Insulated concrete forms pros and cons

Insulated concrete forms pros and cons


For more than two decades, insulated concrete forms (ICFs) have been serving as an innovative solution to erecting new homes across the United States.

These forms, which are made of expanded polystyrene or other insulating materials, provide a sturdy framework for pouring concrete, resulting in durable, energy-efficient homes.

The development of ICFs began even earlier than their widespread adoption, and experts predict that their popularity will continue to rise as more builders and homeowners recognize the benefits of this durable and sustainable construction method.

What are insulated concrete forms?

ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms) is a new concept to the general public and concrete contractors alike. Quite simply, they are stiff, hollow foam forms that fit together like a puzzle to create basement and upper-floor walls.

The ICFs are two-sided blocks with 2 inches of foam board insulation as the sides of the form. Plastic ties hold the two sides together. These forms interlock with each other, forming a wall.

Once they are fitted together, concrete is poured inside the foam forms. Although contractors still know nothing about ICF, they hold many benefits over using the standard poured concrete or masonry block basement walls.

Energy Efficiency

ICF homes are incredibly sturdy because the forms are filled with concrete, making these homes like small fortresses. The foam board insulation on the interior and exterior acts as a double barrier to the elements, creating a very well-insulated cavity.

The more beneficial to the energy efficiency is that the walls are entirely airtight. The only way air can penetrate a home of this design is by opening windows and doors or mechanically bringing air into the house. These scenarios require ARV (air recovery ventilators) to get fresh air to the home and prevent indoor air pollution.

Insulated concrete forms cost may be high, but so will the savings in time

Insulated concrete forms cost

The cost of ICF is moderately priced and competitive with poured concrete walls. Although ICF is initially a little more expensive, the money saved on energy consumption is significantly reduced. , ICF completely insulates the basement, where heat escapes most in a house. This keeps energy costs very low.

ICF forms are about $30 for 16×48 section ICF blocks so that the price can increase quickly. This does not include turnbuckles (used to support the wall while the concrete is poured) or straitening ties.

Concrete costs roughly $80-$100 per yard, depending on the geographic location and the concrete you purchase. The more you buy, the better the price.

Because of the cost of the material for this type of home building, many people do not feel that the extra cost is worth the energy savings. However, similar-performing homes have much higher insulation costs than ICF homes, narrowing the price gap between the conventional and ICF building styles.

Building a more energy-efficient home will require a more significant investment than building conventionally. Eventually, energy-efficient buildings will no longer be an option but will be part of the International Building Code. This will bring the costs of energy efficiency from a dream to a reality.

Three reasons to use Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) for basement construction


ICF basements are surrounded on the inside and out with thick foam. These basements feel entirely different from any standard poured concrete basement as they are well insulated from both sides.

With concrete alone, moisture can seep in and create mildew and moldy smell over time. ICF basements will never have this problem. Moisture cannot get through the foam walls. The added comfort of the ICF makes finishing a basement much more pleasant.

Energy Consumption

Some people only think of money when discussing the amount of energy ICF basements save. Other people realize the amount of energy and natural resources they will save by insulating their basements.

When the heat doesn’t escape, there is no need to run the furnace, heat pump, stove, or geothermal system. Saving electricity and natural resources is just one step you can take to help the earth live for your grandchildren’s children.

Ease of Finishing

Nowadays, finishing the basement is becoming more and more popular. When people need or want to add to the square footage of their house, finishing the basement is by far the most cost-effective method.

When using standard concrete poured basements, the only way to finish the walls and add drywall is to bolt studs to the concrete. Then you can screw the drywall to the studs. ICF basements are much different. You can screw drywall directly to the foam forms.

This saves a lot of time, energy, and money. There is no need to buy extra lumber for studs and nail them to the walls. The foam acts as a stud all around the basement.

Cons of Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF)

There were many pros for ICF, but as promised, we should also deliver some cons. The first one is that the double insulation will make the walls thicker. That will eat a little space away. It’s also hard to remodel afterward if doors or windows need to be installed. Then again, not all walls need to be built like this. Depending on the contractors, the price might be higher without competition.

Also, when building underground, the foam should be designed to be waterproof against insects. Those two can lead to some trouble if missed. There might be some technical issues as well, such as if the contractors need to become more familiar with the technique or they try to take shortcuts for the schedule. That isn’t an ICF problem in itself.


Insulated Concrete Forms, or ICFs, are an innovative building technique that is gaining popularity across the construction industry. Essentially, ICFs are large, hollow blocks made from materials like polystyrene foam or expanded polystyrene that are stacked together to create the walls of a building.

Once the blocks are in place, they are filled with concrete to provide a strong, durable structure.

One of the key advantages of ICFs is their exceptional energy efficiency. The insulation provided by the foam blocks can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs, making them a popular choice for homeowners and property developers alike.

However, it’s important to note that proper installation is essential to achieve these benefits. If the builders don’t have the necessary expertise, the end result may not be as efficient as advertised, which can be frustrating and expensive for the property owner.

Despite these challenges, ICFs remain a promising option for those looking to build energy-efficient, sustainable structures.

By working with experienced builders who understand the complexities of this technique, you can ensure that your ICF construction project meets all of your expectations and delivers long-lasting benefits.