The Basics of Insulating Concrete Form Construction Technology

Insulating Concrete Forms, also known as ICF construction, is a concrete building system that offers superior strength, energy efficiency, durability and comfort compared to traditional construction methods. Although it has been predominantly used in the residential market during the past decade, commercial applications are rapidly increasing.

There are several other concrete home building systems, including masonry, reusable forms and pre-cast products. This article focuses on ICF technology and not on any specific manufacturer in the ICF industry.

ICF construction technology is not smoke and mirrors. It is a very proven product in a new package. Simply put, it is a reinforced concrete wall identical to the ones that have been designed for years as basements, foundations and retaining walls. The advantage is that the forming system is very lightweight, has high insulation properties and does not require removal. The finished wall generally incorporates integral attachment points for interior and exterior finishes.

With an ICF wall, the forms are stacked, the walls are braced and aligned and the concrete is placed in the stay-in-place form. The wall is simply a monolithic concrete core (just like any other concrete wall), with two continuous insulation layers. The faces (AKA flange) of the ties function as the furring strips for attaching interior and exterior finishes.

Exploding the Myths of Insulating Concrete Form Construction Technology

The insulating concrete forms (ICF) industry is rampant with inaccurate information. Some have been passed along by industry members, while others represent simple misunderstandings about the technology. Most of these misstatements are made by persons that simply lack the appropriate knowledge behind the information. The toughest part of researching ICFs is not finding the information, but sorting through all of the inaccurate information.

Virtually every aspect of the ICF industry is affected by misstated information, but the most common issues involve discussions of R-Value, waterproofing, and termites and bugs. R-value statements range from R-18 to R-50+. To explode this myth and get a clearer understanding of this myth, you will need a firm understanding of R-value and the difference between PERFORMANCE and TRUE R-values.

Myth 1: R-Value

An R-value is the measure of resistance (R) of heat flow. Heat flow can be resisted by insulating materials such as plastic foams or mineral fibers, or can be slowed by massive dense materials such as thick masonry or concrete. The larger the R-value, the greater the resistance and the better the insulating value.

All building materials transfer heat to some degree. Heat transfer can be measured by any of the following: 1. Conductivity (k); 2. Conductance (c); 3. Transmittance (U); 4. Resistance (R).

The ability of dense materials to retard heat flow depends on their ability to store heat and is measured by specific heat and heat capacity. (BTU per lb. Per degree F; Density lb. Per cu.ft.; Heat Capacity BTU per cu.ft. per degree F)

When it comes to stating R-values in residential construction, the insulation values applied to a wall or ceiling typically refer to the R-value of the insulation material that is installed, not of the wall or ceiling assembly. For example, when a 2×4 stud wall is insulated with R-11 batt type insulation, the builder states that the wall is an R-11. This is not totally accurate and is NOT TRUE since approximately 20% of the wall is not insulated at all. The wood framing and sheathing do have an R-value, but for the sake of making insulation claims, they add very little. The real R-value or PERFORMANCE R-value ends up between R-3 and R-9. Add to this, the fact that the wall is full of penetrations, such as electrical outlets etc. and the fact that the wall itself is basically hollow in nature. This added thought leads to another discussion on air leakage through the wall.

With ICF technology, the TRUE insulation value of the wall is that of the Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) since the EPS provides a continuous insulation plane from the footing to the top plate. The insulation value of the EPS is determined by the density and thickness of the material. Some ICF systems have EPS that is of differing thickness (waffle and post and beam systems) that typically average the thickness of the foam. This is, in my opinion, not an accurate measurement since a bucket with a hole in the bottom doesn’t carry as much water as a solid bucket with a hole at the top. Most ICFs utilize EPS foam that has a density of approximately 1.5 lbs pcf to 2.0 lbs pcf. The insulation values differ only slightly in that range and depending on the testing laboratory, provide R-values between R-4 and R-4.5 per inch of EPS thickness.

The claim that ICF walls are an R-50 started a few years ago after the Insulating Concrete Form Association (ICFA) and several members commissioned CTL Laboratories in Chicago to perform some R-value testing and analysis. The summary of the report basically said that depending on the climate zone, the PERFORMANCE R-values for ICF technology is as high as an R-52 when COMPARED to typical wood frame and batt construction. In order to make the comparison correct, one must insure that the comparison is being done vs. the alternative to ICF on the particular project. On average, the performance R-value is much less than the claimed R-50. Research by the consumer must be done to clarify the comparison for the actual project. In short, ICF will PERFORM at an R-50, but that statement is not accurate as far as an insulation value goes.

