Types of Concrete Forms and How to Select Them: A Complete Guide

Charlotte Miller

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Typically, concrete forms are defined as a solid vertical structure that is built to hold the thick liquid concrete filling in place until it becomes solid and takes a definite shape. We can’t just build a wall using liquid concrete cement. We need support, right? The support is given by concrete forms. Due to the concrete forms, the liquid concrete takes a place which the builder was intending to give it. It is safe to say that concrete forms work as a mold in the construction procedure.

Well, in today’s world, the field of building and construction has developed significantly. Now the concrete forms are developed to provide additional different properties, such as surface patterns for eye-appealing structure, insulation to protect from the heat and cold, and more.

Since these characteristics matter during the construction process, people usually consider all the options they have before acquiring concrete forms of their choice. That lands us on our topic: different kinds of concrete forms. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will be talking about different mainstream types of concrete forms, what each type is putting on the table, and how would you choose a type that fits your construction objective.

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Let’s begin.

Types of Concrete Forms

There are five different types of concrete types that are used in the process of concrete casting. These types are wooden forms, insulated concrete forms, concrete wall forms, foam concrete forms, and steel forms. Read below to know in detail about these types and their selection criteria. 

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  • Wooden Forms

The most basic and the most traditional type of concrete form is the wooden one. The wooden form is complete made of wooden boards which are screwed or nailed together to support each other in a whole structured wooden model.

However, wooden forms are typically used for the concrete casting that stands within the height of 6 inches. In wooden framework shapes, constructors use leveling devices to build the form with proper level or to slope it; whatever is required.

Before pouring the liquid concrete in a wooden form, builders apply special oil or releasing lubricant to the walls to make sure the concrete doesn’t stick to the walls and the surface. Moreover, in order to cast the concrete structure with curves and designs, builders employ thinner cross-sections to give it the desired form.

Since it is the most used kind of concrete form, it can be used for multiple purposes. It only requires to be kept cleaned and properly maintained.

  • Insulated Concrete Forms

The insulated concrete forms, otherwise known as ICF, are pretty different than other types of concrete forms. They are made of hollow blocks which are made of insulating material. These blocks fit together—like building blocks—and form a structure for the actual, desired building.

The system of insulated concrete form is constructed on a properly-leveled foundation slab. The slab works as a foundation for the structure and supports the wall systems as well. Apart from that, to prevent the concrete from running wild, builders also place reinforcements within the blocks of insulating material. When all things are sure to stand and mold the concrete without a chance of wreckage, concrete is filled.

  • Concrete Wall Forms

Concrete wall forms are pre-made systems for forming. Although concrete wall forms are different than steel forms, some of them are made with steel framing that holds the engineered wood. On the other hand, some concrete wall forms are also made with complete steel.

This type of concrete form is used to cast the area of large walls, piers, and foundations, unlike wooden forms that only support limited height.

Concrete wall forms, which are typically made of wood with steel framing, are built block-by-block, and the individual blocks attached are held together with either with the help of latches or pins. Similar to the insulation concrete forms, reinforcements are also placed in this type. In this framework, builders use ties to keep the reinforcements in place, without any disruption at the time of concrete pouring.

Moreover, concrete wall forms are not all alike. Their sections come in different shapes and sizes. Some manufacturers and suppliers also provide custom-sized concrete wall forms, which are acquired by constructors and builders as per their requirements and desires for the project.

  • Foam Concrete Forms

Foam concrete forms are the most non-traditional types of concrete forms. They are used in rare cases where the use them provides absolutely optimum results. Moreover, the method these types of forms follow is also pretty unconventional.

Unlike many other types of concrete walls, in foam concrete form, the builders pour concrete upside down. Because of that, the liquid concrete takes the desired finish after it’s hard. What’s more, foam concrete forms are also made of untraditional materials, like acrylic glass, melamine, or laminated board. 

Why these forms are used? As described above, to provide a more accurate desired shape. Foam concrete forms create negative spaces which give a distinctive, artistic look in the dried-up concrete cast.

  • Steel Concrete Forms

The last type we have here is the steel-concrete form. These concretes are totally made of steel. People argue that the steel-concrete forms are not durable and cannot handle enough work without developing a layer of rust. However, if the steel-concrete forms are properly maintained and cleaned regularly, they can be very consistent and might live up to more than 2000 work cycles. Considering that, it is clear that steel concrete forms have a bigger life in construction than traditional wooden concrete forms.

Moreover, steel-concrete forms have multiple advantageous qualities. For instance, when the liquid concrete is placed on the steel-concrete form, the moisture is not absorbed by it. Thus, the errors which might occur after the removal of the concrete forms are greatly reduced. 

Apart from that, unlike wooden, steel-concrete forms are more flexible, more adjustable, and, as established before, more durable. Moreover, unlike wood, steel concrete forms can support large projects. It can be noticed in most construction projects where steel concrete forms are used that they are of red-orange color. That is to protect them from the layers of rust that they might develop.

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That was all—now you know in detail about five types of concrete forms. How you would select them for your project depends on the factors of your construction and how much resources do you have, such as pour size, compaction type, pressure on the form, weight on the form, retained amount of concrete, and more. 

Apart from all the factors, one that hinders most of the decisions is the factor of cost. Most people go for wooden forms instead of steel forms solely because of cost. Being said that steel is better and more flexible, the wooden is cheaper and perfect for 6-inch concrete height.

In the end, the story centers on what is the best for your project and what can provide the most accurate and desired result. If the structure has more chance to get stable with the wooden, then you shouldn’t waste your money on steel, and vice versa. We hope this article helped you with your construction project. Good luck.