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What is an Insulating Concrete Form (ICF)

While there are several types of forms, (blocks, plank & panels) the basic function is to provide an interior and exterior polystyrene wall, that when erected will provide a form structure capable of containing concrete when placed. The insulating form stays in place after the placing of the concrete to provide your insulation as well as a vehicle for attaching your internal and exterior finishes. 

How are they used?

Typically Insulating Concrete Forms are used for the external walls, above and below grade, in homes as well as commercial buildings. Insulating Concrete Forms are also used in multi-story applications.

Who uses them?

While ICFs have been in use in the United States since the early 1970s, their use has been somewhat limited to value-minded homeowners, do-it-yourselfers and forward thinking builders. However, we are seeing, as the growing testimonials of satisfied homeowners spread, more and more builders looking into this material. as well as non-profit organizations interested in quality affordable housing.

What are they made from?

By far the most common foams are expanded polystyrene (often abbreviated EPS) and extruded polystyrene (XPS). EPS consists of tightly fused beads of foam, an example being vending machine coffee cups. XPS is more continuous, it does not have the grain appearance of EPS, an example would be the trays found in meat departments in grocery stores.

Are they safe?

Most Insulating Concrete Forms enjoy approval of the Southern Building Code ratings for earthquake zones, hurricane and tornado protection, bullet resistant, fire retardant, non-toxic (should a fire occur the smoke is less toxic than burning wood. (U.S. Testing Co. Report 03298) several of the ICE systems have received ALL national codes.

Is it new?  Well, not exactly...

It has been success fully used by European builders for decades, however it was initially introduced to North America in the 1970s and started to get noticed in the early 1990s. One of the components used in creating these walls has quite an impressive history. Concrete...It is still standing in Rome!

Are ICFs proven  Absolutely!

These ICF systems are increasingly being used across the country and continue to deliver exciting benefits to those living, learning, playing, or working within their solid walls. The ICF systems exceed Building Standards and received approval from the various Building Codes across the country. (It is estimated that approximately 4,000 homes were built in 1996.)

Who do I contact for more information?

 We have several Dealers that sell our ICF product.  Should you be in a location without a local Distributor     or Dealer please feel free to contact us here at 1-800-961-1521.

Are they easy to use? 

 Absolutely, ICFs have been used by volunteer organizations having little or no building experience. At a Habitat for Humanity homes, in the Austin and Houston areas, both had the same experience, the external walls were installed and braced IN ONE DAY by a team of inexperienced volunteers!   As with any project you are encouraged to follow the Manufacturers guidelines when using the product.

What type of buildings can Insulating Concrete Forms be used on?

 ICFs can be used for virtually any type of building. The residential and light commercial market segments have been the first to convert to this building material. The following is a representative list of some of the projects across the county.

Fast food restaurant  Youth Centers Condos & Apartments 

Utility Company Offices

Childrens Home High School  Shopping Mall 

Auto Centers

All types of Homes Day Care Caters  Churches  

Does this cost more than traditional building materials?

Currently industries cost estimates are running between 2-10% higher than traditional construction.  This is obviously affected by lumber prices, concrete prices, labor expense, etc. As ICFs become more main stream the associated labor prices will drop as installation crews become more  proficient. The reduced cost of ownership offsets the initial expense.

Why am I just seeing them now?

The building industry is notoriously slow to accept new ideas and/or technology, e.g.: the nail gun. Builders are typically not interested in risking profit and/or liability with new products or ideas. Consequently they wait to see if it really works  Consumers have now become more educated and aggressive with builders, and are demanding  various products be included in their new homes. In addition, testimonials associated with owning, operating and living in ICF homes are becoming more known. Hometime and This Old House have also done programs on ICF home construction. The word is getting out!

Can any builder use them?

Certainly. ICFbyCAS offers training, as well as support materials for certifying builders.

Can I use them to build my own home?

Yes you can. Many homes have been constructed by individuals that have purchased the forms and gone through training or arranged to receive assistance through their ICFbyCAS Distributor.  Obviously we would encourage you to do your homework, and to seek experienced help.

