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How to Avoid Moisture Problems in Basements in Cold Climates using ICFs

Building in cold climates is not for the faint-of-heart. Apart from the daily grapple with freezing temperatures, you must build with the comfort of your future occupants in mind.

In this regard, cold climates pose many challenges for builders. One of these is moisture build-up in basements. The issue often causes mold, mildew, and rot, and is a common source of owner service calls. In this post, we will discuss how Logix Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) can help reduce the risk of wet basements.

Condensation in basements

As a builder, you know why basements can leak. Faulty waterproofing, concrete cracks, poor drainage, and hydrostatic pressure are all known causes of water problems.

Nowadays, however, owners are experiencing condensation between the concrete wall and the insulation. The problem has nothing to do with poor workmanship or flawed materials. Rather, it stems from a recent change to the way we insulate basements. Older regulations called for insulation at the top 2 feet of a foundation wall, however, the new codes often mandate a full-height system of insulation, air, and vapor barriers.

These code changes addresses the lack of a thermal barrier and the problem of heat-loss through the basement, however, full-height basement insulation, particularly when it is concentrated on the inside of the basement wall, can lead to condensation forming on the cold concrete wall on cold winters days. Moisture is then trapped in place by the interior vapor barrier, which then collects within the wall assembly and on the floor and causes property damage, health risks and upset homeowners.

Logix Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) solve the condensation problem 

If you’re looking for a way to keep condensation off basement walls, you’re not alone. Fed up with this recurring problem, many small-to-midsize production builders have embraced Logix ICFs as a better way of building basements.

Logix ICF panels work their magic by insulating both faces of a wall, thus guarding the concrete against the cold. Shielded from freezing temperatures, the concrete stays warm enough to ward off condensation and keep the basement dry. If you choose the right ICF product, you’ll find construction simple, with costs that are similar to those of well insulated conventionally constructed basements.

The speed of installation will offset increases in material costs 

If you’ve never used ICF before, you may wonder if you’ll face higher material costs. The good news is with Logix ICF panels you can reduce labor expenditures enough to offset the cost of materials.

Logix ICF panels integrate several building components that would be installed one-by-one in a stick-built scenario. Unlike the complex process behind traditional foundation wall construction, ICF basements can be built with fewer trades and crew-hours, as there’s no need for formwork, and the forms comprise most of the wall assembly. With the ICFs in place and the concrete poured, all that’s left is waterproofing and drywall, and the basement walls are done. What’s more, the panels’ lightweight and portability will help you slash installation times.

For example, one of our affiliate contractors who self-performs this work with a crew of 3, can construct a 2,000 ft² basement with 9-foot 4-inch foundation walls in roughly 3.5 workdays. Compare this to the 2 weeks and different crews it takes on average to pour, insulate, frame, and finish a conventional foundation.

He finds if he can achieve a 0.05 man-hour/sq ft labor rate, the costs of a Logix-built basement are on par to his conventional basement alternatives.

Logix ICFs are ideal for cold-climate basement construction 

The Logix ICFs used for basements typically come in 12 and 16-inch high blocks of with 6 ¼- and 8-inch concrete core widths. Once installed, the Logix wall assembly hits a rating of R-24, meets code insulation continuity requirements, and gets rid of thermal bridging caused by wall framing members. If you require higher thermal resistance, opt for the Logix Platinum or the Logix D-Rv Series; these give the wall an R-value of 27 and 36, respectively.

Regardless of their R-value, all Logix ICF panels come with integral furring strips to fasten finishes to.

While some strategies can optimize basement design for ICF construction, the panels themselves are versatile and easy to work with. Apart from the standard straight panels, Logix ICFs come in a wide array of prefabricated shapes that increase the ease of installation. These include:

  • 45 and 90° corner panels
  • taper tops
  • brick ledges

To explore the full range of Logix ICF products, click here.

Wrapping it up

Unlike the conventionally formed foundation approach, which can enable condensation issues in cold climates, ICF walls insulate the concrete from both sides and keep its temperature at a point where condensation cannot occur.

Apart from curbing moisture build-up, ICF walls also boost energy efficiency and offer less embodied carbon than the leading XPS insulation options. Thanks to the ease and speed of installation, ICF basements often cost much the same as highly insulated conventionally formed foundations.


By |2020-05-04T08:42:46-04:00April 17th, 2020|

About the Author:

President, Logix Brands Ltd.
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