For many home builders, getting the basement or foundation into the ground so they can start the above grade work often isn’t as simple and straightforward as it used to be. Building codes seem to change regularly these days, often presenting complications and moving targets for builders. And busy sub-trades can have long lead times that can delay production schedules.
Over the last five years, Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) systems have been both perfected and enhanced. If it’s been a while since you thought about building your basements and foundations with ICFs, now might just be the time to take a renewed look at them and learn how these high-performance foundations can not only add value to your business model, but also solve many construction problems.
Thousands of North American home builders have been enhancing their local reputations and generating high quality word of mouth leads by offering their customers high-performance ICF foundations as part of their home packages. At the same time, on the production side of the equation, these ICF foundations have been reportedly increasing the production efficiency AND overall profitability for these builders, while also getting them ready to meet (and even exceed) the new and ever-evolving building codes.
Building foundations with ICFs has been a win/win for home builders on every level. Before we take a more in-depth look at this, watch how these high-performance ICF basements are built in this short video:
Most homeowners use their high-performance ICF basements as natural extensions of their living space. In fact, they often find their new basements to be just as comfortable as their main floors, and here’s why:
- Thick foam panels provide continuous insulation on the inside and outside of the basement walls.
- The concrete core is typically steel-reinforced for added strength as well as long-term crack control and prevention. In addition, the outer foam layer acts as a cushion, protecting the concrete core from the pressures of cyclical frost heaving.
- Waterproofing membranes keep out all the moisture and water that’s in the ground, leaving the basement dry and comfortable.
As a result, homeowners don’t just like and tolerate their ICF basements — instead they often rave about them to their friends and neighbors! ICFs have arguably evolved to be the foundation system of choice for homeowners in 2018. It’s a win/win for everyone!
“An ICF basement is a core component of a better-built home, and it complements the new building codes and the requirements for energy-efficiency,” says Bob Deeks, President of RDC Homes. “Plus, I can virtually guarantee that once your crew has done an ICF foundation, they will not want to go back to traditional forming methods.”
Yes, as Bob just referred to, in many parts of North America, building codes are expected to steadily raise the bar for energy-efficiency requirements over the next decade. And each time this happens, builders are faced with uncertainty and disruption as they figure out how they’re going to meet these new codes. When you build with ICFs however, no matter what your local building code requirements are for foundations (or will be in the foreseeable future), builders can be confident that ICF foundations will meet and exceed them. No risk and no disruption here!
And ironically, the track record shows that framers tend to be very comfortable building with ICFs. This means that your own existing crews can build all your ICF foundations — and that means no more subbing out, more production control and less scheduling delays. Plus, ICFs can be built in cold and wet weather, reducing weather delays.
ICFs, by nature, accomplish “6 construction steps in 1”, and these efficiencies provide significant savings in time and money. But what about cost, you ask? These efficiencies also reduce construction time and labor costs, thereby reducing the overall cost of using this high-performance system to a level that the market is very accepting of. The costs of building with ICFs do vary somewhat regionally, mostly due to differences in the cost of concrete and labor. A typical ball park cost for a finish-ready ICF foundation is roughly about $13.00/sq. ft. of wall, with all costs and installer margins included. This is very competitive.
Now let’s look at some of the key innovations that are taking place today with ICFs.
ICFs can be ordered specially made with silver-grey ‘graphite-enhanced EPS foam’, which adds an extra 15% R-value boost without increasing wall thickness. For an even bigger thermal boost, foam insert panels can also be used to add an additional R-8 or more to ICF wall assemblies.
ICFs are also offered with foam only on one side, so you can use them to build ‘finish-ready’ insulated walls with a hard-concrete surface on one side. This recent innovation can be very handy at times.
In the past, an engineer was typically needed to specify the amount of rebar and its placement pattern within the walls. This is often no longer the case as ICFs are now written right into the national building codes across North America. Plus, apps are now available that enable builders to easily and accurately calculate the needed rebar themselves free of charge. And for estimating ballpark quantities of ICFs needed for a project, well, there’s an app for that too.
And here’s another very interesting and ‘complementary’ component to consider with ICFs. Radiant floor panels can also be purchased from some ICF suppliers and shipped right to the job site along with your ICFs, giving you a complete, high-performance ICF foundation solution. Builders have found these under-slab radiant floor panels to be an integral component of a truly high-performance foundation. They not only insulate under the slab, but also can add extra efficiency and performance.
- Radiant floor panels are compact (2’ x 4’) and easy-to-handle onsite.
- Radiant floor panels often qualify as a vapor barrier, so the additional step of installing poly is often eliminated.
- Radiant floor panels offer a multi-directional tubing channel grid that allows the pex pipe to be easily ‘walked into place’ in half the time or better!
Watch this short video to learn more about Heat-Sheet® Radiant Floor Panels:
Even if the manifolds for the radiant floor panels are not going to be connected immediately, every slab should be poured with pex tubing. In this way (and for a very nominal cost), the homeowner will always have the option of activating their radiant heating system at any point in the future, which is a great option to have available.
In summary, the combination of ICF walls and under-slab radiant panel insulation translates to cost-competitive, fast-built, high quality, high-performance foundations that your customers will love, appreciate and rave about. Plus, this building method also eliminates costly construction steps and saves you time, making your builds faster, easier to complete and more profitable.
- Drop us an email with any questions you may have.
- Visit these websites: Heat-Sheet.com, LogixICF.com.
- Sign up for a local ICF training course.
- Watch this webcast to learn about the support that’s available to you.
- Talk to a local ICF and radiant floor panel dealer or your local Logix Territory Manager.
ICF dealers can provide take-offs, advice and technical support to anyone interested in using Logix products for their construction projects. ICF products are generally purchased locally in job lot quantities from ICF dealers. Many local dealers offer ICF bracing rentals as well.
Good luck! We hope you discover that offering cost-competitive, high-performance ICF foundations not only makes sense for you, but also can help build your business just as it has for thousands of other builders as well.