New Trends in Concrete Formwork

It was a festive day at the Patella residence today near Chief Hosa in Golden, Colorado. The contractor, Tinker Homes, was busy wrapping up the finishing touches on the foundation and is preparing for a pour in the next few days.

I was out to do the obligatory foundation inspection. I have done quite a few of these inspections over the last several years and have noticed a new trend in foundation formwork: the aluminum forms.

Aluminum Foundation Forms at the Patella Residence
Aluminum Foundation Forms at the Patella Residence

The benefits of using aluminum forms seem far superior to the old method of plywood forming for formed cast-in-place concrete. Aside from the dimensional stability of the forms, the overall quality of the pour seems much better with tighter tolerances. When the architect (in this case, me) designs a “builder friendly” foundation for the home, without a lot of funny dimensional corners or wall length, the forms go up rather quickly without the need for custom corners. While geometry doesn’t always work in our favor, we always try to design the building shell to be as friendly as possible for the contractor. In situations where unique angles or unusual wall lengths are necessary, there are a variety of solutions within the aluminum forming system itself, but the crew can always revert to a wood solution if necessary.

They go up faster and with fewer issues. The only downside, as I understand it, is the initial cost of the forms. However, they will last far longer than re-used plywood forms. If you don’t have a lot of projects to spread the initial cost over,  I understand that there are a number of rental companies that will rent the forms on a per project basis. That is how Tinker Homes does it, and judging by their track record, they’re pretty happy doing it that way.

Erecting Aluminum Forms
Erecting Aluminum Forms

One additional huge plus: the design of the forms themselves are such that you can use the erected wall as a ladder. The foundation crew loves this, and I must say, so does the inspector!


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