The combination of technology and modern building materials is changing the way humans build things. We are no longer limited to traditional applications involving wood, steel, aluminum, and concrete. Instead, we are combining traditional materials with things like composites and expandable polystyrene (EPS). With that in mind, we would like to introduce you to ICF blocks.

Insulated concrete forms (ICF) blocks are not actually concrete blocks in and of themselves. Instead, they are hollow foam blocks builders utilize to improve their concrete construction techniques. Combining the blocks with high quality concrete makes an enormous difference in the finished product. Perhaps they are the right choice for your next building project.

ICF Blocks: The Basics

We construct ICF blocks using EPS, a stiff Styrofoam that is ideal for building construction and infrastructure due to its lightweight nature and insulating properties. More on that in a minute. For now, though, it is important to know that ICF blocks are intended to be modular in their design. You stack one block on top of another, and place stacks side-by-side, to form a wall.

The blocks interlock both vertically and horizontally. Interlocking keeps the blocks in place during construction. Wall strength is enhanced by the addition of rebar inside the blocks prior to concrete being poured.

A Cavity for Concrete

In essence, an ICF block is an EPS form that provides a cavity into which you pour concrete. Blocks are not removed after concrete has cured. Rather, they remain in place to add an extra barrier of insulation both inside and out.

What you end up with is a strong wall that is also insulated extremely well. EPS provides the insulation for concrete walls reinforced with steel rebar. Building with ICF blocks results in energy efficient buildings with the added benefits of soundproofing and fire resistance.

The blocks are ideal for both residential and commercial construction. In the commercial arena, everything from warehouses to office buildings can be constructed utilizing the ICF process. The process is pretty simple to understand.

A Step-by-Step Look

Many builders find that ICF construction is more efficient in terms of both time and labor. The start of the process is similar to what you would expect with traditional building. The site is prepped, and foundation work is taken care of according to plans. After that things get interesting. The remaining steps of ICF construction are as follows:

Laying the Blocks – Blocks are laid out and stacked as necessary. The blocks interlock horizontally and vertically. Specialized corner blocks allow for turning corners.

Rebar Insertion – Once blocks have been laid and stacked, rebar is inserted into each section for reinforcement. Workers also apply horizontal and vertical braces designed to hold the framework in place while concrete is being poured.

The Pour – As with any other type of construction using a concrete form, concrete is then poured into the block cavities. As long as it is poured correctly, all the empty space is filled; all voids are eliminated.

Curing and Finishing – Concrete is left to cure before the structure is finished. After curing, braces are removed so that exterior and interior finishes can be applied.

ICF construction produces very strong buildings boasting high energy efficiency and soundproofing. However, it is important to note that building with ICF blocks could mean a higher upfront cost.

ICF construction is also more complex. You need skilled engineers and installation technicians to ensure proper construction. In the end though, higher upfront costs and the need for skilled labor pay off in energy savings, lower maintenance costs, and a building that should last considerably longer. Learn more!