Insulated Concrete Forms and Fire Resistance

Fresh off the heels (relatively) of the Fort McMurray fire of 2016, wildfires remain to be a hot topic in Alberta. While the the last two years have been more kind to the province, we’re seeing the direct impact that the forest fires in neighboring BC are having upon us all, with the air quality health index tipping passed 10 at the tail end of August. Residential builders in impacted areas will have their hands full in the months to come, seeking a better solution for rebuilding homes destroyed in the respective blazes. Because of this, now is as good a time as any to revisit one of the biggest benefits of using insulated concrete forms in custom home construction – its fire resistant properties.

Why Builders Should Use Insulated Concrete Forms When Seeking a More Fireproof Solution to Home Construction in At-Risk Areas

NUDURA ICF Has a 4-Hour (+) Fire Resistance Rating

With natural disaster preparedness (wildfire proofing included) becoming a top priority at federal, provincial, and municipal levels, Canadian building codes ask that non-combustible structures maintain a 4-hour fire resistance rating under the design standards specified in said codes. Homeowners want that same status, especially in light of all they have witnessed over the past few years as fires run rampant across Western Canada in the summer months. After stringent testing, including this recent study conducted via a combined efforts between the Standards Council of Canada and the International Accreditation Service (IAS), it was found that ICF homes are eight times more fire-resistant than wood frame constructed counterparts. Even better, is that conclusive tests show that NUDURA systems (made from non-toxic fire retardant expanded polystyrene foam) attain a four-hour fire resistance rating with a six-inch core wall (rather than industry standard 8-inch core) and can thus sustain a four-hour fire attack without any issue.

It’s important to note that some codes require that the foam plastic be protected with a thermal barrier to shield occupants from smoke inhalation while they exit the structure, but this can easily (and economically) be accomplished with ½ inch drywall. Additional protection can be provided on the exterior via a non-combustible finish which can be applied over top of the foam.

NUDURA ICF Passes the Firehose Stress Test

Major water damage is often an unfortunate side effect of emergency service response to an exterior fire on a home and surrounding property. However, when a home is constructed via NUDURA systems, the interior and possessions will be better protected from firehose water intrusion. Using a four-inch firehose (nominal inside hose diameters tend to range between 1.5 to 3-inches) NUDURA walls were subjected to water stream blast tests for four-minutes in an attempt to penetrate the wall. The results? Not one single drop of water penetrated through.

Present Day Applications

The application of insulated concrete forms in this capacity is not in theory. It is being used at this very moment as a response from communities which have recently suffered wildfire devastation. Earlier this month, we shared the story of the Santa Rosa Sonoma County (California) wildfires which claimed over 1,500 homes. Among those who lost their houses, are a savvy few who together with local architects are rebuilding using fire retardant ICF systems, a move that will hedge their risk of ever again losing their cherished homes.

While ICF is the answer for property owners and builders charged with rebuilding houses and communities after traumatic events, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to rebuild at all? We think so too, which is why we are working with builders all over the province to ensure that together we can offer residents more resilient, and fire resistant, homes.


Position your residential construction company as one that offers households and communities alike a custom home building solution to the ever-present threat of Alberta fires. Contact Total ICF today to learn more about how ICF will give you a competitive advantage.