Sheet piling is used in construction, usually to provide earth or water retention, and aid excavation. Most commonly, sheet piles are made out of steel, but can also be made from timber, reinforced concrete, or plastic.
The sheets are driven into the ground, using a number of methods including vibration or by hand. The sheets can either be permanent or temporary, depending upon the project.
But when is sheet piling actually used? There are a great many applications which you may or may not be aware of, and some of them you probably encounter regularly.
We spoke to Sheet Piling UK who are specialists in sheet piling and have over 20 years experience, to find out which everyday things are constructed using sheet piling.
Underground construction often utilises sheet piling as it provides a great deal of protection while building foundations, and helps keep out groundwater.
Underground structures are at risk from large amounts of soil, particularly during construction, so the use of a strong material such as steel is ideal.
When used above ground, sheet piling will often be removed once construction has been completed, but underground the piling is often part of the structure, as it is extremely durable and long lasting. Steel sheets can be welded after construction to provide a fully waterproof basement environment, which means there is no need for reinforced concrete lining walls.
Sheet piling is an ideal technique for flood defences for a number of reasons. Not only is it an economical and quickly installed option, but unlike other construction methods, the sheets can easily be removed from the ground and reused elsewhere which means the environmental impact is low and makes them ideal for temporary flood protection.
Where burrowing animals or root damage are a concern, sheet piling is an excellent solution as the sheets are impenetrable. Additionally in coastal work, specially treated sheets are available for use which are able to withstand the usual erosion upon contact with salt water.
Common examples of sheet piling being used to contain water include canal bank protection, harbour defence, and erosion barriers.
In the construction of railways, sheet piling is often used to stabilise embankments, whether it be in the construction of new lines, or to fortify existing railways. The sheeting is a fantastic method of ensuring the lines are not in danger of any potential landslides.
Additionally, due to the nature of railway work, the construction zone can often be rather limited for space, so another great advantage of sheet piling is that it saves space.
When working on the railways, a vibration free driving method is often used to avoid causing any damage to the line itself, or to the surrounding area.
While these are some of the things that we probably see around us on a daily basis where sheet piling is used, there are many more uses, and it is an extremely useful engineering development.