ICF Meets the Challenges of Winter Construction

Take the Guessing and Delays Out of Cold-Weather Months with ICF Construction

by Justin Perry, Nudura Technical Advisor

November 3, 2022 Excerpt

For any build team, the winter months and cold climates pose additional challenges, including excess moisture, difficult working conditions, and frozen building materials. Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) can lessen these cold-weather challenges and ultimately speed your construction timeline.

Cold-Weather Challenges
Cold temperatures and inclement weather are a hindrance for a lot of building materials and can set back a project’s progress. Conventional construction with wood framing is especially vulnerable to potential issues caused by winter weather. Excess moisture can lead to mold and rot or warping of the studs. It can even create “pops” in the drywall which occurs when movement in the stud pushes or pulls the screw fastening the drywall, resulting in a defect of the finished product.

In addition to end-result challenges, compressor lines can freeze for air-nailers, battery life is significantly shortened for drills and nail guns, and installers may need more frequent breaks as their hands get cold. All these factors can add up, lengthening construction times, risking call-backs to fix imperfections, and losing revenue.

Advantages of ICFs
ICF construction offers dual foam panels and a concrete core to insulate the building almost immediately. The inherent thermal mass requires very little heat to acclimate the structure for interior finishing. The blocks themselves are lightweight, which speeds the process for installers, and because no additional air barriers or cladding is required to make the structure weather-tight, the sub-trades and interior finishing can begin sooner. And by closing in the building faster, owner-operators generate increased revenue streams and avoid the project incurring interest by going past opening deadlines.

In winter months, minor precautions must still be taken to protect the top of the wall and prevent snow and ice from accumulating within the wall cavity. ICF wall construction does not require space to be cleared on the subfloor so time can be allocated towards erecting the structural walls versus the removal of snow.

Upon completion of the ICF walls, contractors find there is superior structural strength without additional supports needing to stay in place. This alleviates concerns experienced in traditional wood frame construction, where exterior walls must continue to be supported with bracing until additional floors or trusses are placed.

Conclusion
Overlapping construction with winter weather is often unavoidable. Cold temperatures can complicate material application and slow down a project significantly. For external wall construction, insulated concrete forms are preferred over wood-framing because they are easier and faster to install, have fewer moisture considerations, and insulate the building more quickly. Ultimately, ICF construction speeds the shell dry-in process, allowing the interior trades to begin sooner and the building to be well on its way to completion.

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