Insulated Concrete Form Cabin - ICF for Winter Cottage Builds

One thing draws vacation home investment to Alberta from all over Canada and the United States – the vision of a quintessential winter cabin. It’s the subject of computer screen-savers and smartphone wallpapers that people from all walks of life want to make a reality when equity allows. However, even with finances in order, many neglect to move forward with a build out of concern for comfort. Picturesque yes, but can a winter cottage be constructed to withstand harsh weather cutting through the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains alike? Traditionally, not so much. But thanks to developments in insulated concrete form (ICF) construction you as a cabin builder can deliver clients with the winter vacation dream home they’ve always envisioned.

5 Reasons Why Cabin and Cottage Builders Must Adopt ICF for Clients Seeking Winter Vacation Homes in Alberta

1. Thermal Resistance to Keep Warmer on the Coldest of Winter Nights

Let’s nip your prospective clients’ biggest concern in the bud from the get go. As is, concrete has a higher thermal mass than the alternative (wood), and thus helps keep the heat that comes through sun-facing windows, heating units, and/or fireplaces in the home through the wee hours of the night. ICF takes this process a big leap further. The two continuous panels of EPS foam (from NUDURA) that bookend the concrete from top to bottom deliver a tested R-Value of nearly R-24, a property which significantly mitigates the outward flow of heat through the walls. Occupants of the quaint yet modern winter cabin will remain cozy and comfortable, enjoying their fireplaces for aesthetics and atmosphere more so than necessity. They will also be warmed by the fact that their heating utility consumption will be about 60% lower than that of those in the other cottages found down the forested road. View more on the benefits of winter-proofing homes (cabins included) with ICF.

2. Can Be Used for the Foundation of a Traditional Log Cabin

Some of your clients will insist upon a traditional rustic log cabin build, even if outfitted with the latest tech on the inside. You get it, however you know you’d feel remiss to leave them suffering the winter elements on their own. Fret not, because you can give them what they want while tapping into the thermal benefits of insulated concrete forms by using a hybrid approach. Under this construction model, you would build the cabin’s foundation using ICF and continue on with the more traditional log cabin build above. In doing so, not only will heat be prevented from escaping at the base (typically responsible for as much as 1/3 of the total heat loss), you will reap the other benefits of ICF for foundation construction.

3. Can Be Finished to Look Like a Traditional Cabin

After discussing the benefits of insulated concrete forms for a winter cabin, your clients’ will likely be sold on the concept and want the entire space to be constructed accordingly so they can reap rewards. However, you still want them to be happy with the aesthetics. Well there is no cause for concern. You can finish the ICF cottage build with practically any material they like, be it wood siding or natural stone, while cutting out sections for large windows to provide spectacular Alberta views of the lake, forest, or mountains. Even cabin logs can be sawed and affixed as a finish to the ICF wall build. Just remember that even treated logs shrink overtime so you will need to apply elastic chinking or preferred alternative to keep the overall look intact.

4. Saves Occupants from the Howling Winter Winds (and other things that howl)

It can be a little ominous out there on cold winter night. Not everyone sleeping within (i.e. children) will appreciate the sounds of nature, from howling winds to owls and wolves in the far off distance. With ICF this is of no concern, as the sound transmission class rating is STC-50.

5. Build a Cabin Practically Anywhere in Alberta

A major challenge for cabin builders, is the location typically preferred by clients. You don’t exactly get a lot of requests for cottage builds along 50th Avenue Red Deer. Instead, investors in the peace, quiet, and tranquility   that Mother Nature provides seek solace in Central Alberta’s more extreme rural areas. This is a major issue for traditional builds as transport of equipment, materials, and labour alike can be a logistical nightmare. Thankfully, lightweight (yet sturdy) ICF blocks and products can easily shipped to the site, reducing the number of trips per payload, all of which will then reduce the cost of transport. And since ICF builds require significantly fewer materials and labour, transportation requirements are further diminished.

Even if you can transport your equipment and materials to the far reaches of the province with relative ease, will you be able to fulfill your client’s need to be off the grid when that plot of land is found on less desirable topography? When we say “less desirable” for Alberta, you know what we mean – bedrock. Yes, insulated concrete forms can be cut and scribed to fit the contours of bedrock or other challenging topographic profile. Learn more about the process here.

All in all, the application of ICF in cabin/cottage construction greatly increases the speed of the build and creates timeframe flexibility, something that is accomplished by covering several steps with one superior product. That product, is NUDURA ICF, and if you’re in Central Alberta, Total ICF is your supplier.


Provide your Alberta cabin/cottage contracting business with a clear competitive advantage by adopting insulated concrete form construction. To learn more, contact Total ICF today.