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ISIS Educational Module 6:

Application and Handling of FRP

Reinforcements for Concrete
Prepared by ISIS Canada
A Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence
Principal Contributor: L.A. Bisby, Ph.D., P.Eng.
Department of Civil Engineering, Queens University
Contributor: Garth Fallis, P.Eng.
March 2006

ISIS Education Committee:

N. Banthia, University of British Columbia
L. Bisby, Queens University
R. Cheng, University of Alberta
R. El-Hacha, University of Calgary
G. Fallis, Vector Construction Group
R. Hutchinson, Red River College
A. Mufti, University of Manitoba
K.W. Neale, Universit de Sherbrooke
J. Newhook, Dalhousie University
K. Soudki, University of Waterloo
L. Wegner, University of Saskatchewan

ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Reinforcements for Concrete

Objectives of This Module

The overall objective of this module is to provide
engineering and technical college students with an overall
awareness of the significant issues to keep in mind when
applying fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) materials in
applications involving reinforcement or strengthening of
concrete structures. The module is targeted toward the user
sector, and covers information specific to the handling,
storage, and application of FRP reinforcing and
strengthening systems for concrete. It is one of a series of
educational modules on innovative FRP and structural
health monitoring (SHM) technologies that are available
from ISIS Canada. Further information on the use of FRPs
and SHM in a variety of innovative applications can be
obtained by visiting the Educational Modules link at
The primary objectives of this module can be
summarized as follows:
1. to provide engineering and technical college students
with a general awareness of significant issues in the
application and handling of FRPs in reinforcement or

strengthening applications with reinforced concrete

2. to facilitate the use of innovative and sustainable
building materials and systems in the construction
industry; and
3. to provide guidance to students seeking additional
information on this topic.
Much of the material presented herein is not currently
part of a national or international code, but is based mainly
on the results of ongoing research studies and FRP field
applications conducted in Canada and around the world, as
well as the experience of FRP manufacturers, suppliers, and
applicators over the past 15 years. As such, this module
should not be used as a design or implementation document,
and it is intended for educational use only. Future engineers
and practitioners who wish to specify or use FRP materials
are encouraged to consult more complete documents (refer
to Section 6 of this module).

ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Reinforcements for Concrete

Additional ISIS Educational Modules

Available from ISIS Canada (
Module 1 Mechanics Examples Incorporating FRP

Module 5 Introduction to Structural Health


Nineteen worked mechanics of materials problems are presented

which incorporate FRP materials. These examples could be used
in lectures to demonstrate various mechanics concepts, or could be
assigned for assignment or exam problems. This module seeks to
expose first and second year undergraduates to FRP materials at
the introductory level. Mechanics topics covered at the elementary
level include: equilibrium, stress, strain and deformation, elasticity,
plasticity, determinacy, thermal stress and strain, flexure and shear
in beams, torsion, composite beams, and deflections.

The overall motivation behind, and the benefits, design,

application, and use of, structural health monitoring (SHM)
systems for infrastructure are presented and discussed at the
introductory level. The motivation and goals of SHM are first
presented and discussed, followed by descriptions of the various
components, categories, and classifications of SHM systems.
Typical SHM methodologies are outlined, innovative fibre optic
sensor technology is briefly covered, and types of tests which can
be carried out using SHM are explained. Finally, a series of SHM
case studies is provided to demonstrate four field applications of
SHM systems in Canada.

Module 2 Introduction to FRP Composites for

FRP materials are discussed in detail at the introductory level.
This module seeks to expose undergraduate students to FRP
materials such that they have a basic understanding of the
components, manufacture, properties, mechanics, durability, and
application of FRP materials in civil infrastructure applications. A
suggested laboratory is included which outlines an experimental
procedure for comparing the stress-strain responses of steel versus
FRPs in tension, and a sample assignment is provided.

Module 3 Introduction to FRP-Reinforced Concrete

The use of FRP bars, rods, and tendons as internal tensile
reinforcement for new concrete structures is presented and
discussed in detail. Included are discussions of FRP materials
relevant to these applications, flexural design guidelines,
serviceability criteria, deformability, bar spacing, and various
additional considerations. A number of case studies are also
discussed. A series of worked example problems, a suggested
assignment with solutions, and a suggested laboratory
incorporating FRP-reinforced concrete beams are all included.

Module 4 Introduction to FRP-Strengthening of

Concrete Structures
The use of externally-bonded FRP reinforcement for strengthening
concrete structures is discussed in detail. FRP materials relevant to
these applications are first presented, followed by detailed
discussions of FRP-strengthening of concrete structures in flexure,
shear, and axial compression. A series of worked examples are
presented, case studies are outlined, and additional, more
specialized, applications are introduced. A suggested assignment
is provided with worked solutions, and a potential laboratory for
strengthening concrete beams in flexure with externally-bonded
FRP sheets is outlined.

Module 7 Introduction to Life Cycle Engineering &

Costing for Innovative Infrastructure
Life cycle costing (LCC) is a well-recognized means of guiding
design, rehabilitation and on-going management decisions
involving infrastructure systems. LCC can be employed to enable
and encourage the use of fibre reinforced polymers (FRPs) and
fibre optic sensor (FOS) technologies across a broad range of
infrastructure applications and circumstances, even where the
initial costs of innovations exceed those of conventional
alternatives. The objective of this module is to provide
undergraduate engineering students with a general awareness of
the principles of LCC, particularly as it applies to the use of fibre
reinforced polymers (FRPs) and structural health monitoring
(SHM) in civil engineering applications.

Module 8 Durability of FRP Composites for

Fibre reinforced polymers (FRPs), like all engineering materials,
are potentially susceptible to a variety of environmental factors
that may influence their long-term durability. It is thus important,
when contemplating the use of FRP materials in a specific
application, that allowance be made for potentially harmful
environments and conditions. It is shown in this module that
modern FRP materials are extremely durable and that they have
tremendous promise in infrastructure applications. The objective of
this module is to provide engineering students with an overall
awareness and understanding of the various environmental factors
that are currently considered significant with respect to the
durability of fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) materials in civil
engineering applications.

ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Reinforcements for Concrete

Section 1

Introduction and Background

Modern societies rely on complex and sophisticated systems
of infrastructure for economic health and prosperity. These
infrastructure systems are comprised of the roads, bridges,
tunnels, towers, sewers, and buildings that make up our
urban landscapes. In recent years, our infrastructure systems,
many components of which are nearing the end of their
useful service lives, have been deteriorating at an increasing
and alarming rate. This threatens our current high quality of
In an effort to slow and/or prevent ongoing
infrastructure deterioration, engineers are looking for new
materials that can be used to prolong and extend the service
lives of existing structures, while also enabling the design
and construction of durable new structures. Fibre reinforced
polymers (FRPs), a relatively new class of non-corrosive,
high-strength, and lightweight materials, have recently
emerged as innovative but practical materials for a number
of structural engineering applications.
FRP materials have demonstrated strong promise in
several important applications. One of these involves the use
of FRP reinforcing bars in lieu of steel reinforcing bars as
internal reinforcement for concrete. The primary advantage
of FRPs in this application is that they are non-corrosive,
and are not susceptible to rusting in the same manner as
steel. Corrosion of conventional steel reinforcement in
concrete structures is a major factor contributing to
infrastructure deterioration around the world. The use of
FRP reinforcing bars for concrete (discussed in more detail
in Section 2) has the potential to significantly improve the
longevity of reinforced concrete structures.
Another promising application of FRP materials is in
the strengthening and/or rehabilitation of existing
deteriorated or under-strength reinforced concrete structures.
In these applications, FRP plates, strips, sheets, or in some
cases bars, are bonded to the exterior of reinforced concrete
structures using high-strength adhesives. The FRP materials
provide external tension or confining reinforcement for the
existing concrete members, thus increasing their strength
and preventing further deterioration. These applications are
described in more detail in Section 2.
Additional information on the use of FRP materials in
both of the aforementioned applications is available from
various sources, many of which are listed in Section 6 of this
The reader is encouraged to review ISIS
Educational Modules 3 and 4 for background
information before continuing with the current

The focus in the present discussion is specifically on

the handling and application of FRP materials for use with
concrete. The goal is to provide an awareness and
understanding of the significant issues associated with the
use of these materials in typical construction projects. It is
important to recognize that a number of different products,
manufacturing techniques, component shapes, and end-use
applications are available for FRP materials, and that this
document cannot adequately discuss them all. More
complete discussions of different FRP materials and
applications are available from specific FRP manufacturers
and suppliers (refer to Appendix A) and specialized texts
(refer to Section 6).


