which ICF blocks are the best?
Last Post 10 Jul 2013 09:30 PM by Hargscarpentry. 23 Replies.
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JellyUser is Offline
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05 Nov 2007 11:21 AM
A forum like this is a treasure of information for us rookies. What other way could we so quickly gain such in-depth knowledge from direct contact with people in the know?

I know many of you are professionals, and you have good reasons why you may not want to promote one block over another. But it would be a great help if you could discuss what properties about a block in general make it necessary to require 2 x 4's for corner bracing for example, or better yet what properties make a block superior by not requiring such bracing systems. Or what is it about certain systems that make you trust them more than others. Does it matter to you if there are webs every 6 inches or is every 8 inches enough? And so on...

I've visited a lot of the ICF manufacturer's websites, and while you can get a lot of information there, it is of course all one-sided ("our forms are the best!"). So if you don't mind saying "Brand-X is better because of this" then that's great. But if you don't like rating them like that by name, then you could just speak in general terms of the best qualities and so forth.
QuantumUser is Offline
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05 Nov 2007 11:33 AM
Some brands are great but support does not exist. Support is vital for n00bs.

Things to look for in a block: denser foam, thicker foam, stronger webbing, higher recycled content. You can get objective numbers for each of these if you try. If you don't like research you will end up with an inferior choice, but can still assess using 'racking'. Stand the block on a corner and press on it from the top corner. If it distorts more than an inch with light pressure, it's cheep.

I'd mentioned a few trustworthy brands in your other thread. To boil it down, AFAIC Amvic has the best support (altho this varies wildly by region) and second-best block, and Logix has the best block (thickest, best webbing). Having experience I'd build my house with Logix.

irnivekUser is Offline
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05 Nov 2007 03:49 PM
Jelly:
We're glad you asked.

All blocks are not equal, no more than all vehicles are equal. Model A Fords were nice in their day, but I'm not interested in going over the Bighorns in one today. Nope, give me a cummins diesel or duramax any day.

Just so, many forms are antiquated and should indeed be put on the museum shelf, just like 5 pound cell phones and 8-tracks.

Having said this, I believe that quality support and bracing is paramount for a do-it-yourselfer, and great quality finished product CAN be achieved with many different forms. But often not in a cost effective manner which would encourage repeat sales and a catapult of the ICF industry which is a goal of our company.

In our opinion, three manufacturers forms will achieve maximum success with lower labor, shipping, waste and ancillary material costs.

A six inch on center web spacing fixed form is most user friendly all around.
So hurrah for Buildblock, Amvic, Reward, Greenblock, Superform
But onlyl Amvic, Reward, Buildblock are reversible, a value added feature for labor and material savings. We offer our best installation prices to install projects with these forms.

About every 8 inch on center system propogates the use of "in-wall bracing" also called Form-loc. This product is priced locally for $9.39 per 10 ft. section. Typically three courses of form loc is used per pour. Nudura, Arxx, Logix, and many other 8 inch web systems have added costs because it takes more money in material and labor to gain perfect finished product. Knock down, fold flat forms equal forms that will hinge and cause more problems during concrete placement and more bracing requirements.

Consolidation is always an issue. Webs that allow stacking of rebar at splices without the need for wire ties to accomplish a code approved lap splice are a great addition when stacking block. Amvic, Reward, Buildblock have these features. Nudura, Arxx, Logix, Polysteel, etc. do not. Form loc has a tendeny to hang up concrete, and unfortunately, many distributors still sell forms but not provide vibrators...

Cost of other trades also affects our decisions; If your subs want to charge great gobs more money because you're using "them foam block" either you are using the wrong form or training them inmproperly.
ie.
I have a drywalller who charges extra to tape walls with 8 inch on center ties. He says that their is slight bulging between webs which cause him to have to spot nails an extra time to get a slick finish.
Ties must be 1.5 inches wide.
Corners must have excellent attachment points for all finishes.
Electricians should be able to run horizontally at joints in the forms without having to fight with continuous ties.

