What is ICF? 

ICF is an acronym for Insulated Concrete Forms. Most ICF systems have expanded Polystyrene panels on the outside and a reinforced concrete core on the inside of the wall system that provides the structural component of the wall. The newer systems have recycled Poly Propylene tabs that are used to screw drywall on the inside or screw or staple exterior finishes directly to the block on the outside of the wall.


Why would I build with ICF?

You get a high performance wall system that reduces energy cost by 30-60%, is almost sound proof and is very fire, wind and earth quake resistant.   It is resistant to insects, termites, mold and won’t rot.  This is a hundred year system so you are not spending money on maintaining your building.


What can be built with ICF?

All types of buildings have been built with ICF from residential, commercial, industrial projects and any type of reinforced concrete walls.  ICF started out as a basement product and is still the best way to build a basement. The best results are achieved by building the complete buildings exterior walls with ICF.


I have heard that building with ICF is more expensive than building with wood?

If you are looking for value for your upcoming building, the very best wall system you can build with is ICF.  Your initial construction cost will be higher with ICF but the value you receive from your initial investment will more then off set the cost.  Your new building will be one of the safest, have the best indoor air quality and have the lowest maintenance costs. Your energy costs are typically half of what a traditional wood wall is.  Past client say that “not having to hear your neighbors or be woken up from loud noises in the middle of the night is priceless”.


What is the cost per square foot?

Basic budget numbers for a square foot of wall run from $16.00 to $22.00 per square foot of wall. This is ICF block, rebar, concrete, alignment and labor to install the wall.

The ICF forms themselves run $4.00 to $5.00 a foot.


My architect told me that ICF is way too complicated to build with. Is that true?

If your architect is not willing to meet your needs, you need another architect!  Many poor designs are a result of this relationship.

But if you want a great building I have many architects that have designed ICF projects and will provide referrals once I understand the needs of your project.

All the major block companies have CAD files that can be down loaded into the architects design program.

ICF has been around for a couple decades with millions of square foot of wall successfully built. Some of the old school architects are nervous to try new things and I understand that. Part of my services is to review construction documents to insure the best constructability.  I love working with good design teams and ICF design and construction is pretty straight forward.


How do you install plumbing and electrical in a concrete wall?

In most cases we place concrete in the walls first. Once the concrete is placed the forming system is just insulation and we come back and cut grooves for electrical and plumbing. We have 2 ½” on the inside and outside of the wall system to work with.  Electric code needs the lines to be a minimum of a 1 ½” from the surface of the finished wall. In residential construction, we will groove the block and place Romex into the groove. On commercial projects we will groove the block and then put conduit in the wall. Boxes can be cut with a hot knife and ICF specific boxes are available.


What is the R-value of an ICF wall system?

R Value is only one component of what is referred to as the ICF effect. ICF wall systems have a much higher R value then any wall built with traditional wood.   In an old fashioned wood wall each stud in the wall assembly is a thermal bridge for energy to be transferred. To get the true R value for a wood wall assembly you will need to remember that where the wood is you only get one R per inch of wood. So to say that a wood wall is an R 19 because the fiberglass batts are R 19 is not correct. The R 19 rating is the very best it can achieve. It is rated in a laboratory setting with still dry air. To get your true R-value you must average in all the wall components.

ICF wall assemblies do not have a thermal bridge built in. It is a true R 22 with higher values available with upgraded ICF panels.


What is the ICF effect?

When you are holding a hot cup coffee in a Styrofoam cup you know the high insulating value that cup has. Now think of a wall with over five inches of that same material and how well that would keep the heat in and the cold out. When combined with a reinforced concrete core you now have the strongest and best insulated wall you can get. Two of the best building materials combined produce incredible results.

ICF walls start with a high R value. You have no air infiltration or exfiltration because of the interlocking of the EPS panels and the concrete core of the wall. Most of the energy you pay for leaks out of a traditional wall from air leaking into and out of the wall.

ICF walls have high thermal mass so they literally store heat energy from the sun.

An ICF assembly in Northern California takes about eight to nine hours to go from cold to hot.  The wall is absorbing the heat of the afternoon and by evening is releasing the heat into the building.


