Problems With Insulated Concrete Form Walls

Written by natasha gilani
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Problems With Insulated Concrete Form Walls
Insulated concrete form walls insulate structures. (concrete image by Andrey Rakhmatullin from

Insulated concrete form (ICF) consists of hollow blocks of insulated foam that are stacked around concrete walls to improve the insulating properties of a structure. ICF walls are used for institutional, industrial, commercial and residential buildings to enhance their comfort, durability and energy efficiency. Insulated concrete forms, like all construction materials, are associated with some problems that you must look at carefully before purchasing.

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Insulated concrete form structures typically cost more than traditional wood structures. The total cost of an insulated concrete form structure or wall includes the purchase cost of ICF, cost of labour, finishes, concrete placement and reinforcement. According to Integra Spec, as of September 2010, a typical new home costs between £39 and £65 per square foot. Insulating concrete form walls add between 60p and £2 per square foot of structure. According to Design Basics, ICF homes cost up to 10 per cent more than standard homes.

According to Thomas J. Elpel in the book "Living Homes," it may prove a more cost effective option to remove parts of an existing concrete wall and fill the gaps with additional insulating material instead of erecting ICF walls.


Insulated concrete form walls are thicker than standard walls, therefore requiring doors and windows with wider jamb extensions. These customised accessories add to the expense. According to Tool Base, windows and doors fitted in insulated concrete form walls require hand trimming and extension jams, which are complicated tasks for do-it-yourself home builders.


Insulated concrete form walls and structures are difficult to modify once they are built. Adding forgotten or additional electrical and plumbing chases, windows and doors after ICF walls are erected requires cutting through the insulated concrete form material, reducing its insulation value. Modifications are expensive and time consuming.

Experienced Personnel

According to Sheri Koones in the book "House About It," insulated concrete form walls require experienced contractors with adequate concrete knowledge to ensure that the concrete is adequately mixed and poured. Insulated concrete forms are a relatively new material, and not too many construction workers are familiar with its construction techniques. Trade contractors may require training in the essence of ICF walls. Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, drywall contractors and siding contracts may charge extra due to the unusual tasks involved in erecting insulated concrete form walls.


The concrete in insulated concrete form walls cures in the first few weeks following construction, increasing indoor humidity levels. Homeowners may need to invest in dehumidifiers or switch on the air conditioning to maintain a comfortable interior temperature. Humidity fosters mildew and mould and must be kept to a minimum.

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