Originally posted 5/7/20; updated 2/18/22
It could be that you’ve found cracks in your basement wall, and you’re researching solutions. Maybe you read our blog on DIY Home Inspection, surveyed your home, and now have concerns. Perhaps a friend or neighbor suggested you contact us, or you’ve used our free diagnostic tool to check your symptoms.
Whatever virtual road you have taken, your search has clearly been driven by a need to learn more about carbon fiber repair products. (And sorry! That pun was NOT intentional.)
Acculevel has been repairing foundations and restoring homeowners’ peace of mind since our beginning in 1996. We have installed straps in thousands of homes, and we proudly warranty our work for the life of the structure.
We’re going to explain what carbon straps are, why you need them, how they work, and what they cost. This will help you understand what is involved in this type of repair, and how to choose the right contractor for your home.
What Are Carbon Fiber Straps?
Carbon fiber straps are a product used to reinforce and stabilize a foundation wall.
Strap Material Is Critical
Many companies try to use straps of solid carbon fiber or carbon fiber fabric as their strap material. These materials are very smooth, which prevents them from effectively adhering to any surface, including bowed walls.
Think of it like trying to glue a smooth piece of plastic to another surface. The glue struggles to “grip” the smooth surface. And no matter how much glue you use, or how long you let the glue dry, it doesn’t take much effort to pull that plastic loose again.
In order to make the strap a cohesive part of the foundation, you need an unbreakable connection between carbon, epoxy and concrete.
This is a close-up of a carbon fiber strap (picture taken by author).
Our Carbon Fiber Straps Will Adhere
The strap we use is made of kevlar-grade carbon by Fortress Stabilization Systems. The “unidirectional method Fortress has developed creates a product twice as strong as products using woven carbon fibers.”
This formulation creates small spaces in the carbon fiber strap (called open grid technology), and these spaces are what allows the epoxy to fully penetrate through the strap to the wall. Once the epoxy is smoothed on the surface, the strap’s epoxy rivet technology locks the strap onto the wall in thousands of spots.
Fortress Straps Are The Best In The Industry
These straps are the strongest available and they are the only strapping product Acculevel uses. When we work on your home, we treat it as if it were our own; for us, that means using the best materials available.
This is an illustration of an installed strap. The top and bottom anchors are patented Fortress products, also.
Fortress Straps Are Certified By The ICC
The ICC (International Code Council) is an association that sets standards for building safety. Their standards are used and recognized throughout the United States and around the world, to ensure public health and safety.
Because Fortress straps are an ICC approved product, they are recognized and accepted by all official building experts (code officials, home inspectors, bank appraisers, etc.). This means repairs made with these straps meet international standards, pass building code inspections, and maintain your home’s structural stability and resale value.
Before you agree to have any contractor install carbon fiber straps in your home, make sure they are Fortress products for the best possible results.
Why Do You Need Carbon Fiber Straps?
We’ve explained why you want a Fortress Strap, but do you know what these straps do? Carbon fiber straps secure foundation walls that are badly cracked or beginning to bow. Typically, a basement wall begins to “give way” when hydrostatic pressure develops outside your foundation wall.
How Does Hydrostatic Pressure Develop?
Hydrostatic pressure is the term we use to describe the force water can exert against your foundation wall. It develops when there’s so much water in the ground outside your home that the soil is fully saturated. This soil expansion – and the water pressure within it- is what damages your foundation. We delve deeper into this topic in another blog specifically about hydrostatic pressure and why it matters to homeowners.
What you need to understand is that some soil types are more susceptible to hydrostatic pressure than others. Soil with a significant amount of clay in it is called expansive soil. If you have expansive soil, or you are experiencing water intrusion along with your bowing wall, you may need to incorporate waterproofing into your repair plan.
We train our project advisors to thoroughly evaluate your home and its symptoms, so that we can offer you a whole-home solution. If you have expansive soil and significant wall cracks, the best option for you may be a combination of services. You may need carbon fiber straps to repair the wall that is bowing right now, because it’s a safety concern. But if you add water drainage to your basement, you could also relieve the hydrostatic pressure and prevent it from later damaging your other walls.
Early Warning Signs of a Bowing Wall
A basement wall doesn’t usually bow immediately. The first sign you normally see is a horizontal crack running along the wall. If your basement is made of concrete block, the crack may be more of a zig-zag or stair-step pattern.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project advisor during a free estimate appointment. Both stair-step and horizontal cracks are visible.
If the wall is only cracking, or is bowing less than 3 inches, carbon fiber straps can be used to reinforce the wall and restore stability. Straps do not straighten a bowed foundation wall; they secure it and prevent any further wall movement.
