Thoughts on Used Steel Sheet Pile

By Lee Wilczynski (Meever USA)

“Steel sheet pile does not know how old it is. It only knows what condition it is in.”

Pile Buck has seen a growing interest in used steel sheet pile recently. However, it is a two-edged sword: the upside is instant availability at competitive prices, but the downside is less available inventory due to sales with price increases due to demand.

Used steel sheet pile can be installed in as many applications as new, especially on private projects.

  • Boring pits
  • Sewer manhole protection
  • Pipeline repairs
  • Cut-off walls
  • Building foundation protection
  • Trench shoring
  • Flat sheets instead of wood mats
  • Ends of culvert construction
  • Forms for erosion control of loading docks

There is no end for potential uses.

Maybe some municipalities should look for good used products rather than new for many projects.

How do you determine if used is suitable? It depends on many factors, like quantity, length, application, and cost. The condition of pile is easy to determine. In addition, the condition can be checked.

Check thickness via micrometer, properties via coupon sample at a testing lab, and most other conditions can be inspected by observation. Measure length, use a string line for straightness, and eyeball outward appearance and condition of interlocks. Kink can be the most serious problem, but many times, the kink can just be cut out of the bad portion.

There is a phrase I have heard: good for one last driving installation. This implies some difficulties, but if the price is right, they can be overcome. I remember, on occasion, selling large quantities with serious sour and deterioration on the top side without ever trimming because the pile could be threaded and driven from the opposite end. In addition, there are many instances where steel pile can be driven overlapped rather than threaded for shoring applications.

Did you know many Z-piles can be stretched by driving on the diagonal rather than normal configuration and increase wall length by as much as 20%?

Sometimes new is cheaper. How can that be?

Over the last few years, there have been many modifications to steel sheet pile design: varied thicknesses, deeper sections, wider sections, and higher-grade steel of 65,000 yield vs. the 38,000 yields of 30 years ago.

So what does that mean? Here is an example:

Used PZ-27 weighs 27 lbs./sq. ft. with a section modulus of 30.1 in/cu @.48 cents/lb.

=$12.96 per sq. ft. of wall

New SLZ-13-770 weighs 20.3 lbs./sq. ft with a section modulus of 24.4 in/cu (lengths 30’ don’t need 30.1 sec/mod) @ .58= $11.77

Remember, we can buy exact lengths with new that may not be possible with used.

New wider pile can significantly reduce handling and installation costs.

PZ 27 is only 18” wide, SLZ 13-770 is 30.31’ wide. This equates to about 41% difference, only 20 pair SLZ-13-770 vs. 33.5 pair for PZ-27.

Here’s the takeaway: new steel sheet pile can be cheaper than used in some situations.

Different types of pile that are similar but have different types of interlocks can be made to work by simply welding flanges together. An oversized steel cap on top of the wall can hide the small difference in depth of pile.

Final analysis: Should you buy new or used? It is your call and money.