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Choosing ICF’s (Insulated Concrete Forms)

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Jan 04, 2012 02:34 AM
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by admin last modified Jul 23, 2008

I had heard about ICF’s around 2001 and was interested in them immediately due to the energy savings and it looked easy to construct. My good friend Ed a few years later was starting his plans to build his house and was going to used ICF’s and so that got me even more curious.  What are [...]




 

 

I had heard about ICF’s around 2001 and was interested in them immediately due to the energy savings and it looked easy to construct. My good friend Ed a few years later was starting his plans to build his house and was going to used ICF’s and so that got me even more curious. 

What are ICF’s?

ICF stands for Insulated Concrete Form. Basically a sheet of foam on one side seperated by some plastic ties and a sheet of foam on the other side. The analogy is that you build the house like building something out of Legos, it’s not quite that easy but it’s close. The advantages of this are many:

  • Increased insulation value - Since ICF’s are usually about 11.5″ when filled and 2″ of foam on both sides, it provides an incredible insulation value. Even more so with the concrete, the concrete acts as a thermal mass that regulates the temperature.
  • Strength - 11.5″ of concrete isn’t going anywhere
  • Quiet - The same as the above. Although where we are at is pretty quiet, I think if we built somewhere else this would be a huge advantage. Still with the airport nearby this might be an advantage or if deer go psychotic…

Read more about ICF’s at Ramsey-Erdmann’s site

So my friend built before me and I had the advantage of watching his go up and seeing the finished product. It really felt different inside, much more solid than a wood framed home. It’s hard to put into words but just different and more structurally sound.

Cost

I think a misunderstanding on ICF construction is the cost involved. I think it comes out a little more but if you factor in the reduced costs in other areas like insulation, time building, etc, it comes pretty close to frame built homes.

Energy Savings

Energy savings are the main reason I was interested in ICF’s. The way it works is the 11.5″ concrete walls act as a thermal mass, keeping the climate stable. Also since it is one continuous wall, there are less penetrations for heat to escape or enter. Officially, ICF’s are rated around R-20 to R-22 but in comparison to a stick built house it’s incomparable due to the thermal mass and continuous wall. One person I talked to who built with ICF said his utility bills were the same as a home that was 3 times as small which is a gigantic savings.

We’re also going to go with geothermal heating and cooling and I’ll talk about that in another post.


 

 

 
 
 
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