Are ICFs the Future of Fire-Resistant Construction?

insulated concrete forms

When it comes to building a home or other construction that's fire-resistant yet affordable, concrete is the choice of the future. And insulating concrete forms, with their added layers of protection, are fast becoming the go-to choice of homeowners who want the most bang and stability for their buck. As a contractor, learning to build walls using ICFs is a necessary skill if you want to stay competitive in an increasingly greener world.

The Appeal of Concrete

Concrete is ideal as a building material because it's nearly impervious to destruction from heat and flame, withstanding a beating at temperatures up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. In this same situation, wood burns and steel warps, but concrete perseveres--good knowledge to have when you're trying to sell a new homeowner on the advantages of a concrete home.

Concrete, in the form of ICFs or  insulating concrete forms, helps to prevent fire spreading from room to room, as well. The Steiner Tunnel Test concluded that even the foam used in these forms is more fire-resistant than other types used in construction. They also emit no more toxic emissions than wood when involved in a fire.

ICFs, Better Than Concrete

As a contractor, you may already know that ICFs give better overall protection from both fire and energy loss than that of concrete alone. It's the two added layers of foam insulation that give distinct advantages to walls built using these forms:

  • A High R-Value
  • A High Thermal Mass
  • Low Air Infiltration

These benefits combine to make concrete homes more impervious to fire damage, more energy efficient and more resistant to extremes of outside weather. Additionally, they provide better sound-proofing for the family or families who reside within.

Advantages of ICFs on the Job Site

Fire fighters fighting a fireToday's homeowners want ever greener and more efficient homes. This means thinking outside the box when it comes to construction, and for green and clean, concrete comes in high on the list as a building material.

Homes built of concrete are less subject to disintegration over time because there's no wood to rot. And when ICFs are used, there are no toxic emissions seeping into the home from the materials used to build it. This translates into less mess on the job site as building a home to green code using concrete is a much simpler process.

Cost Comparison

While it typically costs more to build a home using insulating concrete forms, the potential benefits for the homeowner make concrete a more than viable choice. Depending upon various circumstances, an ICF home can cost as much as about $3.25 more per square foot than a stick-built home. Usually, however, this cost comes down with contractor and builder experience.

Even with the added cost of construction, the opportunity to own a home that's quiet, solid, and resistant to wind and fire is enough to convince new homeowners to indulge. Add to that the energy savings over time, and owning a house built from ICFs is a strategic move.

ICFs are the wave of the future, and the builders and contractors who have experience building walls from this material are the ones who will prosper the most. It's beneficial to glean all the first-hand experience you can using ICFs--and as quickly as possible--to stay in the know. Every home you build using concrete gives you valuable insight into the intricacies of working with this newer construction material that comes with its own unique set of challenges. More experience translates into fewer hiccups on the job site, faster build times, fewer setbacks and less expense overall--four advantages every contractor wants when he reports for work each day.

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Photo credit: Concrete Forms / Foter / CC BY


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Wallboard Supply Company is a third generation, family run business that has been serving New England's building needs since 1970. Bob Filion started the company with a commitment to provide quality drywall and finishing products with unmatched customer service. The company has grown over the years, expanding its' product range, but never wavering from its' core values.