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Types of Concrete Forms

Concrete Forming – Types and Applications

Concrete forms are the solid barrier that encase wet concrete until it cures and becomes firm. When considering the type of concrete forms to use, important factors include strength, durability, and type of application. There are several types of forming systems that effectively contain concrete as it cures. These various systems may differ in materials and process, but they all have one thing in common: proper installation has a significant impact on the appearance and strength of the final product.

Wood Forms

Using wood to form concrete is the oldest, most common method. Plywood is used to form all types of projects from patios, sidewalks, and slabs for smaller structures. To create a concrete slab, a simple square is constructed by screwing or nailing plywood and 2X4 lumber together. Stakes are driven into the surrounding sub-base around the outside of the framing to secure it. Careful attention must be paid to leveling the forms, so the resulting concrete is true. Wood forms are typically constructed or assembled onsite. The interior side of the wood forms should be treated with oils or other release agents so once the concrete cures, the forms come off cleanly. When treated effectively, wood forms are reusable.

Manufactured Forms

Manufactured forms are more widely used for walls and large structures. They are typically engineered wood or metal sheets between metal framing. The wood or metal sheets are connected to the metal framing with pins and latches. Ties are used to keep the sheets at a uniform distance from each other. These pre-manufactured forms can be combined to create a variety of sizes depending upon the project needs and can be customized to the job at hand. Manufactured forms are reusable.

Gang Form Systems

Gang forms are manufactured heavy duty forms that are typically constructed with plywood faces and either steel or aluminum frames. These forms are attached together with clamps. They're typically joined together on the ground and flown into place in sections by a crane.  These sections can be kept together and reused increasing productivity and reducing labor on a project. 

Adjustable Column Forms

Adjustable all-steel columns forms can be designed for projects requiring up to 48” square columns. These type of forms require no internal ties, and quickly form columns in 1” to 2” increments. Using these panels can minimize equipment needed, providing versatility and improving productivity.

Paperboard Column Forms

Column Forms, such as Sonotube® and EasyPour™, are economical paperboard concrete forming tubes that are ideal for columns, footings, outdoor signage, piers and more. They are easily placed manually or by crane and come in a full range of diameters. They can be cut-to-size on the jobsite and can offer options such as rain-resistant technology to keep wet weather from impacting the pour or seamless finishes.

Plastic Column Forms

Plastic column forms are cost-effective and reusable. The fact that they are stackable makes them easy to set-up and easy to strip, delivering spiral-free results. They are also waterproof, and UV-resistant, making them a great choice on many projects.

Handset Forms

Handset Systems are some of the easiest formwork systems to assemble and use. They can be built using only a hammer and their reduced weight increases productivity. These panels typically come in a wide variety of heights and widths which makes them a very versatile option for forming.  This type of forming is a cost and labor-effective solution.

Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs)

These forms are different in that they remain in place after the concrete is poured. They are lightweight forms that are made of plastic foam and serve as insulation on both sides of the wall. ICFs are hollow blocks of plastic foam that fit together to form the desired shape. Once placed, they are reinforced with steel bars that are constructed inside the blocks. Finally, the concrete is poured into the steel filled blocks. ICFs are highly energy efficient and the end product is extremely durable. This process is ideal for walls, roofs, and even flooring. ICFs are not reusable.

Steel Column Forms

Steel Column Forms are reusable circular column forms some of which are handset and some are crane set.  These forms bolt together and stack for different height configurations. They offer higher pour rates than plastic column forms and typically have a rental option.

Form Design Considerations

There are many factors that need to be taken into account when deciding which forming method you will use on a given project. In order to create the most economical and efficient form design, be sure to consider the following:

  • Initial form material cost or rental
  • Reuse cycles
  • Availability of materials
  • Stripping constraints
  • Usual productivity of form type
  • Time constraints for reuse
  • Crew experience
  • Form dimensions
  • Liners or surface rustication
  • Complexity of the formed surface
  • Penetrations
  • Pour rate
  • Blockouts
  • Pour configuration
  • Aesthetics
  • Concrete placing method
  • Concrete surface finish quality
  • Crane availability
  • Deflections
  • Crane capacity
  • Curing requirements
  • Site restrictions
  • Construction tolerances
  • Access

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