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The Different Types of Concrete Formwork and Their Pros and Cons

The Different Types of Concrete Formwork and Their Pros and Cons

Concrete formwork is used in a wide variety of construction projects where pouring concrete is involved. Pouring the foundation of a building or structure, such as a house or a bridge, requires concrete formwork. Walls, columns, slabs, and floors made of concrete all utilize concrete formwork for pouring and casting. Beams, girders, and other support structures for buildings and bridges also depend on reliable concrete formwork during the pouring and curing process. 

Whether you own or rent your equipment, Concrete formwork plays a critical role in ensuring poured concrete takes the desired shape, meets the right dimensions, and has the strength to support intended structural loads.

What Is Concrete Formwork?

Concrete formwork refers to the molds or structures used to shape and support freshly poured concrete. Concrete formwork can be temporary or permanent and provide the shape and finish necessary for a concrete structure. When using formwork on a job site, it is important to understand the different types of concrete formwork to ensure the concrete is poured in the correct dimensions and shape for the intended outcome. Utilize concrete formwork to help the project gain sufficient strength and allow the concrete to support its own weight and any loads that may be placed on it. 

Concrete formwork can be made from a variety of materials, including: 

  • Wood
  • Metal
  • Plastic
  • Composite

When choosing the right concrete formwork for a project, the formwork must be able to withstand the weight of the wet concrete and the pressure as it forms. Learn more about the different types of concrete, including their pros and cons, to determine the best choice for a quality, strong, and durable finished concrete structure.   

Pros and Cons of Each Type of Concrete Formwork

Each type of concrete formwork has its own advantages and disadvantages based on the materials and intended usage. Here are a variety of types of concrete formwork, their uses, and the pros and cons for each.

Wooden Formwork

Wooden formwork is inexpensive and readily available, which makes it a common choice for a variety of construction projects. Wooden formwork is also easy to work with and can be easily cut to the required shape and size for the specific project. The two main types of wooden formwork are timber and plywood.

Timber Formwork Material

Timber formwork material is made from solid wood, like pine or spruce. Typically used for small to medium-sized projects, timber formwork is easy to work with and a cost-effective option in a variety of contexts. Timber formwork also provides good insulation and helps to regulate temperature and humidity during the concrete curing process. However, timber formwork is more prone to warping or splitting and will require regular maintenance to prevent rot or decay.

Plywood Formwork Material

Plywood formwork material is made from thin layers of wood veneer that get bonded together with adhesive before use. Wooden formwork made of plywood is more common for large or complex projects because of how easily plywood can be cut to specific shapes and sizes to meet design standards. Plywood can be reused multiple times and is also lightweight and easy to handle. However, plywood may require additional support or bracing to help prevent deformation during the concrete pouring and curing process. Plywood formwork materials are typically more expensive than timber formwork materials.

Metal Concrete Formwork

Metal for concrete formwork is known for its durability and ability to withstand the weight and pressure of wet concrete. This type of formwork can be reused many times and involves easy assembly and disassembly. The two main types of metal concrete formwork are aluminum and steel.

Aluminum Formwork Material

Aluminum formwork material is lightweight and easy to use in a variety of contexts, including large-scale products. This type of formwork material can help reduce construction time and labor costs because of how easy it is to assemble and disassemble. Aluminum formwork also provides a high-quality surface finish and is resistant to corrosion and weathering. However, aluminum formwork can be more expensive than other materials, like wooden formwork, and is not as strong as steel formwork.

Steel Formwork Material

Steel formwork material is very strong and durable, which makes it suitable for heavy loads like high-rise structures. Steel formwork provides good dimensional stability and can be adjusted to fit the required dimensions of a project. However, steel formwork is heavy and may require specialized training or machinery to move around. Steel formwork will also require protective measures to help prevent rust and corrosion.

Plastic Formwork

Plastic formwork is lightweight and easy to move around, which makes it a great choice for projects that require reusable forms and minimal maintenance. The durability of plastic formwork makes it ideal for small to medium-sized projects. Plastic formwork typically does not require additional forming work because it provides a smooth finish to the concrete. Plastic is also resistant to moisture and chemicals, making plastic formwork suitable for use in harsh environments. However, plastic formwork is not as strong as other types of concrete formwork materials like steel or aluminum or projects that require heavy loads.

Insulated Concrete Formwork

Insulated concrete formwork is made up of two layers of foam insulation that has a hollow space in between where the concrete gets poured. This type of concrete formwork offers excellent insulation for concrete during the pouring and curing process, which can also reduce energy consumption. Insulated concrete formwork, or ICF, is known for its strength and durability for a wide range of structures, including small home projects and large commercial builds. However, ICF can be more expensive than other materials and may require specialized equipment and labor for proper installation.

Stay-in-Place Formwork

Stay-in-place formwork, also known as permanent formwork, is a type of concrete formwork that does not get removed after the concrete has been poured and cured. This type of formwork is commonly used in applications where a smooth, uniform finish to the concrete is necessary or desired for both sides of the concrete structure. Some stay-in-place formwork, like precast concrete formwork, may be reinforced with steel. Utilizing stay-in-place formwork eliminates the need for additional formwork removal and reduces waste. However, it is not suitable for all applications.

Foam Concrete Formwork

Foam concrete formwork is made of a lightweight foam material that gets coated with a layer of plaster or stucco to create a smooth, uniform finish on both sides of a concrete structure. This type of concrete formwork molds the foam material into the desired shape and size for the concrete structure. Foam concrete formwork is easy to handle and can be molded into a variety of shapes and sizes, making this a popular choice for custom designs. This type of material is also lightweight and easy to transport, which can reduce costs and time. However, foam concrete is typically only recommended for smaller projects and may require additional finishing work compared to other types of concrete formwork.

Fabric Formwork Material

Fabric formwork is a type of formwork that involves stretching a fabric material over a mold or frame. Then concrete is poured into the fabric to create the desired shape or structure. Fabric for formwork material can be made from a variety of materials, including canvas, PVC, and woven or non-woven polypropylene. Fabric formwork is lightweight and easy to handle, especially for complex and irregular shapes. It also provides a unique aesthetic appeal because of how the fabric imprints onto the surface of the concrete. However, fabric formwork does have reduced durability compared to traditional concrete formwork materials and has limitations in the size and shape of the project.

Start Your Concrete Forming Project with Reliable Equipment Today

Forming America has everything you need for your next concrete forming project, with options available for both equipment rental and purchase. Speak with a representative to learn more about our concrete formwork products and discuss the different types of concrete formwork that would work best for your particular construction project.

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