Poured-concrete foundation walls have been the industry standard for residential homes in the U.S. for more than 100 years. But that could change with the introduction of patented Epitome composite foundation walls from Composite Panel Systems (CPS, Eagle River, Wis.). The wall system is fabricated by Fiber-Tech Industries Inc. (Cadillac, Mich.), using fire-retardant Modar resin supplied by Ashland Performance Materials (Dublin, Ohio). CPS launched the composite foundation solution during the American Institute of Architects (AIA, Washington, D.C.) Convention and Expo in Chicago, Ill. (June 26-28), where the composites industry had a significant presence in the Expo’s Composites Pavilion.
The foundation wall concept consists of a foam-cored fiberglass composite panel (7 inch/178 mm thick, 24 ft/7.4m long and 9 ft/2.8m tall) with integral cavities for structural studs and mechanical installation. Shaped connection flanges on each panel enable attachment of adjacent panels. Currently approved for use in Wisconsin, the wall system is on track for compliance on the national level with the International Code Council’s (ICC) International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC) by October of this year, says the company. Installation is reportedly fast, simple and requires minimal training for anyone already skilled in the building trades. The lightweight panels for a complete basement can be delivered in one trip, and typical installations take less than two hours. Walls include integral top plates and vapor barriers that decrease moisture and mold issues common with conventional foundations, reportedly offering occupants a warmer, drier, more energy-efficient and ready-to-finish basement. Plus, the 9-ft walls are taller than typical foundation walls, permitting higher finished ceilings.
“Because there are so many benefits associated with our foundation walls for builders and homeowners alike, we believe this is the most exciting thing the residential building industry has seen since the introduction of plywood,” says Glenn Schiffmann, founder and president of CPS. “Composites offer incredible performance, and having gained the trust of engineers in aviation many years ago, we knew we could develop a better-performing system for basements as an alternative to concrete.”
Epitome’s inherent R-16.5 insulation value and an airtight transition between the home’s ground floor and foundation combine to offer energy efficiency far greater than concrete foundations. The panels also pass the NFPA 286 room corner burn test and, therefore, do not require thermal barriers, such as gypsum drywall, prior to occupancy. This allows homeowners the opportunity to finish their lower level at their leisure and save money upfront.
“The composite technology is designed to withstand six times a sand backfill load, and can be installed in any soil type suitable for backfilling,” adds Andy Beer, global business leader, Ashland Performance Materials. “Each 24-ft section of foundation panel can withstand 600,000 lb of downward force resulting in a maximum allowable house load of 8,900 lb per linear ft after the safety factor is applied.”