Above and below-grade walls of a building or home can use insulated concrete forms (ICFs) in their construction. Both above and below-grade ICF walls are durable, sound reducing, energy-efficient, and disaster-resistant. However, because of soil conditions, below-grade walls require added waterproofing steps, unlike above-grade walls. In fact, both the 2018 International Residential Code(IRC) R703.1 and the 2018 International Building Code (IBC) 1404.2 require a weather- or water-resistive-barrier on a solid monolithic concrete wall, like Fox Blocks, when placed below-grade.

While both above and below-grade walls can utilize ICF, only below-grade walls require an additional application of a waterproofing membrane.

Waterproofing Below-Grade ICF Walls

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Below-grade ICF walls require a waterproofing membrane and depending on soil conditions a reliable drainage system to reduce the possibility of moisture intrusion from soil and water. Self-adhered or peel-and-stick waterproofing membranes are common below-grade waterproofing systems used for ICF foundation walls. In addition, application of dimple drainage board over the membrane provides protection and hydrostatic pressure relief and is used in many areas and by many contractors.

There are nine steps Fox Blocks recommends for waterproofing below-grade ICF walls.

1. The ICF below-grade wall sits directly on a footing or slab.

2. Follow manufacturer specifications for the application of the self-adhered waterproofing membrane.

3. For some soil conditions it is good practice to encapsulate the entire underside of the slab with a poly vapor barrier.

4. Place or adhere the waterproofing membrane on the ICF wall to create a complete envelope per the manufacturers specifications.

5. Apply the entire below-grade portion of the ICF foundation wall following the waterproofing membrane manufacturer’s instructions.

6. Place the dimple drainage board outboard of the self-adhered waterproofing membrane.

7. Install French drain or weeping system to ensure the final drainage of water away from the wall.

8. Around the drain tile and near the bottom of footing and ICF foundation wall, place gravel fill.

9. Finally, cover the rocks with filter fabric.

Proper installation of a waterproofing system over below-grade ICF walls will create a waterproof wall. The waterproofing system ensures that moisture in the soil adjacent to the wall will filter through the fabric, then down the dimple board and the drain board, and finally into the drain tile. A quality ICF waterproofing system can eliminate Below-grade water issues.

Water-Resistant Above-Grade Fox Block ICF Walls

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Above-grade ICF Walls are Air- and Moisture-Resistant

Above-grade Fox Block ICF walls resist thermal convection and therefore do not need an air and moisture barrier. Thermal convection is the process where heat moves by the flow of liquid or air molecules from the warm to the cooler side of a wall.

For example, above-grade Fox Blocks create a solid continuous monolithic above-grade concrete wall that provides continuous insulation with an R-value of 23. Ultimately, Fox Blocks create an airtight building envelope that limits thermal convection and moisture intrusion through the above-grade walls.  

ICF Walls are Vapor-Resistant

ICF walls act as vapor retardants; therefore, ICF walls do not need vapor barriers. ICF’s have insulation on the exterior and interior of the walls separated by a thermal mass of concrete. The insulation stabilizes the temperature and prevents condensation within the concrete walls. For example, on a humid and hot summer day, when it is cool and dry inside a building, the temperature within the ICF wall system remains uniform and above the dew point, which prevents condensation.

What is Condensation?

Condensation is when water vapor (moisture in the air) changes into liquid water. Condensation occurs when the temperature drops to the dew point. The dew point is the temperature when the air becomes saturated with water vapor. Below the dew point, the vapor turns to liquid water. Furthermore, when the air temperature drops below its dew point through contact with a colder surface (like a wall system) water will condense and accumulate on the surface.

ICF Walls Inhibit Condensation and are Permeable

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An ICF wall system maintains a steady temperature above the dew point; therefore, preventing condensation. Also, ICFs, like Fox Blocks, act as a vapor retarder with a perm rating of less than 1.0. So, even though water vapor can get through the Fox Block foam, the Blocks control moisture accumulation. Stopping the accumulation of moisture is essential to preventing the growth of mold within the wall system. ICF walls resist moisture accumulation because they are permeable and stop condensation.

ICFs are used to construct above and below-grade walls of a building or home. However, only below-grade ICF walls require waterproofing and proper drainage systems. Notability, though, if the designer and owner want a “belts and suspenders insurance” concerning moisture issues, they can apply a spray on WRB that is compatible with EPS foam to the above-grade walls. Please visit Fox Blocks for more information on ICF waterproofing.

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Since the 1960s, builders and architects have increasingly used insulated concrete forms (ICF), like Fox Blocks, for constructing commercial buildings. Notably, a 30+ percent annual growth in ICF commercial construction makes it the most quickly expanding building system in the United States (U.S.) and Canada.

The Benefits of ICF Commercial Buildings

More and more, contractors, architects, and owners of commercial buildings recognize the benefits of ICF construction: energy-efficient, durable, sound reduction, and fire-, and disaster-resistant. Ultimately, many of the advantages of ICF commercial buildings, like those constructed with Fox Blocks, also provide financial benefits to the building owner.

Fox Block ICFs Create Energy-Efficient Commercial Buildings

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Energy-efficiency is particularly vital in commercial buildings because they are responsible for almost 20 percent of total energy use in the United States. Furthermore, in 2012, heating and cooling represented nearly 35 percent of commercial building energy use. Energy-efficient commercial buildings are vital for reducing overall energy use in the U.S. and reducing energy costs for owners of commercial building’s.

Fox Blocks Control Air and Moisture Infiltration

Fox Block ICF construction minimize air and moisture infiltration and ensures an energy-efficient commercial building. Fox Blocks provides continuous insulation which prevents air leakage (thermal bridging) and moisture accumulation within the wall system.

Moisture resistance is key to stopping the rot and the growth of mold and mildew, which can degrade the structure and diminish the indoor environmental quality of a commercial building. Improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings is also critical to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, a known cause of global warming. Fox Block ICFs create energy-efficient and healthy commercial buildings.

– Fox Blocks, with an R-value of 23+, are energy-efficient and exceed ASHRAE/ANSI 90.1 energy code requirements.