FRPs are a subgroup of the class of materials referred to
more generally as composites. Composites are defined as
materials created by the combination of two or more
materials, on a macroscopic scale, to form a new and useful
material with enhanced properties that are superior to those
of the individual constituents alone. More familiar
composite materials include concrete (a mixture of cement
paste, sand, and gravel), and wood (a natural combination
of lignin and cellulose).
An FRP is a specific type of two-component composite
material consisting of high strength fibres embedded in a
polymer matrix. This is shown schematically in Figure 1-1.


Fig. 1-1. Schematic showing combination of fibres

and matrix to form an FRP composite.

Polymer Matrices
The polymer matrix is the binder of the FRP and plays
many important roles. These include:
binding the fibres together;
protecting the fibres from abrasion and environmental
separating and dispersing the fibres within the

ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Reinforcements for Concrete

transferring force between the individual fibres; and

providing shape to the FRP component.
Various polymer matrix materials are currently used in
FRP materials for concrete reinforcement or strengthening
applications; however, one of two specific types is typically
used depending on the intended end-use for the FRP
component. A class of polymers called vinylesters is
commonly used as matrices in the fabrication of FRP
reinforcing bars for concrete, due to their superior durability
characteristics when embedded in concrete. In external
strengthening applications, polymers called epoxies have
emerged as the preferred choice, due primarily to their very
good adhesion characteristics. A more detailed discussion of
polymer matrix types and properties is provided in ISIS
Educational Module 2.

The fibres provide the strength and stiffness of an FRP.
Those used in most structural FRPs are continuous and are
oriented in specified directions. FRPs are thus much stronger
and stiffer in the direction(s) of the fibres and weaker in
directions perpendicular to the fibres. Fibres are selected to
high stiffness;
high ultimate strength;
low variation of properties between individual fibres;
stability during handling.
In structural engineering applications, fibres are also
characterized by extremely small diameters yielding large
length-to-diameter ratios.
Many different types of fibres are available for use. In
civil engineering applications, the three most commonly
used fibre types are glass, carbon, and aramid. The
suitability of the various fibres for specific applications
depends on a number of factors, including the required
strength, the stiffness, durability considerations, cost
constraints, and the availability of component materials.
Glass fibres are the most inexpensive, and consequently
the most commonly used fibres in structural engineering
applications. They are often chosen for structural
applications that are non-weight-critical (glass FRPs are
heavier than carbon or aramid) and that can tolerate the
larger deflections resulting from the comparatively low
elastic modulus of glass fibres. Glass fibres are commonly
used in the manufacture of FRP reinforcing bars and
structural wraps.
Carbon fibres are more expensive than glass fibres.
Several grades, with varying strength and elastic modulus,
are available. Carbon fibres are typically much stiffer,
stronger, and lighter than glass fibres, and they are thus used

in weight and/or modulus-critical applications, such as

prestressing tendons for concrete and structural FRP wraps
for repair and strengthening of concrete structures. In
addition, carbon fibres display outstanding resistance to
thermal, chemical, and environmental effects.
Aramid fibres, while popular in other parts of the
world, are not extensively used in North America.
Additional information on fibre types and properties is
presented in ISIS Educational Module 2.

Although the strength and stiffness of an FRP material or
component are governed predominantly by the fibres, the
overall properties also depend on the properties of the
matrix, the fibre volume fraction (the volume of fibres per
unit volume of matrix), the fibre cross-sectional area, the
orientation of the fibres within the matrix, and the method
of manufacturing. It is the interaction between the fibres
and the matrix that gives FRPs their unique physical and
mechanical characteristics.
The orientation of the fibres within the matrix is a key
consideration in the design and use of FRP materials. In the
present discussion the focus is on unidirectional FRPs
FRPs in which all of the fibres are aligned in a single
direction. Figure 1-2 shows various FRP products currently
used for reinforcement or rehabilitation of concrete
structures. The reader is encouraged to consult ISIS
Educational Modules 2, 3 and 4 for additional information
on FRP properties and manufacturing methods.

Fig. 1-2. Assorted FRP products used for

reinforcement or rehabilitation of concrete

ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Reinforcements for Concrete

Section 2

Applications of FRP Materials in Construction

Existing infrastructure systems are falling into a state of
disrepair, and this is threatening the high quality of life that
we currently enjoy in North America. This deterioration,
combined with shrinking government budgets and increased
urbanization, is forcing the development and use of
advanced materials and cost-effective solutions to repair,
strengthen, and rebuild our infrastructure systems. FRP
materials have emerged as important materials in several
construction applications, particularly applications in
conjunction with reinforced concrete, and they are now
considered materials of choice in many cases.


Rapid increases in the use of FRP materials for structural
engineering applications have occurred over the past 15 to
20 years. This can be attributed, in part, to continuing
reductions in material costs and to the numerous advantages
of FRPs as compared with conventional structural materials.
Some of the more commonly cited advantages of FRP
materials over more conventional materials such as steel

resistance to electrochemical corrosion (rusting);

high strength-to-weight ratios;
outstanding durability in a variety of environments;
ease and speed of installation, flexibility, and
application techniques;
electromagnetic neutrality, which can be important in
certain special structures such as magnetic imaging
facilities; and
the ability to tailor mechanical properties by
appropriate choice and direction of fibres.

FRP structural sections and panels for all-FRP

structures; and
FRP shapes, sections, and tubes for use in novel hybrid

In the current discussion, the focus is on specific

applications related to the first two bullets listed above,
namely reinforcement and strengthening of concrete.
It is important to recognize that FRP materials also
have a number of potential disadvantages with respect to
their use as structural materials in construction applications.
Foremost among these disadvantages is the high initial
material cost of many FRPs, which can be several times that
of steel. When the cost of a structure is considered over its
entire life cycle, however, the improved durability offered
by FRP materials often makes them the most cost-effective
choice. Furthermore, savings in installations costs and
downtime can easily offset higher initial costs in timecritical construction projects (particularly in strengthening
and rehabilitation projects). Other potential disadvantages
include uncertainties associated with the long-term
durability of FRP materials, the poor performance of most
FRPs at high temperature, and the overall lack of awareness
of FRPs in the construction industry. These concerns are all
currently being addressed within the FRP community.


Because FRP materials do not corrode electrochemically,
FRP bars, rods, and tendons are increasingly being used in
lieu of conventional reinforcing steel for internal
reinforcement of concrete. Figure 2-1 shows typical FRP
bars that are currently available in North America.

These advantages have resulted in the widespread use

of FRP materials in numerous construction applications,

FRP bars, rods, and tendons for internal or external

reinforcement or prestressing of reinforced concrete
FRP plates, sheets, strips, bars and wraps for
externally-bonded strengthening and rehabilitation
of reinforced concrete, steel, timber, and masonry

Fig. 2-1. Assorted carbon and glass FRP

reinforcing bars for reinforcement of concrete.

ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Reinforcements for Concrete

prestressed and reinforced concrete beams exposed

to deicing salts, including bridge decks, barrier walls,
approach slabs, parking garages, railroad crossings, and
salt storage facilities;
prestressed and reinforced concrete beams in
marine environments, including seawalls, buildings
and structures near waterfronts, aquaculture operations,
harbours, wharfs, artificial reefs, offshore structures,
and floating marine docks;
concrete portions of various tunneling and mining
externally and internally-restrained deck slabs; and
glass FRP bars may be used in any concrete structure
requiring non-ferrous reinforcement due to
electromagnetic considerations, including magnetic
resonance imaging facilities and high-voltage

Both glass and carbon FRP bars and reinforcing grids

have been used successfully as internal reinforcement in
concrete beams and slabs, as have various hybrid two and
three-dimensional FRP grids composed of both glass and
carbon fibres. Research and field applications using FRP
bars in concrete bridge decks have indicated that these
materials perform well in the harsh Canadian climate.
The major design issues requiring consideration in the
design of FRP-reinforced concrete members include the fact
that FRPs are linear-elastic to failure, unlike steel which
exhibits a well-defined yield plateau, and the fact that FRP
reinforcements generally have elastic moduli that are less
than steel. Thus, serviceability (cracking and deflection)
requirements often govern the design of FRP reinforced
concrete. Figure 2-2 shows glass FRP reinforcement being
installed in a concrete bridge deck in Quebec (shown just
prior to placement of the concrete). A detailed discussion of
design methodologies for reinforcing concrete with FRP
bars is beyond the scope of this document. The reader is
encouraged to consult ISIS Educational Module 3 for
additional information in this area.

FRP Reinforcing Bar Properties

Unidirectional FRP materials currently used in concrete
reinforcing applications are linear elastic to failure. This
behaviour is shown in Fig. 2-3, which demonstrates the
significant differences in the tensile behaviour of FRPs as
compared with steel. FRP materials commonly have much
higher strengths than reinforcing steel but have strains at
failure that are considerably less. The differences in
behaviour between various FRPs and steel have important
consequences for the design of FRP-reinforced concrete
members, as discussed in detail in ISIS Educational
Modules 3 and 4.

