Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) are rigid plastic foam forms, designed to be stacked, braced, and then filled with concrete, becoming part of the walls.
Below we list the pros and the cons of ICF construction.
Insulated concrete Forms Advantages
- ICF walls have the advantages of concrete wall construction; ICFs can withstand the most extreme winds and seismic forces, and are water-resistant and with a long lifespan.
- Two built-in insulation layers: the layers of foam insulation provide good levels of insulation and sound proofing; but all depends on the thickness of the foam used on the layers, and on climate issues; in colder climates, the standard ICF insulation value falls very short of the best.
- Easy construction: ICF forms are extremely lightweight, making wall construction an easy task for builders and crews familiar with the technology. Most manufacturers provide bracing and alignment systems to ease the construction.
- Air-tightness, acoustic comfort and high quality indoor air.
- ICFs can incorporate a large amount of recycled materials.
Insulated Concrete Formas disadvantages
- Price: ICF wall construction is 3 to 8% more expensive than wood frame and SIP construction, according to many estimates (at least in areas where wood-frame construction prevails, and masonry construction is less common).
- The insulation value of standard ICFs range from R-15 or less to R-26, which is excellent for a moderate or a hot climate, but not for cold climates and very energy efficient buildings.
- The most eco-friendly ICF products are also the most expensive and those with a lower insulation value.
NOTE: You can increase the insulating value (R-value) of ICF walls by gluing additional rigid foam insulation to the forms. The only problem: the cost.