– The high thermal mass of Fox Blocks contributes towards a high-performing, energy-efficient commercial building. High thermal mass products absorb and store heat energy and help stabilize temperature shifts within the commercial building by reducing the rate of heat transfer.

– Fox Blocks controls moisture intrusion and prohibit the growth of mold, mildew, and rot because the blocks provide a solid continuous monolithic concrete wall with a perm rating of less than 1.0.

Quiet Commercial Buildings

– The Fox Block ICFs wall assembly lessens the transfer of sound between interior walls and from the outside to the inside of a commercial building. Fox Blocks have a Sound Transmission Class (STC)1 rating of STC 45-50+.

Disaster-Resistant Commercial Building

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Fox Block ICFs create disaster-resistant commercial buildings that protect the structure and its occupants against natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and fires. Disaster-resistance (resilient construction) is essential in new commercial construction because of increasing wildfires and more frequent and severe weather events due to global warming.

– Fox Blocks are disaster-resistant: Fox Blocks, with steel reinforced concrete, can resist hurricane and tornado winds exceeding 200 MPH and projectile debris traveling over 100 MPH.

– Fox Blocks are fire-resistant. Fox Blocks have a fire-resistance rating (ASTM E119) of 4-hours for the 6-inch blocks.

The Financial Benefits of ICF Commercial Building Construction

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Commercial building owners can save money with Fox Block ICFs construction during and after the building process.

– Fox Block Series is fast and easy to install, which saves time and money. The Fox Block is an all in one wall assembly. It combines five construction steps into one, including structure, insulation, air barrier, vapor retarder, and attachment. This feature significantly accelerated project delivery by eliminating the need to coordinate multiple trades, while achieving all of the wall systems objectives.

– ICF commercial buildings minimize the need for maintenance and repair because they resist rot and degradation, which further saves a building owner money.

– The durability of an ICF commercial building to stand up to strong wind events can save a building owner the expensive costs of repairing and rebuilding after a severe storm.

– ICF commercial buildings are energy-efficient, which saves building owners money. ICF commercial building typically requires 32 percent less energy to cool and 44 percent less energy to heat than comparable wood-framed commercial buildings.

Fox Blocks insulated concrete forms are an ideal product for ICF commercial construction. Fox Blocks create a commercial building that is energy-efficient, healthy, durable, noise deadening, and moisture-, disaster-, and fire-resistant. Please visit Fox Blocks for more information on the benefits of ICF commercial building construction.

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The first row of a Fox Block insulated concrete form (ICF) foundation sits on the concrete footings. Properly built footings are essential to a building’s strength and durability. The ICF footings are responsible for distributing all the loads from the building to the ground. Appropriate construction of ICF footings is the first step in ensuring a building is structurally strong and durable.

Typically, building footings involve placing concrete into an excavated trench around the parameter of the future structure and reinforcing with rebar. The objective of footings is to support the foundation and prevent settling. Footings are especially crucial in areas with troublesome soils. Placement of footings is essential to provide the proper support for a Fox Block ICF foundation and ultimately the structure.

Insulated Concrete Form Footing Requirements

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Because each construction project is unique, local codes mandate requirements for foundation footings. However, many local code authorities use the 2018 International Building Codes (IBC) and 2018 International Residential Codes (IRC) as the model codes they modify to suit local conditions and legal requirements.

Utilize a Local Structural Engineer for Footing Design

Many factors determine the design of the footings and foundation. Therefore, it is critical to consult with a local structural engineer to specify the load requirements and footing sizing for the location of the project. A qualified structural engineer is familiar with all the components that ensure strong footings:

1. Code Compliance

2. Soil Bearing Capacity and Soil Type

3. Structure Loading

4. Moisture Control

5. Proper Reinforcing

6. Frost Lines

Building Fox Block ICF Foundations Footings

Poured concrete footings support Fox Block ICF foundations. Fox Blocks recommends the following seven steps when building footings for an ICF foundation.

1. Excavate a trench, deeper than the planned basement or crawlspace depth, around the perimeter of the home or building site. The footings support the foundation and prevent settling for the structure.

2. Depending on the footing depth of the footings, wood can be used to form the footing.

3. If the foundation area is prone to water retention, add a drain tile system around the perimeter to keep the foundation dry after completing construction.

4. Place the specified rebar. The vertical rebar dowels will pin the ICF foundation walls to the footing. Space the vertical rebar dowels according to the building code and design requirements.

5. Place concrete directly into the trench and footing formwork. Then, screed and level the concrete.

6. After the concrete cures, remove the wood forms used.

7. Lastly, place gravel around the footings for improved drainage. The footings are ready for installing ICF foundation walls.  

The Benefits of an ICF Foundation

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An ICF foundation ensures a building is structurally sound and that it will effectively transfer all the loads from the structure into the ground. An ICF foundation also anchors a building, which is particularly crucial in areas prone to earthquakes and extreme winds. An Fox Block ICF foundation offers several important benefits.

The insulation qualities of Fox Block ICF foundation walls keep a structure cool in the summer and warm in the winter. ICFs have high thermal mass, provide a continuous air barrier, and have a high R-value.

– ICF foundations contribute to an energy-efficient structure.

– With a waterproofing membrane and a reliable drainage system, ICF foundation walls significantly reduce the possibility of moisture intrusion, and therefore the growth of mold and rot, which is unhealthy and can degrade a foundation.  

– ICF foundations are durable and resist rot, which can minimizes the need for maintenance and repair of a structure.  

– ICF foundations have the structural integrity to protect the building and its occupants from tornadoes, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events.

– ICF foundations are fire-resistant.

Strong and correctly placed footings are essential to a durable and sturdy Fox Block ICF foundation. ICF footings also prevent settling and can protect a building from natural disasters like earthquakes and tornados. Please visit Fox Blocks for more information on the correct footing placement to ensure proper support for a Fox Block ICF foundation.

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The goal of soundproofing exterior walls is to limit noise pollution or unwanted sounds. Lessening noise is vital to the comfort, health, and communication of the occupants of a home or building. An excellent product for soundproofing exterior walls is Fox Block insulated concrete forms (ICFs). Fox Blocks ICFs reduce sound transmission more effectively than either wood or concrete masonry unit (CMU) wall construction.

