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How Much Will a Home Built With Insulated Concrete Forms Cost?

Cost To Build With ICFs

Cost To Build With ICFs

If you’ve ever tried to nail down a hard answer on this subject, you’re probably already familiar with the broad range of estimates out there.

To make your search a little easier, we’ve taken a look at the major reports on Insulated Concrete Forms cost throughout the USA and Canada and boiled them down to the basics.

The NAHB Research Center conducted a study to compare the cost and performance of Insulating Concrete Form (ICF) walls to conventional wood-frame exterior walls.

Three homes were built and monitored. One home has an ICF plank system, one has an ICF block system, and one is of conventional 2×4 lumber construction. The homes have identical floor plans. They are located side-by-side on the same street in Chestertown, Maryland.

Findings indicate that the labor cost for the ICFs was slight to moderately higher than for the wood framing. Total installed costs, however, averaged over $3000 more for the 1098 square foot single story ICF homes, or roughly $2.73 per square foot of floor area more than the wood-frame home.

This amounts to about 6% to 7% of the builder’s cost to construct the homes or 3% to 3.5% of the builder’s sales price. The increased cost of ICF homes is primarily due to the higher cost of materials relative to wood framing.

One thing that makes cost comparisons difficult is the fact that ICF blocks costs are usually measured in square feet of wall area while wood frame costs are measured in square feet of floor area.

Depending on the study, you might see Insulated Concrete Forms converted to relate to floor area, so it’s a good idea to keep track of what’s being measured to avoid any confusion.

Another thing to bear in mind is that different studies use different costs. Some give what the general contractor paid (referred to as builder’s costs or total house cost), while others give what the contractor charges to install ICF blocks (referred to as sales price).

Let’s take a look at some numbers:

A Portland Cement Association technology brief drawing from work done by VanderWerf, Feige, Chammas, and Lemay (Insulating Concrete Forms for Residential Design and Construction, 1997) concluded that insulated concrete forms cost builders about 5%-10% per square foot of floor area more than wood-frame houses of the same design.

At the time of the study, typical US homes cost the builder about $80-$120 per square foot of floor area, so using ICFs added about a $1.00-5.00 premium to this figure.

This held only for homes built by experienced contractors (who’ve built at least 4 to 5 houses).

Along similar lines, the NAHB Research Center’s Demonstration Homes Project also evaluated the use of ICFs in residential construction in 1997.

They experienced up to an 8% increase in total house cost, adding about 1-5% to the final price for the buyers. The NAHB’s Tool-Base report found that ICF Blocks increased builder’s cost by $0.75-4.00 per square foot of floor area compared to wood frame construction.

The Bottom Line:

So, where do all those studies leave us? The bottom line is this: ICF built homes cost slightly more than wood-frame homes. But by how much? It depends. There are so many potential influences on the price that it’s tough to nail down a reliable estimate.

Here’s why: concrete, lumber and foam prices, ICF form prices, lumber prices, exterior finishes, design features, crew experience, labor markets, and engineering all influence the cost of the intended project.

Results from the NAHB Research Center’s Demonstration Homes Project showed that total costs for construction of ICF foundation walls could be less than that for poured walls.

Insulated concrete forms cost:

One ICF system had total costs of $1.25 per square foot of house floor area compared to $1.27 per square foot of house floor area for the block wall based on the construction of a short (~ two-foot) “stem wall.”

An added cost of $2.50 per square foot of floor area seems to be in the middle of most of these ranges. But take that figure lightly; construction with ICFs can increase builder’s costs much less or more. It’s easy to see why there’s been so much debate on this issue.

All this being said, ICFs do have significant cost savings opportunities. Because ICF construction is more energy-efficient, HVAC systems can be downsized, and those savings offset part of the cost difference.

Using Stucco as your exterior finish will also reduce some of the cost since seeing that the base required for stucco installation is already set up.

Most builders report fewer customer service calls on their ICF homes

ICF homeowners enjoy lower utility bills, better soundproofing, and durability. Some have estimated that the monthly savings provide a real payback on the initial investment. And then you have the benefits of a stronger, quieter, more comfortable home.

In Conclusion:

The cost of ICF vs. more traditional methods of construction is typically more for the actual construction, but the cost of ownership of an ICF structure is significantly less than the more conventional methods. In nearly every documented case of the expense of an ICF structure, the return on investment (ROI) for the extra construction cost is within five years, with many showing less than three years.

Depending on how costs are viewed, ICF home may cost a little more or significantly less to build and operate.

Check out ICF R-Value

  1. About how much would it cost to build a single story 2,000 square foot house out of insulated concrete forms?

  2. How much would it cost to build a 900 sqft 1 level home and what type of soil would be required for building on

    • To build 900 sq.ft. average home will cost you anywhere from $250,000 to $300,000. As far as types of soil are concerned, the easiest is to build on the flat sandy lot, and the hardest are sloped rocky lots.

