If you’re contemplating a pivot to ICF construction , you may wonder — what’s in it for me? After all, for any builder, switching to a “premium” material had better make sense in the long run. But did you know that there are 5 distinct advantages to building with ICFs, all of which translate to simpler construction, higher-quality homes, happier customers, and ultimately, more money in your pocket?
Below, we’ll walk you through the 5 main reasons more, and more builders are ditching the old wood frame in favor of ICFs. Read on to learn more!
1. They Can Build Their Own Foundations
With ICFs, a builder can rely on a small crew of carpenters to build a house foundation. There’s no need to involve any specialized trades — the forms are really simple to erect and fill with concrete.
That’s because ICF construction is starkly different from traditional basement construction, where you’ve got to put up forms, set rebar, then pour concrete, and finally remove the forms. In contrast, all you do with ICFs is set the blocks in courses until reaching the desired height (any height in 4-inch increments is easy to achieve without field-cutting the forms). Rebar placement is straightforward since the ICF blocks have unique webs that hold the rods in place.
Then, once you’ve poured the concrete, there’s no need to remove the forms — they’re now your insulation, air and vapor barrier, and furring strips in one neat package!
2. Fewer Callbacks and Warranty Issues with Wet Basements
ICF walls help builders avoid callbacks and warranty issues stemming from wet basements.
Unlike traditional basements, which are typically dampproofed, below-grade ICF are always waterproofed, which effectively prevents water and moisture ingress from the surrounding soil.
What’s more, ICF walls’ concrete cores are insulated both on the inside and outside, which means that there’s little-to-no chance of condensation forming on the concrete’s warm face. Unfortunately, conventional basements in colder climate zones often suffer from such condensation build-up.
3. Reduced Need for Specialized Equipment
Contractors who build with ICFs can reduce their reliance on specialized tools, equipment, heavy forms, and machinery.
That’s because setting up ICFs requires handset tools and not much more. You definitely won’t need heavy forms. If you will require ICF bracing, however, it’s readily available for rent or purchase from many of the construction supply dealers who stock ICF products.
4. ICF Cost Is More Stable Than that of Lumber
The cost of building with ICF is easier to predict compared to lumber. The past few years have been a rollercoaster ride for the building materials industry. And, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, no material’s gone through more up-and-down cycles than lumber. With few signs of the supply chain crisis easing and continuous demand for construction materials, lumber’s wild ride has no end in sight.
Does this mean that lumber is more expensive than ICF? Yes/no/maybe —- depends on when you’re reading this article. And that’s the problem: estimating wood-frame projects’ costs years (or even months!) in advance comes with enormous risk, given the recent volatility.
In contrast, over the same 2-year period, ICF and concrete prices have grown mainly with the rate of inflation — apart from a few relatively minor bumps. And this is why builders, especially production builders, are turning to ICF construction now in more significant numbers; it’s simply easier to budget.
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5. ICF Homes are More Energy-Efficient and Resilient to Natural Disasters
By opting for ICFs, builders can deliver comfortable, energy-efficient, and disaster-resilient homes.
ICF Homes are More Energy-Efficient
Local energy codes are becoming more and more demanding, with their course firmly set for a net-zero future. For builders, this means adapting and using materials that can meet new, robust energy standards while justifying the higher price point to their buyers.
And thanks to their ICF effect, ICFs are the perfect solution. Not only do they help builders meet the prescriptive and performance criteria in most North American energy codes, but they also offer buyers a unique combination of energy efficiency, comfort, and well-being.
ICF Homes are Better Equipped to Handle Natural Disasters
With a rapidly changing climate comes the rise in catastrophic weather events, such as those we’ve seen from coast-to-coast in recent years. Wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods intensify every year, and unfortunately, traditional wood-frame homes are ill-equipped to endure their onslaught.
Wrapping It Up
More and more builders are ditching wood-frame construction for ICFs, and the benefits of this pivot are apparent. By building with ICFs, contractors can:
- Build their own foundations and basements without subcontracting work
- Reduce callbacks and warranty issues related to wet basements
- Work with fewer specialized tools
- Avoid market fluctuations and reduce risk
- Deliver comfortable, resilient, and energy-efficient homes
Featured Image Credit: AK Builders in Dent, MN