Serving the Olympic Peninsula since 1983
The ICF Experts of Western WA
There are three basic designs of ICFs. The first is called a waffle design, because if you removed the foam from the wall the concrete would look just like a big concrete waffle. The second is called a screen design because if you removed the foam after the concrete was poured you'd be left with a giant sized concrete window screen pattern. And the final is called a flat wall design, because if you removed the foam from a finished wall you'd be left with a flat concrete wall.
Each design is engineer approved and has approximately the same R value. Waffle and screen designs promotional points are that they use less concrete, but from a engineering standpoint they are not as strong. While screen walls are engineered they are much more difficult to engineer for a retaining wall. Which in practical application makes them unsuitable for constructing daylight basements. The difficulties with waffle design are similar, but to a lesser extreme, while they can be used for a retaining wall they are only as strong as the weakest point. This means that in order to attain an engineer's specified wall thickness of 6 inches the thicker part of the wall will be possibly 8 inches, negating and actually reversing the concrete conservation point.
For these design points as well as others we always build with flat wall designed blocks. But even in that category there are a lot of varriations.
... And Sub-Designs
Even within the category of flat wall design there are many options. Without talking with all the sales representatives let us go over a few of the key differences and the impact they have on building a structure.
Quite possibly the most obvious difference is some block systems have a steel conecting web construction and some have a heavy duty plastic construction. One or the other's superiority really boils down to their easy of use (not their strength) to you, the home owner, and to the subcontractors and to a lesser degree us the professional installers and nearly all the chips land on the plastic side. Let me explain why. When an electrition wires an ICF house he needs to imbed the wires into the foam and cut through the vertical web to go horrizontally. He can easily cut through a plastic web with just about any saw or even with a hot knife whereas a steel web would require a metal cutting blade of some kind. The plummer has very a very similar situation. When it comes drywalling and finish carpentry both nails and screws hold better in the plastic webs. Even in a finsihed home the plastic webs will better support heavy wall hangings such as paintings.
The rest of the differences have far shorter reaching consequences and mainly effect the initial building phase of the project.
We at Bernekling Concrete Homes are constantly trying new and different brands, but we do have one or two favorites, which we regularly use.