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The Doren Home, On to the Foundation

February 23, 2015

Advantage ICFWritten by: Greg Doren
Follow me on Twitter @GregDoren


Hello again everyone. I am happy to say we have been making great progress on the house. Using the Plasti-Fab Advantage Insulating Concrete Forming System we have completed the walk out foundation. All went according to plan and although we had some specific technical details such as beam pockets and structural lintel details we had it up and poured in about a week without too much difficulty. It took 600 Advantage ICF Standards, 90 Degree Corners and T Blocks, 45 cubic meters of ready mix concrete and 135 pieces of scaffolding. That sounds like a lot of scaffolding but in reality it was the type of scaffolding that was used.


In the footing for lateral support at the bottom of wall there were 15M rebar dowels set to match the vertical rebar. Dowels need to be embedded 8” into the footing, since the dowels need to have 3” of concrete coverage from the bottom of the footing and the footing on this project are 8” deep, a 90 degree bend with a 5” leg was required. See Advantage ICF System Installation Detail Drawing Manual D.1.8 for detail. We also cut a keyway in the middle of the footing for additional lateral support. Always check local code to be compliant.


We placed the forms starting in the walkout frost wall where we had made our steps in the footing with 16 ½ inch rises and minimum 24 inch runs. This required 3 steps to get to required frost wall depth for the walk out. We placed 4 rows of Advantage ICF forms around the entire project perimeter then started attaching the scaffolding. This was the first time I had used a component style scaffolding that had metal brackets that attached to 2 X 4 wood studs. The horizontal 2x4s were place approximately every 4 feet and the vertical 2×4’s approximately every 6 feet. We also started placing pressure treated wood bucks then continued Advantage ICF forms and scaffolding as we rose in wall height.


When we neared the top of wall we placed beam pockets for the interior flooring system and for the suspended garage slab. We completed the Advantage ICF forms and scaffolding system and then embedded Simpson Strong Tie connector plates as specified. Next came the vertical rebar which was slid in from the top of forms The walkout wall presented some challenges as it was approximately 14 feet high but the scaffolding system worked great at keeping the wall straight and plumb during concrete placement.

The concrete placement went very well with no trouble at all, and for those of you who have worked concrete in this cold you know what a task it can be! We used an inch and a half mechanical vibrator to consolidate the ready mix. The pour was done in three passes and again no issues.

Next blog we will talk about specifics about the scaffolding system used, beam pockets, window and door bucks and the installation of the flooring system and the suspended slab in the garage.

For more information about the Advantage ICF system, visit

A Energy Efficiency Story: A Visitor Center Demonstrates Top Notch Energy Efficient Design

February 9, 2015

insulspan-cutawayA nature conservancy visitor center demonstrates top notch
energy-efficient design

Building green was never considered optional for Kent and Kathy Lawrence. As the founders of Kickapoo/Mud Creek Nature Conservancy in Oregon, Ill., reducing the environmental footprint of their new Kickapoo Center was a priority from day one. The Lawrences wanted the center not only to serve as a meeting place and house educational displays for the conservancy, but also to set an example for cost-effective green home construction.

kickapoo 01
“We had a specific functional purpose from the beginning,” said Kent Lawrence. “We wanted to get low energy usage and modern day ambient conditions at real market prices.”
To design the 1,200-square-foot center, the Lawrences worked with fellow Oregon resident Victor Zaderej of Solar Homes, LLC. “What I’ve found is that a well insulated thermal envelope is really the most cost-efficient way to reduce energy use,” said Zaderej.

The thermal envelope begins below the ground with 8.5 inches of PlastiSpan EPS insulation beneath the center’s concrete slab. Advantage Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs) were used for the below grade walls. Zaderej then specified the 12-inch Insulspan Structural Insulating Panel (SIP) system for the walls and roof.

“The key was that we eliminated all the thermal shorts,” said Zaderaj. “SIPs and ICFs also do a really good job of sealing the home and stopping heat loss through air infiltration.”

Zaderej used the center as a testing ground for several innovative techniques to reduce energy use. His patent-pending solar roof uses a fan system to transfer the warm air beneath the building’s metal roof to a network of pipes in the concrete floor, where the heat is stored and slowly released. When combined with the efficiency of the super insulated building envelope, no furnace is needed, only a back up heat source powered by the center’s water heater.

Learn more about energy efficiency in commercial construction at,, or

Pouring Concrete in Cold Weather with Advantage ICFs

February 2, 2015

Advantage ICFCold Weather pouring
Written by Colin Showalter
Follow Colin on Twitter: @Colin_PlastiFab

Living in Canada, another question I frequently get asked is “how cold of temperatures can I pour concrete into ICF blocks?”

#concrete #Canada #coldweather #constructionConcrete construction during cold weather conditions requires special consideration to ensure that the concrete achieves the desired strength prior to freezing. Conventional concrete form walls can be constructed in all seasons; however, during cold weather months special measures must be taken to prevent the concrete from freezing. The special measures may include the use of windbreaks, insulated formwork and/or heaters. These extra measures can greatly increase construction costs.