The specific properties of FRP materials vary a great

deal from product to product. It is beyond the scope of this
module to discuss properties of available FRP reinforcing
materials in detail. However, Table 2-1 and Fig. 2-3 give
material properties for a number of available FRP
reinforcing products for concrete. It is extremely important
in the design of FRP-reinforced concrete members that the
Engineer specifies which FRP product is to be used and
what minimum properties are required.

Fig. 2-2. Glass FRP reinforcing bars placed in

bridge deck forms before placing the concrete
(courtesy Vector Construction Group).
LeadlineTM CFRP

Stress [MPa]

Concrete reinforcement applications for which these

materials are particularly suited include:


Strain [%]

Fig. 2-3. Stress-strain plots for various reinforcing


During the 1990s, a number of preservation, rehabilitation,
and strengthening techniques that use FRP materials have
been applied to a variety of concrete, steel, aluminum,
masonry and timber structures. In the current discussion,
the focus is placed on strengthening of concrete structures
using externally-bonded FRP plates and sheets, which
remains the most common application of these materials for
strengthening concrete structures.

ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Reinforcements for Concrete

Table 2-1. Selected Properties of Typical Currently Available FRP Reinforcing Products
Tensile Strength
Elastic Modulus
Reinforcement Type
Deformed Steel
Aslan 100 GFRP Bar
Aslan 200 CFRP Bar
* specified yield strength

Typical Applications
FRP materials are becoming increasingly popular for repair
and strengthening of reinforced concrete structures, and they
are now materials of choice for flexural, shear, and axial
strengthening of reinforced concrete members. In these
applications, FRP plates or sheets are bonded to the exterior
of reinforced concrete members to provide tension or
confining shear reinforcement which typically supplements
reinforcement provided by existing internal reinforcing steel.
Three specific applications are common, namely flexural,
shear, and axial (confinement) strengthening.
Flexural Strengthening
FRP materials are bonded to the bottom and/or side faces of
a concrete beam to provide tensile reinforcement and to
increase the strength of the member in bending. The fibres
are oriented along the longitudinal axis of the beam. Figures
2-4 and 2-5 provide schematic and actual applications of the
use of externally-bonded FRPs in flexural strengthening

Fig. 2-5. Two-way flexural strengthening of a

reinforced concrete slab using carbon FRP strips
(courtesy Sika Corp.).


Fig. 2-6. Typical shear strengthening of a

reinforced concrete beam using externally-bonded
FRP reinforcement.


Section A-A

Section A-A

Fig. 2-4. Typical flexural strengthening of a

reinforced concrete beam using externally-bonded
FRP reinforcement.
Shear Strengthening
FRP materials are bonded to the side faces of a concrete
beam (often in the form of U-shaped wraps) or continuously
around a column to provide shear reinforcement which
supplements the internal steel stirrups or ties. The fibres are
typically oriented perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of
the member. Figures 2-6 and 2-7 show the use of FRPs as
externally-bonded shear reinforcement for concrete.

Fig. 2-7. Shear strengthening of a reinforced

concrete bridge girder using carbon FRP sheets.

ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

Confining Reinforcement
Concrete members are wrapped in the circumferential (hoop)
direction with FRP sheets. Under compressive axial load, the
column expands (dilates) laterally and the FRP sheets
develop a tensile confining stress that places the concrete in
a beneficial state of triaxial stress. This significantly
increases the strength and deformation capacity of the
concrete. The fibres are most commonly oriented
perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the member (refer
to Figures 2-8 and 2-9).

surface. Figure 2-10 shows some currently available plate

and sheet FRP materials for strengthening concrete

Section A-A

Fig. 2-8. Typical axial strengthening of a circular

reinforced concrete column using an externallybonded FRP wrap.

Fig. 2-10. Assorted carbon and glass FRP

reinforcing materials used as externally-bonded
reinforcement for concrete members.

Installation Techniques

Fig. 2-9. Axial strengthening of a reinforced

concrete bridge column using carbon FRP sheets.
For the purposes of external reinforcement of concrete, there
are essentially two classes of FRP strengthening materials
that are commonly used, namely plates and sheets.
Plates are rigid FRP strips that are manufactured using a
process called pultrusion (refer to ISIS EC Modules 2 or 3).
The plates are bonded to the exterior of reinforced concrete
structures using an epoxy adhesive. Sheet FRPs are supplied
as flexible fabrics of raw (or pre-impregnated) fibres. The
sheet FRP materials are applied by saturating the fibres with
an epoxy resin and laying-up the sheets onto the concrete

Although a variety of techniques can be used to apply

external FRP reinforcement to reinforced concrete
structures, the most widely used is referred to as lay-up,
which can be performed in wet or dry configurations with
either plate or sheet FRPs. In the wet lay-up technique,
flexible sheets or fabrics of raw or pre-impregnated fibres
are saturated with an epoxy adhesive resin and placed on
the surface of the concrete. As a result, the resin acts both
as the adhesive and as the FRP matrix. The dry lay-up
technique involves the adhesion of pre-cured rigid FRP
strips or plates (or dry fibre fabrics) to the surface of the
concrete using an epoxy adhesive. The second technique is
more akin to conventional rehabilitation techniques using
steel plates, but does not offer the flexibility enjoyed by the
wet lay-up procedure. Both procedures have been used with
success in field applications.
The reader should note that most external FRP
reinforcing applications are referred to as bond critical,
which means that adequate bonding of the FRP to the

ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

Unidirectional FRP materials used in external strengthening
applications are linear elastic up to failure. As is the case for
FRP reinforcing bars discussed above, the specific properties
of different FRP strengthening materials vary a great deal
from one manufacturer to another. Table 2-2 and Fig. 2-11
give material properties for a number of typical currently
available FRP strengthening materials.
A more complete discussion of the use of FRPs for
strengthening concrete structures, including other
applications and important aspects of FRP materials for
strengthening concrete, steel, timber, and masonry
structures, is provided in ISIS Educational Module 4.


Tensile Stress [MPa]

concrete is paramount in ensuring that the FRP

strengthening system will function as desired. Thus, the
quality of the concrete surface prior to bonding the FRP
reinforcement is very important. The need for adequate
surface preparation, quality control, and adequate curing
conditions for the adhesive, as discussed later in this
document, cannot be overstated.

Tyfo SEH-51
MBrace CF 530
MBrace AK 60
Hex 103C
CarboDur S
CarboDur H
Replark HM










Strain [%]

Fig. 2-11. Stress-strain plots for various FRP

strengthening systems

Table 2-2. Selected Properties of Typical Currently Available FRP Strengthening Systems*
Tensile Elastic
Strain at
FRP System
Fibre Type
Strength [MPa] Modulus [GPa]
Failure [%]
Fyfe Co. LLC []
Tyfo SEH-51
Tyfo SCH-35
Mitsubishi []
Replark 20
Replark 30
Replark MM
Replark HM
Sika []
Hex 100G
Hex 103C
CarboDur S
CarboDur M
CarboDur H
Watson Bowman Acme []
MBrace EG 900
MBrace CF 530
MBrace AK 60
* Additional information can be obtained from the specific FRP manufacturers

ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

Section 3

Handling and application of FRP

Reinforcement for Concrete Structures
The use of FRP reinforcement for reinforced concrete (RC)
structures is now relatively well accepted within the civil
engineering community, and various codes and guidelines
exist for use by engineers in designing and specifying these
types of systems (refer to Section 6 of this module for more
information on codes and guidelines for the use of FRP
materials). Major differences in design requirements as
compared with steel reinforcement are a result of the linear
elastic behaviour of FRPs and the fact that their elastic
moduli are typically less than that of steel. These differences
can appropriately be accounted for in most situations.
From a handling and application point of view,
construction and installation practices required when using
FRP reinforcing bars are similar to those used with
conventional steel bars. In most cases, the lightweight
properties of FRP bars actually make the placement of
reinforcement in formwork less time consuming. The
following sections very briefly outline some of the important
issues that must be kept in mind when handling and
installing FRP reinforcing bars.


Unlike conventional reinforcing steel, which has a relatively
long history of use in construction projects, FRP
reinforcement for concrete is considered, by some, to be an
emerging technology. However, certain specific grades and
sizes of steel reinforcement have emerged as industry
standards, such that any engineers can easily specify the
grade and size of bars required for a particular application.
Because FRP reinforcing bars are a newer technology, and
since slight variations in the composition and manufacturing
processes of these bars can lead to significant differences in
physical and mechanical properties, the same degree of
standardization does not yet exist for FRP reinforcing bars.
However, all FRP bars for use as reinforcement for concrete
are manufactured to meet certain performance requirements
and they are typically graded and marked accordingly.

