For any build team, the winter months and cold climates pose additional challenges, such as excess moisture, difficult working conditions, and frozen building materials. When constructing above grade structural walls, there are added factors to consider in creating a weather-tight building envelope.
Wood-frame construction, for example, may required more time to clear snow and ice, slowing the building process. Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) can lessen these cold-weather challenges and ultimately speed your construction timeline.
Cold temperatures and inclement weather are a hinderance for a lot of building materials and can set back a project’s progress. Conventional construction with wood framing is especially vulnerable to potential issues caused by winter weather. After a snowstorm, for example, subfloors must be cleared for wall framing, snow and ice need to be removed from material for assembly, and bottom wall plate locations should be scraped if ice is present to alleviate wall settlement.
Installers also need to watch out for moisture saturation on the studs and wall sheathing. Excess moisture can lead to mold and rot or warping of the studs. It can even create “pops” in the drywall which occurs when movement in the stud pushes or pulls the screw fastening the drywall, resulting in a defect of the finished product.
In addition to end-result challenges, compressor lines can freeze for air-nailers, battery life is significantly shortened for drills and nail guns, and installers may need more frequent breaks as their hands get cold. All these factors can add up, lengthening construction times, risking call-backs to fix imperfections, and losing revenue.
Advantages of ICFs:
ICF construction offers dual foam panels and a concrete core to insulate the building almost immediately. The inherent thermal mass requires very little heat to climatize the structure for interior finishing. The blocks themselves are lightweight which speeds the process for installers, and because no additional air barriers or cladding are required to make the structure weather-tight, the sub-trades and interior finishing can begin sooner. And by closing in the building faster, owner operators generate increased revenue streams and avoid the project incurring interest by going past opening deadlines.
In winter months, minor precautions must still be taken to protect the top of wall and prevent snow and ice from accumulating within the wall cavity. ICF wall construction does not require space to be cleared on the subfloor so time can be allocated towards erecting the structural walls versus the removal of snow.
Upon completion of the ICF walls, contractors have superior structural strength without additional supports needing to stay in place. This alleviates concerns experienced in traditional wood frame construction, where exterior walls must continue to be supported with bracing until additional floors or trusses are placed.
Building construction is often unavoidable to overlap with the winter months. Cold temperatures can complicate material application and slow down a project significantly. For external wall construction, insulated concrete forms are preferred over wood-framing since they are easier and faster to install, have fewer moisture considerations, and insulate the building more quickly. Ultimately, ICF construction speeds the shell dry-in process, allowing the interior trades to begin sooner and the building to be well on its way to completion.