Saving Money on permanent Sheet Piles

posted by Sunil Newatia on April 29th, 2023
PVC sheet pile
Sheet piles are used for water-tight barriers, retaining walls, waterfront structures and bank protection. Two types of sheet piles are popular Steel and PVC. Due to the differences in physical and mechanical properties, each have their own advantages and disadvantages.

While estimating the total project budget, it is critical to consider all cost drivers and the pros and cons of each method available for project execution. 

Steel sheet piles are more expensive than PVC. Wherever permanent sheet piles need to be installed, PVC is the cheaper option. As PVC sheet piles cannot be re-used they are preferred only for applications where permanent sheet piling is required. To illustrate this we shall talk about two extreme variants of designs where both PVC sheet piles and steel sheet piles can be used.

Example 1: A tight wall in the ground, installed to the depth of 12 meters in heavy ground conditions
The cut-off wall with a depth of 11m made of PVC sheet piles
Demanding geological conditions make it necessary to choose a type of sheet pile characterized by high stiffness, relatively thick walls and, above all, high weight. Let us assume that it will be a steel profile with a 11 mm thick walls and weighing 135 kg/m2. The recommended plastic sheet pile for the implementation of this type of project could be GW-610/7.2, which weighs 17.4 kg/m2. The difference in the price per square meter between both types of sheet piles is tremendous!
The cost of the GW-610/7.2 PVC sheet pile is only 22% of the price of a steel sheet pile weighing 135 kg/m2.

Example 2: A cantilever retaining structure that protrudes above the ground level to the height of two meters
Retaining wall made of PVC sheet piles
Due to the high stiffness and bending strength of steel, a steel sheet pile with a 7mm thick wall can be used for this type of project The approximate weight of such a sheet pile is less than 80 kg/m2. PVC sheet piles of strongest profile, i.e. GW-458/12 with a weight of 30.7 kg/m2 is recommended for this job. The strength parameter of PVC is much lower hence we need to keep in mind the soil pressure while deciding the total height of the pile.
In this case, the price of the PVC sheet piles would constitute 70% of the price of the steel sheet piles.

Transportation Cost:  You can load much more PVC sheet piles in one trailer than the steel ones. The density of PVC is 1.44g/cm3, and the density of steel is appx 8g/cm3. The density factor of the raw material makes PVC sheet piles much cheaper to transport and they can also be handled much more easily on the site, using lighter and more cost-effective equipment. This makes it possible to significantly reduce the logistics expenses.

A trailer can usually carry 1200 m2 of PVC sheet piles (21 tons) while only 155 m2 of steel sheet pile can be carried by the same trailer. This makes logistics cost of Steel sheet piles 13.6 times more than PVC sheet piles!

The price of maintenance
Corroded steel sheet piles can be a serious problem
An unquestionable advantage of PVC sheet piles is their high resistance to corrosion. PVC sheet piles do not corrode or deteriorate over time. They do not require maintenance or specialized treatment to maintain their structural integrity.
Steel sheet piles, on the other hand, are prone to corrosion and require regular maintenance to keep them in good condition. Over time, this can result in significant additional costs, making PVC sheet piles a more viable option in the long run. Anti-corrosion protection, can add up to 30% to the cost of steel sheet piles. 

 Installation costs
The weight of PVC sheet piles is much lower than steel, which results in the use of lighter and more economical equipment to deliver and handle the product at the construction site. The assembly can also be carried out by fewer workers. Installation costs of both sheet piles are comparable as Vibro hammer required for both is same. 
A team of two handling a PVC sheet pile profile

PVC sheet piles are on an average 30% cheaper than steel sheet piles. They are also significantly cheaper to transport and as they are resistant to corrosion the maintenance costs are negligible. Installation costs however is same.
When calculating the total costs of investment, it is important to consider all of the factors mentioned above, not just the quantifiable ones, as well as weigh all the pros and cons of each type of sheet pile. 
We provide installation of both PVC & Steel sheet piles for Residential & Commercial Bldg, Underground & Deep Excavation Work, Trench Shoring, Canal & Dam Work on Pan India. Call #FoundationSpecialists since 1990 on 1800 120 7873

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