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Standard ICF Installation Instructions
Section 1

Preface (about this manual)
System Description and Specifications
Applications and Design Plans
Wall Layout
Materials and Tools
Handling and Storage
First Course
Cut Forms and Splices
Cutting Forms
Gluing Forms
Additional Courses

Horizontal Re-Bar
Vertical Re-Bar
Intersecting Walls (T-walls)
Exterior Bracing
Window and Door Openings
45-Degree and Other Custom Corners
Rim Joists and Ledgers
Beam and Girder Pockets
Brick Ledge
Utility, Mechanical, and Service
Scaffolding and Bracing Bucks
Before Concrete Checklist
Concrete Placement
Concrete Consolidation
After Concrete Placement
Concrete Curing and Removal of Bracing

Interior and Exterior Finishes
Above Grade Walls
Waterproofing Below Grade
Ask an expert…
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Section 1


This manual consists of Installation Instructions (text) and Installation Guide (graphic details). It is intended to assist the installation contractor in the methods and details of constructing walls using Standard Insulating Concrete Forms (Standard ICFs™). This manual does not preclude the necessity for the installer to use generally excepted construction practices, to rely on past and proven experience, or to follow design plans and specifications.

It is the responsibility of the installer to be abreast of the most up to date construction techniques and information available, to work in a safe, efficient, and workmanship like manner, and to construct walls in accordance with applicable building codes and regulations.

Structures built with Standard ICFs™ should be designed, engineered, and constructed in accordance with the applicable governing building codes and regulations including American Concrete Institute (ACI) 318.

Standard ICF Corporation is committed to producing the highest quality products and warrants their products against substandard materials and manufacturing defects that do not conform to their own published specifications. However, Standard ICF Corporation assumes no responsibility for the installation, for any accessory materials, or for the performance of a product or system once they have been installed.

Consistent with our history as an innovator, Standard ICF™ Corporation will continue to research and develop new innovations that will make our products more user-friendly, more fail safe, and more cost effective. We reserve the right to modify or to update the products and literature we produce. Therefore, it remains the responsibility of the user to obtain the most recent information available.

When it is required, please do not hesitate to consult a Standard ICF Corporation "manufacturer's representative" for information concerning the installation of Standard Insulating Concrete Forms.

Standard ICF Corporation

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System Description and Specifications

Standard Insulating Concrete Forms (Standard ICFs™) are an exclusive hybrid insulating concrete forming system (patents pending) used to build monolithic concrete walls for above and below grade applications. Standard ICFs™, with their unique design and combination of features, provide benefits that are exceedingly user-friendly and failsafe, resulting in more cost-effective installations. Walls built with Standard ICFs™ are extremely strong, soundproof, and energy efficient. Compared to traditional concrete forms and concrete block, they are extremely lightweight and require much less effort to handle and install.

Standard ICFs™ are a 7-inch modified flat-wall, block type, concrete forming system. They are made of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) insulating foam plastic panels with an integrated High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) hard plastic stud wall-tie bracket system. The HDPE used is derived from recycled material. The EPS is a lightweight multi-cellular moisture resistant material made from expandable beads containing pentane gas and flame retardant additive.

Standard ICFs™ are manufactured using Molded Type II EPS in accordance with ASTM E84. Standard ICFs™ are molded to a net cured weight density of 1.5 pounds per square inch. Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) test results indicate the EPS used has a flame spread of 10, and a smoke development of 300. The forms can be recycled and there are no HCFCs or HFCs emitted during the manufacturing process. The finished product has no off-gassing, fumes, odors, or toxins. When filled with concrete they form a monolithic concrete wall that has a fire resistance of 3 hours with 5/8-inch drywall. When burning, Standard ICFs™ produce less than half the toxins of burning wood. They have a calculated thermal resistance of R-Value R-26+ with a performance up to R-50 and a sound transmission classification of STC-50.