Strength, Modulus & Durabilty Grades

ISIS Canada (ISIS, 2006) recommends a grading system for
FRP reinforcing bars for concrete which is based on fibre
type, tensile strength and elastic modulus, and durability of
the bars in concrete. Strength is gradad based on the ultimate
tesnile strength of the bar (in MPa), as determined by testing

peroformed in accordance with appropriate standards (see

ISIS, 2006). Modulus is graded accoring to the fibre type
and based on three categories as desribed in Table 3-1.
Table 3-1.
Modulus Grades for FRP Bars (ISIS, 2006)
Fibre Type

Minimum Tensile Modulus (GPa)

Grade III

Grade II

Grade I













ISIS Canada durability grading depends on the physical and

durability properties defined in ISIS Canadas
Specifications for Product Certification of Fibre
Reinforced Polymers (FRPs) as Internal Reinforcement in
Concrete Structures (ISIS, 2006). Using these procedures,
FRPs with high durability are classified as D1, and FRPs
with moderate durability are classified as D2. FRPs made
with vinylester and epoxy are classified as D1 or D2 based
on ISIS requirements, and FRPs made with polyester
matrix, which are known to have inferior durability
characterisitics, are classified as D2.
The American Concrete Institute (ACI, 2003)
recommends that FRP bars be graded (unfortunately using
imperial units) according to both their ultimate tensile
strength and their tensile modulus of elasticity. An FRP bar
with a tensile strength of 60 ksi would be designated as
F60 in the ACI system, whereas a bar with a strength of
3000 ksi would be F3000. Similarly, a bar with a tensile
elastic modulus of 5.7 ksi would be graded as E5.7. This
grading system is recommended but has not yet been
codified. ISIS Canada is also currently developing a
grading system through its Committee on Standardization.

Surface Geometry
Various surface geometries currently exist for FRP bars,
including spiral braids, sand coatings, and surface ribs
(refer to Figure 2-1). There is currently no standard
classification for these treatments. Manufacturers should be
consulted if questions regarding surface treatments arise.

Bar Sizes
Various bar sizes are available from specific FRP bar
manufacturers. No standard bar sizes currently exist,


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

although ACI (2003) recommends the use of a system

wherein bar size designations correspond to their nominal
diameter in increments of an eighth of an inch, similar to the
current bar designation system for steel reinforcing bars used
in the United States.

Bar Identification
While the various FRP bar manufacturers are not currently
bound by any identification requirements for their products,
both ISIS Canada (2006) and ACI (2003) have suggested the
use of a designation systems that would provide necessary
information to users of their products.
The ISIS Canada designation system is as follows:

that the surface coating is not damaged. Specific storage,

handling, and installation guidelines vary somewhat from
manufacturer to manufacturer, and it is important to check
the manufacturers requirements for any specific FRP
reinforcement which is being contemplated for use. The
following are common storage and handling guidelines that
should be observed in most cases. Table 3-2 provides a
basic checklist of handling and storage issues for FRP
reinforcing bars for concrete.
Table 3-2.
Checklist: Handling and Storage of FRP Bars

Store bars in a clean environment

Xa Eb Dc

Protect bars against:

X is A, C or G for aramid, carbon or glass fibres
a is the tensile strength of the FRP (MPa)
E is the modulus of elasticity
b is the modulus grade of the FRP (Table 3-1)
D stands for durability
c is the durability designation (explained previously)


The ACI designation system includes information on:

- UV radiation
- High temperature
- Damaging chemicals
Lift bundles of bars with care
Do not shear bars when cutting

the bars producer;

the type of fibre;
the bar size (using the system currently used for
conventional steel reinforcing bars); and
the strength and modulus grades (using the F# and E#.#
system noted above).

For example, a half-inch diameter, 1000 ksi tensile

strength, 4 ksi tensile elastic modulus, glass FRP bar
manufactured by Acme FRP Co. (AFC) would be marked
with the following identification:

AFC G#4 F1000 E4.0

As discussed previously, FRP reinforcing bars are comprised
of high strength fibres (typically of carbon or glass)
embedded in a polymer matrix (typically vinylester).
Because the bars are unidirectional, their strength and
stiffness in the fibre (longitudinal) direction are much
greater than in the transverse (off-axis) direction. Thus,
while inherently durable once embedded in concrete, FRP
bars are susceptible to surface damage if abused during
handling and installation. Deep scoring of the bars surface
will reduce their durability and load-carrying capacity and
must be avoided. Fibre reinforced polymer bars can thus be
considered similar to epoxy-coated steel reinforcing bars
caution is required during handling and application to ensure


Work gloves should be worn at all times

In addition to typical safety precautions and procedures

The fibres contained in FRP reinforcing bars can cause
splinters, cuts, and skin irritation. FRP bars should be
always be handled with heavy-duty work gloves.

On-Site Storage
FRP bars should be kept clean and free of oil, dust,
chemicals, or other contaminants. They should not be stored
directly on the ground, but should be placed on timber
pallets to ensure cleanliness and easy handling. Access
should be provided for easy inspection of materials.

Ultra-Violet Radiation
While FRP bars are highly corrosion resistant, most FRP
polymer matrix materials are susceptible to slight
degradation under prolonged exposure to ultra-violet (UV)
radiation. All FRP reinforcing materials should thus be
protected from exposure to UV radiation. When stored
outdoors, FRP bars should be covered with opaque plastic
or otherwise protected.

High temperatures
FRP materials are sensitive to degradation at high
temperatures and should generally not be stored in elevated
temperature environments.


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

Moisture and Chemicals

Protection of FRP bars from moisture is not needed. Certain
specific chemicals can damage FRP bars, however, and
chemical exposure should thus be avoided. Manufacturers
should be consulted in this regard.

Lifting and Hoisting

FRP bars are lighter (about 75% lighter) and more flexible
that conventional reinforcing steel, and can thus be hoisted
and placed with much less effort (Figures 3-1 and 3-2).
Hoisting should be performed with care until operators are
familiar with the behaviour of these materials upon lifting.
In some cases, spreader bars are needed to prevent excessive
bending due to their low-stiffness.


Placement and assembly of FRP reinforcing bar cages in
formwork is performed in much the same manner as for
steel reinforcement, and very little adjustment is typically
required in the construction process. Manufacturers
guidelines, which may differ somewhat, should be followed
at all times when placing FRP reinforcement. Typical
guidelines for the placement of FRP reinforcing bars are as
follows. Table 3-3 provides a basic checklist of issues in
placement and assembly of FRP reinforcing bars for
concrete structures.
Table 3-3.
Checklist: Placement and Assembly of FRP Bars


Fig. 3-1. Large sections of preassembled

reinforcing grids can be installed with ease (photo
courtesy Vector Construction Group).

FRP bars can easily be cut with high-speed diamond
grinding discs or fine-blade saws. FRP bars should never be
sheared as this typically causes matrix cracking and fibre
damage. Appropriate safety measures should be taken when
cutting FRP bars due to airborne fibre fragments. This
includes the strict use safety glasses and dust masks. Sealing
of the end of the bar is not typically required.


Oil, grease, dirt, removed from bars

Bars placed as specified by Engineer
Ties type as specified by Engineer
Bar chair type as specified by Engineer
No direct contact between CFRP and steel
No mechanical bar splices (lap splices only)
Reinforcement tied down to prevent floating
Care taken during concrete vibrating
Walking on bars allowed? (ask Site Engineer)
Bends/hooks may not be fabricated on-site
Work gloves and eye protection must be worn
at all times*

In addition to typical safety precautions and procedures

Oil and Grease

Oil or grease on the surface of the bars will adversely affect
their bond strength to concrete and should be avoided. Oil
or grease on the bars surface should be removed prior to
placement by wiping or spraying with a manufacturer
specified solvent.

Bar Placement

Fig. 3-2. Lightweight bundles of FRP bars are

easily moved on site (photo courtesy Vector
Construction Group).

Unless otherwise specified by the engineer, FRP bars

should be placed in accordance with tolerances set out in
applicable guidelines for conventional reinforcing steel.
Because FRP bars are considerably lighter than steel bars,
care is needed to ensure that FRP bars are not displaced by
concrete or construction workers during concrete placement
Care should also be taken to ensure that FRP bars are
not unnecessarily abraded by dragging or rubbing against


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

other bars, as this may degrade their bond properties and

tensile strength. Figure 3-3 shows FRP bars being installed
in a bridge deck using standard bar placement methods.

Ties and Bar Chairs

Plastic, nylon, or other non-corrosive ties and bar chairs
should be used in applications where it is desirable to
completely eliminate corrosion from a structure (Figure
3-4). When carbon FRP reinforcement is used, plastic or
nylon ties and chairs should be used in all cases to prevent
galvanic corrosion. Glass bars may be tied using
conventional steel ties if desired (Figure 3-5), although
plastic ties or plastic-coated steel ties are preferred. The
type of chairs and ties to be used should be clearly stated in
the project specifications.

