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How to strengthen the structure of a building

Last modified: 2020-02-27 | Approximate reading time 4 mins

If the foundation or structure of your home was constructed years ago, it is possible that either are coming close to the end of their planned lifetime. Deterioration in the structure of your home can happen in the form of steel corrosion, cracking concrete, as well as spalling. As a result, your home may be left in a state where it needs a structural evaluation so that you can take the necessary steps to mend the problems!

You may be faced with the challenge of evaluating and implementing effective methods to deal with the structural damage of your home. Unfortunately, there isn’t just one solution to taking this on. The process to fix structural damage may be complicated, but to avoid danger and further issues, it must be dealt with. If you’re ready to put in the work, read further!

Here's how to strengthen the structure of your home!

Structural repair versus strengthening

Structural repair on a

source: Pixabay

When referring to repairing a building, you will often come across the terms structural repair and strengthening. Although these 2 terms may sound similar, they refer to different concepts. If your home needs structural repair, then this describes the process of reconstructing and renewing the structural elements of your home. This process will involve figuring out what is causing the distress to your home, and finding the appropriate materials and methods to extend your home’s life.

Strengthening will refer to the process of upgrading the structural system of your home, as this will work to improve performance under existing loads and increase the amount of weight that your home is able to support. Often, this will involve an engineer, as your home’s structural elements will need to be carefully monitored so that they carry additional loads.

Further, strengthening or removing parts of your home’s structural elements is incredibly risky. Your home’s structure must be understood and analyzed carefully to determine how these repairs influence the total structure. Without the correct understanding of the structure of your home, pieces may be left with additional stress, and thus, can lead to an even bigger problem such as localized failure. 

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Concrete Repair

Although concrete is an incredibly durable material, homes with foundations constructed using concrete have a finite life. Depending on the climate of your home’s location, along with exposure to harsh chemicals including de-icing salts and cleaners, the concrete in your foundation may deteriorate faster. This will occur in many forms, including steel corrosion, concrete spalls, delamination as well as cracks.

Often, concrete expands due to the elements of the outdoors, creating rust, and this expansion creates an internal pressure that will cause the concrete to crack. If this is not discovered at an early enough stage, the corrosion or cracking will grow rapidly and can lead to more serious problems as well as danger within the home.

Further, your home will need to be repaired or upgraded to allow for a higher load-bearing capacity. Structural strengthening could be necessary for many reasons including environmental effects, increase in the service loads as well as design or construction errors. Before you can begin the repairs, it is recommended that you look for a concrete-repair expert to determine the root cause of the problem. This is a crucial step, as often the repair is not correctly looked after, and you may end up having to repair the repair.

Methods to strengthen the structure of your home


source: Pixabay

Upgrading the structural elements of concrete can be achieved by way of various things, including span shortening, external composites externally bonded steel and post-tensioning systems or a combination of these methods. We are going to break down these methods for you to decide which might be best for your home. 

Span shortening

This method of structural strengthening is accomplished when additional support is installed underneath the existing support structure. Cast-in-place reinforced concrete, as well as steel, are appropriate materials to use for span shortening. This method is simple to implement and install. Depending on the placement of the span shortening, you may lose headroom inside of your home. However, if there is serious structural damage, this should be the least of your worries. 


Fibre reinforced polymer, or FRP, systems are high-strength and lightweight. These systems come in the form of sheets, thin laminates as well as bars that are bonded to concrete pieces. This helps to increase the amount of weight they can bear. These systems have been used in automotive and aviation equipment, though they are now moving into the home structural upgrade territory.

These systems are also extremely easy to install and are appealing because of their low cost and aesthetic variety. However, the bond between the existing structure and the new composite is paramount to its future performance. Alongside the FRP, steel reinforced polymer compositors, or SRPs, can be used. This steel-based strengthening system can be applied using epoxy or cement-like materials. 

Bonded steel

This method involves steel elements being bonded to concrete surfaces by way of a two-component epoxy adhesive. Bonded steel comes in a variety of forms, including steel plates, channels or angles. These are generally used in tandem with other systems, acting as an extra layer of reinforcement. For example, using an FRP system alongside bonded steel will strengthen the existing structure of your home. 

External post-tensioning

Post-tensioning systems have been around for a while, so this method is tried and tested. This system works by way of post-tensioned (stressed) cables that resist weight. This method is often used because it is both economical and effective in correcting structural defects as well as cracking in beams and concrete slabs. Steel rods are connected to the structure at specific anchor points, which are typically located at the end of structural beams. This method will need to be used alongside epoxy, which has been injected into any of the cracks prior to installing these steel cables. 

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