The 1 5/8-inch wide stud flanges and the exclusive 3-inch x 3-inch corner brackets, which are readily marked, are located every 12-inches on center as measured from the inside or outside corners. The brackets are recessed ½-inch below the exterior surface of the foam panels and are used to fasten a variety of exterior and interior wall coverings using course thread screws. The stud flanges align to form continuous uninterrupted studs with no spaces or gaps. The internal wall-ties have a tandem re-bar saddle that will accept the placement of either ½-inch or 5/8-inch horizontal re-bar. The forms have ¾ x ¾ -inch interlocking tongues and grooves on all edges with an exclusive stop-block and a corresponding notch system to facilitate proper form stacking, stud alignment, and to insure against lateral form movement.

Standard ICF straight forms are 48-inches long, 16-inches high, 11 ¼-inches wide, and weigh 5 pounds. The corner forms are 48-inches (18+30) long, 16-inches high, 11 ¼-inches wide, and weigh 5.8 pounds. Both forms have a surface area of 5.33 square feet and will form a nominal 7-inch (6 1/5-inch) interior concrete core. One cubic yard of concrete will fill 10.5 straight forms or 13.75 corner forms.
The Standard ICF 7-inch (one size) modified flat-wall forming system, which can be used to build a majority of residential and light commercial buildings, eliminates the need for various sizes of forms. This highly energy efficient method of building simplifies construction, reduces the quantity of inventory needed, and lowers the amount of investment required, making them very cost competitive with other types of wall systems, including wood construction. (back to top)

Standard ICF Specifications

  • Forms are manufactured using Type II EPS in accordance with ASTM E84.
  • EPS panels are molded to a net cured weigh of 1.5 psi.
    UL tests results with a flame spread of 10, and smoke development of 300.
  • Finished wall has a fire resistance of 3-hours with 5/8-inch drywall.
  • Stud Wall-Tie Brackets are made with recycled HDPE.
  • No HCFCs or HFCs are emitted during the manufacturing process.
  • Forms do not off-gas and does not produce fumes, odors, or toxins.
  • Calculated R-Value: R-26+, with a performance of up to R-50.
  • Sound transmission class: STC-50.
  • Stud flanges are 1 5/8-inches wide by 16-inches high.
  • Stud flanges are recessed ½-inch below the exterior surface of the foam panels.
  • Studs are located 12-inches on center measured from corners.
  • Studs align to form continuous uninterrupted studs with no spaces or gaps.
  • Corner brackets are 3-inches wide (both directions) by 16-inches high.
  • Re-bar saddle will accept either ½-inch or 5/8-inch horizontal re-bar
  • Nominal 7-inch modified flat wall system with a net 6 ½-inch concrete core.
  • Straight Forms: 48-inches long, 16-inches high, 11 ¼-inches wide.
  • Corner Forms: 48-inches (18+30) long, 16-inches high, 11 ¼-inches wide.
  • Weight: Straight Forms are 5.8 pounds each; Corner Forms are 5 pounds each.
  • Surface Area: 5.33 sq. ft. per form (straight or corner).
  • One cubic yard of concrete fills 10.5 straight forms, and 13.75 corner forms. (back to top)

Applications and Design Plans

Standard ICFs™ are very versatile and can be used to build residential, light commercial, agricultural, and industrial buildings. Plans should be developed to insure that the building conforms to the accepted rules of architecture and engineering, and to have a single overall design, method, and/or style to achieve the desired objective. It is important to consider the 11 ¼-inch wall thickness of Standard ICFs™ in the planning and design stages of the building. (back to top)


Calculating the number of forms needed for your project is rather simple.

A. Gross number of forms needed:
To determine the total number of forms, multiply the wall height, which is calculated in increments of 16-inches (the height of Standard ICFs™) by the total length of the building walls, this will equal the total square foot of walls to be built. Then divide the total square footage of the walls by 5.33 square feet (the total surface area of a form). The dividend will be the gross number of forms needed.