Why Soundproofing Exterior Walls is Important

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Noise Pollution is on the Rise

The need to incorporate soundproofing features in the exterior walls of today’s homes and buildings has increased in recent decades. Urbanization, population growth, and an increase in air, rail, and highway traffic all have contributed to a widespread escalation of noise pollution. In fact, in 1991, it was estimated that environmental noise increased by 10 percent in the decade of the 1980’s. Noise reducing exterior walls are essential to preventing unwanted and disturbing outside noise from reaching the interior of a home or building.

The Adverse Health Effects of Noise Pollution

Soundproofing the exterior walls of a home or commercial building is essential for the health and well being of the occupants. There are many adverse effects of noise pollution. Noise pollution creates stress and hinders communication. Further negative health effects of noise pollution include hearing loss, sleep disruption, cardiovascular disease, reduced productivity, and impaired teaching and learning. Soundproofing exterior walls is essential for protecting the occupants of a home or building from loud and distracting sounds.

Soundproofing Exterior Walls with Insulated Concrete Forms

Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) for exterior walls are known for their energy-efficient and disaster-resistant qualities; however, ICFs also have excellent noise reducing traits.

The foam insulation absorbs sound, and the concrete in ICFs reflects noise.

Notably, the EPS Industry Alliance (a voice for the ICF industry), reports that only about one-quarter to one-eighth as much sound penetrates through an ICF wall compared to a wood-frame wall. In addition, a study out of the University of Washington reports that ICF can reduce sound transmission 200 percent better than concrete masonry unit (CMU) walls. ICF exterior walls are a superb product for preventing noise pollution from disrupting the interior of a structure.

Fox Blocks ICFs Build Soundproof Exterior Walls

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Fox Blocks is an ICF wall assembly that significantly lessens the transfer of sound from the outside to the inside of a building. Fox Blocks have a Sound Transmission Class (STC)  rating of STC 45-50+, which meets and exceed acoustic standards required in most commercial, government and educational building construction.

For instance, the ANSI S12.60 “Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements and Guidelines for Schools” mandates that exterior and interior walls of offices, conference rooms, and main corridors in schools achieve a minimum STC of 45 and that classroom walls obtain a minimum STC of 50. Fox Blocks walls ensure a quiet and peaceful interior for a home, hospital, school or any indoor space.

More Advantages of Fox Block ICF Exterior Walls

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Along with Fox Blocks noise reducing qualities, Fox Blocks have many components today’s builders, and architects strive to include in the design of their new homes and buildings. Fox Blocks create disaster-resistant and energy-efficient homes and buildings.

Fox Blocks ICF are Fire-Resistant

Fox Blocks have a fire-resistance rating (ASTM E119) of 4 hours for the 6-inch blocks and 2 hours for the 4-inch blocks.

Fox Blocks Protect Against Strong Winds and Flying Debris

ICF wall systems, like Fox Blocks, build a strong continuous path that ensures a building can maintain its integrity against winds above 200 mph. ICF walls also can resist damage debris flying over 100 mph.

Fox Blocks are Energy-Efficient and Moisture-Resistant

Fox Blocks insulated concrete forms exceed ASHRAE/ANSI 90.1 energy code requirements, and create an energy-efficient structure with superb moisture resistance and energy performance. They also provide continuous insulation with an R-value of 23+, which create an airtight building envelope with better performance than wood- or steel-frame construction.

Fox Blocks high-thermal mass contributes towards a high-performing building or home by absorbing and storing heat energy. Fox Blocks provide a solid continuous monolithic concrete wall with a perm rating of less than 1.0, which controls moisture intrusion and prohibits the growth of mold, mildew, and rot.

Fox Blocks create soundproof exterior walls that contribute to the comfort and communication of a building’s or home’s residents. Decreasing noise pollution inside a building or home also reduces the occupants stress level, and lessens the risk of hearing loss and heart disease. Fox Blocks insulated concrete forms are a best practice for soundproofing exterior walls.

An excellent choice for wind-resistant home design is Fox Blocks insulated concrete forms (ICF). Fox Blocks build wind-resistant walls that protect a house, the valued contents and family from dangerous winds and flying debris during severe wind events.  

Wind-Resistant Home Design is Critical to a Family’s Safety

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A wind-resistant home protects the house and the family from dangerous wind events like hurricanes and tornadoes. During a severe wind event, both a collapsing house and flying debris threaten the lives of the occupants of a home. Tragically, between 2000 and 2017 there were 894 wind and 1417 tornado-related deaths. In 2017, 36 percent of the wind and 63 percent of the tornado-related fatalities happened either in a mobile or permanent home. A wind-resistant design is critical to a home’s integrity and a family’s safety.

Critical Elements of a Wind-Resistant Home

A wind-resistant home should remain standing during and after strong wind events. It should also have the strength to prevent flying debris from penetrating the wall system.

Essential to wind-resistant home design is a continuous load path, impact resistance, and strong roofs, walls, floors, and foundations. In addition, FEMA, highly recommends a safe room1, or tornado shelter, for maximum protection to a home’s occupants during a severe wind event.

A Continuous Load Path is Vital to a Wind-Resistant Home

A continuous load path is a home’s best protection against intense winds. When uplift and lateral (horizontal) loads attack a house, a continuous load path will transfer the loads from the roof, wall, and other parts, toward the foundation and into the ground. A strong continuous load path is key to holding the roof, walls, floor, and foundation together during strong winds of over 200 mph.

Impact Resistance is Crucial to a Wind-Resistant Home

An impact resistant wall system, like one built with ICF, is essential for protecting a structure and its occupants from flying debris during a severe wind event. Notability, ICF walls produce greater resistance to damage from flying debris than wood-framed walls. Homes constructed with ICF walls preserve the house and protect its occupants from flying debris during severe wind events of over 100 mph.   

Fox Block ICFs Create Wind-Resistant Homes

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Homes built with Fox Blocks insulated concrete forms (ICFs ) ensure a wind-resistant house with a strong continuous load path that holds the walls, floors, foundation, and roof together during an intense wind event. Fox Blocks also resist projectile debris traveling over 100 mph.

