Thinking about self-building with ICF? Considering employing an experienced construction project manager to help you find and coordinate your ICF new build project?
In this blog we outline 12 Reasons to Self-Build with ICF.
We consider the significant time and cost benefits of a self- build with ICF (or Insulated Concrete Formwork), but also highlight why it may also be wise to have an experienced construction project manager on your build team.
What is ICF?
The UK is slowly starting to embrace new modern building methods. Every year CLPM help clients with self-build projects, using a variety of construction methods. However, we’re finding our clients are increasingly moving away from traditional brick and block construction. The trend is now towards more modern systems such as timber frames or steel frames with SIPs, as well as modular homes and houses built with ICFs.
But what is ICF?
ICF involves using interconnected blocks or panels (usually, but not always made of expanded polystyrene) as moulds, into which a special type of ready-mixed concrete is poured. This method has been around since the 1950’s and is commonly used in the USA, Canada, Scandinavia and Germany although it has only more recently become a popular choice with self-builders and commercial clients here in the UK.
ICF is suitable for use in a range of different building projects. It can be used in smaller residential building projects such as extensions, basements, swimming pools and garages.
But it is also a good choice for larger construction works including whole new homes, schools, care homes, apartments blocks, and hotels.
ICF has a number of advantages over the more traditional construction methods such as brick and block, or timber frame. If you’d like to learn more about
1. ICF is designer-friendly
The variety of sizes and shapes of blocks and panels makes it ideal for innovative or unusual design features, including curved walls and freeform shapes. It is suitable for most self-build projects, even those with the most innovative architectural designs!
2. ICF is quick and easy to construct
The blocks or panels fit together quickly, and do not need mortar or any other joining agent. Whilst there needs to be an experienced person to oversee and coordinate the works onsite, most of the physical stacking work can be carried out by a relatively low-skilled workforce. The filling with concrete is more of a skilled job, but as long as the mix and methods are carefully monitored and checked by an experienced person are fairly straightforward. The ready mix concrete mixes have been developed to give better flow-ability of the concrete with reduced water content and more cohesiveness. This, together with the use of a pencil vibrator tool, ensures the formwork fills properly and eliminates rock pockets and voids. As long as you employ the best build team and a project manager with experience of ICF to oversee the works the works are fairly straightforward. This quick building route means the building can be watertight in less time, and means supporting trades can get on site much quicker than most other build methods.
3. ICF has short lead times
The polystyrene or recycled cement-bonded wood fibre material forms are easily available from the manufacturers, usually within 24 hours. This is also true of the special ready-mix concrete, meaning that lead-times are minimal and so this build process is therefore very flexible and delays are typically much reduced.
4. ICF is very durable
ICF has been designed to withstand the pressures of wet concrete pours of up to 3m. For this reason, it is also used widely in parts of the world where severe weather such as hurricanes or tornadoes are a problem. Whilst extreme weather is not usually a problem for UK self-builders, it does mean this build method is also ideal for basements and buildings with multiple floors such as apartment blocks or commercial buildings. Although much of the commercial projects have been mid-rise buildings, there have been buildings constructed in the USA using ICFs which are 24 storeys high.
5. The ICF construction method has very little wastage
The number of polystyrene or recycled cement-bonded wood fibre material forms can be calculated accurately, as can the amount of ready-mix concrete that is required.
6. The ICF method isn’t weather dependent
Another bonus for UK self-builders is the fact that the ICF build process can be completed in almost any weather – meaning no more hold-ups due to frosty or wet conditions. All this adds up to much-reduced labour costs, leading to ICF being an increasingly cost effective build route.
7. ICF is energy efficient
Another series of benefits relate to the material properties of the structures. The expanded polystyrene/ recycled cement-bonded wood fibre material concrete forms create walls that are very airtight and highly energy efficient. The very low U values means your future running costs will be much reduced.
8. ICF has great soundproofing properties
The tongue and groove style interlocking systems which give the walls a high degree of airtightness mean that they are also extremely soundproof. Which is great if your home is near a main road, or in a noisy city environment.
9. ICF has good fire-resistant properties
Both the expanded polystyrene ICF systems and those made with recycled cement-bonded wood fibre material have very good fire-retardant qualities. All scientific evidence has shown that ICF walls are far safer in a fire than wood or steel framed structures.
10. ICF is easy to face
The blocks or panels are also a good material to face. Once in place, the exterior surfaces can simply be rendered using a through-coloured render or else clad in any other material desired. Internally the surfaces can be channelled for water or gas pipes and electric cables etc. and then plaster-board can be added over. This can be attached to the forms either via dot and dab, or else in some systems simply screwed into place.
11. ICF blocks are often made in UK
There are several suppliers who make their blocks right here in the UK, meaning this growing industry is creating new jobs for UK manufacturing industry workers.
12. Some ICF systems are made of recycled materials
Those systems which are made from recycled cement-bonded wood fibre material source softwood fibre from recyclers who process waste wood, meaning that the blocks are a green option.
Disadvantages to ICF
The only real disadvantages to ICF relate to extending or modifying the structure.
Cutting new windows or attaching new structures at a later date is possible, but it is specialist work. For this reason, it’s important to create all the holes you need before the concrete is poured – for example you’ll need to allow for ducting and any other service requirements.
Useful Information about Other Build Routes
If you’re planning self build project you might also be interested in our other blog which discusses the merits of timber frame versus brick homes.
Get in Touch
If you are planning a self-build construction project and considering using Insulated Concrete Formwork then why not get in touch? CLPM are experienced in project managing building projects using the ICF building method and we can help you realise your self build dream.
Call 01923 896550, complete a contact form or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.