Modern Building Practices
Insulated Concrete Forms
We unfortunately live in an environment where we often need protection, lots of protection. When building a new home or cottage, we really need to think about protecting ourselves in two key ways; not only do we need the obvious protection from the Canadian elements, we should also consider ways to protect our pocketbooks from both construction and maintenance costs.
It is an issue we’ve spent a lot of time researching over the years and, through our experience, we believe we have developed a sound approach to constructing a high-quality building envelope for our clients. The envelope consists of many different elements, including: the foundation, the windows and doors, insulation and the roof. Each element needs careful consideration.
That said, a high-quality-building envelope starts at the bottom, with a high-quality, plum and true foundation. It is foundational (sorry could not pass up the play on words) to any building strategy we bring to our clients. At the end of the day, your home is only as strong as its foundation. It’s as simple as that.
Our research, years of experience and our desire to bring to our clients the very best in foundation performance, have lead us to exclusively build our foundations with insulated concrete forms (otherwise known as ICF).
A technique first developed in Europe following World War II, insulated concrete forms (ICF) use rigid polystyrene material, in the form of blocks, to create the full form of the foundation. The blocks interlock like Lego pieces to create both the structure of the form and the thermal insulation of the foundation.
Because the insulating concrete forms stay in place after the concrete pour, we can essentially combine two steps in one and get the foundation built and insulated all at the same time. Drywall is then affixed directly to the ICF interior block, removing the need for wall studs or the installation of a vapour barrier. Finishing the basement is dramatically simplified, long term heating costs are reduced and your basement will be warm, dry, and quiet for many years to come!
Once the concrete has cured, the forms are left in place to provide a variety of benefits including:
- Thermal insulation (The current product we use at Integrity Home and Cottage offers an R30 insulation rating)
- Sound proofing
- Space to run electrical conduit and plumbing
- Backing for drywall or other finishes on the interior and a base for stucco, brick, or other siding on the exterior
- Improved indoor air quality
- Regulate humidity and mitigate mold growth
- Tighter seal to keep vermin and rodents out of the structure.
With an improved shell construction, what used to be considered a damp and at times even unusable space now becomes prime real estate in any new home or cottage.
Insulated Concrete Forms do come with their own challenges. Any builder constructing with Insulated Concrete Forms needs to be trained and certified in the art of ICF. Given the inconsistent quality of many untrained installers, ICF foundations can sometimes have a bad reputation. Make no mistake – poorly installed ICF blocks offer none of the benefits mentioned above. We made the decision many years ago to train and use our own people to install our foundations to the highest standards, consistently.
At Integrity Home and Cottage, we believe that ICF is the foundation for customer satisfaction in your new home or cottage.