Fox Blocks Home Stand up to an EF5 Tornado

For example, in 2013, a powerful EF5 tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma proved the strength and integrity of Fox Blocks ICFs. The tragic event wiped out most of Moore’s neighborhoods, and killed 24 and injured 212 people. Left standing, however, was a  ICF home built in 2004. For maximum safety against severe wind events, homeowners, builders, and architects are wise to select Fox Blocks ICF for their next home construction project.

Roof Construction of a Wind-Resistant Home

During dangerous strong-winds, home failures often begin with damage to the roof. A roof’s role, in a continuous load path, is to move the loads imposed by intense winds to the supporting walls underneath. The roof sheathing and framing move lateral loads to the home’s shear walls. For the protection of a home during an intense wind event, the house and sizing of the roof framing and sheathing must be in accordance with the wind forces of the area.

Roof Sheathing

FEMA’s Building Framing Systems and Best Practices authorizes the use of common nails to connect roof sheathing to supporting components in regions where wind speeds are less than 100 mph. In higher-wind regions, FEMA mandates ring-shank nails. Recommended in the corner zones eaves of the roof, where winds can cause massive uplifts, are wood nails.

Roof Framing

After the roof sheathing, the roof framing is the next component found within the load path of a building. The roof framing moves lateral loads to the shear walls. The rafters of a roof’s frame must be sized to withstand the weight of the roof system, and also the loads produced by wind.

Floor Construction of Wind Resistant Homes

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The floor system of the continuous load path moves the loads to the shear walls in the floors below or to the foundation. Floor framing often consists of dimensional lumber, or floor joists, spanning an open area. Floor joists must be sized to withstand the loads of the whole floor system along with vertical loads. The floor of a wind-resistant home ensures the loads reach the foundation and eventually the ground.

A wind-resistant home must include a continuous load path that protects against flying debris and keeps the roof, walls, floors, and foundation attached during a severe wind event. An excellent product for a wind-resistant home is Fox Blocks ICFS. Fox Blocks build wind-resistant walls that protect a house and family from treacherous winds and flying debris. For more information on wind-resistant home design, please visit Fox Blocks.

 

Fire-resistant houses are essential for protecting homes and families against increasing wildfires in the United States. Vital elements of a fire-resistant home design include passive fire protection with fireproof roofs, window, door, vents, and exterior walls, like ones built with Fox Blocks insulated concrete form (ICF) wall systems.  

Why Design a Fire-Resistant Home?

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Building a fire-resistant house is vital for today’s homeowners that want to protect both their homes, valued contents and families. The increasing focus in fire-resistant home design is highly due to a rise in wildfires and longer wildfire seasons. In 2017, there were 31,017 wildfires in the United States (U.S.). An 8 percent increase over 2016. Many scientists blame the rise in wildfires on climate change, which is causing an increase in global temperatures, drier forests, and earlier snow melts.

Regrettably, according to Verisk’s 2017 Wildfire Risk Analysis, 4.5 million homes in the U.S. are at high or extreme danger of wildfire, a fact that supports the need for fire-resistant components in new homes. An essential element of fire-resistant home construction is passive fire protection. Passive fire protection provides for fire-resistant exterior walls, doors, windows, roofs, and vents.

Passive Fire Protection in Safe Home Design

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Passive fire protection guards a family and protects the house by controlling the spread of fire and smoke. Passive fire protection includes firewalls, smoke barriers, horizontal assemblies, and fire partitions. Passive fire protection is often not visible to the residents; however, it’s vital in saving lives and protecting property when a fire happens. Passive fire protection reduces the spread of fire and smoke through vertical openings and stops the collapse of a house. Passive fire protection can save the family and home in the event of a fire.

Fox Block Wall Systems for a Fire-Resistant Home

A crucial component of passive fire protection of a fire-resistant home is the wall system. A superb choice for passive firewall protection is Fox Blocks ICFs. The 6-inch Fox Blocks have an ASTM E119 fire rating of four hours (twice the two-hour requirement), an ASTM E84 reported values for flame speed of less than 25 and smoke development of less than 450.

Along with excellent fire-resistance, Fox Blocks are disaster-resistant, noise reducing, and energy-efficient with an R-value of 23+. Additionally, because Fox Blocks provide a solid continuous monolithic concrete wall with a perm rating of less than 1.0, Fox Blocks control moisture accumulation, which prohibits the growth of mold and mildew.

A best practice for a fire-resistant home includes a fire-resistant wall system, like one built with Fox Blocks ICFs.

The Roof for a Fire-Resistant Home

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The roof of a fire-resistant home must resist catching fire. Roofs are susceptible to fire from burning debris, fireworks, lightning, wildfires, chimney fires, and sparks. Constructing a roof with fire-resistant products is a home’s best defense against a roof fire.

Fire-testing exposure of roof assemblies is in accordance with ASTM E108 or UL 790. The treating of fire-retardant-treated wood roof coverings should also be in accordance with ASTM D2898. The UL 790 has three classes of fire-resistant roofing. A best practice for constructing a fire-resistant home uses Class A roofing.

– Class A roof coverings protect against severe fire test exposures and will not slip from a position or produce flying brands. Examples of Class A roof materials are slate, asphalt glass, concrete tiles, clay tiles, and fiber composition shingles.

– Class B roof coverings protect against moderate fire test exposures to the roof deck, will not slip from a position or produce flying brands. Examples of Class B roof materials are shingles and pressure-treated shakes.

– Class C roof coverings protect against light fire test exposures and will not slip from a position or produce flying brands. Examples of Class C roofing products are particle board, plywood, and untreated wood shakes and shingles.

Windows and Doors for a Fire-Resistant Home

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Fire-resistant glass in the windows and doors is a critical component for a fire-resistant home. Classification of fire-resistant glass in doors and windows is by their integrity and insulation. Integrity is the measure of time the glazing holds the smoke and fire in an area and reduce the spread of the fire. Insulation is how long the glazing material shields the home’s residents from the heat radiating from a fire. Fire-resistant design of a home must consider the windows and doors.  

