Helical piers have come a long way since their inception. With the rise in mammoth buildings came the need to give them matching support. Check out a brief history of helical piers for foundation repair to learn how this helpful tool has evolved.

Ancient Pier Application

The earliest known application of a system similar to modern helical piers dates back to 4000 BC in what would become Switzerland. A Neolithic tribe called the Swiss Lake Dwellers used them to raise their homes off ground level. Rather than giving them added foundation support, the piers were used to protect them from predators.


Then, around 100 BC, the city of Venice began to take the shape of the coast of the Mediterranean. Venice was built on top of a swamp. It got constructed over a hundred small artificial islands, supported by over 10 million wooden poles. A couple of thousand years' worth of concrete and stone on top of the poles became the city's foundation.

Alexander Mitchell

The modern understanding of helical piers begins in the early 1800s with Alexander Mitchell. The Irish engineer was born in 1780, and he was blind from 1802 onward. In 1833, he filed for a patent for a screw-pile based on a design he constructed with the help of his sons. The first screw-piles built by Mitchell supported the Maplin Sands Lighthouse located on the Thames River.


Due to the unreliable, sandy, and muddy soil around significant waterways, the piers were initially used to support lighthouses. Then, Mitchell's design started supporting larger projects, such as the construction of the Portland Harbor which lasted from 1840 to 1870.

Modern Advancements

Mitchell's pier provided a lot of stability for the construction industry, but it still lacked modern load capacities. Today, a single helical pier can support around 500 tons. In addition to being used on massive public projects modern piers support everything from skyscrapers to single-story residential homes. Today's technology allows us to retroactively install piers into unstable foundations.


After exploring a brief history of helical piers for foundation repair, it's easy to see the impact this vital foundational tool has had on construction for thousands of years. If your modern property, residential or commercial, needs added support, go directly to the source of helical pier manufacturers by bringing your business to Helical Pier Distribution.