There are several key aspects of construction with Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) that appeal to both owners and builders: speed of installation, insulating quality, strength, sound reduction, fire resistance, ease of install, etc. Homeowners (or those who own commercial buildings, hotels, condos, etc.) most often choose ICF for energy savings (although the sound reduction provided by full-ICF homes is the #1 comment we hear from homeowners – but that is a topic for another blog entry). Builders, on the other hand, prefer these products for speed/ease of installation. Being able to accomplish multiple building steps (ie, forming, structure, insulation, vapor/air barrier, etc) with a single product reduces construction time and eliminates a couple sub-trades. Although building with ICF appears easy, you have to know what you are doing when you work with concrete. A wood wall can be ripped down/moved/reframed the next day if something is not right, but you can’t say the same for a reinforced concrete wall. When you look at an ICF system installation is simply stack some blocks, install some rebar, and fill with concrete, right? Not so fast! When building with ICF, it’s easy to put up and it’s easy to screw up!
Obviously, proper training/technical support is key when undertaking your first ICF project. Be sure to check with suppliers/manufacturers for references, ask about their past experience, training/on-site support that is available (and if there is a cost associated with on-site support). Don’t be shy about asking for this information – reputable companies will not have trouble getting you this info, will be glad to do so, and certainly won’t be offended by the question. FYI - this advice can apply to most sub-trades/suppliers during the construction process.
Currently, there is no universal ICF installer certification. Major manufacturers have their own version of a certification process for their particular product. Keep in mind that some of these are certainly more in-depth than others. Rather than singling out individual products that have sub-par training/certification programs (IMHO), I will outline the process that NUDURA currently employs.
The first step to becoming a Trained NUDURA Installer is to attend a NUDURA Basic Installation Seminar. This is a one-day course that teaches proper methods when building with NUDURA through use of PowerPoint presentations, videos, and hands-on demonstration. At the end of the day a short exam is administered that grants attendees their NUDURA Basic Installation Certificate (assuming a passing grade is obtained – don’t stress, the test is open book and covers the basics you just learned through the day). Upon successful completion of this course, builders must then prove competency by completing 2 NUDURA projects (in the case of full-ICF home, the basement and main floor will suffice as the 2 projects) that are inspected prior to concrete placement & signed-off by Prairie ICF. This inspection service is normally offered by Prairie ICF at NO CHARGE! Once both of these steps are completed, you will receive a wallet card and Registered Installer Number from NUDURA – this card/number are now required in many areas to be granted a building permit when using ICF.
Obviously NUDURA’s process is very thorough, meaning a builder that is a NUDURA Trained Installer has received the appropriate education AND shown on-site practical competence with the product. This (along with job-references) is a great starting point when choosing an installer for your next project.
If you are interested in attending an upcoming NUDURA Basic Installation course, please contact Prairie ICF.