A Sturdy House of Foam Blocks
Foam houses are able to withstand wind, water, even termites.
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A drive past suggested it was just another home construction project, with workers lumbering about shouldering steel rods, concrete blocks and other hardware.
But what was with the plastic foam?
Using a material similar to that of the squeaky-to-the-touch supermarket beer cooler, CaCo Construction of Dunedin, Fla., was working on a 7,000-square-foot home in Clearwater, Fla.
Usually, houses in Florida are built using concrete blocks or wood to frame the structure. These days, as more home buyers and builders try to be frugal and environmentally conscious, insulating concrete forms are becoming more popular.
Insulating concrete forms are hollow Poly Steel foam blocks or panels that crews stack into the shape of the exterior walls of a building. After the forms are fastened or sealed with foam adhesives, reinforced concrete is poured inside. The result is a foam-concrete sandwich.
"It's a little different, so it scares a lot of people," said Craig Pavlik, president of CaCo Construction. "But I like it for its strength and energy efficiency."
Proponents of this type of construction laud it as stronger, more energy efficient, quiet and durable.
This was the first time Pavlik's company had used insulated concrete forms to build a home.
Dr. Steve Steller, a chiropractor, hired Pavlik, one of his patients, to do the work.
"I've bought several houses (in Florida), and the termite and water damage was so crazy that I thought I'd like to try something new," Steller said. "I think it's the new wave of construction in Florida because it's termite-proof, waterproof and wind-proof. It only makes sense."
According to the website www.icfweb.com, only about one-third as much noise gets through an insulated concrete wall compared with that of conventional wood-frame or steel-frame wall.
The insulated concrete homes are energy-efficient, consume about 43 percent less energy for heating and 32 percent less for cooling, according to studies.
The walls are designed to withstand winds of more than 200 mph.
"It's not really widespread, but I've seen (insulating concrete forms) from the Panhandle to South Florida," said Dave Howell, a veteran general contractor and building inspector from DeLand, Fla. "It appears to me that if it's built to the manufacturer's standards, it's a very substantial, very efficient type of construction."
One drawback, however, is the cost. It's estimated that building with insulating concrete forms costs 1 1/2 times what it does to build a traditional concrete block or wood-framed home.
"I think it's a good technique," said Howell, a contractor for 29 years. "I think it could be a very good product if it could come into the mainstream and the price could come into reach for common housing."