How Tariffs Affect the FRP vs. Steel Debate

Bedford was recently featured in a U.S. News & World Report article on businesses benefiting from the trade war with China. As tariffs push steel prices higher, companies are turning to FRP as a cost-competitive choice.

The cost benefit paired with inherent benefits FRP offers, make it an excellent solution in place of steel for any project where corrosion may be an issue.

FRP vs. steel

Let's compare, specifically, how pultruded GFRP stacks up against A 709 grade 50 steel. Both offer rot and insect resistance, however steel is subject to oxidation and corrosion and requires painting or galvanizing for many applications. FRP weighs 75 percent less than steel. Steel can permanently deform under impact, however, the glass mat in pultruded parts distributes impact load to prevent surface damage, even in subzero temperatures.

Additionally, FRP is nonconductive, with high dielectric capability, and a good insulator with low thermal conductivity.

Pound for pound, FRP is often stronger than steel in the lengthwise direction, but it’s important to consider the numbers.

PropertyFRP Composites Pultruded GFRPSteel A 709 Grade 50
Density (lb/ft3) 107-120490
Tensile Strength (psi)30,000 (LW)7,000 (CW)65,000
Tensile Modulus (x 106 psi)2.8 (LW)1 (CW)30
Flexural Strength (psi)30,000 (LW)10,000 (CW)65,000
Flexural Modulus (x 106 psi) 1.8 (LW)0.8 (CW)30

Steel has a lower initial material cost, but factoring in recent tariffs, installation and maintenance costs and product life, FRP is clearly a cost-competitive option. See how FRP stacks up to other traditional materials on our page, How FRP Compares.

If you’d like to talk with someone regarding FRP as a potential solution for your project, give us a call at 800-377-3280.