1,175 .

I'm sorry - I would rather do the painstaking work myself. Meterials - $7.00 sona tube + 3 bags of ready mix. Thats  $22.00 x 10 = $220.00 

Plus more time to think about how the project will go together.  -- But thats just me. lol

......A big time saver for sure!

 

Posted by Paul Viau, High Shots Photography - Real Estate Services (High Shots Photography) over 4 years ago
Clever introduction-- a real attention grabber! Diamond Piers certainly sounds like an exciting technology that offers a significant cost savings.
Posted by Ralph Gorgoglione, Hawaii and California Real Estate (800) 591-6121 (Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes) over 4 years ago

Clever product!  I wonder how the rods would hold up over time and how hard it would be to get cities with tough building codes to accept something new like this. 

Posted by Theo Shaw, Serving Evanston, IL & Beyond (Baird & Warner Residential Real Estate) about 2 months ago

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