Bracing & Scaffolding for Residential & Commercial ICF Projects

What Types of bracing/scaffolding are available for my ICF project?

Whether you are building a home on a crawl space, or a large commercial project with multi-stories, scaffolding and bracing is required for your ICF project. First of all what are bracing/scaffolding systems and what are they used for? These systems support the wall and allow people to work off the ground to reach higher up the walls. They also give you the ability to plumb the wall during and after the concrete pour. After you have installed the third course of blocks it is usually time to install the scaffolding and bracing system. If you are tall enough, you may be able to wait until after the fourth course or you can work from ladders. There are three common types used each will be described below.

Wood Scaffolding
Wood Scaffolding

The most common type of bracing/scaffolding system used by a one-time ICF builder is wood. Wood bracing usually consists of 2 2×4’s nailed together to form an “L” or strong back. This is attached to the ICF blocks every 5’-6’ screwing into the block vertically every 8”-24”. Screw the braces into the Advantage ICF ties using 3” screws.

Attach scaffold brackets and/or handrail brackets to the vertical braces. These brackets are usually placed roughly 30”-36” below the finish pour height of the wall or whatever height constitutes a comfortable working height to place and finish the concrete.

Turnbuckles are adjustable bracing devices that hold walls steady. Adjust the alignment of the walls before and after the concrete has been poured using turnbuckles. Install the turnbuckle part of the bracing system by attaching the diagonal brace, complete with turnbuckles, to the vertical braces with a short piece of 10M rebar. Before securing the bottom part of the unit to the ground, make sure the turnbuckle is adjusted to a central point. This will make it easier to make adjustments later on.

Metal Scaffolding
Metal Scaffolding

Metal bracing/scaffolding basically consists of all three of the components described above. The obvious differences are that they are made of metal instead of wood.
Because they are made of metal they are much more durable than wood type scaffolding. They are made specifically for pouring, bracing and adjusting ICF walls. The metal types are typically more adjustable than most other types. You can easily adjust the platform height, and wall plumb and straightness both before and after the concrete pour.

Tube Frame Scaffolding
Typically this type of scaffolding would be used on a commercial job with very high wall heights. It can be adapted to work with an ICF wall under construction. The wall is plumbed true, so it is critical the wall be attached to the scaffolding in a way that it will not move. This can be accomplished using a variety of methods, utilizing the ICF webs. There are also adaptor kits that allow this type of scaffolding to incorporate ICF metal scaffolding for commercial and high wall applications.

Tube Frame Scaffolding
Tube Frame Scaffolding

Tube Frame Scaffolding

Additional information on bracing and scaffolding can be found in the Advantage ICF System Installation Manual pg 24-26.  You can also check out our NEW Scaffolding installation video in our Installing Advantage ICF Video Series.

Note: Ensure you follow your local OH&S codes when installing scaffolding platforms and hand rails.

Advantage ICF home stands up to hurricane weather in South Carolina

Advantage ICF System®  – Seabrook Island, South Carolina, USA

South Carolina ICFAs hurricanes are becoming more of a regular expectation along the southern coastline, homes are being built to withstand these forces of nature.  This southern Carolina homeowner turned to the Advantage ICF System to provide the strength and security for his coastal home.  “We took our Seabrook design, with traditional stick framing, and modified it to withstand the forces of nature as this house was to be built right on the water,” said Eason. “The owner wanted to be sure that they had enough structure to handle the wind and water loads that typical hurricanes with wind and tidal surges could produce, and meet applicable building codes.”

icf blog 02Working with a structural engineer, Eason specified the Advantage ICF System® for the above grade walls. The Advantage ICF System delivers two continuous layers of expanded polystyrene insulation for exceptional energy efficiency, along with the strength and durability of reinforced concrete. Light gauge steel framing was used for the roof and interior walls.

