Insulated concrete forms offer all kinds of advantages over traditional construction, but no material is perfect. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of ICFs.
ICFs offer numerous advantages over traditional building methods:
- Stacked as interlocking blocks, ICF homes are faster to build than traditional wood-frame buildings. An experienced contractor familiar with ICF construction will be able to save time and money in construction.
- When installed, an ICF wall offers superior energy efficiency and thermal comfort. ICFs combine the thermal mass (ability to store temperature) of concrete with the insulation (ability to hold temperature) of the ICF block. The concrete walls have a high thermal mass, which regulates the daily temperature swings, keeping your home more comfortable throughout the day.
- Because the ICFs are solidly filled with concrete, the walls don’t have any openings or gaps found in wood-stud walls, making ICF buildings much more energy efficient. Your monthly heating bills will be up to 50 percent less than in a similar wood-frame building.
- Owners of new ICF homes almost always comment on how unbelievably quiet their new house is, compared to their old wood house. The mass and insulation of the walls have a deadening effect to outside noises. It’s similar to the quiet you find in your basement.
- An ICF building is more secure than a wood-frame building. The strong and durable walls are perfect for areas where earthquakes, tornados, and hurricanes are commonplace. Unlike wood-frame houses, an ICF home is more fire resistant.
- ICF homes are safer for you and your family. In fact, many insurance companies provide a discount on a homeowner’s policy for an ICF home. Ask your agent about these benefits.
Because the walls are solid concrete, you need to plan for your plumbing and electrical chases as you would in a regular concrete building. You can add chases for forgotten pipes after you pour the concrete, but you’ll have to cut into the ICF, reducing the insulation value.
Choose a contractor with ICF experience, or at least experience with concrete construction. After the walls are poured, you can’t afford to punch holes through the wall to add a forgotten window.