B. Total number of corner forms needed:
To determine the total number of corner forms needed, divide the wall height by 16-inches, which will be the total number of courses. Then multiply the dividend by the number of building corners; the product will be the total number of corner forms needed.

C. Total number of forms displaced by window and door openings:
Considering the size of Standard ICF straight forms, 4-feet wide by 16-inches high, calculate how many full size uncut forms will fit in each opening. For example, one opening 3-feet wide by 7-feet high will not accommodate any full-size uncut forms. One opening 5-feet wide by 7-feet high will accommodate five (5) full-length uncut forms, and an opening 16-feet wide by 7-feet high will accommodate twenty (20) full-size uncut forms. Add the total number of full size uncut forms for each opening to determine the total sum of forms that will be displaced. In this example, 25 forms are displaced.

D. Total number of straight forms needed:
Add (B) the total number of corners and (C) the number of forms displaced by window and door openings, and then subtract the sum from (A) the gross number of forms needed. The remainder will be the total number of straight forms needed.

E. Total number of corner forms and straight forms needed for the project are the totals of (B) and (D) above.

It is not always possible to determine the exact number of forms needed to complete a project. For that reason, it is always a good idea to have extra forms on hand to make up for errors, miscalculation, and oversights.(back to top)


Level footings should be designed to transfer and distribute the load they will support and be in compliance with governing building regulations. Construct level footings within a vertical tolerance of plus or minus ¼-inch while corresponding with design plans. Shims or a bed of mortar can be used under the first course to compensate for unlevel footers. Having a level footer and/or a level first course is very important. Minimum size footings should be 8-inches thick by 20-inches wide. Larger footings may be required.

Step footings require vertical steps of 16-inches. Although, Standard ICFs™ can be cut in half horizontally without compromising the integrity of the wall-ties when an 8-inch height is needed. This technique is accomplished by alternating the top and bottom halves as the first course and secure them in place with foam adhesive. The second course will also need to be secured with foam adhesive.

Place the vertical steel reinforcing (re-bar) dowels in the footer at regular intervals to correspond with the design of steel reinforcing required in the wall. This will provide solid attachment to footings. Several methods can be used to hold vertical re-bar in place. First, attach an open wire loop at the top of the re-bar dowels large enough so that the vertical re-bar can be passed through and held in place at the bottom once the wall assembly in completed. Second, a two-inch length of PVC pipe (a ring) can be slipped over the dowel and serve the same purpose as the wire loop. Both the wire loop and the PVC ring need to be sized correctly so the vertical re-bar is held reasonably tight to the vertical dowel protruding from the footer. Third, various market-ready re-bar positioners are available, and fourth, the vertical re-bar can be bushed into the correct location as the first lift of concrete is being pumped in place. All of these methods allow for full-length re-bar to be used. A fifth way is that the vertical re-bar can be installed in two or more pieces with joints that overlap 36 times the bar diameter and tied with wire. With this method the vertical bar can be tied to the horizontal re-bar with wire, and the forms will be installed by slipping them over the vertical re-bar. See: Vertical Re-bar (back to top)

To prevent injury it is very important that safety protection caps be place over the vertical dowels after they are installed and then removed once the first course is in place and/or when they are no longer a safety hazard. Safety First!

Wall Layout

Locate the corners and establish the exact building dimensions on the footings, making sure that all corners are square and/or correctly aligned in accordance with the design plans. Place chalk lines on footings along building perimeter and then install a temporary 2 x 4 guide board on the footings along and on the outside of the line using 2 ¾- inch cut concrete nails or Tap-Con™ screws every 4-foot. It is a good idea to mark the location of window and door openings on the footer at this time and during the installation of the first course. (back to top)

Materials and Tools

Placement of materials and tools, and locating the general work area inside the perimeter of the wall will make the installation of the wall assembly and concrete placement easier and safer. Tools and materials required to install and construct buildings using Standard ICFs™ are those hand and power tools used in work associated with ordinary carpentry, concrete, and reinforcing steel (re-bar) installations. No specialized tools are required.

