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Concrete homes are known for their durability and cost-saving features. With ICF construction, homeowners are finding that they can design a concrete home to look just like a wood-frame house, but they garner many other added benefits by choosing to build with concrete.
If you firmly believe in the adage that your home is your castle, then why not build a true fortress—one that can withstand nearly any assault Mother Nature can dole out without sacrificing the comfort and design flexibility of a traditional home? In fact, more and more homeowners are doing just that, for reasons ranging from reducing escalating heating and cooling costs to allaying fears of being in the path of another hurricane on the magnitude of Katrina.
These savvy homeowners are saying "no" to wood framing and erecting their castles using concrete building systems for the exterior structural walls. In 2005, concrete homes accounted for nearly 18% of all new single-family detached homes, up from 16.3% in 2004, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the Portland Cement Association (PCA). Simply put, one out of every six new houses built in the U.S. are now made of concrete.
While some of these homes use traditional concrete wall systems, such as concrete masonry and concrete cast onsite in removable forms, the most explosive growth is in the use of insulating concrete forms, or ICFs, for building both foundation and above-grade walls. These easy-to-erect, stay-in-place forms are made of high-density plastic foam and filled with fresh concrete and steel reinforcement to create a super-insulated thermal sandwich that's airtight, quiet, and highly resistant to fire and strong winds. And ICF walls can be covered with most standard interior and exterior finishing materials, allowing your fortress to assume any architectural style, from Victorian to Colonial to ultra-contemporary.
Although it's almost impossible to spot a concrete home, since the walls are often hiding beneath a traditional façade of brick, stucco or lap siding, chances are good that at least one is located right in your own neighborhood. ICF homes are going up in all regions of the country, especially in areas vulnerable to devastating hurricanes and tornadoes and climate extremes. Many of these houses are custom built, but more builders are beginning to erect entire subdivisions of concrete homes