Construction Materials 101: What is FRP?

Getting the right building materials for your project ensures it lasts for years to come. The wrong materials cost time and money as the structure will wear-and-tear quicker. If you’re considering materials for a new construction project, you might have heard about FRP, one of the most popular materials on the market. But what exactly is it and is the right–or wrong–material for your next project?

What is FRP?

Fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) composites are one of the most popular materials on the market for a good reason! Because FRP is a composite, it offers more advantages than traditional building materials and can be used in more projects.

This composite is made of two materials:

  • Protective polymer

  • High-strength fiberglass

Together, they have increased durability and corrosion resistance when compared to traditional building materials. Not only that, but they often have a lower price tag, making them great for the construction budget. In areas prone to extreme weather, like Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, Virginia, FRP can help prevent damage caused by weather.

How is FRP made?

Since FRP is a combination material, the exact process to make it and the ratio of the materials differs based on a project’s function, size, and quantity ordered. Usually, it’s made in one of three ways:

Hand Layup: as the first-used way to manufacture FRP, the hand layup is more time intensive and not used as often today, though it’s still used for smaller, low cost projects. With this method, a technician lays the fibers into a mold and then adds in resin. The material then curves, transforming into FRP in open air.

Pultrusion: the most common way to make FRP, pultrusion is made through heating up the fibers and resin. Before heating, the material is braided together so the quantity of each material is consistent throughout. After, the material can be cut accordingly.

Vacuum Infusion: if you want larger, stronger FRP, vacuum infusion is the process for you. With this process, the materials are laid into a dry-vacuum mold and placed in a vacuum. Vacuum infusion is more cost-effective than pultrusion, though it does take more time to complete.

Advantages of FRP

Now that we’ve discussed the process of creating FRP, why exactly would you want to use it? There are a variety of pros which allow FRP to stand out amongst construction materials:

  • FRP has lower production costs than more traditional building materials.

  • It has increased durability and strength when compared to how much it weighs.

  • FRP often lasts longer than other building materials.

  • It’s resistant to corrosion and chemical wear-and-tear.

  • Because of its strength, it’s a safer material for areas with heavy pedestrian traffic.

Cons of FRP

You might be wondering why everyone doesn’t use FRP if this material is stronger, more durable, and more cost-effective to use. Like anything in construction, there’s some drawbacks to FRP as well. These include:

  • At higher temperatures, FRP’s strength decreases, meaning it’s not great for extremely hot environments.

  • While it is more cost-effective than most traditional building materials, it is more expensive than wood and low-carbon steel.

  • Since it’s a newer material, there’s less professionals who are able to work with the material.

  • It also has a smaller performance history than other materials since it hasn’t been used as long as steel, glass, or other building materials.

What is FRP used for?

There are a variety of structures FRP can be used for, but it’s more common in some structures than others. Some of the most common uses for FRPs are in pedestrian bridges, catwalks, stairs, tanks, piping, architectural elements that need to be weather resistant, and balconies.

Carlton Building Services in Hampton Roads Virginia

Carlton Building Services specializes in repairs, maintenance, renovations, remodelings and build-outs for a variety of clients in Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake areas. We have years of experience handling projects in the retail, office, and healthcare space and would love to work with you on your next project!

To learn more about our services, check out past project highlights or contact Carlton Building Services to see how we can help with your next project.

JP Carlton

J.P. Carlton

J.P. Carlton is the founder of Carlton Building Services, a Hampton Roads-based construction company.