Interested in having the wall straightened to its original position? Excavation can be done to straighten the wall before securing it. We detail the wall straightening process in this article for you.
If your wall is bowing more than 2 inches, other repair methods may be required. For more information on those, you can review our article on the best way to repair a bowing wall, or our comprehensive foundation guide.
How Do Carbon Fiber Straps Work?
The straps are secured to the wall with an epoxy application. This epoxy seals the wall and fuses the strap to it. Properly secured, this bond is permanent and will resist a tremendous amount of force. To demonstrate the strength of a carbon fiber strap, we had our Sales Director help us with the video below:
The straps have specially designed anchors for use at the top and bottom of the wall. (We mentioned these patented designs earlier.)
The top anchor is attached to the rim joist; this is essentially the lowest layer of the main (or first) floor of the house. This is done to stop the top of the wall from sliding inwards.
The bottom anchor attaches to the floor of the basement, which is essential to prevent any shearing or sliding of the wall at the bottom.
Once these are properly and professionally installed, your wall will not bow any farther.
We always caution our readers: please do not DIY foundation repairs. The consequence of inadequate repairs can be catastrophic.
What Does a Wall Repaired With Straps Look Like?
Describing the process is all well and good, but what does it actually look like?
The photo below was taken by Acculevel project advisor during a free in-home evaluation. The homeowner had called us for repairs because cracks were forming in their basement, and water was seeping in. We mentioned earlier that sometimes waterproofing is part of the whole-home solution for a bowed wall. This is a perfect example:
This next photo was taken at the same home, this time after repairs were made. (The photo was taken by an Acculevel crew member.)
FYI: once dry, epoxy repairs can be painted over to improve appearance
We began by installing interior waterproofing to relieve the hydrostatic pressure. While the perimeter of the floor was already open, the bottom anchor of the straps were installed.
Once the straps were fully installed, the water drainage system was covered with new concrete. Then, our crew repaired the cracks caused by this pressure.
Both the epoxy used to seal cracks and the straps can be painted over once they cure (dry completely). Painting isn’t required- it’s just an option if you would like a more attractive basement wall.
Will Carbon Fiber Repairs Work In Your Home?
If your foundation is made of brick or stone, you should contact a masonry company for repairs. Most foundation repair contractors like Acculevel don’t repair bowed foundation walls that aren’t made of concrete.
Does your foundation have poured concrete walls? Yes, straps will work.
Does your foundation have concrete block walls? Yes, straps will work.
As long as your foundation is entirely made of concrete, straps can be used for wall reinforcement without issue.
How Long Are Carbon Fiber Straps Warrantied?
Once we have completed the installation, Acculevel will issue you a warranty that the wall is stable and secure, for the life of your structure.
This warranty is also fully supported by the manufacturer, Fortress Stabilization Systems. They are the only strap manufacturer that provides a guarantee this extensive.
Please note: this warranty is not the standard in our industry. Make sure you ask your contractor what is covered and for how long. We explore the pros & cons of warranty coverage in this blog.
Our legal department would like us to disclose that we guarantee the cracked or bowed foundation wall will not move, and that if it does fail under normal circumstances, we are liable. But our warranty does not cover atypical instances like a vehicle driving into your foundation, nor is meant to cover repair costs to any items stored in your basement.
What Do Carbon Fiber Straps Cost?
This answer can vary, depending on the size of the wall. Carbon fiber straps are approximately $600 – $700 each. A strap should be installed approximately every 4 feet along a bowing wall. If your basement wall is 24 feet long, you will need 5 carbon fiber straps, and that’s an estimated $3,000 – $3,500.
There are definite benefits to taking action early.
- If you install straps, the installation is limited to inside your basement. It will only generate noise and very minimal dust. (We use a dust collection system as part of our installation process.)
- There’s no need to excavate your yard or uproot any landscape (unless you want the wall straightened).
- No holes are penetrated through the foundation wall.
- Once the installation is complete, you can paint over both the straps and wall, and greatly reduce the visual impact as well.
Most significantly? Carbon Fiber Straps are the least expensive way to repair a bowing foundation wall.
If you wait until you need anchors or tiebacks, both the expenses and the mess add up quickly.
Do You Need Carbon Fiber Straps?
Then you need to find an experienced local foundation company and make an appointment. Before you sign a contract for any service, you should always verify the company is reputable, insured, and accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
If you live in Indiana or the surrounding states, contact Acculevel. Established in 1996, we specialize in foundation repairs and will treat your house as if it were our own.
Not sure how to hire a contractor, or what to ask? We have additional resources available to you:
- A detailed checklist of questions you should ask a contractor
- 3 steps to getting the best price for home repairs
- Advice on how to safely meet with contractors under difficult circumstances (like the COVID-19 outbreak)