When Sinking Simply Isn’t an Option
Imagine your home being swallowed by a giant layer cake. While the image perhaps borders on the Tarantinoesque, it is exactly what residents of Florida face more often than one can imagine. Helicon is a full-service geotech construction company whose team is always ready to step in to help.
Whether it is pre- or post-construction, when your property is in danger of being damaged by soil issues and terrifying geological fractures, Helicon saves the day. The company operates from its 15,000 square foot space in Tampa, from whence it services its thriving residential market throughout the state of Florida and regularly mobilizes interstate commercial projects. Helicon has completed thousands upon thousands of projects throughout the U.S. – some valued at seven figures, some as small as a few thousand dollars’ worth of work. For this company there is no project too large or too small.
In this line of work, safety comes first and this year, the company celebrates two years without any time lost to safety breaches or accidents. Helicon was recently recognized for this achievement by FSGA, its workers’ compensation carrier, with a safety award. For the Helicon team, securing your property safely is its first priority.
Working throughout the state and beyond, Helicon fixes sinkholes, increases the bearing capacity of ground, lays deep foundations, and erects solid piers or helical pilings to support foundations. Helicon also re-levels existing structures. In this way, the company not only improves structural integrity in buildings; it also saves precious infrastructure from sinkhole destruction.
As is often the case with disasters, sinkholes basically start with too much of a good thing. Florida’s sunny peninsula is made up of sedimentary limestone and dolostone rock, blanketed with sand and clay deposits. Due to their hydrophilic nature, limestone and dolostone act like sponges, holding vast amounts of groundwater that form subterranean streams. The problem with this geological arrangement is that these otherwise life-giving rocks often dissolve over time, leaving the immensely heavy sand and clay deposits layered on top of it to collapse into the cavities left by its disintegration, sucking everything on top of this veritable layer cake into an untimely, thundering grave, putting lives at risk and often leaving survivors homeless.
Outwitting these powerful forces of nature takes serious ingenuity, and Helicon is proud to lead the way with its new, innovative ground improvement techniques and vibro replacements, recently rolled out for the commercial pre-construction industry. After many years in the residential market, the company has re-tooled and is welcoming a host of commercial clients who put their trust in its fine reputation. Some of these heavy civil pre-construction commercial projects include schools, parking garages, multi-family residential spaces, and storage tanks such as fuel cells, oil storage vessels and the like.
Helicon was founded by Jay Silver in 2007, while he was studying at the University of South Florida. He became interested in ground improvement years earlier, while supporting a family friend through a challenging sinkhole claim. During this time, Jay identified a great need for a sinkhole repair service that does what is right throughout the process, without dropping the ball. For three years, he learned about the industry and became fascinated by soil complexity while fixing up his original company’s investment sinkhole properties. When he eventually decided to put all his energy and passion into geotech construction, his new company’s laser focus became containing and controlling soil to build stronger and sturdier structures better than everyone else in the market – be that with the help of deep foundations or by performing ground improvement.
Jay is passionate about personal and professional development and it’s become part of the company’s culture. As a result, Helicon provides its teams with large amounts of extensive training. Team members also visit international expos to ensure that the company’s equipment, methods and knowledge remain the latest and greatest. In fact, only a few weeks ago, a number of its delegates visited the IFCEE geotech expo in Orlando to brush up on leading-edge industry practices. Jay joined them on the trip and is excited about the knowledge they brought back.
“We invest tremendous amounts in our people, because no matter how great your equipment, your systems, and your processes are, without people to drive them, nothing happens,” he says. The Helicon team is approximately 50 strong and this year, the company is hiring new team members to expand its commercial market share, which has been growing steadily over the last few years.
Helicon’s latest invention is its groundbreaking vibro replacement, or vibro compaction technology, which increases the bearing capacity of soil up to and above 8,000 to 10,000 foot-pounds. This is ultimately a ground improvement technique that involves building stone columns underneath the soil. The technique decreases cost, risk and time, while increasing the quality of foundations significantly over old-fashioned excavation and concrete improvement. The process is relatively simple. A 30-foot, 18,000-pound vibro-lance with a centrifugal weight that rotates inside it – causing it to vibrate and shake violently – migrates down through the soil to a depth prescribed by an engineer. These intense vibrations trigger any dormant sinkholes that may be present in the surrounding geology, allowing the team to repair them immediately, before the structure is built, making the problem much easier to deal with. After the lance reaches its ideal depth, the helicon team loads a stone/concrete aggregate into a bucket on top of the lance. The stone travels down the 30-feet tube and out the bottom into the cavities beneath. The compaction tool that moves up and down to stomp the stone into the ground is mounted on a Caterpillar 349 excavator. The stone compaction also compacts the soil around it, and results in a stone column that reaches up to the surface where the foundations will be laid.