Fig. 3-3. Placement of glass FRP bars in a bridge

deck (photo courtesy Vector Construction Group).

Contact between Steel and FRP bars

When electrically-conductive materials that have different
electro-potentials come into contact with one another, a
small electrical current is generated. This can lead to an
undesirable phenomenon known as galvanic corrosion.
Carbon fibres are highly electrically conductive and have
electro-potentials that are significantly different than
conventional steel reinforcement. It is therefore important
that carbon fibres not come into direct contact with
conventional reinforcing steel in a structure, and care should
be taken to ensure that these materials are electrically
isolated from one another. This is not a concern for glass or
aramid FRP bars.

Fig. 3-5. Glass FRP bars tied with standard steel

ties and using plastic chairs (photo courtesy
Vector Construction Group).

Neither mechanically-connected nor welded splices are
possible when using FRP reinforcement. Lapped bar splices
should be used when continuity of reinforcement is required
in a structure. Applicable design guidelines and
manufacturer specifications should be consulted when
designing splices. Glass FRP bars can be spliced to steel
reinforcement, provided that mechanical splices are not
used (which might damage the FRP bars). Carbon FRP bars
should not be spliced to steel reinforcement because of the
potential for galvanic corrosion.

Reinforcement Cage Floating

FRP reinforcement is light and must be adequately tied to
formwork to prevent it from floating during concrete
placing and vibrating operations (Figure 3-6).

Fig. 3-4. Glass FRP bars tied with nylon zip-ties
and glass FRP chairs to eliminate all corrosion
(photo courtesy Vector Construction Group).

Care must be taken when vibrating FRP reinforced concrete

to ensure that the FRP reinforcement is not damaged
(plastic protected vibrators should be used where possible).


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

placement of the concrete. This is only a precaution,

however, which may not be necessary provided that the
workers are aware of damage mechanisms for FRP
reinforcing bars (Figure 3-8).

Fig. 3-6. Glass FRP bars tied down with plasticcoated steel ties (photo courtesy Vector
Construction Group).

Bends and Hooks

Currently available FRP reinforcing bars are fabricated using
thermosetting resin matrices and consequently cannot be
bent on site. Bends and hooks, when required, must be
produced by the bars manufacturer during the fabrication
process. It is possible to obtain bends and hooks in virtually
any geometry from current FRP bar manufacturers (Figure
3-7), although minimum bend radii are typically larger than
for steel bars due to significant weakening of FRP bars
around tight corners. Typical minimum allowable bend radii
for FRP bars are 3.5 to 4 times the bars diameter, and these
bends are accompanied by up to 50% reduction in the tensile
strength of the bar at the bend.

Fig. 3-8. A construction worker stands on glass

FRP bars while tying them together (photo
courtesy Vector Construction Group).



Fig. 3-7. Bends in Glass FRP bars for concrete

barrier wall reinforcement (photo courtesy Vector
Construction Group).

Walking on FRP Bars

Some existing design codes and guidelines state that workers
should not be permitted to walk on FRP bars prior to

Quality control and quality assurance are criticallyimportant at each step of the construction process,
particularly when using materials with which there is
historically less experience.
Prior to construction, the Engineer and owner shall
decide if the manufacturer specified properties of the FRP
reinforcement are sufficient and acceptable or if
independent tests are required. When required, tests should
be conducted according to recommended procedures (ACI,
Commonly available FRP bars are manufactured under
strict conditions, and routine sampling, inspection, and
quality control tests are conducted by all manufacturers.
Some FRP bar manufacturers colour-code their production
runs to allow for easy tracing of individual bars properties,
and most bar manufacturers will provide certification of
their materials upon request. Typical properties that are of
interest to the Engineer may include:


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

dimensional tolerances;
mechanical properties including tensile strength, tensile
elastic modulus, fatigue strength, and ultimate strain;
bond strength in concrete;
fibre volume fraction;
hardness, die wicking properties, shear properties in
flexure and in direct shear; and durability in alkaline

Prior to Construction
It is important that all parties involved in a particular
construction project are educated as to the specific handling
and application requirements for a particular FRP
reinforcing product, particularly with respect to new and/or
unusual construction procedures and design innovations. All
uncertainties should be resolved before construction begins.

During Construction

and placement of materials and assemblies. Regular

inspections should be conducted by trained and certified
engineers who are knowledgeable in the use of FRP
materials (in addition to standard construction practices and


Because the use of FRP reinforcing bars is similar to the
use of conventional steel reinforcement, few additional
safety precautions are required beyond the common
precautions that are typically observed when using
conventional steel reinforcement. In most cases, the only
additional precautions that are necessary are:

heavy-duty work gloves should be worn at all times

when handling FRP bars; and
dust masks and eye protection should be worn when
cutting FRP bars.

It is important that all interested parties work together to

ensure the proper and adequate transport, storage, handling,


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

Section 4

Handling and Application of FRPs for

Strengthening Concrete Structures
The effective use of externally-bonded FRPs for
strengthening reinforced concrete structures, while derived
from conventional steel-plate bonding technologies, is
currently much less familiar than the use of FRP reinforcing
bars to most engineers, inspectors, and construction workers.
Installation of FRP strengthening systems for concrete
structures thus requires that particular care be taken at all
stages of the design and construction process.
In most FRP strengthening applications, bond between
the concrete and the FRP is a key factor in the success of the
strengthening system; however, in many confinement
applications only contact is required. Furthermore, unlike
internal FRP reinforcement externally-bonded FRP systems
represent somewhat of a departure from conventional
building systems and strengthening methods. Handling and
application of these systems is thus an extremely important
topic that requires special training and certification.

Most epoxy component chemicals have finite shelf

lives as specified by their manufacturers. Expired resin
components may not meet required performance
expectations and should not be used.
Fibre fabrics and precured FRP laminates should be
handled with care to avoid damage.
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) should be
retained for all materials received. Any individual who
may come in contact with the materials should
familiarize themselves with these MSDSs.

Table 4-1.
Checklist: Handling and Storage of Externallybonded FRP Systems



Externally-bonded FRP systems are comprised of several
distinct chemicals and components, including various
primers, putties, and adhesives, as well as the fibre fabrics
and epoxy saturants that eventually become the FRP
material. It is extremely important that the various
components not be mixed-up or otherwise contaminated
during handling and storage, and manufacturers guidelines
should be followed in all cases.
The following are typical guidelines for the proper
handling and storage of the various system components
(refer also to the basic checklist provided in Table 4-1):

All products should be delivered and stored in unopened

original containers which should be clearly and
unambiguously marked. Materials should be inspected
immediately upon delivery.
Stored fibre fabrics and epoxy components must be
protected from moisture, dust, chemical exposure, and
other potential contaminants or harmful compounds.
Epoxy components must be stored in a controlled
environment, typically with a temperature of between
10C and 24C, and away from direct sunlight, flames,
or other hazards. Many uncured epoxy components are
flammable and environmentally hazardous, and
appropriate care should be taken in their transport and


All products delivered and stored in

unopened original containers
All materials inspected immediately upon
Stored materials protected from potential
contaminants or harmful compounds
Epoxy components stored in a controlled
Fibre fabrics and precured FRP laminates
handled with care to avoid damage
Expired resin components not used
Take special care in transport of potentially
harmful compounds (check Material Safety
Data Sheets (MSDSs))

In addition to typical safety precautions and procedures

Because installation of FRP strengthening systems is a
somewhat specialized operation, only trained and certified
contractors should be used. Each of the system
manufacturers has developed individual application
procedures that may differ slightly in some cases. The
following is a general outline of the steps in a typical
externally-bonded FRP strengthening application on a
reinforced concrete member. Manufacturer specifications
should be followed when using any specific FRP
strengthening system. Figure 4-1 shows a basic overall
summary of the sequence of events in the application of a
typical externally-bonded FRP strengthening system for


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

n Concrete Preparation
Concrete substrate must be in a clean and sound condition
Remove unsound concrete
Repair corroding reinforcing steel
Patch large voids
Inject large cracks

o Surface Preparation
The surface must be prepared to receive the FRP system
Level the concrete surface with epoxy putty
Round sharp edges where required
Bond Critical

Functionality depends on bond between FRP and


Contact Critical

Functionality depends on contact between FRP

and Concrete

Surface must be profiled to a specific roughness

Surface roughness is less critical

p Adhesive mixing
Well mixed resin is critically important, and manufacturer
recommendations should be followed

q FRP Installation
FRPs are bonded to the surface of the concrete

Pre-cured Laminate and Strip

Rigid FRP plates or strips are
bonded to the surface of the
concrete with an epoxy adhesive

Fabric Systems

Flexible fibre fabrics are bonded to the concrete using epoxy

Wet Lay-up Systems

Fabric is saturated before

lay-up operation

Dry Lay-up Systems

Fabric is saturated during

lay-up operation

r Protective Coatings
Aesthetics, fireproofing, UV radiation, or otherwise protective
coatings are often applied to installed FRP systems

s Curing Conditions
The following factors must be carefully monitored and controlled
during curing of the epoxy saturant/adhesive:
Relative Humidity
Mechanical disturbances

Fig. 4-1. Overall sequence of events in the installation of a typical externally-bonded FRP strengthening
system for concrete.


