ICF and Home Design Considerations

When making new home design considerations, choosing an experienced ICF contractor is key. Experienced ICF contractors plan for all phases of construction, for example, placement and installation of utilities when planning the foundation. This forethought requires an ICF contractor with a thorough understanding of the chosen ICF method and materials manufacturer. In addition, experienced ICF contractors understand how best to choose and work with the electrical, plumbing and HVAC trades to ensure a smooth construction process. This approach saves time and money, while ensuring a highly livable home with all the desired design parameters.

Today, ICF homes can have exciting and intricate architectural elements and contours including curved walls. To make the most of the design, ICF contractors must have practical field installation experience. The best designs are those where the ICF was planned from the start. That way, wall lengths, heights, and position of doors and windows can be planned according to convenient form dimensions, reducing on-site labor and cutting of forms. While the process of cutting and altering the concrete structure is entirely possible, experienced ICF contractors understand that the process can be minimized or even eliminated through careful planning and designing.

The first step to properly planning the layout of utilities is to minimize the amount of plumbing and wiring that must be placed on typical ICF exterior walls. This can generally be accommodated in the initial layout.

Access ports may include:

  • Gas
  • Electric
  • Plumbing
  • Water
  • Communications
  • Sleeves

Experienced ICF contractors have long-standing relationships with tradespeople that also have experience in ICF home construction. As part of the preparation process, these contractors will consult with any trade that the ICF wall will impact in order to help them prepare for their respective installations and alterations based on methods or materials that are suited for ICF job sites. Many commercial tradespeople that have experience working with concrete construction and conduit, are capable of easily adapting to ICF construction.  This experience ensures cost and labor constraints in line with traditional home construction methods.

While much of the work for trades will be tied to interior walls, some of the utilities are placed prior to the pour and others are done afterwards. Service access cavities need to be cut before the pour. Another item that builders deal with is whether to run the wires in conduit or to set them directly in the foam. This process is dependent on the ICF method and local code requirements, which are all things that the experienced ICF contractor has already sussed out.

ICF contractors with an ample number of home projects to their credit are often more capable of making the necessary early decisions before construction on how to best place conduit in the concrete. This allows more streamlined coordination of electricians and ICF construction teams, as well as other trades such as plumbing and HVAC. Ultimately, it is the preference of the contractor, the choice of ICF system and the timeline of the job that dictates when and how electrical conduit will run in ICF walls, in chases cut into the foam or the use of a combination of both.

Today, ICF systems are extremely flexible and can create home designs that are limited only by the imagination of the homeowner and designer. Regardless of the design or construction method, budgets, timelines and inspection protocols must be adhered to. Making that design idea translate to homes that meet this criteria, are aesthetically pleasing and highly functional both today and well into the future, requires the hand of an experienced ICF contractor.