Q: What is “A Home with a Difference”?

A: “A Home with a Difference” means a different way of building that results in a superior living environment for homeowners. It is a home that is built using a system of insulating concrete forms to construct the foundation and the exterior walls of a home as a single, continuous unit. “A Home with a Difference” also includes in-floor radiant heating, a hydronic, or air medium, system encased within concrete flooring.

Q: What is an insulating concrete form (ICF)?

A: ICF construction combines the strength of concrete and steel with the high performance of type 2 expanded polystyrene insulation (EPS). The forms are stacked on the building site, steel reinforcing rods are placed inside, and concrete is poured in the hollow core. The forms are left in place after the concrete has cured (hardened), providing continuous insulation as well as backing for final wall treatment inside and out.

Q: How long does it take to build an ICF home?

A: Building with ICF is fast and efficient. Because ICF construction combines framing, insulation and sheathing in a single step, it takes less time to construct the “shell” of the home compared with traditional wood framing. This can be a great benefit for both builders and homebuyers, particularly in busy markets or areas where labour shortages may create construction delays.

Q: Can an ICF home be built year-round?

A: Yes concrete can be properly cured any time of the year if it is not allowed to freeze in the process. The insulating qualities of ICF help the curing process. ICFwalls have been successfully built year round with minimal effort. And of course, builders and homeowners do not need to worry about warping of materials exposed to rain or snow.

Q: What kinds of exterior finishes can be used on an ICF home?

A: An ICF home will accept any traditional exterior finish such as brick, stone, stucco, wood and vinyl siding. The options are endless.

Q: Are ICF’s considered an environmentally friendly building system?

A: Yes. The construction of an ICF home saves trees. Concrete itself is an inert, non-toxic and natural material. Once completed, the home is highly energy efficient, which reduces both energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Q: How does the cost of an ICF home compare to other homes?

A: It depends on what you compare it with. Compared to a conventional home with traditional framing, the initial cost of an ICF home is approximately 5% higher. However, a traditionally built home with the same level of energy efficiency, noise reduction and overall high performance costs the same as, or even more than, an ICF home. And when you consider the energy savings, up to 60% compared with a conventional home, an ICF home can actually save you money in the long run.

Q: How does a homeowner benefit from living in an ICF home?

A: An ICF home is an experience in quality living. It is quiet and private, studies show that compared to typical wood frame houses, only about one-third as much noise penetrates an ICF wall. The air is cleaner and healthier as the walls help to keep out dust and pollen as well as moisture that can give rise to moulds and mildew inside. The home is solid and durable, no matter how damp the climate you live in. Perhaps most important of all, ICF homeowners cherish the overall performance, quality and extraordinary comfort of their home.

Q: What is the advantage of in-floor radiant heating?

A: In-floor radiant heat can be used in all areas of the house and makes for an extremely pleasant living environment; even unstratified temperatures in each room, separate control for various areas of the home, no sudden blasts of air or dust being kicked up. Basements become true living spaces, as comfortable as the rest of the house. Because they are reinforced with steel, concrete floors also allow for longer unsupported spans and therefore more open home designs. The Legalett, ( www.legalett.ca ) radiant slab on grade foundation system is also an option where shallow soils, accessibility, maximum sunshine living, high water tables etc. are issues.

Q: Are ICF’s a brand-new system?

A: Yes and no. ICF construction offers the best of the old and the new. Concrete has been used as a residential building material for centuries in many countries around the world, and in commercial buildings in North America for a long time. As far back as the turn of the last century, Thomas Edison designed concrete houses using cast iron forms. But the development of ICF is recent. Stay-in place insulating concrete forms were invented by a Canadian in 1966. Since then, ICF construction has slowly but surely moved into the mainstream of the residential construction industry. More than 40,000 ICF homes have been built in North America since the early 1990s, and these days the number of committed ICF builders and enthusiastic homeowners is growing rapidly.

Q: What is the difference between concrete and cement?

A: Cement is the key ingredient in concrete even though only a small amount is used (the two go together like yeast and bread). Cement is primarily ground limestone mixed with small amounts of ingredients such as shells, chalk and silica sand. Concrete is made up of several natural ingredients: 41% coarse aggregate (gravel and crushed stone); 26% fine aggregate (sand); 16% water, 11% cement and 6% air.

A different way of building a better way of living…