Vents for a Fire-Resistant Home

Because flames and ashes can enter a home through vents, the design of the vents must resist these intrusions. There are a few methods for protecting vents from flying embers.

– Protect vents in eaves or cornices with baffles to make a barrier between the vents and the embers.

– Cover the vent openings with 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch  metal mesh.

Fire-resistant homes are essential for the integrity of the house and the safety of the homeowners. Critical components of a fire-resistant home include passive fire protection shields and fireproof exterior walls, roofs, window, door, and vents. Please visit Fox Blocks for more suggestions for building a fire-resistant home.

A small (400 to 1000 square feet) or tiny (less than 400 square feet) insulated concrete form (ICF) home is energy-efficient, durable, and healthy. A small ICF house also saves homeowners money and time. A small home generates low monthly bills, takes less time to clean and maintain, and is better for the environment than a more spacious home. A small house built with ICF is energy-efficient, safe, and affordable.   

Many Homeowners Need Smaller, More Affordable Homes

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Over the past 40 years, home size and price has increased in the United States (U.S.). Consequently, today’s homeowners pay more to own and maintain their houses than they did in the 1970s. Furthermore, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey, in recent years the biggest expense across all income levels is housing (30 percent) followed by food (13 percent), healthcare (9 percent), and energy (9 percent). A big and expensive home takes a large slice out of the budget of many of today’s homeowners.  

Unfortunately, many of today’s homeowners are living in homes that are too big and expensive for their budget. In addition, almost half of today’s households don’t have enough savings to handle a $400 emergency, and 78 percent are living paycheck to paycheck. Many homeowners in large, costly houses risk financial distress, particularly if they lack monetary reserves. An affordable, small home is a solution to many of today’s financially-over-extended homeowners.

A Thoughtfully Designed Small Home Reduces Housing Costs

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A carefully designed small home is comfortable, beautiful, functional and interesting. However, the essential goals of a small home are to reduce a homeowner’s mortgage, utilities, and maintenance expenses. An added benefit of a small house is it simplifies the owner’s life and lowers their stress by ridding them of unnecessary possessions and responsibilities. A thoughtfully designed and built small home is charming, practical and good for the environment.

10 Tips for Designing an ICF Small or Tiny Home

1. A tight building envelope is essential to the design of a small or tiny home.

A tight building envelope minimizes air and moisture infiltration and is crucial to creating an energy-efficient house. Essential design elements of a tight building envelope are continuous insulation and application of an air and moisture barrier. A tight building envelope must also include energy efficient windows, skylights, and doors suitable to the home’s climate zone. Critical to a small, energy-efficient home design is a tight building envelope that minimizes air and moisture infiltration.

2. Durability is critical to the design of a small home.

A sustainable small house design uses durable materials. Durable materials are sustainable because they do not degrade or rot and they are resistant to natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, and fires. Over time, durable products save homeowner’s both money and time in rebuilding, maintaining, and repairing.

3. Fox Blocks ICFs are an ideal product for a small or tiny home.

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Fox Blocks create a small home with a tight building envelope that is energy-efficient, moisture-resistant, and durable.

– Fox Blocks are energy-efficient (R-value of 23+) and exceed ASHRAE/ANSI 90.1 energy code requirements. Small homes built with ICF exterior walls typically require 44 percent less energy to heat and 32 percent less energy to cool than similar wood-framed houses.

– The high thermal mass of Fox Blocks contributes towards an energy-efficient small home. High thermal mass products absorb and store heat energy and help stabilize temperature shifts within the home by reducing the rate of heat transfer.

– Fox Blocks provide a solid continuous monolithic concrete wall have a perm rating of less than 1.0 that controls moisture intrusion. Moisture accumulation can lead to mold, which degrades a structure’s integrity and is unhealthy to the occupants of the home.

– Fox Blocks are not prone to termite damage because they lack organic material, which termites eat.

– Fox Blocks are disaster-resistant: Fox Blocks is steel reinforced concrete that can withstand severe winds exceeding 200 MPH and projectile debris moving over 100 MPH.

– Fox Blocks are fire-resistant. Fox Blocks have a fire-resistance rating of 4-hours for the 6-inch blocks and 2-hours for the 4-inch blocks (ASTM E119).

4. Proper site orientation of a small home.

Proper site orientation of a small home is essential for taking advantage of the sun’s energy. For instance, the north-south orientation lessens direct sunlight during the summer (which reduces cooling demands) and maximizes sunlight during the winter (which lessons heating demands).

5. The cool roof of a small home.

A cool roof keeps a small home cool by shielding against solar heat gain. Cool roof products include low thermal mass materials like tiles and slate that are reflective or have light colored pigments that throw back the sun’s rays.

6. Renewable energy for a small home.

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The design of a small, energy-efficient home should aim to generate as much energy as it uses by installing renewable energy measures, like solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.  Renewable energy sources can significantly reduce, if not eliminate a small or tiny home’s energy bills.

7. Usable outdoor spaces for a small home.

The design of a small home should effortlessly connect the outdoor spaces to the indoors. Outdoor spaces should take advantage of the sun and prevailing winds, which will draw the home’s occupants towards the porches, patios, and decks.

8. Efficient, dual-purpose spaces of a small home.

The design of a small or tiny home should create dual-purpose spaces with fold-out tables, built-in bookshelves, a Murphy bed, and more.

9.  Room planning for a small home.

The design of a small or tiny home should minimize the space of the bedrooms and baths and maximize the areas used during the day. Also, the plan should reduce walls, which take up floor space, with open room design.

10. Ceilings of a small home.

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High ceilings with skylights add volume and light to a small home. In some cases, a loft fits naturally in the extra volume.  

Building an ICF small home creates an energy-efficient home that is durable, healthy, and green. An affordable small ICF home saves homeowners money on building costs, utilities, maintenance, and repairs.

A small ICF home saves homeowners time because it is quicker to clean and maintain than a larger home. New homeowners interested in ridding themselves of unnecessary possessions and responsibilities and saving both money and time should consider downsizing to a small or tiny Fox Block ICF home.