What kind of energy savings can I really expect?
ICF manufacturers report that, depending on windows and roof systems, you can expect to save between 50 and 70% on your heating and cooling expense, over traditional construction. Several homeowners have reportedly applied these saving to their mortgages in order to take advantage of early payoffs utilizing saved funds.

Why do people talk about the feel of these homes?
First, and foremost, is the overall effect of massive concrete walls encapsulated within high density expanded polystyrene insulation. The human body is a heat generating machine which continuously gives off heat. The ASHRAE Handbook (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers) states that, even when people are sedentary and inactive they give off about 340 BTUs of heat pet hour. Although the air absorbs a small amount of this body heat, the majority of heat radiates outward until a solid mass is encountered. If the amount of mass is small, such as a wood frame wall, the heat rapidly moves through to the other
side, If the wall is insulated, the heat moves through more slowly. IF the mass is large and cold, such as in a cold non-insulated concrete wall, the body heat will be immediately absorbed. By allowing this radiant heat to escape through the structure, all of these wall types will have the effect of drawing heat away from your body, making you feel chilly and uncomfortable. In an ICF wall, the body heat loss is offset by the heat being emitted by the warm, massive insulated concrete wall. This balance creates a stabilizing effect on the interior environment, leaving you with an unequaled sense of comfort and well being.

The second factor related to comfort is the temperature difference between the floor and ceiling. The ASHRAE Handbook states: A person may feel thermally neutral for the body as a whole, but might not be comfortable if one part of the body is warm and another cold (Page 8.20). In buildings constructed of conventional materials, the temperature difference between the floor and ceiling will range from 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, the temperature difference from floor to ceiling in an ICF building is typically less than 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Where can I see a complete building or one under construction?
Call us at 361-949-8332 or 1-800-961-1521

How does this compare to traditional super-insulated homes?
Typically they out perform the super-insulated homes. Functionally a traditional home would have to be built to perform at an R-40 to compete with an Insulating Concrete Form home.

What kind of design can I use?
Your plans can easily be modified to accommodate the Insulating Concrete Form walls. With ICFbyCAS Wall system there are no size or shape limitations. Your existing plans can easily be modified to  accommodate the Insulating Concrete Form walls.

What kind of exterior and interior finishes can I use?
Any exterior or interior finish can be used with Insulating Concrete Forms by CAS.

 What about city and local codes?
In the state of Texas and most other states VERSA-FORM Insulating Concrete Forms are considered an engineered wall i.e. (the wall structure is designed by a local engineer the same engineer that designs the foundation ). This is the same process for any concrete wall for any building and will satisfy most code issues and local codes. Local inspectors are becoming more and more familiar with ICFs, thus creating less of an issue when it comes to inspecting and approving your project.

Does this construction make a home too air-tight?
Because of the solid concrete wails, enclosed in insulated material, you home/building will be very tight. Many homeowners choose to install an air exchanger to control the quality of the air inside their homes. This has proven to be a huge benefit to those suffering from allergies, as well as those who hate to dust frequently! The American Lung Association has built several Health Houses using ICFs. We will publish their finds as they become available. The early data has been very  positive.

What is the building season for Insulating Concrete Forms?
In Texas the building season is year-round. However in northern states where the climate is very cold in the  winter the concrete can be placed at much lower temperatures because of the insulating qualities of the foam forms.

Can I use this product in an earthquake or hurricane zone?
Absolutely. Most ICFs are rated for Zone 4 as it relates to earthquakes, Additionally most ICFs are rated for wind speeds in excess of 140 mph. Check with your insurance carrier, as many are evaluating the strength of Insulating Concrete Forms for associated premium reductions.

What kind of resale am I looking at?
While there has not been a coordinated effort, to this point, to impact the appraisal process, most appraisers are clearly recognizing the durability and quality of these super strong structures Issues being addressed are: durability, longevity, low maintenance, superior energy-efficiency, as well as the incalculable safe and comfortable living environment.

Download FAQs in Printable Format.

Feel free to download our FAQs in a printable format.  We have provided the FAQs in two different file formats.  Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF. 

Download FAQs (PDF-required Adobe Acrobat Reader) Download FAQs (Microsoft Word Version)

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