Steel Helical Piles vs. Lumber Piles
Which is the better option for securing a foundation?

When it comes to the construction of new homes, lumber piles have always been the popular pick of contractors and builders nationwide. Did you know there is a more reliable and cost effective alternative that will allow homeowners to feel safer than ever before? That alternative is steel helical piles.

The price of lumber has shot up from last year, a market trend seen as somewhat expected after tariffs were placed on Canadian lumber earlier this year. As a result, steel maintains as a better option for pre-construction materials. As you’ll see below, while this may seem as kind of a shock at first, you’ll learn that steel is not only a better material, but it proves to be the most long lasting, leaving you with a peace of mind that the home you are building will be secured. 

In a recently released article from the NAHB, the National Association of Home Builders, due to lagging domestic supply and rising tariffs on Canadian lumber, contractors experienced price increases this past spring as high as 30%.

The Commerce Department determined that Canada had been improperly subsidizing the sale of softwood lumber products to the United States, and after failed negotiations, Washington decided to retaliate with tariffs of 3 percent to 24 percent. The penalties will be collected retroactively on imports dating back 90 days.

Granger MacDonald, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and CEO of MacDonald Companies, has issued multiple statements about the issue.

“More than one-third of the lumber used in the U.S. last year came from exports because the U.S. does not produce enough lumber to meet the nation’s needs. Home builders need a consistent, reasonably priced supply of lumber to keep housing affordable for hard-working American families.” 

This leaves home builders – and their customers – caught in the middle and probably looking at price hikes: The Random Lengths Framing Lumber Composite price jumped from $366 on Feb. 3 to $391 on Feb. 10, the greatest weekly gain since August 2003. By Feb. 24, it was up to $405.

What does this mean to the cost of housing?

This price spike has added nearly $3,600 to the cost of a new single-family home. When you consider that each $1,000 increase in the median price of a new home makes homeownership unaffordable to 150,000 households, you can quickly see how this tariff can have a ripple affect across the nation.

It’s not just homebuyers and consumers who are hurt by tariffs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, housing and related industries that used softwood lumber employed nearly 4.5 million American workers and outnumbered U.S. lumber-producing workers 31 to 1. The U.S. does not produce enough lumber to meet the nation’s needs. Last year, 33 percent of the lumber used in the U.S. was imported, and more than 95 percent of those imports came from Canada.

So what are your options if lumber prices continue to climb impacting the cost of those timber piles needed to support your foundation?

With steel at all time low prices, steel helical piles are the better option. According to General Steel Buildings, here is the charted regression of steel prices in the United States. Not only does the forecast show the dramatic decrease in the price of steel, it shows that the price will stay somewhat steady for the years to come. As you can see by comparing the chart above with the one to the right, steel prices are less than the average timber price currently and look to stay that way for years to come. 

So what are the advantages of using steel helical piles on a foundation vs. the limitations of timber piles? Find out below.