Of course, Helicon couldn’t operate in this high-risk arena without qualifying for the necessary certifications. Jay tells us that on the commercial side, new technology is tested in the field and is known as load testing. When the company says that it will increase soil’s load-bearing capacity to over 8,000 pounds per square foot, you are not expected to simply take its word for it; instead, a load-testing company does a three-foot by four-foot punch-down to see how many foot-pounds of pressure the ground will bear before it settles down. This test verifies that you are getting the results Helicon promised.
While there is no in-field load-testing verification in the residential market, there are meticulous daily reports and a monitoring engineer who will sign off the job at the end of the repair to guarantee that the sinkhole – or the problem – has been resolved, with a lifetime guarantee. The phenomenal part of this guarantee is the fact that the company has had zero warranty claims since it opened its doors for business 15 years ago. Its solutions work and Helicon puts its word behind them.
The company’s sterling reputation was bred of this integrity and thanks to its workmanship, success has been no stranger here. The Helicon team has performed scores of large seven-figure multi-family condo projects and is currently in the process of working on just such a project in Villa Dora, conducting compaction and chemical grouting.
Helicon is well-known for the speed at which it works. Two years ago, it worked on another large property, Visconti, in the Orlando area. The project was another healthy substantial job that needed over 2,000 underpins. The work was estimated to take over six months, but Helicon completed it in four – to the delight and surprise of the engineer and the community.
Helicon is the contractor of choice for many and is trusted by many big names such as Walgreens, Florida and CBS. It also does a lot of work at the University of Southern Florida, where it is currently working on one of its medical facilities and parking lots that developed sinkholes.
Of course, the company has various departments. Ground Improvements compacts and improves soil, and is also in charge of Helicon’s new vibro technology. This department also fixes sinkholes through the typical compaction technique used by engineers throughout Florida. The method restores the weight-bearing integrity of ground surfaces through high-pressure concrete injections that travel all the way down to underlying bedrock or weight-bearing limestone.
The Foundation Repair division offers a host of smart solutions for this dangerous problem – both before you build and for existing structures. Helicon’s pre-construction helical pier system provides peace of mind and guarantees a solid foundation, preventing future settlement issues. Its helical piers can also be inserted post-construction to stabilize existing structures that have been damaged due to settlement. The weight of a structure’s load-bearing walls is transferred off weak soils onto the piers.
Other foundation repair services include underpinning, which lifts and re-levels homes by driving steel piers into solid bedrock, safely and permanently transferring the foundation’s weight load when foundations shift because of loose upper level soil. Another very stable solution is Helicon’s injection piers, where a grout solution is injected into the ground through pins to create a stable foundation. For additional stabilization, mudjacking, compaction grouting and underpinning foundation methods can be combined for the most stable foundation repair.
Helicon’s additional services include house and concrete leveling through the use of concrete slabs or less invasive pier and beam systems. Helicon’s Helical Tieback Anchors are anchoring systems used to horizontally reinforce and stabilize permanent and temporary structures that are subjected to lateral loads from earth and water pressure.
The process to get your soil or foundation repaired or stabilized by Helicon is simple. Once a geotech engineer’s study is done on the soil, solutions are decided on and the business signed up, a dedicated team is tailored to handle the job.
In the residential market, Helicon typically receives an engineer’s report that gives the team a very direct scope of work. Together with its engineering partners, the company is primarily tasked with coming up with the best solution for each project at the best cost and the best schedule in terms of speed and efficiency, with the lowest risk.
The company excels at letting clients know all the options available for fixing the problem. “We’re always there to be a trusted ally and helping hand,” says Jay. With the sinkhole count growing over recent years, especially around the villages in the Ocala, mid-Florida area, Helicon is poised to become the American southeast’s go-to household name for its state-of-the-art geotech construction innovation, equipment and rock solid sinkhole repair services.