Frequently Asked Questions / Installation Tips
Fortress Pilings are an excellent alternative to traditional materials for dock and pier pilings, boat lifts, seawall support pilings, fenders, foundational piles for general construction and many other applications. There are, however, some significant differences which should be taken into consideration. Below are the most frequently asked questions and some installation tips which will help when choosing Fortress Pilings for your next project.
What is a fiberglass composite pile?
Fiberglass composite pilings are fabricated by impregnating glass fibers with a thermosetting resin. This process yields an incredibly strong material despite its low weight. Fortress Pilings are made through a process called filament winding. Hundreds of glass fibers travel through a resin bath then are wound on a mandrel with CNC equipment at precise angles. The result is a piling which has excellent compressive and lateral strength but is lighter and easier to handle than traditional piles.
What are some of the safety issues associated with fiberglass pilings?
Fiberglass and fiberglass dust are skin and eye irritants. The use of a dust mask, gloves and long loose clothing is recommended. Always wear saftey glasses when working with tools and machinery, always. Goggles are recommended to keep fiberglass dust away from the eyes.
How difficult is it to transport composite pilings at the job site?
Composite piles are significantly lighter than wooden piles and can typically be transported and placed by hand. If it is necessary or convenient to use machinery to lift or transport composite pilings, note that the slick and smooth outer surface will behave differently than that of wooden pilings. Pay special attention to the possibility of strap slippage.
How difficult is it to cut or drill composite pilings?
Composite pilings are incredibly tough, and will devour carbon steel blades and bits like candy. At a minimum, carbide-tipped tooling is preferred. Better yet, diamond-tipped tooling will last longer. High speed abrasive cutting wheels prove very useful in cutting fiberglass. Gulleted/slotted blades are generally preferred over continuous rim wheels due to the ability to make faster cuts.
What are the recommended fasteners and connectors?
Composite pilings do not share the corrosive properties of pressure treated wooded pilings, and in certain applications standard carbon steel or aluminum hardware may be considered in lieu of stainless steel or hot-dipped galvanized. Nails and screws are not recommended fastening devices for composite pilings; thru bolts and nuts are required to ensure secure connections.
Should composite pilings be filled?
Hollow composite pilings exhibit similar performance to wooden pilings. If additional stiffness is desired, the pilings may be filled with sand or non-shrinking concrete before or after installation.
How can composite piling sections be connected?
If piling lengths longer than 20' are required, piling sections may be connected together with a connector kit to produce the desired length. The kit avoids the use of any corrodible metal hardware and provides a secure and strong connection.
How difficult is it to set composite pilings?
Composite pilings may be driven, augered, or jetted using the same process and equipment as for wooden pilings. A note is in order regarding the use of any hollow pilings versus a solid piling. The ultimate piling bearing capacity is a function of the soil-to-shaft resistance plus the soil-to-toe resistance. As you would expect, a hollow piling will have a lower toe resistance due to its lower toe surface area but will have a higher soil-to-shaft resistance due to the dual sided soil contact. Driven pilings typically exhibit higher shaft resistance than augered or jetted pilings, and the hollow pilings may suffice for these applications without modification. Augered or jetted pilings, by contrast, exhibit lower shaft resistance because of the larger diameter piling hole, and the toe resistance becomes a more critical factor. For these applications, the use of a toe cap may be appropriate. If a toe cap is used, drilling a 1/2" hole in the piling below the anticipated water llne will ovecome any buoyancy issues that arise.
How do you implement floating dock connections?
As with wooden pilings, floating dock connections to composite pilings should be implemented with rollered guides. Non-rollered hoop guides will eventually wear the surfaces of the pilings.
What is the cost difference between Fortress Pilings and other options such as wood, steel or concrete?
In some cases, Fortress Pilings are initially more expensive and in other cases less. To get a true sense of the value, look at the overall cost of your project and consider the small % increase you may spend on Fortress Pilings. You know that you will eventually have to replace wooden piles because of either rot or insect/worms. As steel pile will rust and a concrete pile will crumble. The life cycle cost is much lower with Fortress Pilings. Other benefits include the fact that Fortress Pilings will not leach harmful chemicals into the environment and will require less equipment to handle because of the differences in weight compared to other types of piles. Overall, Fortress Pilings is the best, most cost-effective choice.
How long will a Fortress Piling last?
Fortress Pilings are not effected by wood boring insects and will not rot, crumble or rust. A UV inhibitor is used in the manufacturing process and as such the pile does not degrade in sunlight. Barring damage caused by storms or other Acts of God, Fortress Pilings should last for generations.
If a pile is damaged, can I repair it?
Perhaps, depending on the type of damage and the extent. In the event that a piling arrives damaged or is damaged in the field, please call us for instructions or recommendations from our engineering staff. Any alterations performed without input from our engineering staff could render the pile unsafe for its intended purpose and void our warranty.
Can I paint a Fortress piling?
Yes you can. However, unlike other composite pile products, Fortress Pilings are pigmented during the manufacturing process then painted with a high quality marine gel coat. The standard colors are light gray, deep brown and gloss black. Custom colors are also availalbe upon request.