Insulated concrete forms are hollow foam blocks used to construct the exterior walls of a building, which are reinforced with rebar and then filled with concrete. Building with insulated concrete forms is lighter, faster, more resilient and often more cost effective than most other forms of building. This building material is rising in popularity for all forms of residential and commercial building, including hospitals, schools, office buildings and private homes for exactly these reasons. As a contractor, have you considered delving into insulated concrete form (ICF) building construction, but don’t know where to start?

The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) has some upcoming trainings that can help you get started with this new material and technique. The NRMCA is a membership organization for the concrete industry and is a leading industry advocate that provides information and updates to its members about the latest techniques, materials and technologies. This includes professional development courses and trainings.

Professional development is important for any contractor as everyone in the professions needs to stay up to date to keep their crews and worksites safe, efficient and cost effective. The NRMCA is a great resource for trainings on the latest in the concrete industry. Often, these courses also include continuing education credits to count toward receiving professional certifications.

For those interested in ICF construction, including concrete contractors, masonry contractors and wood and steel framers, a coalition within NRMCA called Build with Strength is hosting four ICF contractor training courses across the country to give you an introduction to this growing building material. Attendees can expect an overview of building with ICFs to give them a competitive advantage in today’s construction landscape. The registration fee of each event includes a meal, an ICF training manual, hands-on instruction and a certificate of completion. This particular course also offers four AIA-CES Learning Units and 4 Professional Development Hours (PDH).

ICF Contractor Training Seminars 2

To plan your day, here is a sample itinerary for this half-day training, provided by the NRMCA:

  • 7:30 am: Continental Breakfast
  • 8:00 – 12:00 noon: ICF Contractor Training

Demonstrate the specific characteristics of ICFs

  • Describe the benefits of ICF construction
  • Explain the construction advantages and efficiencies
  • Demonstrate the interaction between trades and ICF installation requirements and techniques
  • Recognize that ICF technology can expand your business opportunities.

The event details are below (click your desired date to be redirected and register with the NRMCA).

November 27, 2018 | Seattle 

December 5, 2018 | Boston

December 6, 2018 | Hartford, CT

January 15, 2019 | Minneapolis

We encourage you to take advantage of these upcoming trainings to begin your knowledge and experience with insulated concrete form construction. This training will increase your competitiveness in the construction market to work with this growing building trend that is lighter, faster, more resilient and more cost effective than other building materials and methods.

ICF Contractor Training Seminars 3

Register online for your local training date and contact the NRMCA for more information on what you can expect and if you have any questions about the training.

Insulated concrete forms (ICF) and structural insulated panels (SIPs) are two common wall systems used to construct commercial buildings and homes. Both wall systems combine structure and insulation into one unit, which quickens construction and reduces labor costs. However, ICF wall systems have several benefits over SIP wall systems.

ICFs, like Fox Blocks, are more energy-efficient and fire-, mold-, and rot-resistant than SIPs. ICFs also have more design flexibility than SIPs. When choosing between SIP and ICF walls, builders and architects should consider the advantages of ICFs, like Fox Blocks, over SIPs wall systems.

What are Structural Insulated Panel Wall Systems?

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) Vs. Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) 1

(photo by https://inhabitat.com)

Structural insulated panels, also called foam-core panels, structural foam panels, stress-skin panels, and sandwich panels, first gained attention 50 years ago for its high level of insulation, air tightness, and strength over wood-framing wall systems. SIPs are 4- and 8-inch thick rigid foam panels, sandwiched between two rigid sheathing materials.

SIP Foam Panels

Extruded polystyrene (EPS), expanded polystyrene (EPS), polyisocyanurate (PIR) polyurethane, or (PUR) are used to make the foam panels for SIPs. With XPS and EPS foam, the foam and sheathing is pressure laminated together. With PIR and PUR, the liquid foam is injected and cured under high pressure.

SIP Sheathing Boards

The most common sheathing boards for SIPS are 7/16 inch thick oriented strand boards (OSB). Other sheathing materials include plywood, sheet metal, fiber-cement siding, magnesium-oxide board, fiberglass mat, gypsum sheathing, and composite structural siding panels.  

SIPs create straight walls that are structurally sound, air-sealed, and insulated all in one step. Also, because SIPs are factory assembled, wall construction is quick, which reduces labor costs and construction waste. Roofs, walls, and floors of homes and light commercial buildings can use SIPs. However, there are several problems associated with SIP wall systems.

Disadvantages of SIP Wall System

– Some SIPs, especially those constructed with plywood, OSB, and composite structural siding panels, do not have adequate fire performance ratings.

– Durability problems with SIPs can occur, particularly when using plywood and OSB facings. When plywood or OSB gets wet, the walls may mold, degrade, and rot.

– SIPs have low thermal mass. Materials made of high thermal mass help to stabilize the temperature within a structure, and ultimately save energy and money.  

– Because SIPs are panels, the design of a SIP structure is best coordinated and planned with the panel’s dimensions, without many jogs, bump-outs, or non-90-degree angles. A non-panel friendly design will escalate cos and waste, and diminish the performance of the structure.

Insulated Concrete Form Wall Systems

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) Vs. Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) 2

Insulated concrete forms (ICFs), like Fox Blocks, are composed of concrete sandwiched between two layers of insulated foam. Above- and below-grade ICF construction creates a disaster-resistant, moisture-resistant, durable, energy-efficient and quiet structure. Also, ICF offers design flexibility and is quick and easy to install.  

The Disaster-Resistant Advantages of Insulated Concrete Foam

ICF Walls are Fire-Resistant. ICF wall construction creates passive fire protection within a building or home by limiting the spread of fire and smoke. If a fire occurs, ICF also hinders the collapse of the structure. Notably, Fox Blocks ICFs have a fire-resistance rating (ASTM E119) of 4 hours for the 6-inch blocks and 2 hours for the 4-inch blocks.

ICF Walls Protect Against Strong Winds and Flying Debris. ICF wall systems, like Fox Blocks, build a strong continuous path that ensures a building can maintain its integrity against winds above 200 mph. Fox Block ICF walls also can resist damage debris flying over 100 mph.