Some quirky things we like are a self draining interlock (buildblock, reward) so moisture doesn't freeze in the interlocks and pieces of foam, concrete aren't lodged in cavities.
Many concrete cavities (ie. Arxx) are wider than they need to be. Versus Buildblock, Arxx uses much more concrete in the same sq. footage of wall. Why spend the extra money if it's not needed?

Last year a distributor (sales based) visited us, asking if we would install their product, Polysteel. Our answer was no. They asked why not, and long story short, the distributor switched to Amvic and has quadrupled its market share in less than a year. For a distributor, it is the REPEAT sale which generates the real income.

For those of you who disagree and get mad, send me an email on your commodore 64, or maybe just a message on the pony express.

For years I didn't know better, never knew better ICF options were available to get straighter walls faster. Now I know, and it's my belief that when we know better, we should do better. That is my motivation for this possibly inflamatory post.

Kevin


And still to date we've been a labor only company.
QuantumUser is Offline
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05 Nov 2007 04:10 PM
Not inflammatory. Fairly honest, I'd say.

But when you say:
"[i]Consolidation is always an issue. Webs that allow stacking of rebar at splices without the need for wire ties to accomplish a code approved lap splice are a great addition when stacking block. Amvic, Reward, Buildblock have these features. Nudura, Arxx, Logix, Polysteel, etc. do not.[/i]"

... actually Logix does accommodate overlap joints without wire-ties. Admittedly Logix is not reversible, and this is where Amvic excels, but Logix is about to release forms with [i]removable[/i] webbing, allowing placement of complex rebar bends, easier arch construction, etc. And yet they fit so well that they pass my racking test.

I don't see alot of difference in using 8" vs 6" webbing, except that 6" is incompatible with any systems that rely on the traditional 16" joist. Plus 6" is harder to space rebar according to seismic standards in HUD's Prescriptive Method.

Amvic has alot of surface-area in the interlocks so they are less likely to pull apart, plus they are reversible so less waste, but nothing can beat thicker foam AFAIC, all else being equal. Long-term is more important. Furthermore, I think form-loc is a good idea no matter what blocks you use, assuming it fits snugly.
JellyUser is Offline
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07 Nov 2007 02:58 PM
It's great to hear the honest responses. I guess the choice is also going to depend on which block manufacturer has a distributor nearby who can put a bit of time in to the project, too.

Looks like BuildBlock has some great corner blocks.

Does anyone have any experience with Fox Blocks in regards to the already mentioned qualities?
TLLEUser is Offline
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07 Nov 2007 03:21 PM
In my opinion Any ICF is better than conventional stick framing. Do your research and with the design of the structure you want to build & find the best suited for your needs, if you are building in a area with high traffic or near an airport Check the STC rating. If your design has radius curves there are ICFs to accommodate that. Check R Value, where they are Manufactured, Post & beam or solid infill, Blower door test, ease of finishes,interior & exterior. Fire rating, Possibly speak to certified installers, a lot of installers have hands on experience with a variety of different forms. Any ICF manufacturer should have projects, finished or under construction that you could see tour, etc.
irnivekUser is Offline
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07 Nov 2007 10:24 PM
Quantum:
Unless the webs have very recently been adapted, Logix has rebar fingers only a half inch deep, therefore when using a contact splice, wire ties must be used. Use a non contact lap splice if you wish, but when placing bar side by side, you must have 1.5 inches between the bar. So pour and consolidate even more carefully! Side by side bar hangs up concrete and should be avoided when possible.

6" web spacing is in fact far better all around. I know, because all we USED to use were 8 inch on center systems. We worked just as hard, but struggled more. The "16 inch traditional" mumbo jumbo makes me laugh, that's really all the 8 inch web manufacturers have to defend themselves with.
One of the biggest advantages of six inch webs is that next to openings, one will never have more than 4 unsupported "foam bars", which will support concrete and careful vibration without ANY scabbing/strapping/taping/zipties. Only glue between the buck and foam block. An eight inch system may have up to 6 unsupported foam bars (inches) and extra support is usually needed. Go ahead and pay for the extra material, the labor to install and remove the extra bracing if you wish.
Now T-walls. I don't advocate the need for a T block. They are frilly and uneccessary. T blocks come in pairs, shorts and longs. And they come by the bundle. So more pieces to inventory, order, and lay out. Then get on the job, and cut each wall section at each side of a T-wall. Three cuts per T. More waste, more time.....
We use six inch center web forms and cut a six inch concrete cavity for six inch core, eight inch concrete cavity for eight inch core. Maximum ONE web is lost, leaving 12 inches maximum unsupported foam. No exterior bracing is needed on the outside of the T when braced correctly inside. No waste, the intersecting wall can be plumbed independantly, usefull especially when the slab has a roll in it...
Need a taper top? Mitre it on a 10" table saw. No frills if we want to make an industry of it, else it will just be a long term niche market.
Watch out for some of the forms which have less than 1 1/2 web width, they make sheetrockers, siders sad.

