Goodbye Post Hole Digger

Home Inspector with Structure Tech Home Inspections

Goodbye post hole.

Goodbye post hole digger.

Goodbye worker bending over the hole.

Goodbye two-man auger,

and the gas that goes in it.

Goodbye concrete mix.

Goodbye wheel barrow.

Goodbye sonotube,

and the rebar inside it.

Goodbye frost heave,

and Goodbye heaved steps.

Goodbye heaved footings,

and Goodbye heaved decks.

Goodbye to the homeowner

cursing "what a mess".

Goodbye waiting for concrete to cure.

and Goodbye waiting for footing inspections.

Goodbye old-school deck footings everywhere.

OK, I don't really think standard footings are going to become a thing of the past just yet, but there's a cool new product in town that's making deck footings way faster and easier to install; it's called a Diamond Pier® Foundation System.

A Diamond Pier is basically just a small piece of concrete with four holes in it.  Long steel pins get driven through the holes at 45 degree angles, and these pins make the small chunk of concrete as strong as an 18" round footing, assuming it's the smallest Diamond Pier made, the DP-50.  No joke.

When I first learned about this foundation system I could understand how this might be able to hold a lot of weight, but my real concern was with frost heave.  As I mentioned in my blog post on frost heave and deck footings last week, frost heave can be a serious problem with decks here in Minnesota.

Diamond Pier foundation systems were introduced in to the residential market approximately ten years ago, and have been used in various cities here in Minnesota since 2007 to help gain ICC approval.  Of the nine deck installations listed in Diamond Pier's frost performance reports, four of the nine examples took place in Maple Grove.  I spoke with two building officials at the City of Maple Grove who said that in all the cases that have been closely followed for the last five years, there was only one documented failure of a single footing, and it was more due to 'user error' than anything else; the homeowner had a downspout discharging right next to the footing (no-no).

My next door neighbors had a deck that heaved so badly last year that the patio door wouldn't even open, and their deck stairway became downright scary to use because it was so badly tilted.  They tore their deck down last month and had it re-built, this time with a Diamond Pier foundation system.  The photo below shows one of the piers being installed; after digging out a little bit of rock and dirt, the pier gets placed in the earth.

Diamond Pier Footing

To help keep the pier steady, the pins need to get tapped in to the earth a little bit with a drilling hammer or sledge hammer, but they're not supposed to be fully driven in to the earth that way.  A demolition hammer needs to be used in conjunction with a specialized driving bit, shown below, to drive the pins into the earth.

Diamond Pier Driving Bit

The video clip below shows the pier being installed, along with the coaching of local Diamond Pier rep Ralph Schmidt.  First they tap the pins in to place, then drive them in using a demo hammer.

Diamond Piers are available in lumber centers throughout Minnesota, and I think they're well worth the extra money when compared to the amount of work involved with standard footings. Prices vary, but Hamel Lumber sells the DP-50 for $115.75 each, and they offer free use of the driving bit if the pier footings are purchased from them.

After hearing the rave reviews of this product from contractors and building officials, I think I'm pretty much sold.  If I ever have an upcoming project where these would make sense, I wouldn't hesitate to try them. Diamond Piers can still experience frost heave, but they perform as well as or better than properly installed traditional footings. I'll try to post follow-up photos of my neighbors' deck each year on this blog post to show how the pier footings are holding up.

Comments (45)

Ed Silva, 203-206-0754
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Interesting product. The weight distribution is absorbed with the pier and the pins are the anchors. Frost would be an issue and we have high moisture areas

Jun 13, 2013 11:16 AM
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Come on man... I love my post hole digger! Thank God, no frost heaves here... but looks like an interesting product!

Jun 13, 2013 11:45 AM
Jimmy Faulkner
Florida. Homes Realty & Mortgage - Wantagh, NY
The Best Of St. Augustine
This sounds like a very good product not just for Minnesota but for the rest of the country. I would imagine that they could get distributors for this product & make it a real success.
Jun 13, 2013 12:00 PM
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

Looks very intersting..  Keep us posted on how this withstands the test of time.  It looks like some new technology that may make things a lot easier.