“The Charleston summers are hot and humid,” said Eason. “ICF construction added greatly to the thermal protection for increased efficiency and comfort. The strength of the ICFs combined with the all steel framing is very important in hurricane prone areas. In this area you’ve got wind, water, heat and humidity—ICFs help mitigate all of that.”

Despite the home’s robust structure that is designed to withstand 140 mph winds, it retains the character of an authentic turn-of-the- century Charleston-style home.

“You can use a technology like ICFs and finish with a home that looks appropriate in the Charleston Lowcountry,” said Eason. “What’s behind the walls is very different than what you expect. It is very high-tech, energy-efficient, and it enhances the safety and durability of the house.”

icf blog 03“The home provides us with a great example of disaster-resistant and energy-efficient construction using the Advantage ICF System,” said Advantage ICF System Product Manager Greg Doren.

For more information on the strength of ICFs and how to integrate them into your project, visit

Advantage ICF System® Helps Praxis International Institute with Net-Zero Energy

Advantage ICFCraik, Saskatechewan, Canada

Advantage ICF System® helps innovative concept school work towards net-zero energy

Praxis01Brent and Monica Krueger wanted to start something different in Craik, Saskatchewan. They had been teaching business development for years through the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship, but they wanted to extend some of those principles to younger students. Their new Praxis International Institute in Craik will be the first private high school in Saskatchewan focusing on socially and environmentally responsible entrepreneurship.

The Kruegers got in touch with Ed Eichler, owner of Jade ICF Construction Ltd., about constructing the school’s first building: a 7,000 sq. ft., eco-friendly residence and learning facility. Eichler specializes in the installation of energy-efficient insulating concrete form (ICF) walls and foundations using the Advantage ICF System®.

“After doing their research, the Kruegers decided that ICFs were the best option for that area, based on their interest in longevity, durability and energy efficiency” said Eichler.

praxis02Building on the sustainable attributes of the Advantage ICF system, the home features a passive solar design, gray water recovery system and composting toilets. With the planned addition of solar and wind generation, the building will be designed to use net-zero energy.

“There are so many benefits to ICF construction,” said Eichler. “The energy efficiency is unbelievable, and the cost is very reasonable because the insulation and air barrier are built in.”

For heating, the home uses an efficient in-floor radiant heating system powered by a wood pellet boiler. Eichler installed Plasti-Fab® PlastiSpan® HD insulation underneath hydronic tubing to prevent downward heat transfer.

“There are a lot of ICF suppliers on the market and my experience with Plasti-Fab has been totally awesome,” said Eichler. “Plasti-Fab is more than willing to go out to the jobsite and go over the construction challenges of the project. Their technical support is fantastic.”

Learn more about Advantage ICF System and how you can achieve an energy efficient home or building.

The Great Debate: EPS vs. XPS for below-grade applications

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation has been used successfully as a below-grade insulation product for over 50 years. Today we are finishing up our below grade series with some technical information and testing results of how EPS performs in below-grade situations as compared to XPS.

A study of EPS below-grade

In the first study conducted to determine the performance of both PlastiSpan EPS insulation and PlastiSpan HD insulation in below grade situations, ten (10) EPS insulation specimens were installed on the exterior basement wall of a test site. The thermal performance of the EPS insulation specimens was found to remain stable over two years of monitoring. As well, water movement at the exterior face did not significantly affect the thermal performance of the EPS insulation.

Insulation specimens were retrieved after 30 months of exposure in the soil and laboratory testing was performed to determine thermal resistance, moisture content and mechanical properties.

The following observations were made regarding EPS insulation material properties measured after being subjected to a 30-month field exposure:
• Low Water Absorption
• No Loss of R-value
• No Change in Material Properties
• No Adverse Effects from Freeze-Thaw Cycling

The results of that research project confirmed that EPS insulation is a cost effective insulation materials for all types of below-grade applications including the exterior of foundations, shallow foundations and floor slabs in both residential and commercial construction.

