Saving homes from the sinkhole

Leading foundation specialists, Gauteng Piling, proved its versatility by successfully completing an unusual and challenging project to stabilise a massive, gaping sinkhole near residences in Irene, Centurion. The 6.5m deep sinkhole – 25m wide and 45m long – was formed about five years ago and filling it up posed a threat to the houses nearby.

Gauteng Piling is this year celebrating its 25th anniversary. The Johannesburg company, founded in 1996 by its MD, building industry veteran Nico Maas, was appointed by the sinkhole repair main contractor, AST Africa Trading 465CC, to provide lateral support for the unstable walls of the sinkhole to prevent the movement of the foundations of two adjacent houses in the upmarket Irene Farm Villages complex in central Irene.

“The one residence was about 5m from the sinkhole and the other, just 2m away. In general, excavations deeper than 1,5m always need to be secured to prevent the collapse of the walls- and this sinkhole walls were more than four times deeper,” says Keoatlaretse Tema, contracts manager for Gauteng Piling, who was in charge of the project.

Tema says a Casagrande C6 Crawler drilling rig suitable for drilling micro piles, soil nails and anchors, was brought to site by Gauteng Piling. The specialised and extremely versatile rig’s capacity to drill vertically, horizontally and at angles was vital for this project.

“To provide the lateral support for the sinkhole walls, we had to install 40 micro piles, placed to a depth of 6m. Micro piles are small diameter drilled and grouted friction steel piles that are bonded into the bearing soil or rock with gunite, a mixture of cement, sand, and water applied through a pressure hose to produce a dense hard layer of concrete,” she explained.

“We also had to drill horizontally into the sinkhole walls to install 40 soil nails 6m long, as well as 40 other soil nails 4.5m long and 40 more, 3m in length. The soil nails were inserted and gunited into place into the sinkhole walls. Mesh was attached to the bar ends to hold the slope face in position.”

Among the challenges of the contract was the exceptional – and unexpected – hardness of the dolomite rock which delayed drilling progress. It then also proved difficult to install the micro piles as the drilled holes were collapsing as soon as the drill bit was extracted. This problem was overcome by the use of self-drilling anchors.

“Self-drilling anchor rods have sacrificial drill bits, with hollow steel bars of the appropriate outer and inner diameter and coupling nuts. Their design provides consistent grout cover around the hollow steel bar and ensures that the bar remains in the centre of the drilled hole.

“After we had completed the required lateral support to the walls of the sinkhole, the main contractors filled it with dump rock and pumped concrete,” Tema adds.

Nico Maas, MD of Gauteng Piling, says the successful completion of this unusual and formidable contract highlights the value of experience when it comes to providing foundations and site stabilisation.

“Gauteng Piling has in the past 25 years handling such a diverse array of projects that we now can confidently tackle just about any foundation assignment. We have gained the trust of the industry and the volume of contracts secured after the early severe lockdown last year testifies to this. The market is now not taking chances and cutting corners. Work allocation during the pandemic is centred on professionalism,” Maas observed.

Among recent projects handled by Gauteng Piling are:

  • Forest Mansions apartment block in Bramley;
  • Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) campus in eMalahleni;
  • Capital Hotel in Mbombela; and
  • Offices for the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) in Mahikeng.
  • The new luxury Tree Tops apartment block being developed by Tricolt in Houghton;
  • Entrance and expansion of Cresta Shopping Centre in Randburg;
  • Facility for diving rescue training for the University of Johannesburg’s Medical Rescue students in Auckland Park;
  • Storage tanks of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa in Nigel; and
  • Expansion of the Africa Floorcare warehouse in Alberton.

For more information, contact Nico Maas on email nicomaas123@gmail.com or cell 082 651 8182 or visit www.gautengpiling.co.za.



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