Insulated Concrete Forms
ICF walls and Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) are becoming more popular as a high-performance building material in Austin, Texas and the surrounding Central Texas Area. As this demand for high-performance homes increases, so does the interest in Insulated Concrete Forms or ICFs.
Offering High-Performing Benefits, such as lower energy bills, faster construction speeds, less maintenance and greater STC (Sounds Transmission Class) or greater sound resistance, but the real reasons behind their popularity is their remarkable energy efficiency and strength.
Building with ICF typically costs $3-$4 more per square foot than lumber, but now that lumber prices have gone up ICF home construction is becoming hard to ignore. After you reduce your Air Conditioning tonnage (Tighter House Requires Less Tonnage) you will have tremendous energy savings, and not to mention insurance savings on masonry structures.
. . . if lumber is more expensive and harder to get, that increases the cost of a stick-built home by thousands of dollars, and it potentially makes the build take a lot longer. Building with ICFs could cure both of those headaches for homebuyers.
Healthy Air, Allergy Free living is what we all want. Insulated Concrete Forms provide us with a high-performance building material which results in airtight construction. Lab R-Values do not reflect real-world scenarios, partially because lab tests do not consider all real-world problems like the amount of airflow within a wall-system. Anyone who has lived in a drafty house during the summer in Texas knows exactly how significant air infiltration affects air conditioning costs.
Experts use a blower-door test to find the number of air changes per hour. Your typical modern lumber-built home tests anywhere from three to six ACH (Air Changes per Hour). Insulated Concrete Homes typically test at less than 0.5 ACH and if that is not enough even natural disaster force winds can’t force their way through the 4”-6” of concrete.
SOUND ABSORPTION PROPERTIES Years ago, ICF homeowners were surveyed about the features they appreciated most in their ICF homes. No one was surprised when energy efficiency and disaster resistance topped the list, but benefits numbers three and four were comfort and quiet. More than 60% of Insulated Concrete Form homeowners talked about how quiet their homes were compared to 2% of lumber-built homeowners. Of course, this was a result of the 2 5/8” thick polystyrene EPS foam. Often the most surprising aspect of their new ICF home was the lack of noise pollution.
“I looked out onto the highway and saw the traffic but couldn’t hear is at all!”
“Neighbor: Did you hear that thunderstorm last night? ICF Homeowner: Nope”
Most ICFs with a six-inch concrete core have STC ratings of 50 to 55, which means only about 1/4 to 1/8 as much sound penetrates the ICF wall-system when compared to lumber-built frame.
ICF HOMES ARE SAFER then lumber built homes having a level of safety that can’t be matched by lumber-built homes. They are 10 times stronger than lumber framed homes and roughly 3-4 times stronger than CMU or Cinder Block construction. This comes naturally when your wall-system contains a solid core of concrete and reinforced steel.
ICF homes can and do survive natural disasters including but not limited to: Wildfires, Hurricanes, Tornados, and Godzilla. Even the military and Law Enforcement swear by ICF buildings because they offer ballistic and blast protection. Yea, your home will be a defendable structure.
If that is not enough, the foam used in ICFs will not burn. Contrary to popular belief the Insulated Concrete Forms will melt if exposed to high levels of heat but will not burn or contribute to the fire. In fact, ICFs are “self-extinguishing” because of the flame retardant Nudura adds to the EPS foam.
Today, home buyers expect more value and efficiency from their new home. They want beauty that's more than skin deep. A home that fits their lifestyle - of course but also a home with solid, high quality constructions, greater comfort and security. Lower energy bills. Lower maintenance. A home that's healthier to live in, and easier on the environment.
It's becoming harder and harder to meet their new expectations with the same old building technology - wood framing. So more and more builders and home buyers are turning to something new. A modern adaptation of a centuries-old technology using the most proven building material on earth. Concrete.
Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs) give you all the benefits that have made concrete the material of choice for home building worldwide: Solid, lasting construction that resists the ravages of fire, wind, and Father Time. But ICFs do plain concrete one better - or rather, two better - by giving you two built-in layers of insulation.
This gives an ICF home some sizable advantages over a traditionaly framed home. Greater energy efficiency. More peace & quiet. More sheer day-to-day living comfort. All wrapped up in a solid, high-quality building package. You can feel that it's solid, built to last.
disaster resistance and safety
mold, rot, mildew, and insect resistance (below grade can require termite protection)
energy efficiency and resultant cost savings
Contractors and builders like:
fast, easy construction
light weight for easy shipping and erection
compatibility with carpenter trades
ability to meet higher energy code mandates with less complicated construction
Meet Our Local Nudura ICF & Tremco High-Performance Sealants and Waterproofing Distributor
Fire Resistance of Concrete Homes
Of all construction materials, concrete is one of the most fire resistant material available which means it makes for a great fire barrier. The superior fire resistance of concrete walls gives buildings built with insulating concrete forms distinct safety advantages. And those advantages give builders and buyers yet another reason to consider using ICFs for their next project.
ICF Walls Don't Burn!
ICFs Stand Up Against Fire
Unlike wood, concrete is a fire resistant material and does not burn. Unlike steel, it does not soften and bend. Concrete does not burn until it is exposed to thousands of degrees Fahrenheit — far more than is present in the typical house fire.
This has been confirmed in so-called “fire-wall” tests. In these tests, ICF walls were subjected to continuous gas flames and temperatures of up to 2000°F for as long as four hours. None of the ICF walls ever failed structurally. All of the ICFs tested were of the “flat” or “uninterrupted grid” type, having no significant breaks in the concrete layer. In contrast, wood frame walls typically collapse in an hour or less.
Proven to Stop the Spread
Concrete walls have also proven more resistant to allowing any fire to pass through at any point. This is especially important for buildings located in areas with brush fires that could spread indoors.
The firewall test confirms this rule for ICFs once again. Part of the test measured how well the wall slows the passage of heat and fire. The ICF walls tested did not allow flames to pass directly through. They also did not allow enough heat through to start a fire on the cool side for 2-4 hours. In contrast, wood frame walls typically allow both flame and fire-starting heat through in an hour or less.
Flame Retardant Material
The foams in ICFs are manufactured with flame-retardant additives to prevent the foams from burning by themselves. If you hold a match to the material, it will melt away.
Of course, in a house fire, the foam may be subjected to constant flame from other materials burning nearby (wooden floors, fabrics, etc.). The “Steiner Tunnel Test” measures how much a material carries fire from an outside source. In the test, technicians line a tunnel with the material, run a fire at one end, then measure how far the flame spreads. The flames only traveled about one-fifth of the distance of a tunnel lined with ICF foams, whereas they spread down a tunnel lined with wood.
Free of Harmful Chemical Fumes
Practically any organic material, be it wood or plastic, gives off emissions when it is subjected to intense heat or flame. The Southwest Research Institute reviewed the numerous existing studies of fire emissions and concluded that the emissions from polystyrene foams are “no more toxic” than those of wood.