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Easy Ways To Do Laptop Data Recovery In Perth

As electronic storage devices get cheaper, we are increasingly becoming dependent on them for data storage. If we hold on to our memory cards and flash drives for too long without transferring the files to a secondary storage device we might accidentally erase them or the devices might get corrupted. Also our laptop might start malfunctioning due to a logical damage to the operating system and the data in its hard disk becomes inaccessible to us. Don’t panic! Here we are going to discuss about easy ways to do laptop data recovery in Perth.

Data recovery is the process of retrieving impassable data from damaged or debased secondary storage devices and removable files that cannot accessed in a traditional way. There is USB flash drive data recovery, external or internal hard disk drive data recovery, CDs and DVDs data recovery etc. This scenario evolves when there is an operating system failure, malfunctioning of internal or external storage device and accidental damage or deletion of files. Data corruption occurs due to physical damage to the storage drive or logical damage in the file system which prevents access to the data. Mechanical or physical damage to the storage drive will cause at least some data loss and also logical failure in the drive. If it occurs then users will have to take help from professionals for data recovery.

Usually companies providing data recovery due to physical damage have class 100 dust free room so that it does not get settled on bare disk drives. Logical damage is a software level damage which occurs due to partition errors in the file system or if the data gets overwritten. Generally in case of physical damage, enterprises providing laptop data recovery in Perth, takes care of logical damage before hardware repair and recovery. Repairing physical damage to disk drives and also data recovery from it are costly but there are many companies providing better and cheap deals.

DIY laptop data recovery

For logical damage to storage drive, the data remains intact in the drive but becomes impassable which can be recovered following the steps given below

Step 1: Purchase a hard disk drive enclosure online. Make sure that you purchase an enclosure according to the specification of your corrupted laptop. The enclosure turns the corrupted hard disk drive into an external storage device connected using an USB cable.

Step 2: Use a working computer which will be compatible with the operating system of your old laptop. For e.g.: if your damaged laptop is windows, then use a computer having windows operating system. Though Linux can also read data from windows still it’s better to stick to similar operating system.

Step 3: Unscrew your old laptop and locate the hard drive which is of the size of a 3.5 inch floppy drive. You can also look for the location of hard drive of your laptop model online.

Step 4: Connect the disk enclosure’s connector plate with your hard drive connector interface. Insert the disk drive inside the connector and screw it shut for enclosing.

Step 5: The new drive will automatically open on the working computer when it will be connected with the USB cable. A notification will pop up for windows users or an icon appears for Mac users. If it is not recognized, eject it and plug it back to the computer. For non readable hard drives, you will need professional assistance.

Step 6: Once you can open your external drive on the working computer, explore it and restore the files on the working computer or use the computer as a transfer device to transfer the file into another external storage device.

Step 7: After recovery of files from the storage drive, close the window and eject the drive.

What Is The Open Wall Construction Technology?

Open Wall construction is not limited to a single technique. The theories and principles behind the construction are unique, but the design uses existing methods and materials to allow for complete flexibility.

Methods discussed later describe only one of a number of design models created, and provides examples of the applications, which should be modified to meet local codes and personal preferences.

Wrap and Strap Open Wall Construction

This method is ideal for tradesmen because its application is simple, and the buildings thermal envelope can easily be maintained. It consists of a primary shell, which is the buildings structural skeleton, being constructed with standard platform framing techniques. The entire building is then wrapped in polyethylene, then a second non-structural skin is attached to the exterior, which is insulated and finished. This type of open wall construction is used to retro-fit existing two by four construction into super-insulated, air tight homes.

Platform Open Wall Construction

Platform construction methods require that the framing carpenters perform not only the structural framing, but install the windows, doors, insulation, air/vapor barrier, exterior moisture barrier and sometimes exterior finishes when used in paneled wall sections.

This method has been utilized in the pre-manufacture of exterior walls in sections which are handled by four workers easily. It is very effective for consumers, not familiar with structural design, but who wish to erect their own homes. It is also a much quicker method because the building can be factory built elsewhere, shipped, and erected with the vapor barrier, insulation, electrical, interior finishes, windows, doors and siding already installed. A unique ability of this method is the capability of the structure to be disconnected and moved in sections. This would have ideal applications for modification and additions, or to perform panel repair/replacement.

