How can I identify a home as ICF (Insulated Concrete Form) construction?

Monday, July 29, 2019

Most of the time, the seller or their realtor is going to tell you. It’s considered premium, green construction, and a selling feature. But once in while a seller is not aware of it, or the information is not provided—or provided incorrectly.

    Although an ICF home is easy to recognize during construction, like in the photo above, it doesn’t appear any different from regular construction when completed, as in the photo below. So a closer examination will be necessary to determine if you are looking at ICF, especially since the exterior can be similar to EIFS (Exterior Insulated Finishing System) on wood frame construction.

    Here’s a few points for identification:
• Exterior finish is usually synthetic stucco, with the characteristic slightly hollow sound when tapped because of the EPS (expanded polystyrene) underlay; but there is no weep screed at bottom of wall that is standard for most EIFS over wood frame. Even though synthetic stucco is the most common finish, an ICF wall can also be clad in any other standard siding material.
• The EPS forms may be visible in the attic at any areas of exposed wall and top of wall at trusses (if not covered by insulation).


• Wall will be about 12” thick, or more, with deep window sills, based on typical 6” core of reinforced concrete and 2-3/4” of EPS on both sides. Even thicker concrete and EPS is sometimes used.
• If you remove a receptacle outlet faceplate, there will likely be a some EPS visible in the cutout around the shallower than normal receptacle box, and the drywall is applied directly to EPS.

- Photos courtesy of www.icfhomes.com. Also, thanks to Henry DeWerth for assistance with this article.

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To learn more about exterior walls and structures, see these other blog posts:

What is the average lifespan of a house foundation?

What causes vertical cracks in fiber cement siding planks?

 • What causes raised white lines of residue on a block wall that are crusty and crumbling? 

What is the difference between soil subsidence, heave, creep, and settlement? 

How much ventilation is required for the under-floor crawl space of a home? 

 What causes stair-step cracks in a block or brick wall?

What causes a horizontal crack in a block or brick wall? 

How can I tell if a diagonal crack in drywall at the corner of a window or door indicates a structural problem?

What causes the surface of old bricks to erode away into sandy powder? 

What are the pros and cons of concrete block versus wood frame construction?

Should I buy a house with a crawl space? 

Why is my stucco cracking?

There's cracks running along the home's concrete tie beam. What's wrong? 

What would cause long horizontal lines of brick mortar to fall out?

How do I recognize structural problems in a retaining wall? 

What is engineered wood siding?

Should I buy a house that has had foundation repair? 

What is a "continuous load path”?

Should I buy a house with asbestos siding?   

How can I tell if cracks in the garage floor are a problem or not? 

What do you look for when inspecting vinyl siding?

Why is housewrap installed on exterior walls under the siding? 

How do I recognize serious structural problems in a house?

Why did so many concrete block homes collapse in Mexico Beach during Hurricane Michael? 

How can I tell if the concrete block walls of my house have vertical steel and concrete reinforcement?

Should I buy a house with structural problems? 

What are those powdery white areas on my brick walls?

What causes cracks in the walls and floors of a house?

How can I tell if the exterior walls of a house are concrete block (CBS) or wood or brick?

What are the common problems of different types of house foundations? 

• What are the warning signs of a dangerous deck?

    Visit our EXTERIOR WALLS AND STRUCTURE page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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