ICF Homes: Considerations & Design Ideas

Many of today’s new home builders want ener­gy-effi­cient, durable, healthy, com­fort­able and low-main­te­nance hous­es. These para­me­ters for a new home have sparked an increas­ing inter­est in wall sys­tems con­struct­ed with insu­lat­ed con­crete form (ICF). Insu­lat­ed con­crete form wall sys­tems are ener­gy-effi­cient, dis­as­ter-, fire-, and pest-resis­tant, noise-reduc­ing, healthy, and easy to main­tain.

ICF Homes are a Good Investment

Insu­lat­ed con­crete form homes are also an excel­lent invest­ment. An ICF house may cost slight­ly more to build than a wood-frame house, but an ICF house quick­ly recov­ers the ini­tial costs with low­er util­i­ty, main­te­nance and repair expens­es. In fact, when the increased con­struc­tion costs of ICF are added to a mort­gage and the ener­gy sav­ings are fac­tored in, the month­ly cost to home­own­ers are typ­i­cal­ly no more than $15 – 30 per month. In some cas­es, month­ly costs can actu­al­ly be less than a stan­dard home.

Insu­lat­ed con­crete form homes are not only sol­id, com­fort­able, and ener­gy-effi­cient, but aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing. In fact, an ICF home can look just like a house built with con­ven­tion­al wood fram­ing.

The Design Flexibility of ICF Homes

Anoth­er advan­tage of ICF con­struc­tion is they pro­vide more design flex­i­bil­i­ty than wood con­struc­tion, mak­ing it eas­i­er to add com­plex archi­tec­tur­al con­tours and curves and oth­er design fea­tures. There are many design options when build­ing a new ICF home.

Considerations and Design Ideas for ICF Homes

A future home­own­er of an ICF house should con­sid­er sev­er­al impor­tant design ideas for sav­ing time, mon­ey, and lim­it­ing con­struc­tion waste.

  • A crit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tion when design­ing an ICF home is choos­ing an expe­ri­enced con­trac­tor with prac­ti­cal field instal­la­tion expe­ri­ence. The con­trac­tor must have a com­plete under­stand­ing of the ICF method spe­cif­ic to the man­u­fac­ture of the prod­uct. An expe­ri­enced, high-qual­i­ty con­trac­tor saves time and mon­ey and ensures prop­er con­struc­tion of a new ICF home.
  • To reduce on-site labor and save mon­ey, the design of the wall heights, lengths, and posi­tion of doors and win­dows should be opti­mized for the ICF sys­tem. An ICF con­trac­tor should strive to min­i­mize cut­ting and cus­tomiza­tion by care­ful­ly plan­ning and design­ing the ICF home.
  • The design of an ICF home should care­ful­ly con­sid­er the mechan­i­cal, elec­tri­cal, and plumb­ing (MEP) on its exte­ri­or wall. Through-wall pen­e­tra­tions in exte­ri­or walls can include gas, elec­tric, plumb­ing, water, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and air con­di­tion­ing. It is essen­tial to install through-wall con­duit and MEP sys­tems before the con­crete pour. How­ev­er, through-wall pen­e­tra­tions less than 10-inch­es in diam­e­ter can be made through Bau­tex Block ICF even after the pour.
  • To best coor­di­nate with elec­tri­cal, plumb­ing, HVAC, and oth­er trades, a good con­trac­tor will deter­mine before con­struc­tion begins when these sys­tems will be installed in the wall. Effec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion with sub­con­trac­tors will stream­line the project and save time and mon­ey.
  • As with any wall sys­tem, sim­pler exte­ri­or wall designs are the most cost-effi­cient when build­ing an ICF home. A home with few­er cor­ners, turns, or spe­cial angles in the foun­da­tion, walls, and roof will be faster, eas­i­er and cheap­er to build. Also, a sim­ple front-to-back gable roof is less expen­sive than a com­plex mul­ti­ple-pitch hip roof.
  • Because ICF walls are thick, some up to 14 inch­es thick, design­ing with ICF may mean giv­ing up inte­ri­or space to the wall. Anoth­er con­sid­er­a­tion is ICF may require door and win­dow frames to be extend­ed sub­stan­tial­ly to accu­mu­late the thick­er walls. Screen-grid ICF sys­tems that are 10-inch­es deep pro­vide the best bal­ance between struc­tur­al capac­i­ty, insu­la­tion, weight and cost of con­struc­tion for most build­ing types and cli­mate zones.
  • The local cli­mate is an impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tion when design­ing an ener­gy-effi­cient ICF home. The design of an ICF must take into account the home’s ori­en­ta­tion on the site, room and win­dow place­ment, ven­ti­la­tion, and shad­ing.
  • The Bau­tex Wall Sys­tem is a com­pos­ite insu­lat­ed con­crete form wall sys­tem that offers tremen­dous design flex­i­bil­i­ty. Whether design­ing a com­mer­cial build­ing or pri­vate home, Bau­tex Blocks have the aes­thet­ic free­dom to con­struct both com­plex and sim­ple designs, includ­ing arch­es and radiused walls. Also, the con­crete grid sys­tem formed by Bau­tex Blocks is a very effi­cient use of con­crete for most one, two and three sto­ry build­ings. The Bau­tex Block is a ver­sa­tile con­crete form that is strong and light­weight. It can be quick­ly and eas­i­ly mod­i­fied in the field to meet any design spec­i­fi­ca­tion. The Bau­tex Block is also ener­gy-effi­cient, healthy, and fire-, mois­ture- and, dis­as­ter-resis­tant.

Design­ing and build­ing a house with insu­lat­ed con­crete forms cre­ates a durable, com­fort­able, ener­gy-effi­cient, and aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing home. Two impor­tant ideas a future home­own­er should con­sid­er when design their ICF home is to choose an expe­ri­enced ICF con­trac­tor and pre­pare a detailed plan before begin­ning con­struc­tion. A prop­er­ly exe­cut­ed plan for build­ing an ICF home will save time, and con­struc­tion costs.