Construction of pre-manufactured walls are made in major sections of eight foot lengths, and minor sections, in divisions of one, two or four feet. Corner units are constructed to allow for varying exterior wall thickness. Wall heights include above floor thickness to maintain interior ceiling heights of seven foot six inches to nine feet.

Foundation

When building the foundation wall assemblies, it is important to use proper materials and consider the use of a raised, compacted sub-footing. Whether using a granular sub footing, a full height concrete footing or a footing and sub foundation to elevate the wall assembly, the foundation panels cannot be backfilled more that three and a half feet. Any more than this and the structural integrity of the wall will be compromised.

Foundation walls must also be constructed with at least two by eight inch plates to prevent lateral plate failure caused by earth pressures. The bottom plate is of pressure treated material which is about one quarter of an inch smaller than non treated construction lumber. Because of this, the interior structural two by three wall assembly must overhang the plate by approximately one quarter of an inch. Exterior wall framing can be made with economy or number three graded lumber so long as it is pressure treated to resist rot. The horizontal economy grade stabilizer and remaining stud grade plates are non-treated lumber.
The interior framed two by three wall is constructed first. It is constructed with regular framing nails with the studding at sixteen inch centers. The wall section is then squared off and secured to prevent movement. Over this, a polyethylene air/vapor barrier is placed, with the edges folded over the outer wall members, and stapled along the outside faces. Do not staple the air/vapor barrier to the edges of the plates or the studs, this will only punch irreparable holes in it. Corner sections require that the air/vapor retarder be wrapped around the interior walls corner studding. At this connection it is necessary to ensure that enough of the air/vapor barrier is left so that it will provide a surface to seal to at the interconnecting sections. Corners should be neatly folded to prevent bunching which would create air passages and prevent proper joining of the sections.

Over this, a horizontal stabilizer is laid down perpendicular to the wall studding, and fastened with screws to each individual stud. The stabilizer should be placed forty-five inches above the sole plate for full batt insulation placement. The composite wall top plate can then be fastened to the interior wall top plate, flush and true, with normal ardox framing nails.

Individual pressure treated exterior wall studs can then be nailed to the to top plate at sixteen inches on center. The pressure treated sill plate is fastened, first to the exterior studding, then the sole plate of the interior wall assembly, the two end studs, then all exterior wall studs. These studs should be lined up straight, and fastened to the horizontal stabilizer with wood screws. Structural wind bracing (when required) is placed in the wall section, by being let into the exterior wall studs.

Batt insulation is laid in the middle cavity, perpendicular to the studs with approximately one half-inch overhang at the ends of the wall assembly. Batt insulation can now be placed within the exterior stud cavities. Depending on the covering of exterior, foam insulation and or sealed polyethylene to grade is applied. If foam insulation is used, the joints are sealed with vapor tape or acoustical sealant to the wood wall components as well as each other. It is a good idea to install the walls vapor trap along with the exterior polyethylene, as a single sheet, which can be sealed to the interior vapor barrier between the two sole plates. A moisture barrier is then placed over the wall assembly. It is secured by folding the edges over the studs and plates, and fastening with staples.

Finishing the wall by installation of the pressure treated plywood foundation cover and/or siding is then done. The plywood foundation paneling must be installed with the joints staggered against the underlying foam board. These panels are fastened with exterior screws, spaced eight inches around the edges, and ten inches within the interior area.

Foundation vapor traps and groundsheets should be sealed by sandwiching them between the sill plate and the top of the foundation with a combination of sill gaskets and acoustical sealant. The moisture barriers are sealed with vapor tape at each joint. Anchor bolts should be left loose to allow for shimming or grouting if necessary.

The exterior walls are fastened together with wood screws, every two feet along the end studs of the interior wall. If required, metal tie straps are installed on the inside edge of the top plate. The walls can then be leveled and squared before proceeding with floor or roof construction.

First Floor Walls

In design, it is important that if you do not use tie straps to hold the sections together, then the upper and lower sections should have overlapping plates to prevent separation. Also, depending on the particular design, the floor may have to be installed before continuing. It is recommended to install floors before continuing for this gives the carpenters a level area to construct the upper walls on and supports the exterior foundation.

One way these walls can be installed with the windows and siding is by overhanging the wall sections. Construction of the interior bearing walls, vapor barrier, stabilizer, plates and exterior wall studding in this approach is similar to the foundation wall assembly. Where they differ is in the edging of the units.

