Vertical vs. Horizontal ICF: Pros and Cons

Vertical vs horizontal ICF

Both horizontal and vertical ICF construction combines concrete and rigid foam to create thick, sturdy, and continuously insulated walls. ICF walls contribute significantly towards moisture-resistant, tight-building envelopes with no thermal bridges, ensuring energy-efficient, durable, and healthy buildings and homes.

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Vertical ICF vs. Horizontal ICF Construction

Builders can install ICFs vertically (like Hobbs ICFs) or horizontally (like Fox Blocks ICFs). Time-tested, horizontal ICFs, the more popular of the two, have been around since the late 1960s. On the other hand, vertical ICFs have only been around since the 1990s. Both vertical and horizontal ICFs construction create moisture- and disaster-resistant walls with excellent R-values. But which is the better ICF wall?

Hobbs Vertical ICF Construction

Based out of North Carolina, family-owned Hobbs ICFs has distribution centers throughout the United States and Canada.

Versability of Vertical ICF

Hobbs’ vertical ICFs and ties come in custom wall heights. Builders can use Hobbs vertical ICF wall systems for frost/stem walls, basements, slab-on-grade, and above-grade residential and light commercial applications.

Installing Vertical ICF

Installation of vertical ICF walls involves upright planks assembled with workers at floor or ground level. The system includes a waler on top to keep the forms straight; therefore, the wall planks only need bracing every eight to ten feet. Vertical ICFs will set quickly and accurately without cutting the top row of blocks, which reduces waste. Manufacturers maintain that this method reduces settlement and float, eliminating the time, labor, and expense of gluing, taping, wiring, or tying forms together.

For walls taller than 20 feet, manufacturers recommend stitching. For example, on a 24-foot wall, installers should use two 12-foot rails and three 8-foot panels. For the pour, slide up the top two panels, pouring and vibrating from the side. After filling a section, do the next lift by sliding down the panels.

Vertical ICF Arrangement and Design

The main components of Hobbs ICFs include: EPS foam insulation panels, furring assemblies, retainer clips, base angles, and preformed corner assemblies.

EPS Foam Insulation Panels

Hobbs makes vertical EPS foam insulation panel types in standard and stucco-ready, contoured and flat designs. The standard design exposes the furring assemblies (studs). The stucco-ready design adds EPS foam (R-value), hiding the studs within the foam panel, allowing for a direct application of E.I.F.S. or stucco finish.

The Contoured design has a concrete lower structural beam and an upper structural beam spaced 16-inches off-center. The web created by the foam panels between columns and beams provides 7 1/4” and 7 7/8” of foam insulation (R-30).

You can use the Flat Wall design (R-22) throughout an entire project and for the window/door openings, beam pockets, or excessive point loading in combination with the contour design. Manufacturers recommend spacing Flat Walls 8-inches off-center with a solid 6-inches of concrete throughout the form.

Furring Assemblies

Horizontal rebar holders integrate into the furring assembly (rigid PVC studs), positioned every 8-inches and/or 16-inches off-center spacing, depending on the panel.

Retainer Clips

The number of retainer clips depends on the wall height. Retainer clips snap in place near the bottom and top of each furring assembly, securing the panels and vertical rebar during the vertical ICF wall system assembly.

Base Angle

The base angle attaches to the concrete slab or footing, ensuring the vertical wall system maintains the structure's exact dimensions.

Preformed Corner Assembly

The preformed corner assembly provides:

  • a 2.5-inch attachment surface area

  • for most angles without cutting

  • tying, gluing, and taping

  • resistance to blow-outs and movement

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Fox Blocks Horizontal ICF Construction

Based in Omaha, Nebraska, Fox Blocks (a subsidiary of the family-owned Airlite Plastics) has the broadest dealer ICF supply network in North America.

Versability of Horizontal ICF

Fox Blocks has over 30 years of experience in ICF product development, documentation, testing, and training, along with versatility in the line of products to meet all above- and below-grade applications, from a tiny safe room to a multi-story skyscraper.

Installing and Arrangements of Horizontal ICF Walls

Quick and easy-to-install Fox Blocks ICF wall systems are an all-in-one wall assembly, combining five steps into one, structure, insulation (R-23), air barrier, vapor retarder (perm L.T. 1), and attachment.

Fox Blocks Straight Block (the most frequently used Block) has six strong, full-length injection molded plastic ties made from first generation Polypropylene (PP) regrind resin. These ties secure the two pieces of modified Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam, creating the blocks. The blocks stack tightly together, interlocking end to end to the desired wall length. Horizontal reinforcing steel bars interlock securely in the blocks' ties, helping to reinforce the wall. Workers then place another course of Straight blocks firmly on top of the wall. To improve wall strength during installation, Fox Blocks recommends staggering the block’s end-joint connections in a running bond method from the course adjacent to it.

Trained and experienced professionals then pour concrete into the hollow form panels.


The Advantages of Fox Blocks Horizontal ICFs Over Vertical ICFs

Fox Blocks ICFs and Hobbs ICF both create energy-efficient, disaster-resistant, durable, and healthy buildings and homes. However, Fox Blocks provides several significant advantages over Hobbs's vertical ICF:

  1. Hobb vertical ICF provides a fire rating of 2 hours and 40 minutes. Fox Blocks have fire ratings of 4 hours, allowing for crucial time to evacuate the premises or for the fire department to arrive.

  2. Unlike Hobbs vertical ICFs, Fox Blocks ICF achieves code approval from ICC-ES, CCMC, Wisconsin, Florida, Miami-Dade, and Los Angeles.

  3. Fox Blocks offers unique varieties of block shapes and sizes, allowing for rounded walls and distinctive corner angles.

  4. Fox Blocks provides access to the Building Information Modeling (BIM) Library, vital to helping design professionals in the early stages of a project when working with building design software. Hobbs Building Systems does not offer access to the BIM library.

Fox Blocks - A Leader in ICF Construction

Fox Blocks leads the ICF industry with over 100,000 completed com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial projects across North Amer­i­ca. We have exten­sive resources and sup­port sys­tems to ensure your project’s suc­cess from start to fin­ish.

Contact us today and learn more about our prod­ucts and their versatile appli­ca­tions.