Advantage Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) offer the ability to pour concrete into your walls at temperatures colder than that of conventional concrete forms due to their high insulating properties. This ability can drastically extend your construction season, possibly allowing you to pour all year round. In very cold weather conditions, minimal precautions may be required, especially at wall penetrations and edges.

#concrete #Canada #coldweather #constructionMany studies have been done on this topic and they have all concluded basically that concrete can be placed in ICF walls at temperatures much lower than that allowed for concrete walls using conventional forming systems.

Unfortunately I cannot give exact temperatures because people reading this may be in different climates around the world. However, I can say that using Advantage ICF blocks instead of conventional will prevent freezing and reduce or even eliminate the need for a heated enclosure. Covering the top of these forms is essential to retain all the heat of hydration.

Many building officials who are not familiar with Advantage ICF blocks may require ICF wall pours to follow the typical cold weather concrete practices that were developed for conventional concrete forms. Cold weather concrete practices may vary between jurisdictions. Be sure to check with your local official before pouring concrete on a cold day in your area. Also check with your ready-mix concrete supplier to see what options they for concrete being poured in cold weather.


Do you have more indepth questions for Colin about pouring concrete in cold weather and how the Advantage ICF System is ideal for this?

Email him at or send him a direct message tweet on Twitter to @Colin_PlastiFab

For more on Advantage Insulating Concrete Forms visit

Fight the Cold – Insulate your home with Plasti-Fab’s Exterior Sheathing Insulation

January 27, 2015

written by Melissa Carruthers
Follow her on twitter: @MelissaC_PFB

It’s January, It’s cold, and we are all trying to find the best way to keep our heat in and the cold out! So  let’s talk exterior sheathing. People are continually looking at different ways to increase their energy efficiency and decrease their energy costs. So what do they do? Replace windows and doors. Well that’s a great start, but what about all that space between your windows and doors? How much energy do you think is leaving through your walls every day? Parents are always after their kids to shut the door so we don’t let the heat or cool air out but in reality, you could be losing up to 33% of your heating and cooling through your walls each day.

So how do we fix this? Well, this is where PlastiSpan insulation saves the day. It is more cost effective and time effective to increase your R-Value above grade by going from the outside in then from the inside out. Make sure you check your local building code; see what they have for rules, requirements and restrictions. This will save you from problems later on.

Let’s get down to work.  By adding PlastiSpan, PlastiSpan HD or DuroFoam insulation to your home we will increase your energy efficiency and decrease your costs.

*All insulation will be called PlastiSpan from here on, but any of the 3 is the right insulation solution for this application.

A little overview of the 3 types so you can chose the best for your application

  • PlastiSpan has the lowest cost/R-Value for rigid insulation
  • PlastiSpan HD is also a more cost effective product than other rigid insulations. It gives you a slightly higher R-Value and compressive strength than PlastiSpan too.
  • DuroFoam is an ideal product for sheathing because it has been laminated on both sides, one with a green film and one with a silver one

The reflective facer on DuroFoam insulation contains a thin layer of foil embedded within the film. The reflective facer does not increase the nominal R-value of DuroFoam insulation. The green face of DuroFoam insulation should be left exposed to make use of the markings on this face provided for easy cutting of insulation and spacing of interior framing as required.

After you have chosen which type of PlastiSpan insulation you are going to use and have removed all your existing siding, you need to plan out the joints. Apply one of the PlastiSpan insulation products over the exterior of the wood framing. All vertical edges of the PlastiSpan insulation need to be butted tightly together over stud locations for adequate support.

Make sure you are using the correct fasteners. PlastiSpan Insulation must be fastened to framing using fasteners with heads or washers at least ½” diameter where the cladding will be applied directly against the insulation. Fasteners with heads or washers at least 1″ in diameter must be used where an air space will exist between the PlastiSpan insulation and the cladding. (The fasteners are usually a nail with a green washer around it).

A sheathing membrane is not required if all joints between the PlastiSpan insulation and all openings in the wall are taped using a sheathing tape to seal them. Installing exterior cladding; cladding must be attached to the wood framing members so they need to be long enough to penetrate through the PlastiSpan insulation and at least 1″ into the wood framing.


This should finish off the exterior of your home. New doors, new windows and by using PlastiSpan insulation under your sheathing, it will make a huge difference on your energy bills every month, plus increase the comfort inside your home. It’s a win-win situation, and who can resist a win-win?

Visit for more information on exterior sheathing.

Starting the foundation and placing the footings

January 8, 2015

Advantage ICFWritten by: Greg Doren
Follow me on Twitter @GregDoren

In the last blog I spoke about how I promote and sell Advantage ICFs, and help others realize their house building goals. I mentioned that this time around I would be using the Advantage ICF system to build my own dream home.

In this blog, I discuss my experience on the actual process beginning with the foundation, followed by placing the footings.