Learn More about the EPS Below grade research study

Study #2: EPS Insulation R-value Retention Outperforms XPS Insulation after 15 Year Below-Grade Service

In a second study where EPS was tested against XPS in below grade applications, Type I EPS insulation and Type X extruded polystyrene (XPS) insulation were installed side-by-side on a below-grade foundation application in St. Paul, MN . Samples of each insulation type were removed from the exterior of a commercial building at a depth of approximately 6 feet below grade after 15 years of service and tests were conducted by an independent, third-party test laboratory.

R-values measured immediately after removal from the excavation would be expected to be representative of the in situ R-value of the two insulation types at the time samples were removed. The R-values and moisture contents determined after four weeks laboratory conditioning highlight the relative change in measured values for the two insulation types when removed from exposure to the in situ soil moisture and temperature conditions for a period of time.

Results of the 15-year study of EPS vs XPS insulation performance below-grade

After four weeks laboratory conditioning, measured R-values were R-3.7 per inch for the EPS Type I and R-2.8 per inch for the XPS Type X. Moisture content by volume after the laboratory conditioning was 0.7% for the EPS Type I and 15.7% for the XPS Type X.

Learn more about the details and results of this 15-year study

In short, PlastiSpan EPS insulation used in below-grade applications will not lose its R-value, is resistant to water absorption, and maintains it’s material properties for the life of the product. Find your below-grade insulation or check out the step-by-step installation guide on our web site:

The Importance of a Vapor Barrier for Below-Grade Insulation Applications

For those of you who have studied building science, you know that one of the 8 Rules of Building Science is the importance of controlling moisture and it’s movement as it pertains to your structure. Whether you are in an older home that you are remodeling, or building a brand new home from scratch, moisture management needs to be on your checklist of “Things to Do.” In the “Rules of Building Performance” from Construction Instruction, Rule #2 is that moisture moves from warm to cold, followed by Rule #3, that moisture moves from more to less. The concept to remember here is that moisture is always moving.

Thankfully, the solution to this is known as a vapor barrier. Vapor barriers keep moisture away from the building material you are trying to keep dry.  Building materials are going to wick moisture, some more than others, but all will to some extent. By keeping your building materials dry, you prolong their life and maintain the efficiency of the task you installed them to do.

What IS a Vapor Barrier
The type of vapor barrier required for your specific project will be determined by your local building code. A widely accepted vapor barrier is a sheet of 6-mil polyethylene that you place before applying the building product you are installing.

In the example below, you can see the 6-mil poly has been placed under the EPS rigid foam insulation providing a barrier from the soil below.


While Plasti-Fab EPS is a closed cell insulation, a vapor barrier is still recommended based on local building codes to protect it from the elements. Let’s look at a few below-grade specific installation examples using Plasti-Fab’s EPS Insulation.

Insulating Exterior Foundations
Continuous insulation applied to the exterior of foundation walls reduces
expansion and contraction concrete foundation walls would be subject to
due to temperature differences between the interior heated space and the
exterior air/soil. Learn how to install exterior foundation insulation

Insulating Above a Concrete Floor
Insulating your basement floor provides added comfort and increased
energy savings. Learn how to install insulation above your basement floor

Insulating Below a Concrete Slab
Continuous insulation under your slab eliminates thermal bridging,
increasing your total effective RSI/R-value. This reduces energy costs and
increases your energy savings. Learn how to install insulation under a basement floor

underslab high compressive

Commercial and Residential Applications
Vapor barriers are important in both residential and commercial applications as R-value and insulation is important for any structure. You can learn about the commercial applications in our Commercial Solutions section.

What Did We Learn
While moisture is present in in every facet of building science, it is manageable through the use of properly installed vapor barriers, therefore protecting your home, business or commercial investment for years to come.

Do you have more questions regarding this topic? Contact us today in the ASK US section of our web site, and we would be happy to help!

