What is ICF and what are the benefits of ICF over conventional concrete basements?

 

ICF stands for “Insulated Concrete Form.” It is a stay in place concrete form that is made of expanded polystyrene that can be cut and stacked to make the shape of any residential or commercial foundation. Reinforcing steel is added and the space between the two layers of foam is filled with concrete. This combination of concrete, steel and foam creates and incredibly strong, comfortable and energy efficient structure.

 

The reason that people choose ICF over conventional concrete basements is that ICF foundations are energy efficient. Each layer of expanded polystyrene foam is 2 5/8” thick and has an R-Value of 22. The system provides a continuous layer of foam which produces low air infiltration and creates a thermal mass which stabilizes the air in your home.  This results in a more constant temperature in your home throughout the day. For these reasons many people are choosing to construct the above grade walls of their homes or businesses with ICF as well.  Energy costs can be reduced by up to 50% when compared to conventional construction.

 

There are many benefits of ICF that people should consider when choosing a foundation for their new home or business. In the province of Saskatchewan ICF allows contractors the opportunity to produce stronger foundations throughout the year. When concrete is poured in an ICF wall it cures in a stable environment allowing it to achieve maximum strength. When concrete freezes or gets to hot during its critical curing time it directly affects its strength.  If temperatures are extreme the final strength of concrete can be weakened to the point of failure. Concrete poured in an ICF form is not subjected to temperature extremes which results in a stronger and longer lasting foundation.

 

ICF foundations typically take the same amount of time to construct as a conventional foundation. However, ICF foundations are insulated and ready for drywall when complete. ICF has rigid plastic ties that drywall can be screwed to without framing the exterior walls with wood.  The forms are made with inorganic products making them resistant to mold growth. ICF foundations also provide peace and quiet. In sound transmission tests ICF walls allowed less than 1/3 of sound to pass through compared to typical wood framing with fiberglass insulation.