Exploring The Role of Sheet Piling in Construction

Whether you’re creating retaining walls along riverbanks and canals, providing permanent foundations or forming the basis for an underground structure, sheet piling can help to support a range of construction and groundworks. But what is sheet piling in construction, what does it do and where can you find it? Read on to find out more… 

What is sheet piling? 

As the name suggests, sheet piles are narrow sheets of material, typically designed with an angular profile and interlocking edges. This design means that multiple sheets can be connected together to create a structurally sound, and sometimes watertight, wall or barrier. This wall can provide temporary support to a ground excavation, preventing any soil, water or other substance from shifting and keeping workers and infrastructure inside the excavation safe.  

While sheet piles can be made from wood, steel, plastic or even precast reinforced concrete, steel is perhaps the most common.  


What is sheet piling in construction? 

Sheet piling in construction is the process of driving or boring pile foundations into the ground, with the practice dating back over 6,000 years across areas of Europe. In the modern era, piling is commonly used when looking to build in areas with poor soil characteristics, helping to provide additional support during construction. 

Types of sheet piles 

There are different types of sheet piling in construction, which can be either permanent or temporary, with permanent sheet piles designed to provide a longer service life and generally used to help create building foundations. For construction in smaller spaces, temporary sheet piling is the more viable option, providing protection to those working within an excavation or trench.  

There are also a variety of materials that can be used as sheet piling, with one of the most popular options being steel. However here's a list of the materials you can expect to see sheet piles available in:

  • Steel sheet piles
  • Concrete sheet piles
  • Timber sheet piles
  • Vinyl or plastic sheet piles

Read on to find out more about the different types of sheet piles and the typical applications of these materials.  


Steel sheet piling is able to withstand great forces and high pressures, as well as being incredibly flexible. It is also a long-lasting and corrosion-resistant material, making it perfect for sites with contaminated land, such as brownfield sites. Steel sheet piles also have slimline footprints, meaning they can be installed very close to boundary walls, as well as being watertight for marine or inland water projects. Steel sheet piling is also much cheaper to install than other alternatives.  



In comparison, concrete sheet piles are formed by casting reinforced concrete panels with either a tongue and groove or a fillable joint. While they offer substantial stiffness and strength capacity, they also require extensive labour to fabricate and must be transported to site with care, as they can fall foul of tension cracks during transit. 



Another alternative is timber sheet piling. Typically consisting of timber planks interconnected with a tongue and groove joint, timber sheet piles are rarely used in modern civil constructions, generally reserved for shallow excavations in the utilities sector where groundwater is not present.  


Vinyl or plastic 

There are also vinyl or plastic sheet piles, which are fabricated from synthetic materials. Most commonly used for contamination containment, canal or marina basin walls, flood defences or erosion protection walls, vinyl or plastic sheet piles have smaller yield strengths and can perform differently under direct exposure to the sun or chemicals. 


Sheet piling for hire or purchase 

As a leading UK provider of temporary works support solutions, we pride ourselves on having a wide range of equipment for all applications, including sheet piling from ground support systems. Not only this, but our expert teams are well placed to provide you with the help and technical support required, able to design temporary works schemes for your next job.  

As part of this, we have an extensive range of steel sheet piling available to view here for hire or even purchase, for those longer-term projects.  

To learn more about sheet piling applications and how they can support your project, take a look at our case study on the Leeds to Liverpool canal or contact a member of our team to find out more, here.   

It looks like you are working with our

So that we can assist you further, could you share a few details and your download will start straight away.