ICFs are Moisture-Resistant

ICF walls, like Fox Blocks, provide a moisture-resistant solid continuous monolithic concrete wall with a perm rating of less than 1.0. The perm rating is a measure of an assembly or a material ability to limit the amount of moisture that passes through the assembly or materials.

The lower the perm rating, the better. Both the 2018 International Building Code (IBC) 1404.2 and the 2018 International Residential Code(IRC) R703.1 do not require an air barrier or a weather- or a water-resistive-barrier on a solid monolithic concrete wall.

ICFs are Healthy and Durable

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) Vs. Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) 3

ICF wall systems are healthy and durable because they are moisture-resistant and non-organic, which limits the growth of mold and wood rot. Mold and wood rot may occur in the presence of moisture or organic materials, like wood. Mold is unhealthy to those inside the building and wood rot can reduce the structural durability of a building.

ICFs Create a Tight-Building Envelope that is Energy-Efficient

– High-thermal mass ICFs contribute towards a high-performing, energy-efficient building or home. High thermal mass materials absorb and store heat energy. ICF walls then stabilize temperature shifts within the structure by slowing the rate of heat transfer.

– Fox Blocks insulated concrete forms exceed ASHRAE/ANSI 90.1 energy code requirements, and create sustainable buildings with superb moisture resistance and energy performance.

– Fox Blocks also provide continuous insulation with an R-value of 23, which creates an airtight building envelope with better performance than wood- or steel-frame construction.

ICFs Create Quiet Walls

The EPS Industry Alliance (a voice for the ICF industry) reports that about one-quarter to one-eighth as much sound penetrates through an ICF wall compared to a wood-frame wall. Fox Blocks, for example, have a Sound Transmission Class (STC)1 rating of STC 45-50+ and can create a quiet and peaceful interior for a building.

The Design Flexibility of ICF

The strength and flexibility of ICFs allow builders and architects to create any imaginable size or style of a home or building. The ICF forms are easy to cut and shape, including customized architectural effects, such as cathedral ceilings, curved walls, large openings, long ceiling spans, and custom angles.

ICFs are Quick and Easy to Install

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) Vs. Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) 4

ICFs, like Fox Block Series, is fast and easy to install, which saves time and costs. The Fox Block is an all in one wall system that combines five construction steps into one, including air barrier, structure, insulation, vapor retarder, and attachment. This feature significantly hastens project delivery by eliminating the need to coordinate multiple trades, while accomplishing all of the wall system’s objectives.

Insulated Concrete Form Vs. Structural Insulated Panels Wall Systems

ICF wall systems have several advantages over SIP wall systems.

– ICFs are a high-thermal mass material that is air- and moisture-resistant.

– ICF is more energy-efficient and fire-, mold- and rot-resistant than SIP.

– An additional advantage of ICF over SIP construction is ICF has more design flexibility and can easily accommodate complex architectural curves and contours.

While ICFs create suburb wall systems, they are not suitable for a roof assembly. The pre-insulated, pre-engineered SIPs are ideal for large spans of roofing and will contribute to an energy-efficient and air-tight structure.

Please visit Fox Blocks for more information on insulated concrete foam vs. structural insulated panels.

To protect a building from fire and ensure the safety of its occupants, today’s contractor and architects aim to include fire-resistant components, like Fox Blocks insulated concrete forms (ICF), in their new construction projects. The growing focus in fire-resistant building design is highly due to a rise in wildfires and longer wildfire seasons.

In 2017, there were 31,017 wildfires in the United States; an 8 percent increase over 2016. Many scientists blame the increase in wildfires on increasing global temperatures, early snow melts, and drier forests due to climate change. Protecting a building and its occupants from dangerous fires requires using fire-resistant materials, like Fox Blocks, in new construction projects.

Passive Fire Protection for a Fire-Resistant Building

Fire-Resistant Building 1

Passive fire protection restricts the spread of fire through a structure, which reduces the danger to the occupants and damage to the property. Passive fire protection also protects vital structural components and prevents the collapse of a building. Passive fire protection is often not visible to the occupants; however, when a fire happens, its value in saving lives and protecting property is clear and essential.

Accomplishing passive fire protection is through the use of fire-resistant walls, windows, doors, roofs, and vents.

Fox Blocks Create Fire-Resistant Walls

Fire-Resistant Building 2

A critical element of passive fire protection is the wall system. An excellent option for passive firewall protection is Fox Blocks insulated concrete forms (ICFs). The 6-inch Fox Blocks have an ASTM E119 fire rating of four hours (twice the two-hour requirement), an ASTM E84 reported values for flame speed of less than 25, and smoke development of less than 450.

Along with excellent fire-resistance, Fox Blocks are disaster-resistant, noise reducing, and have high thermal mass with an R-value of 23. Also, because Fox Blocks provide a solid continuous monolithic concrete wall with a perm rating of less than 1.0, Fox Blocks control moisture intrusion and prohibit the growth of mold and mildew. Importantly, Fox Blocks exceeds ASHRAE/ANSI 90.1 energy code requirements, and create energy-efficient buildings.

A best practice for constructing a fire-resistant building includes a fire-resistant wall system, like one constructed with Fox Blocks ICFs.

Windows and Doors for a Fire-Resistant Building

Fire-Resistant Building 3

Fire-resistant glass in the windows and doors is crucial for a fire-resistant building. Classification of fire-resistant glass in doors and windows is according to their insulation and integrity. Insulation is the length of time the glazing product protects the building’s occupants from the heat radiating from a fire. Integrity is the length of time the glazing contains the smoke, fire, and hot flames in a space, so to lessen the spread of the fire. Fire-resistant building design must include fire-resistant glass in the windows and doors.

The Roof for a Fire-Resistant Building

The roof of a fire-resistant building must resist catching fire. Roofs are susceptible to fire from lightning, wildfires, chimney fires, sparks, fireworks, and burning debris. Constructing a roof with fire-resistant materials is a building’s best protection against a roof fire.

Fire-testing exposure of roof systems is in accordance with ASTM E108 or UL 790. Fire-retardant-treated wood roof coverings must also be in accordance with ASTM D2898. The UL 790 establishes three classes of fire-resistant roofing. A best practice for constructing a fire-resistant building uses Class A roofing.