      • $250,000 for 900 sq.ft??? SOMEBODY is getting ripped off big time!

      • This answer ($250,000 to $300,000 for only 900 sq. ft.) seems to make nonsense of the “slightly more” claim when ICF’s are compared with standard construction. If these figures are correct, the comparison claim should be “vastly more.”

        • As average prices in Ontario, these days are around $300 per sq.ft. for a conventionally built house, I do not see “vastly more” anywhere.
          Also, whether you build a 900 sq.ft. or 2500 sq.ft. home, you still have to spend money on kitchens or bathrooms, which are similarly priced for both.

          • Then it’s no wonder most sane people will buy an already constructed home and NOT an ICF. $250,000 for 900 sq. ft. begins to rival Los Angeles property values. ICF at these rates is a total rip-off!

          • I disagree. In Toronto, a 900 sq.ft. condo costs $450,000. Any decent house you build these days in Ontario will cost $300 per sq.ft. The price quoted is less than that. Saying that the ICFs are a rip-off tels me that you have never built one or never lived in one and have no idea of what you are talking about.

          • These prices always way over exaggerated by contractors because they don’t want you to know how much there lining their pockets with $$$ Anyone who believes 300 bucks a sq feet is just nuts. I’m building a 1600 sq foot house all icf Nudura by myself. I’m discovering how much a real build cost without all the bullshit from the contractors.. : ) No wonder homes cost half a million bucks these days. it’s called Greed

          • You just started. Wait for a little while. You will soon discover that plumbers, electricians, heating guys, drywallers, etc cost $75 per hour. You will also discover that mistakes are costly. Although it is possible to build a home in Ontario for about $150.00 per square foot, you get what you pay for. You are right, most of our homes are about $300.00 per square foot, but they are super-insulated and have a radiant floor heating system, to name just a few upgrades. As far as our profits are concerned, we are happy if we get 10% for overhead and 15% profit.
            Maybe, you should read our article here: Why do construction companies charge more per hour than some people earn in a day?

  3. Your estimate seems about right, I will be building a 958sq ft home in British Columbia next year with ICF from footing to Truss, in your average $300. per sq ft price they factor in the materials, am I correct to say this?

  4. thats hilarious. Up here in maine a 2500ft icf 3 story house costs 180k with plumbing and electrical and everything completed by a well known contractor

    • Great! Please send him to Ontario and we will pay him twice as much to do our houses. Both of us will become millionaires in a very short time.

      • This perfectly explains why Houses cost so much in Canada. Boomer contractors drove up the prices to such insane levels that they expect to become millionaires, which you would need to be in order to buy one of the houses they build.
        No wonder no one can afford housing anymore. I hope the market crashes again, and every boomer loses half their inflated housing value. Would serve you all right. 3d Printed housing can’t come soon enough.

        • you can purchase a 2500 sq foot home in texas for 275,000 and has top notch finishes, Canadian contractors are ripping people off so badly

    • What is the name of the contractor?

  5. Thank you very much for publishing this article!

    The price per square foot you mention in the reply above for a 900 sq ft home sounds correct for our area. We had a survey done of what it would cost us to build a 1BR/1Bath Additional Dwelling Unit, and it was $265,000 for a wood-frame single story dwelling of 750 square feet.

    Thank you for telling the results of the NAHB study of 3 similar houses. We live in an inland part of San Diego County that gets quite hot. ICCF sounds like it would pay for itself in a few years with the energy savings.

  6. This is so weird – a professional tells how much construction costs in his jurisdiction and people get all het up over it. If you can’t afford it, don’t build, or try to cut corners but doing a hack job yourself, or build somewhere else. its not just builders (or boomers) inflating prices, its the whole market and shifting populations. If a builder charges more than he’s worth (just like anyone else) he won’t work for long. Where I’m from these prices are very cheap.

  7. My 4000 sq. foot ICF ranch with lots bells and whistles to include heated radiant floors, triple pane windows, 1.5 acres with solar cost me 425K with me doing the hiring and firing of contractors. the real cost is in the construction management.

    • Hi Richard, Thanks so much for posting your information. I found it to be the most useful for relevance and cost reference.

    • The cost does not scale with more sqft. The initial costs are high due to plumbing, electrical, gas, permits, plans and engineering approvals, finishings for the kitchen and bathroom. Adding more floor space, windows, and a second or third bathroom does not add that much more cost. It is ALWAYS better to go with more sqft at the start because it isn’t going to be that much more cost.

  8. It’s always so funny to hear laypeople weigh in over how everyone is charging too much! The market is what it is. Where I live we’re paying close to $1000/sf. That’s for a high end architectural house, but no triple glazing or heating or even much insulation. But after completion the 2200 sf house will be worth $9m. And builders know it so they can charge it. It’s all relative.

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