Jelly, you are right about great local support, which is paramount for the do it yourselfer. I say if you must, pay more for block to get bracing, support and quality ancillary products. Get your project above grade ASAP! A direct sale manufacturer might not be saving you any money....
We just tend to be more picky, because a penny saved in labor is a penny earned, as stacking block is what we do. It was a tough decision to quit hanging on the manufacturers legs "begging" for leads, probably the paramount problem why ICF growth is not even stronger. Carpenters are afraid to be honest about what blocks they like, because then they get blackballed by the manufacturers. Wonder if that's why none of the 8 inch web systems send us work anymore????? But we haven't had to stand around in the manufacturers home show booths selling their product for them either.....
Look at the interlock to Fox Blocks. They don't interlock often enough, and therefore are not exactly waste friendly. 8 inch web spacing. I've heard support can be a problem. But one can get a good finished product if you are willing to put the time into it. And that Model A ford might get over the Bighorns if I bring my tool set....
I'd rather bring a cooler and fishing rod.
Buildblock, Amvic, Reward. They all have great products, great availability, support, code approvals, distributor networks. They are the "greenest" because mathematically, they will generate less waste. Three "great" choices is plenty. Why pay and do more with a "good" choice?

Kevin

LegoLandUser is Offline
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08 Nov 2007 01:47 AM
Hi folks,

Like Jelly, I'm newer to this whole side of green construction but am intrigued to learn more. I have an upcoming smaller project and would like to experiment with an ICF for possible future on something larger down the road.  I'll admit, I just did a quick search through this thread instead of reading it entirely. That said, I saw no mention of non-foam ICFs mentioned here. I'm thinking of Durisol, Faswall, and Rastra off the top of my head.

What are people's experience with these products (non-foam, wood-based) versus foam block forms?

Thanks



QuantumUser is Offline
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08 Nov 2007 08:34 PM
Good input irnivek, thanks.

Lego, those concretious blocks are going away now. Manufacturing must be very close to the build site, or big shipping costs. Also the insulative value is far inferior to ICF, being almost zero.
Tony WilkeyUser is Offline
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08 Nov 2007 09:54 PM
Posted By Quantum on 11/08/2007 8:34 PM
Good input irnivek, thanks.

Lego, those concretious blocks are going away now. Manufacturing must be very close to the build site, or big shipping costs. Also the insulative value is far inferior to ICF, being almost zero.[/quote]



I have been looking at these guys LINK. They are growing and have a very nice R52 block with a 4hr fire rating. I'm not sure how widely available there block is.

Tony
jmbeamUser is Offline
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16 Nov 2007 09:52 AM
Nowhere in this thread is any mention of EcoBlock. I was under the impression that they were one of the largest manufactures. Are they really that inferior? The local 84 Lumber stocks these blocks.
concretewallsUser is Offline
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16 Nov 2007 10:09 PM
EcoBlock is a perfectly fine block. As has been stated in the previous posts. Support and product availabilty is most important. After all, it is all just foam and plastic or steel. Research your area and see who is doing what and by all means ask for references and visit current jobsites. Lot's of companies will inflate their expertise. Nothing beats doing your due dilligence!
irnivekUser is Offline
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16 Nov 2007 11:09 PM
Concretewalls: correction,
Eco block HAS been a perfectly fine block. But it is now rather dusty, in fact also sitting on the museum shelf. Many the contractor breathes easier not wondering if a plastic tie was snapped together properly and will blow apart during concrete placement in cold weather. Many a carpenter is elated that they aren't putting blocks together in the mud on a jobsite. Many an icf installer more productive and profitable who has moved on to better products.


