Steel or Concrete for Your Piling Project?

Steel or Concrete for Your Piling Project?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Design of Sheet Pile Walls Engineer Manual from 1994 (EM 1110-2-2504 31 Mar 94) is unambiguous in its general preference of steel over concrete for sheet pile walls.

The following is a paragraph from Section 2-2:

“The designer must consider the possibility of material deterioration and its effect on the structural integrity of the system. Most permanent structures are constructed of steel or concrete. Concrete is capable of providing a long service life under normal circumstances but has relatively high initial costs when compared to steel sheet piling. They are more difficult to install than steel piling. Long-term field observations indicate that steel sheet piling provides a long service life when properly designed. Permanent installations should allow for subsequent installation of cathodic protection should excessive corrosion occur.”

Additionally, according to Recommendations of the Committee for Waterfront Structures Harbours and Waterways EAU 1996, “Steel sheet piling is frequently an ideal solution both as regards structural considerations and driving conditions, which is also capable of absorbing localised overloading without endangering overall stability” (Section, page 280).

Steel sheet piling systems also have the advantage over concrete in that they are a ready-to-use product delivered to the project, whereas concrete must be poured and cured at the job site.

Additionally, steel is environmentally friendly as it can be removed from a project or job site after service. Steel is also 100% recyclable.

Steel vs Concrete Tool

Enter your wall dimensions and the values below will adjust automatically.

retaining wall type construction days total cost cost per linear ft cost per square ft
Steel Sheet Pile Wall 47.69
Soldier Pile and Lagging Wall 90.45
Concrete Modular Unit Gravity Wall 76.18
Mechanically Stabilized Earth Wall 95.58
Cast-In-Place Reinforced Concrete Wall 136.09
Slurry Wall 210.60

Approximate cost and construction time for different wall types is based on 2009 RSMeans pricing for the US and extrapolated from the 2009 NASSPA Retaining Wall Comparison Technical Report,

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