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Insulated Concrete

What is Insulated concrete?
Insulated concrete is a type of construction that uses rigid polystyrene forms to hold reinforced concrete. Forms are assembled then the concrete is poured into them. Unlike traditional concrete walls the forms are not removed and are part of the strength and insulating of the walls.
There are many major manufacturers and many different types of insulated concrete forms (ICF). The most popular types of forms are either preformed interlocking blocks, or separate panels connected with plastic ties. The interlocking blocks assemble like Lego™ blocks.

Advantages of ICF's
There are many advantages to using an ICF system:

  1. ICF homes are super insulated with 5-6 inches of polystyrene insulation on the exterior walls. The wall have an traditional R-rating of over 25 with no thermal bridging which is common with wood or steel stud homes. Heating and cooling costs are reduced by 25-50%.
  2. Because of the high volume of insulation and the concrete mass, ICF homes are very quiet inside. They transmit less than 1/3 of the sound that a traditional stick framed house does. This is a big advantage when situated near an airport or busy street.
  3. ICF homes are durable and long lasting. They have a solid feel that is not present in wood and steel framed homes. The withstand wind pressures caused by hurricanes and tornados that would destroy a traditional home. Concrete is non combustible which makes ICF homes resistant to Fire damage. Insects will have no effect on an ICF home. Homeowners insurance rates are often cheaper because of these advantages. They will also need less maintenance than a framed home.
  4. ICF homes claim to be a healthier choice than traditional homes. Because heating and cooling costs are reduced the house is healthier. ICF homes have been tested and results show that an almost complete absence of any emissions.
  5. ICF homes are environmentally sound. They don't use wood (interior walls are often steel stud) and they take less materials to complete.

Disadvantages

  1. Cost; expect to pay 5-10% more for a ICF home depending on where you live. Where ICF homes are popular the cost will probably be a little cheaper.
  2. Even though ICF construction is very durable and Code approved, it will take a little extra to get your plans through the building department (unless they are familiar with the particular system that you are using).
  3. ICF construction requires subcontractors to do certain tasks differently. Wiring, heating, plumbing, drywall will be different than in traditional construction. This might cause prices to be higher or difficulty finding subs that have experience working in an ICF home.

Summary
ICF homes are on average a superior system to wood framed or steel framed homes. Once the exterior walls are poured they are ready for finishing (on the inside and out). They are extremely durable and they don't cost much more than a traditional framed home. Finding subcontractors may be a challenge, but if you are planning to live in your home for many years, ICF homes are a wise choice to make.

USEFUL LINKS

www.forms.org
Insulating concrete forms association. This site provides lots of useful information about the benefits of ICF construction.

www.rastra.com
Good information from a leading ICF manufacturer.

www.arxxbuild.com
Great information about the benefits of the ICF system from ARXX a major ICF manufacturer.

www.designbasics.com
Introduces ICF technology and the benefits of ICF homes.

 

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