Kevin
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16 Nov 2007 11:22 PM
May be your experience irnivek, but I know many installers who are doing just fine with EcoBlock. BTW I am not associated with EcoBlock. It's all what your comfortable with. I have witnessed installers do poorly with the "new" generation of ICF. It's all about attention to detail.
irnivekUser is Offline
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16 Nov 2007 11:34 PM
My point exactly! ICF is actually about problem solving, thinking outside the box, in fact often doing what you are NOT initially comfortable with, to achieve even better results.
The reason the building industry is in shambles (see Consumer Reports Jan. 2004 "housewrecked") is because builders and consumers alike continue to underachieve according to what they are "comforable with"

And yes, poor results can be achieved with great products. But if many of the characteristic historical shortfalls of ICF-expensive, curvy, slow walls-are solved simply by newer best products, with international availability and great pricing, hooray for everyone.

Kevin
Kevin
concretewallsUser is Offline
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16 Nov 2007 11:42 PM

I agree!  The only thing that will save this industry is innovation!  Having been in the ICF industry for 8 years, I have seen alot!  I like the way things are going now! 

 

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21 Nov 2007 12:31 AM
There is no forum for modular dry stack concrete block building systems but there are several producers in the USA.

 I have built with DAC-ART and photo-journaled the process online. That was four years ago. The eye of Hurricane Ivan went over my house and I had no damage. I had 3 other people's homes, broken into a thousand pieces in my yard tho. (Photos online on my site)  Now I am building the main residence on the same lot and of course I am using the same DAC-ART Building System.

This time the website is LINK to watch the progress. I have photos of some other dry stack concrete block projects on that site too.

I really wouldn't consider anything else. I don't think you can beat it for beauty, strength, and no maintenance.

I am taking evey precaution to use eco-friendly products that can all stand up to a good drenching. I am leaning towards the new imported magnesium oxide wall boards and have been researching that product.

People always ask if building with huge dry stack blcoks is mor expensive and the answer is initially yes....but then, you can do things archtiecturally that you just can't do with stick or ICF construction...so it is hard to compare costs. It is not apples ot apples.

Anyway, when trying to decide which ICF system is best, don't limit yourself and don't rule out concrete  [b]dry stack building systems. [/b]
JellyUser is Offline
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21 Nov 2007 05:25 AM
Posted By ConcreteCottage on 11/21/2007 12:31 AM

Anyway, when trying to decide which ICF system is best, don't limit yourself and don't rule out concrete  [b]dry stack building systems. [/b]

Hi ConcreteCottage,

I long ago read through your DAC-ART projects and they look great. In concept it's not much different than the method I originally planned on (dry stacked interlocking fully-grouted concrete masonry units with insulation inserts, like Azar or Haener systems). The size and appearance of course are different. DAC-ART gets you away from the "concrete block" look.

What brought me to ICF though is the insulation question. Correct me if I'm wrong, but DAC-ART also uses the insulation inserts inside the blocks. But my research suggests that this insulation method is almost totally ineffective due to the thermal transfer through the concrete webs of the blocks.

My question to you is what has your experience been regarding the effectiveness of the insulation system? I'm sure you'll say your air conditioning costs are a fraction of what you would pay on a stick framed house. And if that's true then either the insulation inserts really do work, or the thermal mass of the thick concrete walls is enough to do the job on it's own.

I haven't found much love for dry-stack systems here in the ICF forum. But I still think they have their merits and it's still an option for me. So I'm very curious what your energy experience has been.
QuantumUser is Offline
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21 Nov 2007 08:31 AM
Can't use dry-stack building systems in seismic areas.
JellyUser is Offline
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21 Nov 2007 09:45 AM
Posted By Quantum on 11/21/2007 8:31 AM
Can't use dry-stack building systems in seismic areas.

Obviously you know more about seismic areas than I do, but Haener was developed in San Diego, and Los Angeles is it's bigget market.
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