What You Should Know About Insulated Concrete Forms

by Lauren Busser Direct from the Designers™’ Editorial Director

In your research for your building project, you may have come across the terms, ‘ICF’ or ‘concrete form’ and you may be wondering what is meant by this. ICF stands for Insulated Concrete Form and is a great alternative to conventional timber framing. If you are wondering if ICF construction might be something to consider there is one important thing you need to know: ICF homes don’t look any different than a traditional home and provide significant benefits to today’s home builders including being quieter, energy-efficient, and potentially more comfortable.

House Plan 4790 is a beautiful example of ICF construction with a traditional exterior.

House Plan 4760

What They Are

Insulated concrete forms are cast-in place steel reinforced concrete walls sandwiched between two layers of foam boards, which act as forms. The concrete is poured around the steel filling the space between the foam boards, which are left in place to act as additional insulation.

How They Look

You may suppose that ICF homes look odd and picture a home that has a gray or blocky external appearance, but homes built with ICFs come in a wide variety of exterior styles and finishes. The forms typically have recessed plastic tiles that run the full length of the forms which are two and a half inches wide. These tiles allow you to apply any type of exterior finish you prefer. You can choose brick, siding or stucco and get the curb appeal of traditional construction with added benefits.

Your new home’s interior can be covered the same way. You can use drywall and other standard building materials to get the interior style that you prefer. The only difference you may find is a 12” thick insulated wall around window and door openings. Other than that, the difference isn’t readily obvious.

ICF homes come in a variety of sizes and styles. Take a look at House Plan 4129 for an example of a large home that exudes grandeur.

House Plan 4129

Build a Safer Home

ICF homes can be particularly desirable because they are strong. ICF homes are resistant to rot, sun and termites, and virtually anything else Mother Nature may throw their way. ICF homes have been known to stand up to hurricanes, tornadoes, and even wildfires. Not to mention, ICF homes handle high winds and flying debris much better than standard homes.

Create a Comfortable Environment

ICF homes are easier to warm/cool than traditional homes. The greater mass of the ICF walls prevents large temperature swings within the building making occupants more comfortable while also enjoying lower energy costs. ICF homes are also quieter since the forms dampen sound and allow less outside noise to infiltrate your home.

This one story house plan is part of our concrete house plans collection and has plenty of curb appeal that will draw complements from the neighbors that pass by. Inside you will find an open kitchen with snack bar, a dining room with backyard views, and a living room for entertaining and relaxing.

House Plan 4763

Save Money

ICF homes aren’t just more comfortable but they have also been measured to have high R values. The R values may reduce the size of the heating and cooling systems needed during your build by as much as fifty percent. ICF homes can also reduce costs in other ways with lower monthly energy bills, energy efficient mortgages, lower insurance costs, and shortened construction time.

Protect the Environment

For the environmentally conscious, ICF is unique because it draws upon one of the earth’s most abundant resources for its raw materials. Ninety percent of concrete is made up of cement, which is manufactured from limestone, clay, and sand and non-recyclable trash and waste materials are often used to fuel the manufacturing process. Plus, the amount of land used in the extraction of concrete materials is just a fraction of the land used to cut down lumber.

Additionally, ICF blocks contain no formaldyhde or other toxins that can potentially affect indoor air quality.

House Plan 5493 is an example of ICF construction with a Mediterranean styling.

House Plan 5493

If you are looking for a healthy, environmentally-friendly, and safe home then you might want to consider looking into concrete construction. Concrete construction can be particularly useful if your home is in an area where it will be subject to severe storms and weather, but you can also save on heating and cooling bills and have a home that is more comfortable. Check out our collection of concrete house plans and see if you can find a style that speaks to you.

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