Abstract Extensive processing cycles associated with brittle composites such as carbon/carbon result in a number of anomalies within the final product that influence its material and mechanical response. In order to understand and predict their response, potential defect parameters such as debonds, voids and misalignment of textile architecture under various loads must be addressed. First, these parameters are identified and statistically quantified by means of scanning electron microscopy and image processing techniques and they are then built into unit cell numerical models to reflect their impact on the stress/strain response of the lamina. Thorough material testing is undertaken in order to evaluate laminate moduli and tensile, compressive, shear and interlaminar tension strength values. Continuous microscopical inspection is performed to identify any changes in defects associated with loading.