Radiant Floor Heating using PlastiSpan® HD Insulation

In our previous posts this month, we have covered using rigid foam insulation for under slab and exterior foundations. Now, imagine walking on a concrete, tile, or laminate covered floor without socks, and feeling comfortable and warm. This is a big benefit of having a radiant floor system. Another would be keeping a consistent temperature in your basement. Using PlastiSpan® HD insulation under your slab will help you accomplish this. It is an easy addition to your home. You can use PlastiSpan HD insulation or PlastiSpan HD Hydronic Insulation (I know it’s a long name, but it’s worth it) for this application.

In case you are wondering what is the difference between the PlastiSpan HD and the Hydronic version of that insulation, Hydronic is simply PlastiSpan HD insulation, cut to 4×4 sheets with grooves cut in it for the tubing.

So how do you go about making your basement energy-efficient with the under slab insulation? First, you make sure you cover and fill with a moisture barrier by placing a 6″ thick layer of granular fill over the floor area. Then cover the fill material with a 6 mil polyethylene moisture barrier. When you have completed this, lay PlastiSpan HD insulation over the moisture barrier. Ensure that the joints are tightly butted together. Trim around the perimeter and openings as required. When you have completed this you will need to install the hydronic tubing. If you have used regular PlastiSpan HD insulation you need to lay a reinforcing mesh or place rebar on the insulation by code. Now, loop the hydronic tubing over the insulation. Secure using cable ties (zip ties) or clips (available through Plasti-Fab) to attach the tubing. It is important you have as few joints as possible in your tubing.

The second option you might choose is to use PlastiSpan HD Hydronic insulation. This is a 4×4 sheets of PlastiSpan HD with grooves cut in it for the tubing. This eliminates the need to tie down the tubing. You literally just snap it into the groves. After you have installed the hydronic tubing (pipe for the water to flow through), you will need to ensure everything is secured and checked. You will then place the concrete over the insulation using normal construction methods and equipment. This is a more difficult application and not recommended to be done without some sort of construction experience. The balance of the radiant heating system is now able to be completed.

*Make sure you are looking into code requirements in your area for insulation R-value requirements, installation of the fill material, concrete and reinforcing requirements*

If you want to look into our insulating products ahead of time, check out some of our applications on our website

The Dirt on Under slab and Perimeter Insulation Part 2

In our last post we discussed the importance of insulating the perimeter of your foundation. Today, we will be talking about the insulation under your slab and why it is just as important as the rest of the building to complete the thermal envelope.

Most basements are built in direct contact with ground. Concrete will absorb moisture, like a sponge, and the result is an uncomfortable, musty living space. The additional water introduced into the home can also lead to mold issues.

The basement floor is also a place of heat loss in your home. The idea that heat always rises isn’t entirely true. Heat will flow toward relatively cooler places. If ground under the home is cooler than the basement temperature, which is the case in almost every climate year round, heat will naturally try to escape through the concrete slab.

Installing an insulation & vapor barrier between the concrete slab and the ground is the best practice in insulating basement floors. The insulation will help keep warm air in, and the vapor barrier will keep unwanted moisture out.

Plasti-Fab manufactures a variety of EPS product solutions to insulate below your slab. DuroFoam® Insulation, PlastiSpan® HD insulation, DuroSpan® GPS insulation, as well as the higher compressive resistance lines of Plastispan® 25, 30, 40 and even 60 psi.

Besides the comfort and moisture issues that insulating below your slab helps to alleviate, there is an additional health benefit to home as well. In recent years, an increased awareness of Radon gas and the need for mitigation systems have taken the building market by storm. Areas high in Radon gases are required to install these mitigation system for the health of the home and the occupants. Plasti-Fab has worked hand in hand with Radon Environmental to develop Radon Guard Insulation, a key component in Radon mitigation systems. If you are insulating below your slab, using the Radon Guard insulation adds the health benefit to the insulation that is already working hard to add comfort to your living space. Learn more about this system.

To learn more about insulating under your basement slab, learn more in our application solutions Insulating Under a Basement Floor.