What Are Insulated Concrete Forms?
What are Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF)?
Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs) give you all the benefits that have made concrete the material of choice for home building worldwide: Solid, lasting construction that resists the ravages of fire, wind, and Father Time. But ICFs do plain concrete one better – or rather, two better – by giving you two built-in layers of foam insulation.
This gives an ICF home some sizable advantages over an ordinary stick-built home. Greater energy efficiency. More peace & quiet. More sheer day-to-day living comfort. All wrapped up in a solid, high-quality building package that gives an ICF home an utterly remarkable feel that really has to be experienced to be believed. As soon as you step inside, you can tell that an ICF home is not an ordinary house. It’s not just beautiful, comfortable and quiet. You can feel that it’s solid, built to last.
So just how expensive is it to get all these extraordinary benefits? The truth is you can get superior ICF technology for a lot less than you’d think. ICFs are so efficient to build with and easy to use, that the cost of building an ICF house is comparable to that of an ordinary 2×6 wood-framed house. But you get so much more home for your money.
Greater Comfort & Lower Energy Bills
Energy savings and comfort are built into every ICF system. ICFs start with a high R-Value. Four inches of ASTM C 578 polystyrene foam insulation, combined with a five inch concrete wall a typical ICF system – are rated above R-17 at 75* mean test temperature. Other insulating form configurations and materials also exhibit high R-Values. But that’s not all! Air infiltration in an ICF Home is minimal due to the continuous air barriers provided by the foam insulation and the concrete. Likewise, there are no convection currents within wall cavities. The concrete walls of an ICF home have high thermal mass, which buffers the interior of a home from the extremes of outdoor temperature during every 24-hour cycle. This reduces both peak and total heating and cooling loads. This combination of high R-values, low air infiltration, and high thermal mass is believed to account for the amazing 25% to 50% energy savings of ICF versus wood or steel- framed homes.
Peace & Quiet
New ICF homeowners almost always remark on how unbelievably quiet their new house is, compared with their old stick-built home. They expect the new-found comfort and energy efficiency, but the peace and quiet -the protection from outside noise – never fails to surprise and delight them. In sound transmission tests, ICF walls allowed less than 1/3 as much sound to pass through as do ordinary frame walls filled with fiberglass. With double-glazed windows in ICF walls and beefed-up roof insulation, you will rarely hear street noises or airport traffic.
Solid & Lasting Security
The high-mass walls of an ICF home not only give it a remarkably solid feel, but they also make it safer for the family. And make it a remarkably solid and secure investment, too. Concrete homes have a proven track record of withstanding the ravages of hurricanes, tornadoes and fires, when all the stick-built houses around them are in ruins. In fire wall tests, ICFs stood exposure to intense flame without structural failure longer than did common frame walls. The polystyrene foam used in most ICF forms is treated so it will not support combustion. Also, tests show that its tendency to transmit an outside flame source is less than that of most wood products.
Less Repair & Maintenance
With ICF homes, the equation is simple. No Rot = Less Repair and Maintenance. Neither polystyrene nor concrete will ever rot or rust. Concrete can even be exposed to the elements for centuries with few ill effects. Reinforcing steel, buried deep inside and protected by concrete’s alkalinity, does not corrode.