When you think of decking, you picture the lovely wooden boards and relaxing in the sun. But in order for us to have a good time up top, there needs to be support down low provided by footing.
It used to be that a concrete pad beneath the deck was the only option. But we’ve since made progress in this area in the form of diamond pier footing.
The question is, how do costs compare between footing methods? Well, the quick answer may surprise you…
Concrete footing is cheap but takes longer and more effort to install. Diamond pier footing is pricey but takes minutes to install. The two differences cancel each other out, amounting to a very similar cost.
What Exactly Is Diamond Pier Footing?
Diamond pier footing is a means of providing large structures with lots of support. It can stabilize structures built on challenging terrains such as swampy areas.
This foundational approach involves the use of a small central nexus. Many poles thread through it and embed deep into the ground.
There are no big concrete blocks for tree roots to clash with and damage over time.
There’s no need for lengthy excavation sessions, as pouring concrete isn’t part of the process. And diamond piers are far less susceptible to frost heaving.
Diamond pier footing can be hard to picture, so I recommend using the video below as a visual aid:
What Costs More: Diamond Pier Or Concrete Footing?
Diamond pier footing may be a newer technology, but it costs around the same as a traditional concrete footing.
I know this sounds strange and likely inspires a healthy level of suspicion, so let’s break down why this is the case.
The diamond pier nexus and many steel pins cost a lot more than a simple concrete mix. You may end up needing more than one nexus as well, depending on the size and weight of the planned structure.
So, when it comes to materials, diamond pier footing is far and away the pricier option.
Construction companies and deck fitters can whip up concrete for next to nothing. But diamond pier footing has to be specially crafted and bought in as per customer request.
Here’s where things get interesting. With no arduous excavation stage, diamond pier footing installation is fast. We’re talking 10–30 minutes!
In fact, diamond pier footing installation doesn’t even require any heavy machinery. The most intensive tool required is a jackhammer that forces the metal poles into the earth.
By contrast, concrete footings take forever. It’s a lot of faff and labor hours, and there are many potential complications. Unsure ground, tree roots, and pre-existing sub-earth structures can all be issues.
Should you run into any of these issues, prepare the land before pouring the concrete. This can take anywhere from a few days to months, depending on the problem in question.
There’s also the matter of access to consider. Heavy machinery isn’t just heavy, but BIG. We don’t always have such open access to the location of the installation.
This means hand excavation is often the only option. It takes long hours and some serious elbow grease to get the job done.
The trench for a concrete footing can’t be shallow, either. Most installations need undisturbed soil a certain distance beyond the frost line. This is the depth at which the ground freezes during winter.
So, by the time the trench is dug and the mix poured, you’ll have spent a fortune on man hours.
Diamond Pier Footing Vs. Concrete Footing: Which Is Best?
Being that you’re going to be forking out the same amount for diamond pier and concrete footings, your next question is likely to do with performance.
Which of these footing techniques is the most secure?
Well, they’re both very effective methods. Before the diamond pier blueprint hit the scene, concrete footings had been doing a great job.
But concrete footing isn’t always a good idea. And where this traditional foundation method fails, the diamond pier method excels.
Diamond pier footing is for the most challenging jobs in our society. We can rely on them to support our bridges, boardwalks, public gazebos… you name it.
It doesn’t matter how problematic the location is, diamond pier footing will work like a charm.
Diamond pier footing takes the crown in this showdown. But remember that concrete footing is perfectly suitable for most installations.
A Note On Variable Costs
When I say that the price of both concrete and diamond pier installations are the same, I mean generally.
Prices will vary from company to company and location to location. So it’s always good to get some quotes before signing on the dotted line.
While costs usually level out in the end, some contractors may charge more for diamond pier footings. Why? Because they’re the more modern and capable foundation type.
Contact more companies if this happens. See if they all take the same approach to pricing. You’ll likely find one that admits that both methods cost about the same amount to execute.
Actual Pricing For Diamond Pier & Concrete Foundations
For a concrete footing, you’re looking at something to the tune of $4–$25 per square foot.
On average, you should expect to pay about $155 for an 18” concrete footing capable of supporting 2700 lbs.
This is the same cost and weight capacity as a single Diamond Pier DP 50.
Are All Diamond Pier Units The Same Price?
Diamond pier units designed for residential use aren’t all alike. Some will have lower weight capacities. Others will have much higher weight capacities.
The more a unit can support, the more it will cost. Concrete footings follow similar principles. Large, heavy structures need more concrete and more expansive excavations, increasing costs.
Are Diamond Pier Or Concrete Footings More Popular?
Even though diamond pier footings are superior, they’re by far the least popular option. Why? Well, it seems likely that a lack of awareness plays a large role in their underutilization.
Invented in the early 2000s, diamond pier foundations acquired various certifications. Introduced to the residential market years later, they’ve been a huge success ever since.
But even though the diamond pier isn’t new, it hasn’t had anywhere near the exposure of concrete footings.
Concrete footings were a solution to the building boom of post-WWII USA. Veterans were coming home in their thousands, creating an urgent need for new structures.
But some might say that you can trace the beginnings of this approach to pre WWI structures. At this point, builders used stone slabs as foundations.
Either way you slice it, this traditional method became the norm, a reliable norm at that.
So, when an alternative came along, it was hard to get the word out. And even then, there was bound to be some trepidation amongst consumers.
Diamond pier footing has higher material costs and concrete footing has higher labor costs. So no matter which you opt for, it should come to roughly the same price.
I’d always recommend choosing diamond pier over the traditional option. It’s far superior in every way, and, again, won’t cost you anything extra — It’s a no-brainer really.
Installation only takes a minute, and it’s brave in the face of frost. It’s effective in problem areas and leaves you with very little post-installation clean-up. And fits into the landscape without butting heads with nature.
However, you will need to check in with your local zoning authority. It’s possible that diamond piers aren’t permitted in your project area.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Install Diamond Pier Footing On Top Of A Pre Existing Concrete Foundation?
As long as the old concrete footing is stable, i.e. not heaving or bucking, then you can install your diamond pier footing over it. It’s only if the concrete is moving that you’ll have to remove it before installing your new foundation.
Can I Use Diamond Pier Footing On A Slope?
Diamond pier footing is suitable for use on slopes with gradients up to 27°. Anything greater than that needs special approach. Consult a professional fitter for advice on how best to proceed.
What Is Frost Heaving?
Frost heaving is when moisture in the ground freezes, expands, and forces soil upwards. This can shift concrete foundations and reduce structural stability.