The building begins

So after 13 months of planning which included design, engineering, estimates and permit applications both municipal and provincial, we have finally started with construction. We finally have broken ground and after dealing with some expected and unexpected weather issues (Alberta weather can give anyone a run for their money) the footings have been placed and the foundation started.

The Mud & the Mayhem

Some unexpected issues we experienced included very heavy wet snow followed by quick thaw that made the site extremely muddy and hard to work in. As a result, we had to remove 5 cubic meters of mud to get to undisturbed soil for the foundation. We then experienced extreme cold (minus 28 C) which required heating and hoarding so the ground would not freeze. I thought about titling this blog “The Mud & the Mayhem”, as really the ICFs were the easiest part of this process.


At this point, we have the ICFs loaded into the hole as you can see by the images. Now we are ready for the next phase!

Check back soon to see our status as we begin building with the ICFs.

For more information about the Advantage ICF system, visit


Christmas Crafts with PlastiSpan Insulation

December 18, 2014

Plasti-Fabwritten by: Melissa Carruthers
Follow me on twitter @MelissaC_PFB

Christmas will be here  soon and I was thinking about making some crafts out of the random pieces of PlastiSpan insulation that I seemed to have accumulated over the year and make something festive. There are lots of different things you can make from PlastiSpan. In most crafts that require canvas, you can substitute PlastiSpan in place of the canvas. Today, I am making a Christmas Tree.

The supplies you will need:

  • PlastiSpan Insulation (If you don’t have any lying around, you can pick up some Plasti-Fab Handi-pac)
  • Tree template
  • Marker
  • Hot knife or serrated knife
  • Sanding paper
  • Acrylic paint
  • Tape
  • Glue
  • Paint brush
  • Batteries
  • Battery powered mini lights (optional)
  • Decorations
  • Gems
  • Paint on snow and glitter

 What to do: A step by step guide to making a Christmas Tree

I took a 2×2 sheet of PlastiSpan and got to work. I created a template of a Christmas Tree and taped it to the foam. I traced it out and began to cut, starting at the top. There are two methods to consider when doing this:

  1. Hot knife – you can purchase these online and at hobby shops
  2. Serrated blade – make sure you cut quickly

PlastiSPan Christmas Tree Step 1PlastiSpan Christmas Tree 02

I used a hot knife and then when the tree was cut out I sanded all the edges so they were flat. Now begin to paint chose a green, I picked Christmas green. It takes a few coats of paint to cover the PlastiSpan pieces.


I decided to add lights to the tree I was painting so I used the hot knife and made small holes to push the lights through. I purchased battery operated lights because the holes are smaller. After the lights were in I started to decorate


I chose tinsel with sticky ornaments to attach to the foam. I had to use extra glue in some places. There were other items I looked at adding like Christmas balls and flat ornaments but I thought on this tree it was enough.

PlastiSpan Christmas Tree plastispan-tree-07

I also wanted to add snow to the branches but again my late start made this a difficult search. I have learned for next year that for sure. Hope you find this project fun, but make sure you plan in advance because it made finishing my tree a little bit more difficult.


I ran out of lights and all the Michaels are sold out so I will be shopping early next year to make sure I have them!

Share your crafts with us! Post some pics here of the crafts you have made using PlastiSpan.

Advantage product manager builds his dream home – using his own product

December 18, 2014

Advantage ICFWritten by: Greg Doren
Follow me on Twitter @GregDoren

For more than 11 years as product manager of Advantage ICF, I have helped build and market the brand while working with ICF projects all across North America, helping people build their homes as they experience the benefits and features this product offers.

The latest ICF project that I will be working on however, will have more meaning to me both personally and professionally. This time around I will be using the Advantage ICF product to build my very own home.

dorenhome1-bCloser to home

My family and I chose to build our home in a community near the office where I work. This was an opportunity that we were glad to have; as quality time spent with family is very important. It’s comforting to know that I will be home sooner instead of on a long commute and risk driving alongside someone who seemed to have watched one too many TV reruns of the Coyote chasing Road Runner.

The goal

My goal would be to build a single family dwelling with a walk out foundation, main and second floor. I will also be doing a suspended garage slab in order to maximize my home foot print on a typical town lot.

Through this multi-week blog series I will be sharing my experiences as our dream home is being built with the Advantage ICF System. There will be highs and lows; since unexpected things can happen, especially with the unpredictable weather in Alberta.

So until my Digital Marketing colleagues tell me that there’s an app that I can download on my smartphone to inform me of bad weather coming way ahead of time, building challenges like these are situations we’ll possibly be facing and of course, sharing with you.

This ICF project of building our dream home using Advantage ICF will be both a challenging and interesting process. For years I have stood behind the Advantage ICF product in helping anyone accomplish their objective in building a great home. Now it’s time for me to use Advantage ICF for my dream house goal.

I’ll see you all in the next blog where I discuss starting the foundation and placing the footings.

For more information about the Advantage ICF system, visit


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