Choosing Your ICF
By: Joseph Lyman
Perception is 9/10 of everything. This holds true for almost every sector of life, including people's perceptions about products and brands. Once people start believing what they think is true, it is difficult to convince them what is fact and what is merely perceived.
As the voice of the insulating concrete form (ICF) industry, the ICFA is faced with this same challenge on a regular basis as consumers ask the association, "What is the best ICF?" Fortunately, the association does not have to lie to answer the question. However, we do have to change people's perceptions about what is important when determining which ICF bests suits their needs.
What is the best ICF system?
This is the first myth that needs to be dispelled. Unfortunately, consumers are often driven by the modern economy's desire to rank products and importance in the marketplace. The buying public strives to have the best product at the best price. As for ICFs, it is obvious that each individual ICF building system has different properties that deliver different benefits to the consumer. Some have thicker insulation than others. Some are connected with metal ties, others with plastic ties. Some systems are stacked like building blocks, others require assembly. Whichever the system, it is important to note that once the ICF home has been correctly installed and the concrete cures, the homeowner will be extremely happy with their ICF home.
So, if one isn't looking for the best ICF building system, how does one determine which system best serves their needs? In most cases, it isn't the system that will serve a client's needs, rather it is the company that manufactures the forms and provides the client with value-added support.
What to look for in an ICF company
Contrary to popular belief, there is no magic formula in determining which ICF company is the right one for you. The point the association stresses the most is that a client should do their homework before selecting an ICF building system. Building a home is a serious investment, so doing a little research is an important step in getting the value you deserve.
To maximize your chances of success, it is important to develop a list of needs specific to your project. Is your project below-grade or above-grade? Where is the house being built? What are the issues most important to you? These specific questions will go a long way in ensuring that you choose the company that will best serve your needs. The following list contains just a few of the things you need to consider when choosing an ICF company that suits you best:
* If installing the system yourself, does the company have a training course?
* How easy is the system to install?
* Does the company have a technical department to address specific design issues?
* Is the company good about following up on answering questions?
* What is the company's track record on customer service?
* What is the price of the form?
* Will there be on-site support during the installation and pour?
* How quickly are forms delivered?
* Will the company offer references in your area?
These are just a few of the questions that can be asked. However, not everyone will ask the same questions, mostly because everyone's needs are different. For instance, price might be the common denominator for some, but whether or not the company has a technical department is of little importance. For some, price is not the most important issue, but they will need the immediate delivery of forms. This is why it is crucial that you develop a list ranking your own issues in order of importance.
Although it hasn't been mentioned yet, building a rapport with a company is also critical to the success of the end product. The business relationship you form with the company will last for years and will impact the end product you receive. Whichever company you pick, it should be one that you feel comfortable with.
Additional Sources of Information
The Insulating Concrete Form Association is your first step in gathering additional information concerning your ICF project. The ICFA represents the ICF industry, and acts as an owner's advisor, educating consumers on what to look for in choosing an ICF system that fits their needs. The ICFA website (www.forms.org) is filled with information about ICF systems, as well as ICFA member listings. Also, the Portland Cement Association (www.concretehomes.com) is also another source of useful information. Finally, individual ICF companies are your ultimate resource in determining which system will best suit your needs. Please take the time to view our member list in this issue to find the ICF company that is right for you.
The Insulating Concrete Form Association (ICFA) is the business association of the insulating concrete form industry, representing over international 400 firms through ICF promotion, codes and standards, research, partnering and education. Founded in 1994, the ICFA is located in Suburban Chicago, IL.
Photos courtesy of ICFA