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

n Concrete Preparation
Because most FRP strengthening applications are bondcritical, it is of paramount importance that the concrete
substrate is in a clean and sound condition prior to FRP
installation. Improperly or poorly prepared substrate
concrete can lead to debonding or delamination of the FRP
systems. The following are important considerations in
ensuring a sound bonding surface:

Unsound areas of concrete such as broken or

delaminated regions must be removed to reveal sound
material (Figure 4-2). Any low-strength materials such
as plaster must be completely removed.

Detailed information on the repair and preparation of

the substrate concrete can be found in ACI 546R (ACI,
1996) and ICRI 03730 (ICRI, 2003).

o Surface Preparation
Once the overall member is ready for FRP installation, the
bonding surface must be prepared to receive the adhesive.
The end goal of the surface preparation activities is
typically to provide a freshly-exposed, clean, sound, open,
dry, and roughened texture. The following items should be

Fig. 4-2. Removal of severely damaged substrate


Corroded reinforcing steel should be repaired according

to guidelines suggested by the International Concrete
Repair Institute (ICRI, 2003). Some research suggests
that FRP strengthening systems should not be used to
cover corroding reinforcing steel, since the expansive
forces that result from ongoing corrosion could
potentially lead to damage of the FRP system. Other
research has shown that this may not be a concern.
Large voids in the concrete must be patched using an
appropriate repair mortar as specified by ICRI (1997,
Large cracks in the concrete surface should be pressure
injected with epoxy (Figure 4-3), particularly if there is
the potential for water leakage through these cracks.

Fig. 4-3. Crack injection using epoxy.

It is desirable to perform pull tests on the concrete

surface to ensure soundness of the substrate concrete
(see QC&QA below).

The surface of the concrete should be leveled using

mortar or epoxy putty (as specified by the FRP
manufacturer) to ensure that any surface irregularities
are smoothed typically to less than 1 mm in size.
In cases where FRP systems are applied around
corners, the corners must be rounded to a minimum
radius as specified in the construction documents
(Figure 4-4). This is done to avoid stress concentrations
at sharp edges. Typical minimum radii for corners in
FRP strengthening applications are between 15 and
35 mm, depending on the specific system being used
and applicable code regulations. Corners need not be
rounded in cases where the fibre direction runs parallel
to the sharp edge.


Fig. 4-4. Rounding of sharp corners to specified

minimum radius using a concrete grinder.
Bond Critical Applications
In applications where bond between the FRP and the
concrete is critical for satisfactory performance of the FRP
strengthening system (typically these are situations in
which the concrete member is not completely encased in
FRP, such as flexural and shear strengthening of concrete
beams), the surface must be profiled to a specific surface
roughness to promote optimal bonding. This is typically
achieved by using sand or water blasting, or a hand grinder,
to expose the fine and coarse aggregate surfaces.
Surface preparation should be in accordance with ACI
546R (ACI, 1996) and ICRI 03730 (ICRI, 2003). Surface
contaminants, dust, and debris must subsequently be
completely removed by brushing or air or water blasting.


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

methods involve the use of adhesively bonded pre-cured

laminates or laid-up fabric systems.

Moisture Vapor

below 40 F

Surface pores
filled with water water leakage

Fig. 4-6. Various conditions that must be avoided

during installation of external FRP systems.
Fig. 4-5. Concrete surface preparation by water
blasting, sandblasting, or grinding.
Contact Critical Applications
In cases where the concrete member is completely encased
in FRP (in column wrapping, for instance), surface
preparation is less critical. In these applications it is
necessary only to ensure intimate contact between the FRP
and the concrete. The bonding surface should thus be convex
or flat and should be cleaned of debris and contaminants.

p Adhesive Mixing
Accurate measuring and uniform mixing of adhesive
components is critically important for successful application
of FRP strengthening systems, and manufacturers
recommendations should be strictly observed. The various
FRP manufacturers specify mixing methods and times for
their adhesives.
Depending on the resin supplier and the amount of
material required, various mixing techniques may be used,
including small drill-mounted mixing blades, special mixing
machines, or even hand agitation.
Well-mixed resins should be of uniform colour and free
of air bubbles. Application of the FRP systems must be
completed within the manufacturer specified pot-life of the
resin at the applicable ambient temperature. Pot-lives of
resins under various ambient temperature conditions are
available from FRP strengthening system suppliers.

Pre-cured Laminates and Strip Systems

FRP Preparation: The FRP strip is cut to length using
a high-speed cutting wheel or a fine blade hacksaw.
Some manufacturers have developed special cutting
rigs for this purpose. The strip is cleaned to ensure that
its bonding surface is free of contamination. This is
typically accomplished by wiping it with acetone.
Application: A layer of mixed adhesive, typically
1 mm to 3 mm thick, is applied to both the substrate
(over the area to be bonded) and the FRP strip. Again,
some FRP manufacturers have developed special
systems for adhesive application. The FRP is then
carefully placed in position on the concrete member
and is pressed against its surface using a hard rubber
roller to achieve a void-free bond line with a thickness
of between 2 mm and 3 mm. Excessive adhesive
should be removed before curing.

q FRP Installation
Environmental conditions must be satisfactory for
installation of the FRP system to begin. Precise
specifications in this regard vary from manufacturer to
manufacturer. The ambient temperature should typically not
be less than 4C to 10C, nor above 30C to 55C,
depending on the specific resin system being used. The
surface of the substrate concrete should be free of moisture
and condensation. Exterior installation should be avoided if
rain is expected in the near future.
Several methods are currently available to bond FRP
materials to concrete members. The two most common

Fig. 4-7. Pressing a carbon FRP strip into adhesive

using a small roller (photo courtesy Sika Corp.).
Fabric Systems
FRP Preparation: The fibre fabric (which is delivered
in standard widths, typically between 300 mm and
600 mm) is cut to length using commercial quality
heavy-duty scissors. Blunt scissors and other types of


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

cutting tools can damage the fibres and should not

generally be used.

Fig. 4-10. Application of epoxy putty (light gray) on

areas where fibre fabric is to be bonded (photo
courtesy Vector Construction Group).
Fig. 4-8. Unidirectional carbon fibre fabric sheet,
with paper backing, before installation on concrete

Application: Two slightly different methods exist for

the application of FRP fabric strengthening systems for
concrete, namely wet lay-up and dry lay-up. These two
techniques are similar, however, and consist of the
following steps:


A low viscosity epoxy primer is applied to the concrete,

using a standard paint roller, to seal and strengthen the
concrete surface and to provide the optimal surface for
bonding to the FRP material. The coverage rate and
curing time for the primer should be as per
manufacturer recommendations.

A layer of mixed epoxy resin saturant is applied to the

surface of the concrete member using a brush, roller, or
trowel (again, coverage rates should be in accordance
with recommendations).

Fig. 4-11. Application of epoxy saturant layer on

areas where fibre fabric is to be bonded (photo
courtesy Vector Construction Group).

Fig. 4-9. Roller application of epoxy primer on

areas (dark areas) where fibre fabric is to be
bonded to the underside of a bridge (photo
courtesy Vector Construction Group).

The surface of the concrete is leveled, where necessary,

with a squeegee or trowel using a non-sag epoxy putty.
Any minor voids or surface irregularities should be

The FRP material is bonded to the surface of the

concrete using the wet or dry lay up technique:
Wet Lay-up The fibre fabric is saturated with resin
before being bonded to the concrete. This is typically
accomplished using a paint roller on a clean plastic
drop sheet, or by using a specialized saturating roller
assembly. The saturated FRP sheet is then placed onto
the surface of the concrete and smoothed out by hand
or using a squeegee to ensure intimate contact.
Dry Lay-up Unsaturated (dry) fibre fabric is placed
into the initial layer of saturant applied to the surface of
the member. In some cases, the fibre fabric may have a
paper backing which is removed once the fabric has
been placed against the member. The dry fibres are
pressed into the saturant to impregnate the fibre fabric
with resin.


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

Protective coating
2nd resin coating
Fibre fabric
1st resin coating
Leveling putty

Fig. 4-12. Carbon fibre fabric (black) is pushed into

the saturant layer and impregnated with epoxy
(photo courtesy Vector Construction Group).

Concrete substrate


Fig. 4-14. Layers of materials in a typical lay-up

application of an externally-bonded FRP system.


