Tensile Force

What is Tensile Force?

Definition of Tensile Force in Construction

Structural force that pulls apart two opposing members. To place something in tension is to basically pull on the member. Concrete is not good, structurally, under tension, steel is. Tension is a very difficult force to engineer for. Unpredictable tensile forces occur in many cases, due to either a storm or a significant failure of another structural system. A storm, earthquake, hurricane, tornado can apply severe tensile stresses on a structural member. The application of tension to a member causes the member to either bend or separate, which upon this flexing and yielding, applies even more difficult stresses on the member. Tensile force is one of the prime reasons for failures within a structure. It is a very rare occurrence that a compressive force causes failure, even if the structure is over loaded with snow for example, it is usually the compression that causes the initial component to failure, however the majority of secondary failures are due to tensile force causing an overly stressed member. Steel is excellent under a tensile force and concrete is not. This is the reason for the location of reinforcing steel within steel reinforced concrete components. The structural engineer will position the reinforcing steel in the areas of the most tensile stresses, this is normally at the bottom of a footing or on the top of a reinforced slab over a column. By studying the forces that will be incurred, once the structural component is loaded by the dead and live loads of the structure, the engineer will determine which part of the component will be under compressive force, tensile force or bending force. The reinforcing steel and the placement of the steel, together with the details of all the reinforcing bar connections, will be documented on the contract documents for construction.