An ICF wall with the EPS remover showing attachment points

An ICF wall with the EPS remover showing attachment points

How do I finish the walls?

Most of the newer systems have webs every six to eight inches that are the attachment point. The pull out strength of the web is very similar to wood studs but you have twice as many places to attach dry wall of exterior finish materials.  Most manufactures can provide pull out test data on request.  If you need to attach something heavy, you have the option of bringing concrete to the face of the wall.



I watched an ICF building being built years ago and it took a long time.  Have they gotten any better?

There are fifty different manufactures and some systems are very labor intensive. The newer generation systems are easier to build with.  Make sure you understand the features needed for easy construction and do not let price per block be the only factor.


Do I need to use an alignment system?

Alignment systems attached to ICF wall

Alignment systems attached to ICF wall

One of the advantages of ICF is the systems are light weight and easy to install. When you place concrete they will move. You need some system to bring them back into straight and plumb. I have seen many attempts at doing it without using an alignment system and I have seen poor results.  The alignment systems we rent are purpose built for ICF construction and are the best way to get a great ICF install.


I did a web search and found a real cheap price on block.  Do I need a local distributor?

Remember the block is just one part of the system. You want a completed wall that is installed correctly and this is easily done with the correct design, wall components and installation procedures. Alignment systems made exclusively for ICF installation is critical to achieve straight walls.  A good ICF distributor should be able to sell or rent the alignment system.

Shipping is one of the larger cost components of the ICF system. If you work with a local ICF distributor they can combine loads to reduce shipping cost.  The biggest value of working with your local ICF distributor is getting referrals for local designers and ICF installers that have successfully completed projects.

The better ICF distributers will also help consult on all phases from design to construction and help facilitate a successful project.  They  can be a real project saver if something goes wrong during construction by helping insure proper design, material take offs, delivery dates and interfacing with building inspection or solving any other challenges. Make sure your potential supplier can give you a referral list of satisfied clients from the past because you are looking for a team member for your project.  If they only provide block, they do not provide much value.


What can Performance Wall Systems LLC provide?

We represent the top three Insulated Concrete Form systems. We strive to bring the best value to your project and dedicate a great deal of time researching ICF products to make sure we have the best mix for your project. By offering three lines we can suggest the best materials that fit your project.   We have rental and alignment systems for sale and can provide referrals to the best designers, builders and ICF installers in Northern California and Northern Nevada.  We want to become part of your building team by helping eliminate many constructability issues. Our business is built mostly from referrals so you project success is very important to us.


What three ICF systems do you represent and why did you choose them?

We sell Arxx, Fox Block and Logix. Each system has some advantages and features that make them a perfect fit for certain projects. They are all great systems with strong tech support and a commitment to great products.

Arxx has the longest history with millions of square footage of wall sold. They have a unique block size that makes it a perfect fit for some wall heights.

Logix has more variations of block then any other manufacturer.  Standard and knock down blocks having the same interlock and the Logix line has a real advantage for projects with heavy rebar schedules.  Logix is manufactured in California saving you money and time especially if you need block on short notice.

Fox Block has the strongest corners in the industry and even though they have been manufacturing block for some time, they are considered the new block in the industry. They saw what features brought value and integrated them into the design. If a reversible block is a feature you are looking for, it is one that Fox block provides and they are also manufactured in California.

I can customize your needs based on what each manufacturer has to offer.


What are standard lead times for materials?

Approximately one to three weeks based on prepaid terms.  Logix and Fox block are manufactured in California, but the Arxx systems requires a little longer lead times because it is manufactured out of state.


What is Performance Wall Systems’ market area?

We are primarily in Northern California, Reno and Lake Tahoe.  We are limited by the distance that we can efficiently deliver our alignment system but if you have your own alignment system, we can sell block anywhere in the country.


I am just getting started. Can you help me?

Give me a call or send me your plans because the earlier I get involved the more value I can provide.  Once you have a lot and basic design, we can get started working together. You can review Performance Wall Systems LLC web site or go to my YouTube channel ‘howtoicf’ for videos on how to build with ICF.


How can I get in touch with you?

Kent Yonker’s phone number is (916) 806-9414

Kent Yonker’s email is kent@volcano.net



Kent Yonker

Performance Wall Systems LLC

(916) 806-9414