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Carbon Fiber vs. Steel – What’s the Best Structural Foundation Repair?

Nov 30, 2012 • By Matthew Stock with Barry Schilling.

Carbon Fiber vs. Steel – What’s the Best Structural Foundation Repair?


When it comes to structural foundation repair, as in many other fields, technology is constantly improving.  It used to be that the only repair method for cracked, bulging or tipping foundation walls, whether poured concrete or masonry, was steel.

For the longest time, a steel I-beam was used, set vertically against the wall and anchored at the top and bottom.  This worked well but the beam was a fairly intrusive presence in the basement and required a lot of extra work if the space was to be finished.  It also sometimes presented a problem when the house was put up for sale.

Steel is still in use today but in a different form and it is no longer the only material.

Modern Structural Foundation Repair Methods: Carbon Fiber or Steel?

Today, the expert in repairing structural foundation damage has more than one tool at his or her disposal and carbon fiber has emerged as the repair of choice in most circumstances.

Carbon Fiber – “Carbon fiber” is a shorthand term for “carbon fiber reinforced plastic”, a material that is used for everything from car and airplane parts to bicycle frames and now for structural foundation repair.  Carbon fiber strips, incredibly strong and flexible, are used in foundation repair by affixing the strips (not staples) to damaged foundation walls with an equally strong epoxy adhesive.  Once the quick-setting epoxy has cured, the strip has bonded to the wall and completely prevents any further movement, stabilizing the foundation.

Carbon fiber is an effective foundation repair material for poured concrete and concrete block foundation walls where the wall has deflected two inches or less.  Properly applied, it forms only a slight bump in the wall surface and can be painted over.  It presents no obstacle to finishing the basement space as regular stud walls can be erected over the foundation wall as if no repair had been made.

Carbon fiber repair strips are available in both uni- and bi-directional weave and the absolute resistance to stretch of the fibers will keep horizontal, vertical and angled cracks from spreading and causing further inward movement.

Steel – The steel bracing used today is no longer the bulky I-beam of the past and is used by technology-savvy professionals when severe wall damage has occurred.  Steel repair is now done on masonry walls where mortar joints have broken down, allowing the blocks or stones to move inward independently of one another or on poured concrete walls when the inward movement exceeds two inches.   Steel repairs now take the form of “channel steel,” a substantially lower profile steel beam that can be covered by a standard 2x4 stud wall.

Because the channel steel is more flexible than the traditional I-beam, it can be flexed to fit the contour of the wall.  It is also far less obtrusive and less likely to be a “red flag” for a potential buyer.  The channel steel support is cut to size and anchored to the foundation’s footings and attached to the floor joists above.  A jackscrew applies tension to the channel steel, fitting it tight to the wall.  Once set, the steel requires no further adjustment.

So, what’s the best material for structural foundation repairs?  It’s generally carbon fiber but steel still works best in a few situations.

Regardless of the material required, the experts at U.S. Waterproofing understand the importance of a cost-effective, permanent repair to your home’s foundation.  We can diagnose your problem and offer a solution that keep your home on the level forever, so why not ask for a free consultation?

Tags: foundation repair, foundation repairs, structural foundation damage, house foundation repair, home foundation repair, structural foundation repair

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