May 26, 2022

Insulated Concrete Forms—An Innovative Building Technique

In this episode of NS Podcast, I delve into ICFs—insulated concrete forms. Admittedly, I don't have any personal experience with using them, but I recently walked through my friend Jay's project and was intrigued by how ICFs work and the benefits of using them. I'm always on the lookout for creative solutions to building challenges and how to meet a homeowner's specific requests. Here’s what I learned.

THE BENEFITS OF USING INSULATED CONCRETE FORMS

Insulated concrete forms have gained ground in popularity in the building industry. More homeowners are requesting them as they seek innovative building techniques that ensure superior thermal comfort, energy savings, and sound mitigation. ICFs are lightweight, relatively easy to assemble with a little training, and go together much like Legos. They can be used below and above grade for walls. They are virtually airtight, creating a natural vapor barrier—which means healthier air quality by essentially eliminating moisture and mold intrusion. And the foam blocks can be cut to size—thereby reducing product waste. 

The ICF foam blocks provide insulation, but they are also the formwork of the concrete wall. As you add block layers, you use strong wire clips to secure the blocks together. Then you add rebar horizontally and vertically per code, brace appropriately, and then pour concrete. The blocks stay in place—no need for the concrete contractor to come back and remove forms and break off rebar ties. 

Here's another benefit to using ICFs for foundation walls. The interior walls of your basement are now foam blocks—with embedded plastic webbing or fastening strips. The webbing acts as a backer for screwing drywall right to it. The same webbing is used for attaching exterior siding.   

ICFs are like any product on the market—there are advantages and disadvantages, supporters and haters, and you'll need to invest some time in product research. Once armed with that knowledge, you'll be better positioned to decide whether or not ICFs are going to meet the needs, goals, and budget of you and your client.  

ADVANCE PLANNING IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge advocate for advance planning for any and every project. No detail should be left to chance or overlooked. Why? Because a focused approach in all stages of planning will net the highest level of execution—which is what NS Builders is all about. 

When it comes to using ICFs, here are two things to keep in mind: 

  1. Plan ahead for all door and window openings and mechanical cavities, especially if the whole envelope of the home is going to be concrete. 
  2. Use an experienced, certified ICF installer. ICFs may look like giant white Legos, but they're not. It takes training to expertly form a wall, correctly use the clips for securing the individual blocks and the layers together, know where and how to brace and keep the wall straight, and schedule multiple concrete pours according to the wall height. 

Whether it's ICFs or some other innovation in our industry, it’s best to keep an open mind. My goal is to embrace innovation, be firmly on the side of cutting-edge technology, find ways to meet and exceed code, and never stop learning. 

It's time to discover what NS Builders can intentionally design and build for you! Contact us today to get started on your custom dream home. Together, we can make it happen. 

—Nick Schiffer

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