Jun 13, 2013 12:36 PM
Derrick Guevremont
Counselor Realty of Rochester - Rochester, MN
Rochester MN Homes for Sale

Love to hear about interesting new building products.  Thank you for sharing!

Jun 13, 2013 01:31 PM
Jeremy De La Garza
Corpus Christi Realty Group - Corpus Christi, TX
Corpus Christi, TX

Neat product! Thanks for sharing

Jun 13, 2013 02:14 PM
Stanley Stepak
Howard Hanna - Avon Lake, OH - Avon Lake, OH
Realtor - Avon Lake, Avon, Bay Village, Westlake,

what a great idea.  Looks simple to use. Cost?

Jun 13, 2013 02:47 PM
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

There is something to be said for angllng for strength and support.  What a great product and yes, Good Bye all that 

Jun 13, 2013 03:15 PM
Aaron Hofmann
Atlanta Communities - Smyrna, GA
aka Mr. Smyrna Vinings

Very cool. We learn something new everyday. Always good to see what a little research and development can do to improve the home construction industry.

Jun 13, 2013 06:09 PM
Frank Harper
Idaho Family Real Estate - Boise, ID
Broker/Owner, Realtor, GRI, SFR.

I like this! It was pretty neat concept and the quick video was great! Thanks for posting!

Jun 14, 2013 01:00 AM
Than Maynard
Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma - Purcell, OK
Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862

INteresting product. I like the idea of getting rid of post hole diggers and mixing concrete!

Jun 14, 2013 01:44 AM
Roger Stensland
Keller Williams Realty Puget Sound - Maple Valley, WA
Let's Move!

That looks like quite a complex, but simple innovation.  I think that I would like to have the patent on that little gem!

Jun 14, 2013 02:02 AM
Nathan Jones
McClellan Gray Real Estate, LLC - Bardstown, KY

My concern with these is that the rods appear to be made of galvanized metal.  Great for a few years, but once the galvanized coating wears away in the ground, the rods would quickly deteriorate.  What is the estimated life span of these footings, and rods?

Jun 14, 2013 02:03 AM
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH@Properties - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Reuben, this is a first for me, too!  What an ingenious idea.  These guys deserve to get very rich.

Jun 14, 2013 03:24 AM
Jeff Pearl
RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA - Lovettsville, VA
Full Service Full Time Realtor

Seems like it would work well in many situations. I supose people should check with their local building inspection dept to see if these are allowed, and of course, call Miss Utility to locate any underground wires before driving posts.

Jun 14, 2013 05:02 AM
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Reuben, That is way cool. I have not seen much frost heave in my area. But those are some pretty darn cool piers. Looks like the company is in our back yard here, Gig Harbor.

Jun 14, 2013 12:18 PM
Paul Viau
Nova Scotia Real Estate Blog - Halifax, NS
Nova Scotia Real Estate Blog + Photo Services

I'm doing  a deck myself.  10 holes @ 115.75 each is $1,175 .

I'm sorry - I would rather do the painstaking work myself. Meterials - $7.00 sona tube + 3 bags of ready mix. Thats  $22.00 x 10 = $220.00 

Plus more time to think about how the project will go together.  -- But thats just me. lol

......A big time saver for sure!


Jun 15, 2013 03:33 AM
Ralph Gorgoglione
Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes - Kihei, HI
Hawaii and California Real Estate (310) 497-9407
Clever introduction-- a real attention grabber! Diamond Piers certainly sounds like an exciting technology that offers a significant cost savings.
Jun 16, 2013 03:59 PM
Theo Shaw
Baird & Warner Residential Real Estate - Evanston, IL
Serving Evanston, IL & Beyond

Clever product!  I wonder how the rods would hold up over time and how hard it would be to get cities with tough building codes to accept something new like this. 

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