Each installation contractor, depending on their construction experience, developed skills, and level of investment, will develop their own method of working with Standard ICFs™ that will allow for safe and efficient installation of Standard ICFs™. Their experience will help to determine the list of materials and tools that they will prefer to use. All questions regarding the installation of Standard ICFs™ ™ should be directed to a Standard ICF Representative. (back to top)

Handling and Storage

Proper handling and storage of forms is important because damage can weaken a form and compromise its effectiveness as a concrete form. Damaged forms can often be used without concern when care is taken to reinforce the weakened area. Minor surface damage will not jeopardize their effectiveness. Store forms to protect them from high winds, storms, and from the activities associated with a construction site. For long-term storage it is important to protect the forms from the effects of exposure to UV rays from sunlight. (back to top)

First Course

Placement of the First Course should begin at the corners. Position all corner forms on the first course in one direction only, left or right facing, and on the inside of the temporary 2 x 4 guide board that is installed along the wall perimeter, marked with chalk lines. Work from opposing corners toward the center of the wall, gluing all forms in place to the footing with two good size beads of minimum expanding foam adhesive. At the option of the installer, because the first course is glued in place, it may not always be necessary to install the temporary guide board.

Mesh the form tongue and groove ends tight together while setting the forms in place with the tongue-side-up. The footers should be clean and free of standing water. Damp footers can actually insure a better bond to the footer when using foam adhesive. Alternate the direction of the corner forms, as the courses are stacked in place to ensure proper stud alignment and staggering of joints. See Gluing Forms.

For reference purposes, mark the location of window and door openings, utility penetrations, and other significant wall features with a magic marker on the inside side of the first course at this time. This will help, as it is important to locate cut forms and splices where there is a window or door opening, to minimize cut forms and the need for spices. Cut a form ¼-inch smaller than the measured opening to eliminate the possibility of having too much material in the wall length making it difficult to straighten and/or plumb the wall. The ¼ gap can be filled, when the wall is fully assembled and before concrete is placed, with minimum expanding foam adhesive.

To minimize the need to make additional measurements, it is a good idea to mark the length of the first cut piece on the side of the panel that faces the interior of the building, because all subsequent forms in this vertical location of the wall will be cut the same length. The marked measurement should be large enough to be seen from a distance. Before the second course is put in place any re-bar positioning devices being used should be installed. (back to top)

Cut Forms and Splices

Most often it will be necessary to cut a form to fit into a space that is less than 48 inches long, creating a reacquiring series of cut forms and splices somewhere within the length of the wall assembly. The cut forms and splices should have a staggered and reacquiring vertical alignment and are best located wherever there is a window or door opening to minimize the amount of cuts and splices. If there are no window or door openings in the wall, the location of the staggered and vertically aligned cut forms and splices can be anywhere between the two corners.

Cut a form ¼-inch smaller than the measured opening to eliminate the possibility of having too much material in the wall length making it difficult to straighten and/or plumb the wall. The ¼ gap can be filled, when the wall is fully assembled and before concrete is placed, with minimum expanding foam adhesive.

The stud wall-tie brackets will not have a stacked continuous alignment in the location of the cut forms and splices, consequently some stop-blocks located on the inside of the top tongue will need to be trimmed off the form below, before setting the cut form in place. To minimize waste, it is important to save and try to use all cut pieces with one or more wall-ties in place.

Splices need to be placed on both sides of all cut forms when the cut end creates a distance between stud wall-tie brackets that is more than 10-inches, or when the cut end of a form is more than 4-inches from the stud wall-tie bracket. This is done by attaching a piece of 1 x 4 or a piece of wood across the middle of the cut joint on both sides of the forms using course thread screws. The wood piece should be long enough to bridge the cut end gap and be attached to at least two stud flanges. Splices can also be used to strengthen other perceived weak places in the wall assemble. It is much easier and less time consuming to install a splice than it is to repair a bulge or blowout.

