Monday, April 23, 2012

Building Insulated Concrete Form custom homes

The evolution of ICF, building custom homes with ICF for over 20 years.

We have been building custom homes for over 30 years and in those thirty years we have strived to separate ourselves from the competition by building better quality and more efficient homes. One of the earliest things that we came to realize is that the easiest way to give our clientele a better home would be to start building a home with a modern foundation.

The drive to give clients a modern foundation led us past cement block or plain poured concrete, it led us to ICF. ICF stands for Insulated Concrete Forms. ICF’s are basically two pieces of polystyrene that are held together with plastic webs creating a cavity in the middle ranging from 4” to 12” depending on the application needed.   The form when installed creates a wall with polystyrene on the inside of the building and the outside of the building. The cavity in the middle is filled with concrete creating a concrete wall with insulation already installed on it.

Once we started installing ICF foundations and saw the benefit to our clientele we started steering more clients to do every floor out of it. This gave them ICF from the foundation all the way to the rafters of the roof.

Even though ICF homes cost more money to build the cost savings that they offered in energy efficiency were well worth it. The feedback that we received over the years helped galvanized the idea of helping people get a better home then just the typical wood walled one.

Over twenty years later we are still building ICF homes. It’s amazing to me how in twenty years the questions are still the same about ICF technology. In the early days people were unsure of the product because it was new, today more than two decades after we started using this product, I can safely say that it is the way that all custom homes should be built.

With all building techniques the product is only as good as the installation and with all building techniques there are tricks that experienced ICF installers will know so that the product works like it is suppose too. After more than two decades of installing this product, Village Builders has it down to an art form. We are able to train our new employee’s from the experiences of our existing employee’s. I have witnessed ICF installations that were done poorly and have even been contracted to fix other contractors mistakes, at no small cost to the homeowner.

The most important thing that you need to do when you are looking for a general contractor to build your custom home is to find out what they are comfortable building. A lot of general contractors do not like building houses out of ICF and will tell you all kinds of pitfalls with the product, this just means that they do not have enough experience with the product. If you want an ICF custom home then you should make sure that you hire a general contractor that will build you an ICF home and is excited to do so. You also want a general contractor that has a lot of experience building ICF homes, this will ensure that you get a home that is not just built out of ICF but built out of the right ICF.

Most people don’t realize that there are over 40 different ICF manufactures in North America alone. Like any product there are good ones and bad ones. No matter how good the installation if the product was a poorly manufactured product will leave you disappointed with the end result. This is another reason that I try to tell people to make sure the general contractor has experience in ICF construction. This will ensure that they know what product works the best and what product will give you what you want. Even though ICF’s are all the same basically in theory, there are a wide variety of ways ICF’s are manufactured so that they are easier to install, cheaper to buy, easier to move, easier to transport or even using different materials other then polystyrene. A lot of these companies come out trying to revolutionize the industry and most of them last for a couple of years and then disappear. It’s usually because either their idea’s ended up being extremely flawed or contractors found them hard to work with costing more time and money. If the product is hard to work with as it pertains to keeping walls straight and level then contractors wouldn’t use them. I have seen this happen to ICF manufactures, instead of re-engineering the product they try to sell it directly to the homeowner as a do-it-yourself project. The end result is always a disaster.

ICF is the next step in house evolution and after two or three decades of use in the custom home industry it’s time that this became the norm and not the option. If you are thinking about building an ICF custom home then you should make sure that you get an ICF general contractor that will give you the high quality that you want and deserve.

Give us a call for your ICF house build or checkout our website at

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.


  1. We are expecting the concrete truck this week to fill our ICF footing forms. Is it worth it to go the extra expense to double the 4x8 sheets of foam that go under the concrete slab floor? The code calls for 2" but I'm considering 4". We are in New Brunswick, Canada, zone 4b to 5.

    1. There's nothing wrong with adding more insulation to the basement in your home, but unless you have radiant infloor heating in your basement slab I wouldn't bother adding more insulation to the floor. There are other area's of your home that I would add insulation. Since you are already building an ICF home I would add the insulation to the attic.