ICF Construction for Basements

Insulated concrete forms (ICF) are being used for a wide variety of building projects. One of the most common applications where ICF is considered is with respect to basements. Property owners (on the verge of a build) and developers alike are asking about the viability of this construction method. While the benefits of insulation concrete form use in home construction have been clearly identified, today we focus on the advantages as they directly apply to basements.

5 Key Reasons to Use ICF in the Construction of Your Residential Basement

1. Warm in the Winter, Cool in the Summer

Up to 30% of residential heat loss can be directly attributed to a poorly insulated concrete basement. Even in a well-insulated two-level structure, heat loss from the basement accounts for 15 to 30 percent of the annual load. In a single-story home, the percentage can be even higher. In Alberta, where seasonal weather edges on the extreme (cold and hot) basement insulation means everything when it comes to homeowner comfort. Because ICF-built basements have a high thermal mass, provide a continuous air barrier, and equates a higher R-value (measure of thermal resistance) they are better protected from Alberta’s extreme outdoor temperatures. Simply put, an ICF basement is warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, and “just right” everywhere in between. Homeowners bask in the comfort of an ICF basement while residential developers enhance the market value of their offering.

2. Lower Monthly Utility Expenditures

Next to climate comfort, the next direct benefit is monthly energy expenditure for residents. It is dramatically reduced. Percentage reduction in a monthly utility bill varies by location and homeowner, but the following quote from a survey of ICF homeowners conducted at Boston University sums it up quite succinctly:

“Our highest [utility] bill in a month was $110 in summer. Our neighbors hit $200-$300 in August and September.” (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)

A study conducted with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) in 2007 evidenced a significantly lower Life Cycle Cost (LCC) of energy, with ICF (noted at the bottom of the chart) offering the lowest cost:

Advancements in ICF technology have been made since 2007, serving to make this construction method even more energy efficient. Again, numbers vary to date, ranging between a 20 to 50% reduction in monthly heating/cooling expenses, but without question homeowners benefit from a significantly reduced ongoing expense. ICF basement construction pays for itself in the not-so long run.

3. Greater Protection from Natural Hazards

ICF basements also offer one the most effective barriers from natural hazards and disasters. The structural integrity is second to none. ICF basements protect properties and occupants from fire, earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other strong wind storms. Because of the above, one can expect lower insurance premiums when their home has an ICF basement foundation – an added benefit indeed.

4. Resistance to Aging

Consider ICF construction to be the proverbial “fountain of youth” for foundations. When a basement is constructed from ICF the common signs of aging along with normal “wear and tear” are abated. ICF is superior in its ability to resist rot, decay, corrosion, pest infestation, and other forms of degradation that occur in Alberta basements over time. While concrete on its own is well known to resist degradation, ICF adds that extra layer of protection that your foundation needs to carry your home into the next century. Ongoing basement maintenance and repair is minimized with insulate concrete forms.

5. Maximum Noise Reduction

The Alberta building code requires noise mitigation for homes in populated areas. The walls of town houses, multi-unit residences, and homes in highly densified communities are required to stop airborne noise to a minimum of Sound Transmission Class (STC) 50. An ICF foundation accomplishes this with just a single panel of six-inch concrete (with drywall applied on both sides). Total ICF (via NUDURA) can provide noise mitigation of up STC 53 for specialized projects. Looking for peace and quiet? Want to turn your basement into an intrusion-free movie and entertainment room? Putting together a band and want a quiet place to practice? You can do it all with a noise free ICF basement.

If you’re considering a residential building in the Central Alberta area and you want the ultimate in basement construction feel free to contact Total ICF at 403.887.2214 anytime.