Air bubbles beneath the surface of the FRP sheet should

be rolled or pressed out by hand.
A second layer of saturant is applied with a roller over
top of the fibre fabric. Full saturation of the fibres is

r Protective Coatings
In some cases, an epoxy coating, decorative elastic
polymer, paint, or fire protective coating may be applied to
the exterior of the FRP strengthening system. This may be
done for aesthetic reasons, to protect the FRP from UV
exposure, or to provide a fire barrier or fire insulation.

s Curing Conditions

Fig. 4-13. A second layer of epoxy saturant is

applied on top of the carbon fibre fabric (photo
courtesy Vector Construction Group).

The process can be repeated for multiple layers of FRP.

If the resin is allowed to cure between installations of
multiple FRP layers, a light sanding of the FRP surface
may be required between applications. Figure 4-14
shows the various layers of materials in a typical lay-up
application of an externally-bonded FRP strengthening
Spacing and Positioning: The primary fibre direction
of the installed FRP system is a key factor influencing
the strengthening systems performance. The specified
design orientations of the FRP sheets should be strictly
observed. Fabric with misaligned fibres should not be
used, or should be removed if fibre misalignment occurs
during or after installation. Fibre misalignments of less
than about 5 can normally be ignored, at the discretion
of the engineer.

Because curing of epoxy resins used in FRP strengthening

applications is a time dependent phenomenon, FRP systems
must be cured for an adequate period of time under
acceptable conditions of temperature and humidity. The
recommendations of the manufacturer should be followed.
While specifications for different FRP strengthening
systems differ somewhat, the temperature during the curing
process must typically be maintained above 4C to 10C for
some specified duration, and condensation or contamination
on the surface of the FRP must be prevented during curing.
In some cases, auxiliary heat sources and temporary
shelters can be used to heat the substrate concrete to allow
installation in colder environments. The ambient relative
humidity (RH) must typically be less than 85%.
Most FRP systems also have specified maximum cure
temperatures, which are typically in the range of 35C to
55C. The reader should note that the pot-life of epoxies
may be significantly reduced at higher ambient
It is important that the FRP not be disturbed during the
early stages of the curing process (typically during the first
24 hours). Common epoxy resins reach their design
strength in about seven days. The temperature and humidity
conditions should be monitored and recorded throughout
the installation and curing process. Research suggests that
typical vibrations and strains due to traffic loads are not a
concern during curing of FRP strengthening applications on
concrete bridges.


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

Many FRP manufacturers have developed specialized
equipment for the installation of their specific FRP
strengthening systems. Specialized items such as mixers,
sprayers, resin impregnators and winding machines are used
in some instances. All workers should be trained in the safe
and effective operation of such equipment prior to use.

of typical QC and QA recommendations (refer to Table 42). Manufacturers should be consulted regarding
requirements for FRP specific systems.
Table 4-2.
Basic Checklist: Quality Control & Quality

Alternative Techniques
Various additional techniques are available, and have been
used, to apply externally-bonded FRP strengthening systems
to reinforced concrete structures. These include (but are not
limited to) near surface mounted (NSM) systems, filament
wound FRP wraps, and UV curing systems. These
techniques are not discussed in detail in the current
document, and the reader is encouraged to consult the
references listed in Section 6 for further information.

FRP systems and materials qualified by the


Engineers, contractors, and site inspectors

appropriately educated and certified in the use
of FRP systems

Inspections conducted regularly by trained

During Installation:
quantities of materials used,
rates of application
environmental conditions
fibre alignment
witness panels
voids and delaminations
cured FRP thickness
bond testing
load testing

Material Qualifications

Fig. 4-15. A fibre saturation machine being used to

impregnate glass FRP sheets with clear epoxy
resin for a wet lay-up FRP strengthening
application (courtesy Sika Corp.).


The performance and durability of externally-bonded FRP
strengthening systems depends to a large extent on the
quality of the materials used and the care taken by the
applicators. Because currently available FRP strengthening
systems often have slightly different installation procedures,
detailed specifications should be developed and followed for
any specific FRP application. It is also important when using
FRP strengthening systems that comprehensive quality
control (QC) and quality assurance (QA) programs be put in
place and observed throughout the installation process. Most
FRP system suppliers and design codes/guidelines provide
similar guidance in this regard. The following is a summary

All FRP materials must be qualified for use based on the

project specifications decided upon by the Engineer. The
FRPs must meet qualifications in terms of mechanical,
physical, and chemical design requirements. While most
FRP suppliers provide detailed information on the
properties of their strengthening systems, qualification tests
are typically performed on the materials by an independent
testing authority to confirm manufacturer-specified physical
and mechanical data. These may include tests to verify:

Tensile strength and elastic modulus;

Strain at failure;
Resin glass transition temperature;
Resin pot-life; and
Bond strength to concrete.

Contractor/Applicator Qualifications
Because significant care is required when FRP
strengthening systems are used, installation of these
systems should only be performed by trained and certified
personnel. Installation specialists who have been trained in
the application and handling of the specific FRP systems
should be used. Training is typically the responsibility of
the FRP suppliers.


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

Inspections and Field Quality Control

Inspections should be carried out before, during, and after
application of the FRP materials, to ensure that the
strengthened structure will perform as desired. Inspections
should be conducted by a trained and certified site engineer.
Items of interest during such inspections will typically
include the presence and extent of delaminations, the
adequacy of resin cure, adhesion, FRP thickness, fibre
alignment, bond properties, and as-installed material
Both the concrete substrate and the FRP materials should be
inspected prior to application. The concrete surface should
be inspected with respect to soundness and adequacy of
surface preparation, as outlined previously. This should
include examinations of the surface roughness, holes, cracks,
protrusions, sharp corners or other imperfections. The FRP
material should be examined to ensure that it meets the
specifications of the Engineer with respect to mechanical
and physical properties. The Engineer must ensure that all
relevant information on the FRP system has been supplied
by the manufacturer or determined through testing.
During Installation
During installation it is important to carefully control and
monitor the quantities of materials being used to ensure
adequate coverage rates for primers, putties, and saturants.
Mixing and installation times, temperatures, and relative
humidities should also be monitored and recorded. A trained
field supervisor should be present at all times. Fibre
directions and alignments should be verified during the
installation process.
Various samples are often taken during application of
FRP strengthening systems. This may include small samples
of the various resins or sample panels of FRP (called witness
panels) that can be tested at a later date to verify as-installed
FRP properties.
The American Concrete Institute (ACI, 2002)
recommends the following items for inclusion in daily
inspections of FRP installations:
Date and time of installation;
Ambient temperature, relative humidity, and general
Surface temperature of concrete;
Surface dryness;
Surface preparation methods and resulting surface
Qualitative description of surface preparation and
Type of auxiliary environmental control, if any;
Widths of existing cracks not repaired by epoxy
Details of the specific FRP materials batch numbers
and locations on the structure;

Batch numbers, mixing ratios, mixing times and

methods, description of appearance of all mixed resins
(primers, putties, saturants, adhesives, topcoats);
Observations on cure of the resins;
As-installed fibre orientations;
Conformance with recommended procedures for
Results of tensile tests performed on FRP witness
panels, where required;
Results of delamination surveys and pull-off tests; and
General progress of the work.

Various tests are typically performed after installation of
FRP strengthening systems to provide assurances that the
systems have been installed properly and that they will be
able to perform as desired over the long term. The
following QC tests are common:

Inspection for voids and delaminations: Once the

resin has undergone its initial hardening (usually within
the first 24 hours after application), a visual and
acoustic tap test inspection should be performed on the
bonded FRP to check for debonded areas, air pockets,
and voids beneath the FRP (Figure 4-16). Various other
inspection techniques, including ultra-sonic inspection
and thermography, are available and may be used if
agreed upon by all parties.
Void and delamination repair: Voids and/or
delaminations detected after installation and cure of the
FRP system should be repaired. The repair technique
used will depend on the size and location of the
delamination and its effects on the structural
performance of the FRP system. The following
recommendations would typically be followed:
Delamination areas < 1300 mm2
These small delaminations do not require corrective
action in most cases, provided that the area of the
delamination is less than 5% of the total bonded area
and that there are not more than 10 such delaminations
per square metre.
Delamination areas > 16000 mm2
Large delaminations should be repaired by selectively
cutting away the affected area of cured FRP sheet,
reapplying primer and leveling putty, and applying an
overlapping patch of FRP sheet that is equivalent to the
removed material.
Delamination areas 1300 mm2 to 16000 mm2
Moderate delaminations can be repaired either by lowpressure injection of resin saturant into the void
beneath the delamination, or using the patching method
described above.


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

The Engineer must provide a detailed written report on

all aspects of the quality control and quality assurance
procedures, tests, and results. Samples of as-installed
materials should be retained by the Engineer.


