Carbon fiber is an amazing material. It’s incredibly strong and unbelievably light and it has been replacing steel, aluminum and other metals in a variety of applications. A carbon fiber bicycle, for example, is so light it can be easily lifted with two fingers yet it is the choice of professionals for grueling multi-day races. In cars, carbon fiber is showing up as everything from body parts to wheels and Boeing has recently introduced its 787 Dreamliner, an aircraft that is 50% carbon fiber.
Carbon fiber has also been embraced by the home construction and repair industry, with “tornado proof” homes using carbon fiber in construction to replace traditional materials that don’t flex. The one area where carbon fiber really shines in home repair is in stabilizing foundations where walls have bowed, bulged or rotated inward, replacing bulky steel reinforcements with lightweight, quick-to-install repairs that practically disappear when the wall is painted or are easily hidden by finish walls.
Of course, there are varying levels of quality in both the technique and materials used and it is important for the homeowner to choose the one that will perform and endure.
Carbon fiber is used on poured concrete foundation walls that have cracked and begun to tip or rotate inward or on concrete block walls that have bowed or bulged. There are two types of carbon fiber repairs used on foundation walls, strips and staples, and there are some important differences to be considered before choosing one.
Carbon Fiber Strips: Wide vs. Narrow -- Carbon fiber strips are applied, typically on the vertical, at various points along the damaged wall to prevent further movement. A foundation repair contractor has a choice of using a six-inch or a 12-inch strip, which is then epoxied to the wall in an area that has been ground flat to ensure adhesion. The 12-inch strip has a larger contact patch (more surface adhered to the wall) and that creates a stronger bond and ensures a long-lasting repair. The narrower strip will not be as strong and is more prone to movement or separation because of the reduced surface area. Frankly, the only reason some contractors use the six-inch strip is to be able to lowball their price and homeowners should be wary of this approach.
Carbon Fiber Strips vs. Staples – Some contractors choose to use carbon fiber staples instead of strips for foundation repair. Staples are 10 or 12 inches long, with a “leg” between 5/8” and 1” and are applied by epoxying them into holes drilled in the wall so that they bridge the cracks. There are several reasons homeowners should avoid this approach:
The intended use for these staples is to reinforce non-structural wall cracks that have been stopped from seeping water by injecting with epoxy because epoxy will crack with minimal wall movement. A better approach to those cracks is to inject expanding polyurethane that remains flexible to prevent re-cracking. No staples needed.
Using carbon fiber to repair a damaged foundation is a good choice; homeowners will make another good choice when they opt for the strongest materials and best techniques and not for shortcuts and unrealistic prices. The foundation repair experts at U.S. Waterproofing studied carbon fiber before adopting it and chose the best materials and adhesives available – no shortcuts – to ensure that our customers’ foundations remain stable and protected. Why not ask for a free consultation?
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