Historically, timber has been a plentiful, locally available resource in many areas. Today, timber piles are still more affordable than concrete or steel. Compared to other types of piles (steel or concrete), and depending on the source/type of timber, timber piles may not be suitable for heavier loads.
A main consideration regarding timber piles is that they should be protected from rotting above groundwater level. Timber will last for a long time below the groundwater level. For timber to rot, two elements are needed: water and oxygen. Below the groundwater level, dissolved oxygen is lacking even though there is ample water. Hence, timber tends to last for a long time below groundwater level. Timber that is to be used above the water table can be protected from decay and insects by numerous forms of wood preservation using pressure treatment (alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ), chromated copper arsenate (CCA), creosote, etc.).
Splicing timber piles is still quite common and is the easiest of all the piling materials to splice. The normal method for splicing is by driving the leader pile first, driving a steel tube (normally 4″ long, with an internal diameter no smaller than the minimum toe diameter) half its length onto the end of the leader pile. The follower pile is then simply slotted into the other end of the tube and driving continues. The steel tube is simply there to ensure that the two pieces follow each other during driving. If uplift capacity is required, the splice can incorporate bolts, coach screws, spikes or the like to give it the necessary capacity.