Worker Cutting Insulated Concrete Form for House Construction
Worker Cutting Insulated Concrete Form for House Construction

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Using Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF)?


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The construction industry has gotten a slew of technological developments in recent years, such as effective subcontractor scheduling software, new and sustainable materials, automated machinery, and prefabricated buildings.

Concrete is among the many trades that are continuously advancing. It’s gotten a plethora of complex developments like brick-laying robots. However, there are also other simpler yet beneficial advancements like insulated concrete forms.

, or ICFs, are for cast-in-place reinforced concrete walls. It is a system made up of expanded polystyrene (EPS) rigid insulation blocks that plastic webbing separates.

These forms are used in place of traditional plywood or plank forms for pouring concrete walls. The H-shaped structure allows two concrete walls to be cast between insulation layers while allowing open air.

Finishes like siding or drywall are then attached to fastener strips in the insulation. The forms are permanently left in place for thermal and acoustic insulation, space for plumbing and wiring, and gypsum boards backing inside and other sidings (stucco or brick) outside.

ICFs have been in use since the 1940s and 1950s in the form of treated wood. But many manufactures today have improved on this old system.

The Pros Of Using Insulated Concrete Forms


1. Stronger walls

Arguably, ICFs’ most notable advantage is the improved structural integrity from using a foundational reinforced concrete wall.

The hardened concrete around the ICF strengthens the wall and reduces the vulnerability to horizontal and vertical forces. Depending on the kind of frame the ICF is (grid or flat), the wall can even be stronger with the inner connectors’ frequency and rigidity.

2. Conserves energy and improves air quality

One of the most appealing and impressive characteristics insulated concrete forms have is their ability to significantly reduce a building’s heating and cooling costs. Compared to compatible window and door frames, ICF walls are denser and tighter. Because they are not as porous, less air will be able to move through them. They can store heat in the winter and release that heat in the summer, saving about 20% of energy costs.

For that reason also, the air quality will improve. If the ICFs have a 100-year lifespan and no degradation, one house with ICF walls could save around 110 tons of carbon dioxide.

3. Stabilizes temperature and reduces sound

With layers of materials, ICFs can serve as sound barriers for the interior of the building from outside noises. Furthermore, in concrete, when a huge material combines with a light one (foam), shifts in sound, temperature, and air filtration are significantly reduced. 

The insulating foam from an ICF wall helps in stabilizing temperatures, eliminating cold spots from frame walls between insulation gaps and around the studs. 

4. Cost-efficient in terms of materials

With an effective tool for project planning and the integration of insulated concrete forms into walls and other parts of the construction process, the project would require about 10% less concrete to set walls and foundations.

When delivered to project sites, ICFs often come as pre-assembled straight-form blocks. According to Green Garage, this removes a few inches of thickness, which can sometimes increase savings on materials and expenses by about 25%.

5. Improved concrete curing time

ICFs can boost curing time by up to 25%. This allows you time to reinforce the structure, an ability most building methods don’t offer.

6. Protects concrete while it cures

ICFs protect the concrete while it cures, which decreases the risk of air bubbles forming and other faults straight-line forms present. Consequently, those problems will incur future issues that will need costly repairs.

7. Less setup time

Insulated concrete forms also benefit construction scheduling. On top of a quicker curing time, workers can create durable, sturdy, and reliable frames for concrete in a fraction of time straight-forms would need.

The crew can finish the building and set processes in one afternoon once the forms are fully stacked.

8. Allows you to install plumbing and wiring

Insulated concrete forms give workers the ability to install plumbing and wiring systems. They can cut grooves in the foam so they can emplace necessary components.

As with conventional structures, the wires or pipes can go through the segment. To seal up any leaks, you can use spray foam insulation. Then shore up the installation with flashing, caulking, or weatherproofing.

Plus, the crawl space can become a functioning area as airflow continues, giving the building occupants access to modern amenities.

Construction crew management will also be easier because the plumbing or wiring team can collaborate with the other workers to produce better and quicker results.

9. You can still use rebar

When the forms are set in place, you can insert rebar reinforcements for the concrete pour. By doing this, you get to take advantage of the reinforcement’s strength and the ICF system’s time benefits.

Since each form interlocks with one another, you can easily stack them in whatever shape needed. Plus, there is a remarkable degree of shock resistance because the forms hold the concrete in place with just bracing assistance from the outside.

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