Forming choice based on particular needs
By: Larry Storer
When comparing the features of aluminum forms and 1 1/8-inch plywood forms, Theo Bartholomew with Simplex Forms System Co. says both had many advantages, but the choice must be made by each contractor based on his particular projects."All these companies that make forms are in business because they satisfy a need in the construction world," Bartholomew says. "But the contractor has to know what he wants to do before he can successfully choose that forming system that will be most advantageous to him and his particular work."
Simplex Forms System Co., a division of J. Bartholomew Engineering Co., manufactures and sells 1 1/8-inch plywood forming systems that can be used many times. The plywood is 11-ply structural grade with heavy-duty overlay (phenolic impregnated paper) made at the mill under heat and pressure.Bartholomew went on to say that these plywood forms are a natural product that is far more forgiving than an aluminum form.
"If the contractor must nail something, such as a window or add some particular accessory, that's easily done with wood, and the holes are easy to fill with bondo or putty when the nails are removed. Or the nail holes can be left alone and the form will still function. With the aluminum form, the window must conform exactly to the form itself or it will be necessary to drill holes in order to mount it."
Temperature is also an issue with forming. Wood forms are ready to work well whether it is hot or cold. Working in extreme temperatures, aluminum forms must be handled with gloves to avoid burns in hot weather; and in cold weather, even more costly additives will be necessary for the concrete to set well.
Contractors find wood forms to be very versatile. An 8-foot form with six bars has the bars spaced at 8 inches, 16 inches, 16 inches and 16 inches. This equidistant spacing permits stagger-stacking. With proper bracing, contractors can stack to 16 to 20 feet high. In uneven terrain, it is not uncommon to have structures with walls of different heights.
Bartholomew says that on the Simplex Reversible System, the bars and levers can be removed and remounted on the concrete side and pour on the logo side when the forms show signs of wear.
They can also be cut in three 32-inch forms and still have two bars on them. With each cut, the form will have some new corners.
If the contractor has only 8-foot forms and must form 10-foot walls, he has several choices without having to incur additional expenditures. The 32-inch forms are used for stem walls or even as stacker forms. As all have the same spacing of the bars, these smaller forms can be re-stacked between 8-foot forms and still function as the original 8-foot forms. There is no wastefulness to any of the wood.
"The Reversible System generally lasts about 400 pours and many contractors tell us they get even more pours than that. That's predicated on the contractor choosing a form oil that contains no kerosene or diesel. Both of those agents will dissolve the plastic covering. They may be fine for other kinds of forms, but are not for the heavy-duty overlay plywood forms. Contractors must also be careful not to permit any water to fall in the form release oil as it will negate its effectiveness."
Bartholomew says one of the critical factors in the contractor's decision is cost.
"Two years ago, I sent the same requirements to a company that makes aluminum forms to one that manufacturers ICF forms and I used the same requirements for our own Reversible System.
"The most costly forms were the insulating concrete forms because they are used only once. The aluminum forms were almost four times as much as Simplex forms.
"If these expensive aluminum forms are handled carefully, they hope to get 2,000 pours out of them. But forms get misused and even heavy steel forms are damaged through regular use and abuse. Aluminum forms are much more vulnerable, so in addition to the huge initial investment, the repair bills on them are also expensive."Many residential contractors may have the money for the initial $100,000-plus investment in aluminum forms, but they would have to have a very large backlog of work to justify that investment. With our forms, the contractor can do the same thing for about $25,000."