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Foundation Repair - Do Carbon Fiber Straps Work to Reinforce Foundation Walls?

Saturday, February 25th, 2023 by Aaron Stull

Carbon fiber is a popular material used in many industries, including construction, aerospace, automotive, and sporting goods, among others. One of the reasons for its popularity is its high strength-to-weight ratio, making it a desirable choice for lightweight applications. Carbon fiber is stronger than steel in tension due to its unique properties. Please read further for an explanation of these facts.

Do Carbon Fiber Straps Work to Reinforce Foundation Walls? - Image 1To understand how carbon fiber is stronger than steel in tension, it is important to understand the properties of both materials. Steel is a metal alloy that is primarily composed of iron and carbon, along with other elements like manganese, silicon, and sulfur. It is a popular material for building structures, machines, and vehicles because of its high strength, durability, and affordability. Steel has a tensile strength of about 400-550 MPa (megapascals), which means it can withstand a certain amount of pulling force before it breaks or deforms. Steel has many other advantageous properties, but we are only evaluating tensile strength in this article so that it can be compared with carbon fiber reinforcement straps.  

Carbon fiber, on the other hand, is a composite material made of thin, strong fibers that are woven together and then infused with resin or another binding material.  In our carbon fiber reinforcement straps we use a specialized epoxy resin that has the viscosity and other properties that make it ideal to embed into a masonry substrate. The fibers are made of carbon atoms that are arranged in a crystal-like structure, which gives them exceptional strength and stiffness. Carbon fiber has a tensile strength of about 2,500-3,500 MPa, which is significantly higher than that of steel. When the material is bridged over a crack it acts much like a cut that was stitched up. It prevents the crack from elongating, which is usually what occurs as a foundation moves.  Thus, this material, in approved scenarios where carbon fiber straps is a variable repair, prevents cracks from opening wider.

The key difference between carbon fiber and steel is the way they respond to tension. When a force is applied to a steel bar, the metal will deform and stretch slightly, which can lead to permanent deformation or even failure if the force is too great. This is because steel is a ductile material, meaning it can be bent or deformed without breaking. Carbon fiber, on the other hand, is a brittle material, which means it will break or crack when subjected to a certain amount of force. However, because carbon fiber is so much stronger than steel in tension, it can withstand much higher forces before breaking or cracking. Thus, in most residential cases, the forces brought to bear never even come close to the fracture point of the carbon fiber.

Another reason carbon fiber is better than steel in foundation repair applications is that moisture does not negatively impact a straps once it is set and cured on a wall. Steel, on the other hand, may rust and its utility reduced.  This is particularly important in basements or other environments where moisture is present in both liquid and/or gaseous (humidity) form.

Despite its many advantages, there are some limitations to using carbon fiber. For one, it is much more expensive than steel, which can make it cost-prohibitive for certain applications. Carbon fiber is also more difficult to work with than steel, which can make it harder to manufacture and assemble certain products. The technical ability of the person(s) installing carbon fiber reinforcement is of paramount importance. Additionally, continuing education on the technology is the hallmark of professional installers. Finally, carbon fiber is not as fire-resistant as steel, which means it may not be suitable for use in certain high-temperature applications.

In conclusion, carbon fiber is stronger than steel in tension due to its unique properties, including its high tensile strength, directional strength, and brittleness. While it may not be suitable for all applications, it is an ideal material for use in industries where weight, strength, and durability are of utmost importance. With ongoing advances in materials science and manufacturing, it is likely that carbon fiber will continue to play an important role in shaping the future of engineering and technology. Keystone Basement Systems has installed carbon fiber in thousands of homes throughout our coverage area with amazing success.  

Do you have a foundation issue? Chick HERE or give us a call at (800) 771-3244 and we would love to provide you with some free information about our solutions. 

About the author
Aaron Stull is a second generation foundation repair specialist from the greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.

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