What are the Pros and Cons of Insulating Concrete Formwork?

What are the Pros and Cons of Insulating Concrete Formwork?

What is Insulating Concrete Formwork?

Insulated Concrete Formwork (ICF) is a system of formwork (molds) for concrete that uses Styrofoam or other insulation foam panels to hold the concrete in place until it sets. The panels are usually about 2 inches thick and are made to interlock.

The panels are then filled with concrete, and the resulting structure is an insulated wall.

Insulating concrete formwork is a construction process that utilizes insulation panels to form a thermal barrier between the concrete and the environment.

This results in a decrease in the amount of heat that is transferred between the two, which leads to a decrease in the amount of energy that is needed to maintain a consistent temperature.

One of the main advantages of using ICF is that it is very energy efficient. The insulation in the formwork helps to keep the concrete warm, which in turn helps the concrete to set faster.

ICF can also help to reduce noise levels, and it can be used to create curved shapes that would be difficult or impossible to create with traditional forms.

There are a few disadvantages to using ICF. The forms can be more expensive than traditional forms, and they can be more difficult to work with. Additionally, the insulation can add weight to the structure, which may need to be taken into account during the design process.

Insulating concrete forms are manufactured from any of the following materials:

  • Polystyrene foam (most commonly expanded or extruded)
  • Polyurethane foam (including soy-based foam)[3]
  • Cement-bonded wood fiber
  • Cement-bonded polystyrene beads
  • Cellular concrete

Reinforcing steel bars (rebar) are usually placed inside the forms before concrete is poured to give the concrete flexural strength, similar to bridges and high-rise buildings made of reinforced concrete.

Like other concrete formwork, the forms are filled with concrete in 1-foot to 4-foot high “lifts” to manage the concrete pressure and reduce the risk of blowouts.

After the concrete has cured, the forms are left in place permanently to provide a variety of benefits, depending on materials used:

  • Thermal insulation
  • Soundproofing
  • Good surface burning characteristics rating
  • Space to run electrical conduit and plumbing. The form material on either side of the walls can easily accommodate electrical and plumbing installations.
  • Backing for drywall or other finishes on the interior and stucco, brick, or other siding on the exterior
  • Improved indoor air quality
  • Regulated humidity levels and mitigated mold growth (hygric buffer)

What are the Pros and Cons of Insulating Concrete Formwork?

Pros of Insulating Concrete Formwork

1. Thermal insulation:

The ICF systems save up to 50% of the energy required for heating and cooling. Insulation materials are effective in keeping heat from moving from inside the building to outside, which can improve comfort substantially and promote energy savings because the inside temperature remains more stable than would otherwise be possible.

2. Structure:

ICF walls can be used as incredible load-bearing structures in multi-storied buildings or homes, which will help you to complete your structure without external reinforcements. It helps in creating an edifice of massive load bearing capacity.

3. Durability:

Built with high-strength concrete, this product is highly durable and reliable. This is a durable option to protect your home from natural disasters like fire, storm and earthquake.

4. Waterproofing:

The exterior walls of ICF are highly waterproof which prevent any leakage of the water into the house. It helps in keeping the house free from dampness, mildew and corrosion of the structure.

5. Noise Reduction:

You can reduce noise pollution considerably by using this product. It is a best option for you if you wish to have a peaceful stay in your house. It prevents the noise from entering the house and keeps it isolated from the outside world.

6.  Environmental sensitivity:

These walls can be made out of recycled materials that can minimize the environmental impact of the building.

7. Novelty:

ICF is innovative and unique, which makes it more popular among house builders. It is non-toxic and environment friendly. If a home is made up of ICF, then you can be sure to get rid of almost all dust allergies and other health-related issues.

Insulating Concrete forms are the most eco-friendly construction method and therefore they may be a more economical option than the alternative, especially if energy prices continue to rise

8. Regulated humidity levels and mitigated mold growth:

Insulating concrete form walls can maintain the level of humidity within the structure’s interior. They allow a stable temperature range and can reduce the accumulation of dampness inside your home, which can be detrimental to your health and well-being.

9. Energy efficiency:

The construction technique used in ICF construction makes the building resistant to heat loss in both summer and winter climates. Insulating concrete form walls use less energy than framing, stucco or wood construction methods, thus reducing your power bills significantly.

10. Indoor air quality:

ICF walls allow steady air circulation and prevent the formation of mold and other allergens, which can cause irritation in your eyes, nose or skin. They have a very low carbon footprint, making them suitable for residential or commercial construction purposes.

12. Lightweight

Insulating concrete forms are made with lighter weight materials than traditional framing methods, thus requiring less concrete to build the same amount of wall. This allows you to build more volume with less gravel and other resources on-site during construction.

Cons of Insulating Concrete Formwork

1. Could Be More Costly:

Insulating concrete formwork is somewhat expensive than traditional framing methods.

2. Difficult to Keep Clean:

It can be difficult to clean insulating concrete forms, compared to traditional framing materials. Water seeps into the joints, and the dust and dirt in your house can stick easily to the surface of exterior walls made of ICF.

3.  Hidden Costs:

Insulating concrete form walls have a number of hidden costs associated with them, most of which are unappreciated and overlooked by the architects, builders and homeowners who use this construction method. They can be very difficult to maintain, requiring a tremendous amount of time to clean and protect against moisture and mold growth.

4. Indoor humidity problems:

The composite of ICF walls can in theory maintain the level of humidity within the structure’s interior, as it allows a stable temperature range. The problem is that these walls have high interior humidity levels are very high.

This problem persist as the construction progresses while the concrete hardens.  This means that due to the inside air pressure, which is nearly constant and not equalized by outward humidity pressure, moisture have different curing rates. You might utilize an air conditioner or dehumidifier to deal with this difficulty

5.  Insulated concrete forms don’t work well in cold climates:

If you are building an insulated concrete form home in cold climate, then it might not work as expected. In rare cases you can use a de-humidifier, but in most of the cases this product fails to work as expected.

6. ICF systems require a bracing process as part of the build :

The procedure of bracing order in the walls is necessary to stop movement, especially wall bending. For this reason, insulated concrete forms cannot be used on new construction sites.

7. It can reduce the amount of floor space inside of the structure:

When building insulated concrete form walls, the available space inside and outside of the house can be significantly reduced in certain cases, and this area is usually used for storing goods like furniture, toys etc. This factor can reduce the value and function of your home.

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