In the past decade, the construction industry has seen a slew of technological advancements that have changed the way we build. The future of construction is promising from new and sustainable materials, automated machinery, and prefabricated buildings. Among one of the trades that’s continually adopting new technologies is concrete. Thus, enter advancements to make this type of construction simpler: insulated concrete forms. Keep reading to learn more about ICF applications in concrete construction, including its benefits and disadvantages.
What are Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs)?
Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) are cast-in-place reinforced concrete walls. These premade panels assemble like legos or interlocking blocks. They’re made of expanded polystyrene rigid insulation blocks separated by plastic webbings.
ICFs are used in place of traditional plywood or plank forms for pouring concrete walls. Their signature H-shape allows the casting of two concrete walls between insulation layers while allowing open air. Construction builders have been using them since the 1940s and. ICFs continue to receive innovative updates for materials and weights they can handle.
Benefits of ICF in Construction
When it comes to the pros of using insulated concrete forms in all sorts of constructions, the benefits are extensive.
- Stronger walls: arguably the most notable benefit is the better structural integrity from using a foundational ICF wall that reduces the vulnerability to horizontal and vertical forces.
- Energy efficiency: one of the most appealing characteristics, particularly for homeowners, is the ability of ICFs to reduce a building’s heating and cooling cost. Estimates say they can save about 20% of energy costs.
- Sound reduction: because you get a sandwich of materials with ICF construction, you create a sound barrier that protects the house’s interior from outdoor noises. Walls with ICFs only allow for one-eight the amount of sound that penetrates, compared to a wood frame wall.
Disadvantages of ICF in Construction
Of course, there isn’t such a thing as the perfect construction material – yet. Beyond all the advantages of ICF in construction, there are some cons to using insulated concrete forms.
- Doesn’t work well in low temperatures: While ICF walls serve as insulators of heat and cold exterior temperatures, their main use is to transfer heat out of the structure. Overall, ICF panels work better in more tropical climates.
- It makes future remodeling more challenging: designing buildings with ICFs requires extra care and detail since you can’t add fixtures without cutting through the concrete wall. Attempting future remodelings involves a complex process that requires specialized laboring.
- More expensive to install: while you could save money on material costs, you’re likely to spend more money on labor. ICFs require specialized labor that costs about 40% more than conventional methods.
As with any construction material, there are pros and cons to working with insulated concrete forms. Once you get familiar with handling ICFs, you’ll benefit from its advantages and complete construction projects much faster than with other conventional materials. ICFs are becoming more popular for constructors and homeowners alike, from ease and speed of construction to energy efficiency and resilience.
Geraldine Orentas is a writer from Happy Writers, Co. in partnership with steel distributor FedSteel.