Pile capacity is the load capacity of the single pile or the group of piles. We will discuss here the load carrying capacity of both single pile and group of piles.


Vertical Load:

vertical load on pile

The allowable resistance to compression  Rac of a single pile is provided by the end bearing, Feb and the skin friction for each strata,Fsf. Thus,


Therefore, the maximum compressive service load that can be supported by a single pile is its total resistance less the self weight of the pile, W. Thus


A pile can also resist a tensile load. The maximum tensile service load, clip_image014 that can be resisted by pile is


Values of the end bearing and skin friction resistance are obtained from soil exploration, pile driving energy and test loadings. These ultimate values are divided by a partial factor of safety of between 2 and 3 to give the allowable values  Feb and Fsf.

Horizontal Load:

Horizontal load on piles

The horizontal capacity of a single pile is limited by maximum deflection that the structure can accommodate and also by the structural capacity of the pile.

There are several methods of determining the modulus of subgrade reaction (kN/m3) from which maximum horizontal capacity for a given deflection can be determined.


Piles are generally arranged in groups to support heavy vertical loads. To minimize the size, and therefore the cost of the pile cap, the piles are arranged as close together as possible.

Group pile capacity

To provide undisturbed bearing capacity and suitable driving conditions, the recommended minimum clear distance between the piles is twice the diameter of the pile.

Minimum clear spacing between piles

The total vertical service load on a group of piles should not exceed the group capacity, which is given by:

Group capacity= group friction capacity + group end bearing capacity

= 2D(L+K)k1 + BLk2

Where k1 and k2 are soil coefficients. Individual pile loads within the group are limited to the single pile capacity.