Digging holes and pouring concrete footings and piers can be the slowest and most tedious part of outdoor deck construction. Any idea that can make the work faster and easier is attractive to contractors. And Mike Horgan of Horgan Design Build on Cape Cod couldn't be happier with this idea: a concrete deck footing that you construct by setting a block of concrete on the ground and driving four pins through it.

JLC's Coastal Connection caught up with Horgan at a jobsite on the beach in Provincetown, Mass., at the far end of Cape Cod. Horgan was in the middle of rebuilding a 1960s-era deck on the back of the house, next to the shallow grassy dunes.

"Originally the plans called for 8 12-inch Sonotubes on 24-inch Bigfoot bases. We kind of ran into a problem with that, though, because there is no access to the back of this house from the street. And one of the stipulations put on this project for the permit through the conservation committee was that we would not be allowed to have access through the beach. We could get a machine into the back of the house through the beach, but the town won't let us. And there is no other way to get a machine back here."

Mike Horgan uses an electric jackhammer to drive pins through a Diamond Pier block (above). With access limited through the sensitive beach and dunes (below), Horgan was not allowed to bring digging equipment on site. The Diamond Pier allowed Horgan to set code-compliant footings using just a shovel and an electric jackhammer. Working his way around each Diamond Pier and driving the pins with the jackhammer (bottom) took about ten minutes per pier.
Mike Horgan uses an electric jackhammer to drive pins through a Diamond Pier block (above). With access limited through the sensitive beach and dunes (below), Horgan was not allowed to bring digging equipment on site. The Diamond Pier allowed Horgan to set code-compliant footings using just a shovel and an electric jackhammer. Working his way around each Diamond Pier and driving the pins with the jackhammer (bottom) took about ten minutes per pier.

Horgan asked his engineer if he could use the Diamond Pier system (www.diamondpier.com). "He made a trip out, took a look at everything, looked at the soil, and thought it would be perfect for this," says Horgan. "So he specced the TP-75s, which are the equivalent of a 24-inch Bigfoot base with a 12-inch tube." When JLC got to the site, Horgan had already placed 6 piers and framed the main deck, and he was about to set 8 more piers for some stairs and landings leading out toward the beach (see Slideshow).

The time savings was significant. "Even with a machine," says Horgan, "to dig 8 holes, install 24-inch bases, call for an inspection, have the inspector come out to take a look, make sure the tubes are four foot down before we even fill them with concrete, and then come out after they're filled with concrete … I mean you're probably looking at a 2 week time span from the time you dig the hole to the time you can actually stand a post on it and start your framing."

"With the Diamond Piers," Horgan continues, "we talked to the local inspector, and we can put these in the ground and begin framing right away. Because he can just come out and take the caps off the pins, run his tape down into the ground and he knows that they're five feet down."

"I put six in the ground; what would normally take probably ten days realistically, took me … honestly, about 40 minutes to put six of these in the ground, and we were ready for framing. By myself. No machines … just by hand. One electrical cord, and a jackhammer. It's pretty amazing to me."