As industry professionals and homeowners seek sustainable, efficient, and durable building methods, understanding the nuances of these foundation options becomes crucial. In this blog post, we'll delve into a comprehensive comparison of ICF foundations and solid-poured concrete, highlighting the scenarios where each may be appropriate, with a special focus on the advantages of ICF.
*Note: There are many brands of ICF. We reference our experience with Foxblock in this post as our chosen ICF manufacturer and local supplier through Foxworth Galbraith in Woodland Park, CO
Understanding the Basics
Solid-Poured Concrete Foundations have been the traditional choice for decades, known for their strength and straightforward installation process. These foundations are created by pouring concrete into a form on the construction site, creating a solid barrier against the elements. That form, is then removed after the pour and the free-standing solid-concrete wall can be coated with waterproofing, backfilled, and the framing can begin. With this option, the walls of the structure must be framed out in order to make room for electric and to have something to which attach finishes, i.e. drywall, etc.
Foxblock ICF Foundations, on the other hand, represent a modern innovation in construction. These forms consist of two insulated foam panels connected by a web, creating a form for the concrete that while also providing significant insulation since the forms are not removed, remaining part of the final structure. This dual function makes ICF a popular choice for energy-efficient and environmentally conscious projects, especially here in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where we get extreme cold temperatures in the winter, and warm weather in the summer (with no AC!).
Comparing the Two
Energy Efficiency- WINNER: Foxblock/ICF
Foxblock ICFs offer superior insulation compared to solid-poured foundations, leading to significant energy savings over time. The thermal resistance (R-value) of ICF walls is higher, making them ideal for maintaining indoor temperatures and reducing the need for heating and cooling.
Durability and Strength- WINNER: Foxblock/ICF
While solid-poured concrete is inherently strong, Foxblock ICF foundations add another layer of durability. The combination of concrete and foam insulation resists moisture, which can lead to mold and mildew in traditional concrete foundations. Additionally, ICFs offer better resistance to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes.
Installation and Labor- WINNER: Foxblock/ICF
Solid-poured concrete is very labor-intensive, with the heavy forms needing to be set up and braced for the pour and then removed after the concrete is poured. The forms take up more space, are much heavier, and require transport to and from the job site, along with storage when not in use.. Using Foxblock, on the other hand, streamlines the installation process with interlocking blocks that are easier and quicker to install, reducing labor costs and construction time.
Environmental Impact- WINNER: FoxBlock/ICF
Foxblock is designed with sustainability in mind. The foam used in ICF is typically made from recycled materials, and the overall energy efficiency of ICF buildings reduces the carbon footprint associated with heating and cooling.
Cost Considerations- WINNER: BOTH!
With Foxblock ICF foundations, the materials cost might be higher, but when you consider the cost of labor for solid-poured walls and the need for furring out the walls in the finished spaces, the difference is nominal. However, one additional cost of using ICF vs Solid-poured for a crawlspace foundation is that with solid poured, you will not have to cover the concrete with a fire-retardant material. With ICF, you will need to use either plywood or drywall as a fire barrier. Overall, the long-term savings in energy bills, reduced labor costs, and minimal maintenance requirements can offset the initial investment, making ICF a cost-effective choice in the long run. So why would anyone choose a solid-poured foundation?
When to Choose Solid-Poured Concrete
Despite the advantages of Foxblock ICF, solid-poured concrete foundations remain suitable for many scenarios. For projects requiring a crawl space or a simple frost wall, traditional concrete might be more feasible. If the home is built on a slope, but will not have a basement, solid-poured walls that are backfilled would be sufficient. Insulation, or R-Value, for a non-habitable space is less important in these applications, which makes the straightforward nature of solid-poured concrete a more acceptable option.
Choosing between Foxblock ICF and solid-poured concrete foundations depends on various factors, including climate, project design requirements, and long-term sustainability goals. While solid-poured foundations have their place in certain applications, the benefits of Foxblock ICF—ranging from energy efficiency to durability and environmental friendliness—make it a superior choice for most modern construction projects.
At Peak DirtWorks, we are committed to providing our clients with the most advanced and suitable foundation solutions. Embracing innovations like Foxblock ICF, allows us to deliver projects that are not only structurally sound but also energy-efficient and sustainable, but we also understand that every project is unique. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your upcoming project.