Fig. 4-16. Tap test for voids and delaminations.

Cured FRP thickness: Small FRP core samples may be

taken from non-critical areas of the installed FRP
systems to measure the as-installed cured thickness of
the FRP strengthening system. The cored areas should
be repaired with FRP patches.
Bond testing: In bond-critical applications it is
common to conduct direct tension bond testing on the
installed FRP system in accordance with applicable test
methods (ACI, 2004). These tests are performed to
verify the adequacy of the FRP-concrete bond, and
should not be conducted until the adhesive has cured for
at least 24 hours. The desired failure mode in these tests
is cohesive failure occurring in the concrete and a
typical minimum substrate tensile strength of 1.4 MPa
to 1.5 MPa is usually required
Load testing: In some cases, FRP-strengthened
structures may be load tested, according to applicable
guidelines, to verify the in-service performance of the
FRP strengthening system. Such testing must be
conducted only by skilled engineers. The advice of an
expert engineer should be sought if load tests are

Epoxy resins used in externally-bonded FRP systems

typically contain potentially harmful chemicals, which may
be classified as corrosive, flammable, or poisonous, and it is
thus important that appropriate health and environmental
safety procedures be followed. Manufacturers should be
consulted in this regard, and Material Safety Data Sheets
should be obtained and reviewed prior to use. When
handling epoxies and their components it is typical to
observe to following safety precautions:

Avoid contact with skin and eyes. Safety glasses,

impermeable gloves, and disposable suits should be
worn at all times while handling uncured FRP systems.
High vapour concentrations resulting from epoxy use
can cause respiratory irritations. Epoxies should only
be handled in well-ventilated areas or approved
respirators should be worn.
Gloves should be worn at all times when handling fibre
fabrics and FRP sheets, since loose fibres can cause
skin irritation.


It is important when using FRP strengthening systems, as
with any repair project, to monitor the in-service
performance of the repaired member. Long-term
inspections and assessments typically include general visual
inspections to identify changes in appearance, debonding,
delamination, cracking, peeling, blistering, etc. In addition,
mechanical testing, which may include pull-off testing or
structural load testing, is commonly performed. In cases
where repair of the FRP strengthening system is required,
the advice of a specialist engineer should be sought to
determine the causes and remedies for the observed

Fig. 4-16. Pull-off bond testing using a specialized

pull-off rig.


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

Section 5

Summary and Conclusions

Fibre reinforced polymers are now recognized as efficient,
effective, and durable materials for use as internal
reinforcement or external strengthening materials for
reinforced concrete structures. However, because these
systems are still relatively new in construction applications,
it is important that engineers, technologists, site inspectors,
and construction workers be educated as to their handling
and application. This module has presented a brief overview
of some of the important considerations and procedures that
should be kept in mind when using FRP reinforcement and
strengthening systems in construction applications with a
goal of fostering awareness in the construction industry. It is
clear that the novelty of these systems necessitates the

observation of specific handling and application

procedures, although none of these are beyond the
capabilities of typical concrete repair engineers,
technologists, or contractors. The discussion has been kept
broad, and the reader is encouraged to consult additional
resources and specific FRP manufacturers for further
information. A comprehensive list of additional references
is presented in the following section. Interested readers are
( for additional information on any of
the topics presented herein. Appendix A provides contact
information for various current FRP reinforcement and
strengthening system manufacturers in North America.

Section 6

References and Additional Guidance

Additional information on the use of FRP materials (and Structural Health Monitoring) in civil engineering applications can
be obtained in various documents also available from ISIS Canada ( Additional educational modules

ISIS Educational Module 1: Mechanics Examples Incorporating FRP Materials

ISIS Educational Module 2: An Introduction to FRP Composites for Construction
ISIS Educational Module 3: An Introduction to FRP Reinforced Concrete
ISIS Educational Module 4: An Introduction to FRP-Strengthening of Concrete Structures
ISIS Educational Module 5: An Introduction to Structural Health Monitoring
ISIS Educational Module 8: Durability of FRP Composites for Construction.

In addition, ISIS Canada has published design manuals for the use of FRP materials. The following design manuals are
relevant to the current module:

ISIS Design Manual No. 2 Guidelines for Structural Health Monitoring

ISIS Design Manual No. 3 Reinforcing Concrete Structures with Fibre Reinforced Polymers
ISIS Design Manual No. 4 Strengthening Reinforced Concrete Structures with Externally-Bonded Fibre Reinforced
ISIS Design Manual No. 5 Prestressing Concrete Structures with Fibre Reinforced Polymers
ISIS Design Manual No. 6 Civionics Specifications
ISIS Canada Specifications for Product Certification of Fibre Reinforced Polymers (FRPs) as Internal Reinforcement in
Concrete Structures

Due to the increasing popularity and use of FRP reinforcements in the concrete construction industry, a number of design
recommendations have recently been produced by various organizations for the design of concrete structures with internal
FRP reinforcement. The following documents can be consulted for additional information, or if design with FRP materials is
being contemplated.


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

General information on FRPs for infrastructure:

Teng, J.G., Chen, J.F., Smith, S.T., and Lam, L. 2002. FRP strengthened concrete structures. Wiley.
Hollaway, L.C., and Head, P.R. 2001. Advanced polymer composites and polymers in the civil infrastructure. Elsevier.

Design codes and guidelines for the use of FRPs with concrete:

CSA 2002. CAN/CSA-S806-02: Design and Construction of Building components with Fibre Reinforced Polymers.
Canadian Standards Association, Ottawa, ON.
CSA 2005. CAN/CSA-S06-05: The Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code (CHBDC). Canadian Standards
Association, Ottawa, ON.
ACI 2004. ACI 440.4R-04: Prestressing Concrete Structures with FRP Tendons. American Concrete Institute,
Farmington Hills, MI.
ACI 2004. ACI 440.3R-04: Guide Test Methods for Fiber-Reinforced Polymers (FRPs) for Reinforcing or Strengthening
Concrete Structures. American Concrete Institute, Farmington Hills, MI.
ACI 2003. ACI 440.1R-03: Guide for the design and construction of concrete reinforced with FRP bars. American
Concrete Institute, Farmington Hills, MI.
ACI 2002. ACI 440.2R-02: Guide for the design and construction of externally bonded FRP systems for strengthening
concrete structures. American Concrete Institute, Farmington Hills, MI.

Additional references used in the current document:

ACI 1996. ACI 546R-96: Concrete Repair Guide, American Concrete Institute, Farmington Hills, MI.
ICRI 2003. ICRI 03730: Guide for Surface Preparation for the Repair of Deteriorated Concrete Resulting From
Reinforcing Steel Corrosion, International Concrete Repair Institute.
ICRI 1997. ICRI 03732: Guideline for Selecting and Specifying Concrete Surface Preparation for Sealers, Coatings, and
Polymer Overlays, International Concrete Repair Institute.

The authors would like to thanks the following individuals and organizations for providing information and photographs for
use in this educational module:

Mr. Garth Fallis, Vector Construction Group

Mr. Dave White, Sika Corporation


ISIS Canada Educational Module No. 6: Application and Handling of FRP Systems for Concrete

North American FRP Suppliers
Additional information on the various currently available FRP materials and systems for reinforcement and strengthening of
concrete, as well as materials and systems for more specialized applications, can be obtained by contacting FRP suppliers.
The following is a list of North American FRP suppliers. Individual suppliers should be consulted prior to any application of
FRP materials, and the individual suppliers may have storage, handling, installation and quality assurance guidelines that
differ somewhat from those described herein. Individual FRP suppliers will also be able to provide information on FRP
applications specialists in the readers area.
Pultrall, ADS Composites Group
1191 Huppe Street
Thetford Mines, Quebec
Canada G6G 7Y6
Phone: 418-335-3202

Hughes Brothers, Inc.

210 N. 13th Street
Seward, NE 68434
Phone: 800-869-0359


Edge Structural Composites, Inc.
145 Park Place
Richmond, CA 94804
Phone: 510-233-8654

Sika Corporation
201 Polito Avenue
Lyndhurst, NJ 07071
Phone: 201-933-8800

Fyfe Co., LLC

Nancy Ridge Technology Center
6310 Nancy Ridge Drive, Suite 103
San Diego, CA 92121
Phone: 858-642-0694

TechFab, LLC
2200 South Murray Avenue
Anderson, SC 29624
Phone: 864-260-3268

Gordon Composites, Inc.

2350 Air Park Way
Montrose CO 81401
Phone: 800-575-5771 or 800-399-0757

Degussa Building Systems

889 Valley Park Drive
Shakopee, MN 55379
Phone: 952-496-6000

Hughes Brothers, Inc.

210 N. 13th Street
Seward, NE 68434
Phone: 800-869-0359