Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) systems are rapidly gaining in popularity because of their affordability and superior level of energy efficiency. They are essentially pour-in-place, reinforced concrete walls. The forms are modular in nature, interlocking, and permanent. The forms are built, complete with reinforcing steel bars, and filled with concrete. The forms are left permanently to provide insulation value.
ICF systems provide both thermal and acoustic insulation and fire protection when compared to traditional, wood-framed walls. The forms also provide space to run electrical conduit and plumbing and backing for sheetrock on the inside and siding or brick on the outside.
Most insulating concrete forms are made from expanded foam, such as polystyrene. Typically the two sides of the form are independent of each other, connected by metal or plastic connectors, sometimes called “snap-ties.”
In addition to added insulation and sound absorption, other advantages to ICF systems include minimal air and heat loss and added structural integrity and longevity. They also negate the problem of insect infestation, such as termites that plague many wood framed homes. When building with insulated concrete walls, however, you want to be sure of window and door locations, as changing these later can be messy, difficult, and expensive.
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