Additionally, straight forms that are miter cut and assembled to create 45-degree and other acute or obtuse angle corners, will need to be reinforced and braced to accommodate the pressures of concrete during concrete placement; this is also true for forms used to create curved walls. See: Gluing Forms, External Bracing, and Installation Guide. (back to top)

Cutting Forms

It is easy to cut forms with the use of a carpenter's handsaw or a reciprocating power saw (Saws-all), using a medium tooth blade for cutting both foam and hard plastic. Standard ICFs™ can either be cut in half horizontally or have as much as 4-inches cut off the top of either side of the form without compromising the integrity of the wall-ties or the strength of the form. The use of a table saw can speed full-length horizontal cuts. A small "keyhole type" drywall saw is handy for making cuts, trimming forms to fit, and for cutting holes for utility penetrations.

It is important to try to avoid cutting the wall tie part of a bracket, which would compromise the ability of the form to hold up during concrete placement. As an example, this can occur at intersecting walls and when locating a beam pocket. These areas will need to be strengthened with splices or other methods of reinforcement applied to the exterior. Tie wire can also be used to strengthen these areas.

Always cut a form ¼-inch smaller than the measured opening to eliminate the possibility of having too much material in the wall length making it difficult to straighten and/or plumb the wall. The ¼ gap can be filled, when the wall is fully assembled and before concrete is placed, with minimum expanding foam adhesive.(back to top)

Gluing Forms

With the exception of gluing the first course to the footer and gluing the top course to the one below, gluing is not required. However, for the sake of assured quality, we do recommend that all horizontal joints be glued. Many seasoned installers prefer to glue all the horizontal joints, while others do not. We specially encourage those just starting out to glue. Gluing ensures a more fail-safe installation, so "when in doubt, glue".

Gluing not only gives a lot of stability to the wall assembly to withstand the forces created by concrete placement, but also adds stability during severe and unpredictable weather conditions during installation. It is also important to glue forms that were cut to fit in complicated or difficult areas where the integrity of the forms has been compromised, and where straight forms were miter cut to form corners. In addition to gluing, these areas may also need to be reinforced with pieces of wood or metal supports using course thread screws and/or tie-wire.

Glue horizontal joints with a 3/8 to ½-inch bead of minimum expanding foam adhesive along the outside edge of the horizontal tongue on both sides of the lower form just before setting a form in place. It is not usually necessary to glue vertical joints except at the ends of the cut forms prior to concrete placement. However, it is very important to glue the top course to the course below to prevent the top course from floating when concrete is being pumped in place.

Applying minimum expanding foam adhesives with a foam applicator gun has become the preferred method for attaching ICF forms together horizontally, to footings, and to filling and reinforcing gaps, spaces, and holes associated with cutting and assembling ICFs. As an alternative, foam-compatible contact-cements may be used for assembling miter cut corners. See: First Course, Cut Forms and Splices, and Cutting Forms.

These foam-compatible adhesives, applicator guns, and contact cements can be acquired through your local building supply store or through specialty outlets such as ICF Building Products: www.icfbp.com, Windlock Select: www.windlockselect.com, or Demand Products: www.demandproducts.com. (back to top)

Additional Courses

The second course and all additional courses can begin as soon as the horizontal re-bar is placed in the first course. Like the placement of the first course, start at the corners and work toward the center of the wall. Alternating left and right corner forms (changing the direction of the corner forms) will force the alternating alignment of vertical joints and align the stud flanges throughout the wall system.

By following the form placement and cutting patterns established in the first two courses develop an installation method and pattern which can be repeated throughout the wall ensuring a user-friendly and more fail-safe installation. (back to top)

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