Edging is the bottom cover, which hides and protects the overhanging framed members and insulative barrier. It can be decorative hardboard nailed to the underside of the sole plate which is sandwiched between the plate and the foundation or floor assemblies. This edging should be sealed to both the first floor and foundation wall or to the floor assembly vapor barriers.

This overhang method is ideal when combined with a face brick applied around the first floors exterior. The overhang allows for installation of bearing, platform framed floor assemblies while providing sufficient second story overhang for the brick face.

Windows and Doors (exterior openings)

Probably the trickiest area to seal against infiltration and exfiltration. Although the area around the opening could be sealed with expanding foam, by pre-installing the windows in frames with a perimeter gasket, less work and material is required.

The window or door is first squared off in its frame, and held in place by cross corner strapping. A half-inch plywood or aspenite frame is built up around the window. The aspenite frame width should be equal to the entire thickness of the wall assembly. This frame is then sealed to the window by sandwiching a sill gasket between it and the surrounding wood members, which is secured with wood screws inserted through the window frame. This allows removal for future repair or replacement of a window or door. Leave approximately two inches of the gasket extending beyond the interior edge. The resulting box allows fastening of the interior finish directly to its surface, without gaps or unsupported areas.

The framed walls and header should be attached with screws directly to the boxed window, with sealant applied between the box and the individual vapor barriers. After squaring up the completed section, bracing is let into the studs. This bracing is important to the operation of windows or doors, because out of square or twisted framing will cause binding. For this reason, casement windows and wood doors should be used to allow post construction adjustment. Once the bracing has been secured, exterior sheathing with the moisture barriers are installed together, and exterior finishes applied.

Interior Floors

Because open wall construction relies on continuous wall insulation between stories, the interior floors in this method must be designed to remain within the building envelope. Utilizing overhanging walls, wider lower wall sections or ledger strips, the interior floors can be supported on sufficient bearing. Floor assemblies can be joists, truss floors, wood I beams or any other type of framing material.

Floor construction, through wall overhang or wider lower wall sections, allows the carpenters to construct the floor assemblies as current accepted practices, with one exception. The header or trimmer joist may have to be placed inside the edge of the top plate of the lower wall. The main concern with this type of construction is that when installation of the upper-framed wall is attempted, there is a likely hood of dropping the lower wall off the platform and foundation wall when raising it. Simple blocking or tiebacks under the floor will prevent such a problem and ensure site safety.

Floor construction with ledger strips or ribbon boards permit finished floor levels to meet with the top plate of the lower wall assembly. The bearing ledgers or ribbon boards should be installed as per local building code requirements. Floor sheathing must overlap the wall joists to ensure a proper firebreak between floor levels. Although time consuming, header and trimmer joists can be omitted because end restraint is achieved by lamination to the lower wall studs.

Variations of the interior floor support concepts can include second plates, joist hangers or tie straps. Most importantly, design the connections for your tradesmen abilities. Framed floors are easiest to construct and install because the techniques and design criteria already exist. Only qualified personnel with the proper experience should attempt other more complex designs.

Roofs

Open wall construction was designed for use with truss components, but by strapping over ceiling joists, the same results can be obtained. For effective design, overhangs should be completely eliminated. They are costly and require extensive labor to complete. Roof edges should have angled fascia (called knife edging) to allow enough overhang to prevent excess run off from running down walls. Simple “two by” fascia, lapped over wall siding can be trimmed or painted in many colors and still provide adequate visual separation from the roof. By lapping the fascia over the siding gravity water cannot enter into the buildings wall cavities. But remember to leave enough screened eave area, to allow for adequate attic ventilation. Gables should also be completed with knife edging and reduced overhang. Sheathing and roofing materials are applied as per current building techniques.

Raised heel trusses or plated ceiling joists will raise the roof to allow for eave insulation and venting. The attic vapor barrier should consist of 10-millimeter polyethylene. This thicker and more durable layer is less likely to be damaged during construction, or when running fish tapes for future utility lines. The vapor barrier is installed parallel to the truss members or ceiling joists. Wall edges are sandwiched with acoustical sealant between the top wall plate and two by two strapping. Joints landing on truss members or ceiling joists should be sealed between it and a piece of two by two strapping.

Over the ceiling air/vapor barrier, two by two strapping is screw nailed to the underside of the ceiling support members. Areas around penetrating utilities such as stack vents and furnace exhausts should be made with plywood sealed directly to the air/vapor barrier. Holes drilled or cut for the utilities must be carefully sealed to the plywood with expanding foam or other acceptable materials such as acoustical sealant.