A: Historically, fiberglass, whatever the product or the part is—is 1 to 1.5 times more expensive than its counterpart, say in steel. What you get with that is a product that’s going to last a lot longer because your product life cycle is a lot longer.
The Justification For FRP Cost Is Solid
When it comes to materials for industrial and structural design, fiberglass has an advantage over traditional materials in many ways. Material choices always play a crucial role when planning and executing a construction project. The materials you choose have to take into consideration the usage of the structure being built. Additionally, the environment where the structure is to be used is of critical importance as well.
For example, the material choices for a stairway and platform used in a waterpark will have to consider the wet environment. Conversely, the same structure to be used in an oil refinery will have to consider the corrosives and heat. The environmental conditions a structure will have to endure is a key deciding factor in which materials to use.
Throughout history, there have usually been just three mainstream options when it comes to structural construction materials—aluminum, wood, and steel.
However, steel and aluminum are increasing in cost due to economics and tariff wars—not to mention they’re not long-lasting. Wood is a less expensive option, but then again—it is the least durable of all. With those options, their limitations and their cost, many business owners want a better option—FRP is the solution.
Fiberglass reinforced plastics (FRP), are indeed initially more expensive than traditional materials. However, it offers huge advantages over these materials and has a lower overall cost of ownership and many other benefits.
Wood and aluminum offer the least amount of strength and durability as well as being susceptible to harsh environments. Therefore, we won’t even consider them in comparing FRP cost and traits to traditional materials. In fact, when we speak of traditional materials, we are specifically referencing steel. That is because steel is the most often used of traditional materials. It makes sense, given that steel is stronger, more durable and impact-resistant than wood and aluminum. However, steel cannot begin to compare to the benefits and performance of fiberglass grating.
FRP Cost And Traits Vs. Steel
This may come as a shock to some but, compared to steel, FRP is equal or better in strength. Many hear the word “plastics” and can’t fathom it being as strong as steel or better. However, because of fiberglass grating being greater in flexibility—it has a higher resistance to impact than steel. Steel, because it is so rigid offers no flexure, therefore, it can dent with significant impact. You don’t have any concern with FRP and impacts—it has no effect whatsoever. All of this strength while weighing only a fraction of what steel, which reduced installation and shipping costs. When you leverage that against FRP cost—fiberglass ends up being the better value.
Workplace accidents happen in all companies, no matter the size or the environment—it’s bound to happen. However, industrial environments by far, lead the types of workplaces where the risk of accidents is highest. Factories, chemical plants, oil rigs, and other such environments pose many risks an office environment doesn’t have.
Out of the top ten code compliance violations, OSHA lists structural, construction and fall protection as the most common. Of course, businesses don’t purposely try to fail to comply with standards. Typically, the issue is improper structural design and/or poor material choices. For example, choosing to use steel grating in an electrical room poses a greater risk of electrical shock than wood.
With FRP, you don’t worry about structural integrity, durability, shock hazard, or corrosion. It just doesn’t happen if assembled properly. FRP, in stark contrast to steel, does not conduct electricity, does not breakdown from corrosives, and actually bolsters safety.
Another risk of injury not often thought about is back injuries with steel grating. Since steel has little flexure, workers consistently walk on a very rigid service. Over time, that rigid response to foot traffic increases fatigue, lowers productivity, and causes more back pain. FRP flexes with foot traffic offering a much softer response and increased comfort for workers.
Corrosion is an area where FRP cost can also be justified, as it’s the greatest advantage over steel. Steel is very susceptible to corrosion even without water. Steel can corrode from particles in the air such as salt or acids. This translates into a very limited duty life in highly corrosive environments such as oil refineries. Fiberglass grating simply does not corrode and therefore has a much longer duty life than steel. In fact, it can handle direct exposure to acids, saline liquids, oil, blood, and many other common corrosives.
In harsh environments, even steel would have a very short life. However, despite FRP cost, it can last well up to 20 years in the same environments. This, in turn, gives you a higher return on your investment which leverages the initial higher cost of FRP. While steel is a little less expensive upfront that cost is only for the material itself, not installation costs. Installation is where the overall cost of steel skyrockets.
Steel is very heavy and requires many special machines to move and assemble steel structures. Additionally, many workplaces must reinforce the concrete foundations to support that weight. Then, you also factor in the shipping weight and costs—the cost keeps going up.
FRP is lightweight, requires only basic tools to assemble, and can be assembled on-site with no extra costs. Also, shipping your FRP products is incredibly less expensive than steel due to it weighing only a fraction of steel. When you consider that it is not only lighter, stronger, and easier to assemble than steel—you re-think steel altogether. It truly is the smarter, less expensive, and longer-lasting investment even though initial FRP cost is more.
How Does Fiberglass Offset FRP Cost?
The reason fiberglass grating and its performance is such a shock to people is due to the word “plastic.” Fiberglass reinforced plastics is a broad term that covers a variety of plastic resins strengthened with glass fibers. When you think of glass, you also think of shattering, breaking glass and fragility—it’s understandable. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the traits of fiberglass are what directly offset higher initial FRP cost.
Here’s where FRP gets pretty fascinating the glass makes the plastic stronger, while the plastic makes the glass unbreakable. When those two components are combined, they create a finished product that is both strong and extremely light and durable. Fiberglass grating and FRP was introduced to the industrial world in the 1930s. Since then, FRP has become a reliable staple in structural engineering, especially in harsh environments. Workplaces in industrial sectors such as marine and offshore oil drilling enjoy increased safety and better ROI. Since FRP stands up to anything for decades, many companies are making the switch as soon as they can.
What Is FRP Made Of?
FRP’s unique resistance to corrosion is due to the nature of how and what it is made of. In simpler terms, FRP is plastic resin poured over and around glass fibers. Think of it as a modern version of adobe bricks—only much more advanced and stronger. Due to its unique composition, FRP and fiberglass grating offer businesses great savings.
Companies that switch to fiberglass grating and other FRP products do so because makes sense across the board. It’s less expensive after factoring installation and maintenance costs and has a much longer lifecycle. Throw in its amazing longevity in harsh environments and it’s no wonder it is so popular with forward-thinking businesses.
Fiberglass Is Perfect For Your Business
FRP is a versatile, low cost, low maintenance and resilient material that outperforms wood, steel or aluminum in all categories. The ROI and longevity of fiberglass grating, structures, and industrial shapes are driving the shift to FRP.
Contact one of our consultants today to see how DEFI fiberglass products can help your business. We can help you cut down on accidents, operational overhead, and facilities maintenance today!