3 Pros and Cons of Using Insulated Concrete Forms

Insulated concrete forms

Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) were designed and popularized back in the 1940s and ’50s, but they’re just as helpful today as they were more than 50 years ago. Today’s insulated concrete forms are H-shaped structures made using sturdy materials that allow two concrete walls to be cased between layers of insulation.

The shape of the forms maintains an air channel between the two walls, and the finish looks just like that associated with typical concrete construction.

Though ICFs have become very popular among today’s contractors, they’re not a good fit for every application. Contractors who aren’t yet familiar with this technology can read on to find out about three pros and cons of using ICFs instead of traditional, temporary concrete forms.

Worker cutting insulated foam for concrete form

The Pros of ICFs

Wondering why so many contractors have been learning how to use ICFs? Here are just a few of the most compelling reasons.

1. Stronger Walls

ICFs act as a Permanent Concrete Formwork. The concrete hardens around the forms, reinforcing the wall and reducing the building’s vulnerability to horizontal and vertical forces. Contractors can also add even more strength to their walls by increasing the frequency and rigidity of the connectors that hold the two sections of concrete together.

2. Improved Energy-Efficiency

ICF walls are far more energy-efficient than traditional concrete. The added insulation and tighter building envelopes around ICFs allow building owners to reduce their carbon footprints and save up to 20% on their energy bills.

3. Sound Reduction

ICFs don’t just help to maintain temperature stability. The added insulation and air cavities allow these wall systems to act as sound barriers, as well. Combining a heavy material like concrete with a much lighter one, such as foam insulation, offers a dramatic reduction in sound.

Far less sound can penetrate ICFs as would be able to bridge a standard wood-framed wall or even a non-insulated concrete wall of the same thickness.

The Cons of ICFs

There are few things in this life that come with lots of benefits and absolutely no drawbacks. ICFs don’t fall into that small category. Though they are incredibly useful, they still come with a few problems.

1. They’re Less Effective in Cold Climates

ICFs are much more effective at regulating building temperatures in warmer climates. If the exterior temperatures drop too low, it can affect the concrete’s curing process and reduce the final product’s effectiveness when it comes to temperature regulation. The best use for ICFs is buildings in tropical climates that need to stay cool during the day and warm at night.

2. ICFs Are Not Always Cheaper

Using ICFs may cut down on material costs, but they don’t always reduce the price of the project. The problem is that ICFs require more specialized labor during the construction process. If there are few contractors in the area with knowledge of the process, increased labor costs can make up for the cost savings from reduced material use.

3. It’s Not Always Possible to Incorporate Rebar

ICF walls are only stronger than traditional concrete if they also feature rebar reinforcement. Unfortunately, not all ICFs are designed to accommodate reinforced concrete. Some newer models include plastic connectors, which leave little space for rebar.

INsulated concrete forms piled up on construction site

Learn More Today

Interested in learning more about ICFs and their many uses? The best thing to do is to contact a reputable formwork manufacturer who can offer professional advice.

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