Contractors Turn to ICFs As they Power Through Pandemic Obstacles
ICF makers such as Amvic Building Systems have hit a new stride, as building pros weary of lumber volatility.
If you’ve priced out dimensional lumber lately, you know that prices have soared over recent months, in part due to coronavirus disruption, in part due to the outgoing U.S. administration’s costly trade tariffs with Canada.
Adoption of ICFs for structural systems has accelerated, says Amvic’s director of marketing, Laura Catalan, as distributors, short of materials for regular customers, redirect their attention to ICFs.
In many cases, she says, contractors start using ICFs on below-grade foundations, but a growing number now keep building vertically.
“We market to both the end user and the distributor,” Catalan notes. The payoff? “We get really good engagement from developers who are always building.” By allowing them to seamlessly switch from wood to ICFs, Amvic builds on relationships that were already in the making.
Amvic also has another advantage that lumber doesn’t. Their supply chain of expanded polystyrene remains stable and unbroken. They’ve been able to meet increased demand without delays.
“It’s really just the beginning,” Catalan adds. “But we’re moving on several fronts. Keep in mind that some people just want an introduction. Some are homeowners, or contractors who want to be certified with an installer card to smooth the way with building inspectors.”
To train and educate such a diverse audience, Amvic offers many levels of educational materials online and downloadable from their website.
“We’ve also just created a tool for the customer to bring us their price building with wood and we can give them an idea what it would cost with ICFs.”
One product line from Amvic, called EnviroStrap, solves one of the last labor hurdles in using ICFs—strapping over polystyrene for exterior cladding. According to the product literature, “The furring strips can either be fully recessed inside the foam for interior finish installation or can protrude from the surface of the foam by ¾” (19mm), creating an air gap that is needed for exterior cladding installation. The three furring strips are located every 16” (406mm) on each panel and are 2.5” (63mm).”
Q: With high lumber prices, do ICF buildings still cost more?
Before lumber prices spiked, walls of ICFs added $1 to $4 per square foot over stick framing. But those costs now approach parity. ICF buildings also require less heating and cooling equipment, reducing finished costs of the structure by 75 cents per square foot. Thus, ICF buildings may come out at a final cost slightly below their stick framed alternatives.