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The New Way to Build Your House

Have you heard of ICFs?  Insulated Concrete Forms.   Chances are you haven't as most residential builders also have never heard of them - yet they are one of the most efficient and cost saving proven construction methods available in Australia today.

ICF wallHere's some claims to get you interested:

  • You can build a house in a few weeks - by yourself!
  • You can also use this product to build your pool, retaining walls, basement, underground water tank and more
  • The house will be 6 to 9 times stronger than a traditional home as it is solid reinforced concrete and cyclone rated
  • The materials costs are much the same as for a brick veneer home
  • No structural timber for the walls - nothing to attract termites
  • You need no heavy equipment or special skills
  • Your supporting trades will also save significant time
  • Your house will have 10x the insulation of a normal home so you can install a much smaller heating/cooling system, save on heating/cooling costs, and enjoy a much quieter environment.

Sound too good to be true?  Well read on - this is the method I will use to build my next home.

icf-wallsSo what is an ICF?

An Insulated Concrete Form is essentially a fire-proof polystyrene form brick.  You literally build your house with these light weight bricks like large lego blocks.  Once a storey is finished a concrete pouring truck arrives to fill the cavities of the form bricks - and then you have a reinforced concrete house with high insulation.  Given its light weight, no heavy machinery is required - once the house slab is ready a small team can typically build and pour a one storey house in a few weeks!

Different suppliers have different patented foam brick designs - the latest ones I have seen make it very easy to keep walls perfectly vertical and straight and slide in the require reinforcing bars - they clip in vertically and horizontally.   The polystyrene provides the insulation (10 times the standard insulation of a brick veneer wall), and also has vertical grooves so the renderers love it and the plasters can glue straight onto it avoiding the hassle of nail holes to studs.


Your new concrete walls are high load bearers which means you can even put in concrete middle floors and achieve more structural feats than you might with a standard built home - just because you have such a strong load bearing base.

Massive time and cost saver

Given there is no heavy equipment or specialist skills required this can save considerable time and labour and is perfect for the DIY builder.  No more waiting for the next trade to become available.  Some of the times to lockup claimed by single DIY builders are unbelievable.

Despite the obvious savings on labour, you will save from the reduced time (as you do not need to service a loan for as long), and reduced complexity.  Many typical trades note significant time savings.

Electricians do not need to install through stud walls but can simply use a special router to quickly make cavities in the internal styrene walls to install wiring.  The same goes for plumbing.  Plasterers love it as they simply glue to the internal styrene walls - there are no nail holes to patch.  Renderers love it as the walls are completely true and straight and have ready-made grooves designed to make the render stick.

Highly flexible

Given the resulting structure is reinforced concrete, there are almost no limits to what can be constructed with this product.  ICFs can be used to construct the basement, the pool, the underground concrete water tank, as well as the house, and the surrounding walls and landscaping features such as retaining walls. This dramatically reduces the number of trades required to complete the project - in fact you can do it all yourself!

One inflexibility you need to consider is given the resulting home will be solid reinfoced concrete - you are basically stuck with the layout.  It will not be practical to remove an internal wall down the track.

So why aren't all builders using this?

It's a good question.  Australia certainly is slow in adopting this new building method.  It is  not yet widely available, and many builders are very comfortable with tried and tested experience in traditional materials.  There appears to be a misconception that you need specialists to use these materials, and that these specialists are hard to find.  It does not really take much more than a couple of days training, and the ICF supply companies will usually provide people on site to help you get going and lend you all the tools used to do the job.  Other than that you just need general labour.  I would say it is well worth checking out as the upside is very big.

If you want more information leave a comment and we will respond or email us at

Image/photo source:  Lovell Construction

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