Proper concrete placement is essential in any ICF project. By starting with a good mix, placing it intelligently with a pump truck, and consolidating it carefully within the manufacturer’s guidelines, nearly all concrete placement problems can be avoided.
Your form manufacturer and ready-mix plant will know what mix works best in your area. A 3,000 psi mix with 3/8-inch aggregate and a slump of 5 ½ to 6 inches is typical.
A good pump truck is a must-have for ICF work. Schedule the pump truck to arrive at least an hour before the concrete. Trucks from the batch plant should arrive about 25 minutes apart.
Fill your openings first, then fill the walls in 4 ft. lifts. It’s possible to fill a wall 10 feet or higher in a single lift if necessary, but be confident your bracing, stacking, and brand of form are up to the job.
Most manufacturers recommend using a “pencil” vibrator with a head no larger than one inch in diameter. Other contractors shake the vertical rebar to consolidate the mix.
No matter what your level of experience, bracing is an issue every ICF installer deals with on every job. Adjustable metal bracing systems are simple, fast, and convenient. For smaller contractors, renting is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to purchasing your own set. “With labor costs the way they are, adjustable metal bracing is the only way to go, says Tom Sommerville at Plumwall.
Bracing is attached after the first three courses are stacked, with one brace for every 5 or 6 feet of wall. “A good rule of thumb is that with 32 units you can do a 1500 sq. ft. basement,” says Dan Kackman, sales director at Reechcraft.
Screw the brace to the block’s furring strips, being sure to allow for block compression and wall adjustments. Plumb the wall with a level, then stake the turnbuckle to the ground, or screw it securely to the subfloor.
Before you pour your first lift, double check that the wall is straight and plumb. Check and adjust as necessary immediately after the walls are poured.
For walls taller than 12 feet, the wall is usually poured in stages. The most common method is to stack and brace the first 8 feet of wall as normal, then pour. Once the concrete has cured, strip the bracing, set up buck scaffolding and tie it into the wall. Then you can begin the process again, bracing off the scaffolding for the next level.
Bracing manufacturers have invented a number of other, more efficient systems as well. “Our message to the contractors is, ‘Don’t be afraid to bid the big jobs, cause we’ve got your back,’” says Kackman. » Subscribe Now For the Full Story!
World of Concrete Report
ICFs took center stage at this year’s World of Concrete, held Jan. 17-20 in Las Vegas, Nev. The biggest-ever event featured 1,600 exhibits on more than 1.3 million sq. ft. of floor space, with an estimated 70,000 attendees.
Between the exhibit hall, seminar rooms, and mega-demo, tens of thousands of attendees were exposed to the beauty, simplicity, and durability of ICF construction. At the show, ICFs competed head-to-head with tilt-up, CMU, and removable forms; not as an alternative technology, but as a viable mainstream building method.
Insulating Concrete Forms dominated the North Hall, with more than a dozen brands setting up elaborate booths. More than 200 attended the 3-hour How to Build with ICFs seminar, one of the most popular of the show.
At the outdoor “mega-demo” four different types of ICF wall—including corners, brick ledges and window and door blockouts—were stacked, braced, and poured while thousands of spectators watched. On the second day, they applied wall finishes: stucco, brick, waterproofing, and drainage board. They also demonstrated how to install utility chases with a hot knife and attach drywall.
» Subscribe Now For the Full Story!
Greenblock Worldwide, the oldest ICF supplier in North America, has been acquired by ICF Solutions, Inc.
ICF Solutions is a California-based holding company that already owns Insulated Concrete Walls, Inc., a national ICF contractor.
The move makes ICF Solutions the first vertically integrated company in the industry, with the ability to transform raw EPS bead into finished ICF wall without having to outsource any step of the process.
The consolidated company will also begin an aggressive sales and marketing plan designed to convert builders and contractors from conventional framing to ICF technology.
Corporate functions will be consolidated to headquarters in Stuart, Fla., but the company will maintain a production and fulfillment facility in the Colorado Springs area. Greenblock will also continue to produce forms at all 14 production facilities. IC Walls will continue to work with whatever ICF is specified by the owner or architect.
Jim Leatherman, national sales manager at the new Greenblock, says the deal just made sense. “We’re optimistic about the future of the ICF industry in general. We see a lot of opportunities in the marketplace, and feel that with this acquisition we are better positioned to capitalize on that.”
If you’re still building the same home designs you offered years ago, it’s time to re-think your approach to the market. Design is largely emotional, and just like ICF construction, it can set you apart as the market leader.
But how do you stay at the forefront of home design? We regularly discuss design issues with top home designers, architects and authors. Several times a year we meet with specialists and industry consultants. We collaborate with leading manufacturers and suppliers. We fly real estate agents and interior designers into our offices to share their perspectives.
But perhaps the best information is uncovered during our “think tanks.” We learn what home buyers are saying, what they are thinking and what truly matters to them. These insights become the foundation for our new designs. Questions such as “What do you like to do while ironing?” or “What makes you feel good about entertaining in your home?” can yield valuable responses.
Think tanks help us focus on realistic, practical solutions to the design and building issues contractors face every day. Does the homebuyer prefer a 12’ x 12’ bedroom with a standard closet or an 11’ x 11’ bedroom with a walk-in closet?