– Class A roof coverings protect against severe fire test exposures and will not slip from a position, or produce flying brands. Class A roof materials include concrete slate, asphalt glass, tiles, clay tiles, and fiber composition shingles.

– Class B roof coverings protect against moderate fire test exposures to the roof deck, will not slip from a position, or produce flying brands. Class B roof materials include shingles and pressure-treated shakes.

– Class C roof coverings protect against light fire test exposures and will not slip from a position or produce flying brands. Class C roofing products include particleboard, plywood, and untreated wood shakes and shingles.

Vents for a Fire-Resistant Building

Fire-Resistant Building 4

Because flames and embers can enter a building through vents, the design of the vents must resist these intrusions. There are several techniques for protecting vents from flying ashes and embers.

– Protect vents in eaves or cornices with baffles to establish a barrier between the vents and the embers.

– Cover the vent openings with 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch metal mesh.

Incorporating fire-resistant elements in new construction is vital to the protection of the building and its occupants. Crucial components of a fire-resistant building include passive fire protection with fire-resistant Fox Block exterior walls, window, door, roofs, and vents.

Please visit Fox Blocks for more information on fire-resistant building design.

To ensure a tornado safe house that best protects the occupants during a tornado event, the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) highly recommends a tornado safe room or shelter, built according to FEMA guidelines.

A residential safe room built with Fox Blocks insulated concrete forms (ICF) meets and exceeds the criteria for a FEMA residential safe room design for a continuous load path and impact resistance. In the event of a dangerous tornado, a safe room built with Fox Blocks ICF can ensure the safety of a home’s occupants.

The Benefits of FEMA Approved Safe Rooms or Storm Shelters

ICF Tornado Safe Rooms 1

Tornado safe rooms are crucial in the United States (U.S.) where an average of 1253 tornadoes occur yearly, creating wind speeds up to 200 mph or more. The impact of tornadoes is catastrophic and kills annually about 60 people, many from flying or falling debris. The majority of tornado fatalities are located either in a mobile or permanent home. Safe rooms are vital to the protection of a home’s occupants during a tornado event.

A further advantage of a safe room is it increases a home’s value. In fact, a report by Professor Kevin Simmons, an economist with Austin College and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, found that safe rooms increase a home’s worth by about $4,200, or on average of 3.5 percent.

Designing and building a tornado shelter or safe room, as specified in FEMA P-361 and FEMA P-320, will create a tornado safe house that provides maximum protection to a home’s occupants during a tornado emergency.

Untangling the Guidelines and Standards for Safe Room Design

ICC-500 – The Standard for Design and Construction of Safe Rooms

The ICC-500 is the International Code Council’s and the National Storm Shelter Association’s (NSSA) standard (ICC/NSSA) for the construction and design of storm shelters (safe rooms). The 2014 ICC-500 is the current ICC/NSSA standard for construction and design of residential and community storm shelters.

ICC-500 – The Referenced Standard for Building Safe Room Used by the IBC, IRC, and FEMA

Since 2009, the International Building Code (IBC, Section 423) and the International Residential Code (IRC, Section R323) have utilized the ICC-500 as their reference standard for building storm shelters. FEMA also uses ICC-500 as a referenced standard for building safe rooms and storm shelters. However, the FEMA guidelines are considered more conservative than the IBC and IRC requirements.

Builders and architects of safe rooms can find the FEMA guidelines in FEMA P-320 (Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business) and FEMA P-361 (Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms).  

The ICC-500 is the reference standard used by the IBC, IRC, and FEMA for the design and construction of safe rooms. Residential safe rooms designed to FEMA guidelines provide occupants of small businesses or homes the best safety against high winds and flying debris during a tornado event.

Building a Tornado Safe House with a FEMA Safe Room

A residential safe room is a solid space designed to meet FEMA specifications. A FEMA safe room provides the occupants of a home or small business near-total protection in severe weather events, including tornadoes. T

The construction and design of a residential safe room must follow the guidelines described in FEMA P-320 and FEMA 361. Critical components of a FEMA residential safe room are a strong continuous load path, and resistance to windborne debris, overturning, and uplift.

A Continuous Load Path is Key to a Residential Safe Room Design

ICF Tornado Safe Rooms 2

A strong continuous load path is key to holding the roof, walls, and foundation of a safe room together during a powerful wind event. A continuous load path ensures that when wind loads attack the roof, the loads will transfer to the shear walls.

The shear walls of the safe room are the essential elements of the continuous load path that block the lateral-loads (horizontal wind forces). The walls must keep their integrity and have the strength to support the roof, while concurrently moving the loads to the foundation. Ultimately, the wind loads must move from the foundation to the ground.

A superb product for a residential safe room is Fox Blocks, which are FEMA approved. Fox Blocks reinforced concrete walls have the continuous load path required to resist severe wind events during tornadoes. The Fox Blocks Wall System is also durable and has the strength to support a roof.

Residential Safe Rooms Must Protect Against Flying Debris

ICF Tornado Safe Rooms 3

The walls, roof, and doors of a residential safe room must resist the impact and penetration of flying debris during a tornado.

– A safe room roof must withstand the impact of a 15-pound 2-inch X 4-inch shot at 67 mph.

– Safe room doors should have documented proof that they are compliant with the most current version of FEMA P-361 and FEMA P-320 or the ICC 500 for tornado wind speed of 250 mph.

– Safe room walls must resist the impact of a 15-pound 2-inch X 4-inch shot at 100 mph

The whole envelope of a residential safe room must protect the shelter’s occupants from flying debris during a dangerous tornado.

An ideal choice for a FEMA safe room is insulated concrete form (ICF) Fox Blocks. Fox Block walls resist damage from flying debris traveling over 100 mph. Fox Blocks are the best protection from windblown debris to occupants in a safe room during a tornado event.  

Safe Rooms Must Resists Uplift and Overturning

It is essential to a residential safe room to anchor its foundation so to resist overturning and uplift as it receives the wind loads from of the walls. The anchoring and design of the slab-on-grade foundation must follow the guidelines in FEMA P-361, as defined by the ICC-500 (Section 308.1.1.2). During life-threatening wind events, the foundation of a residential safe room must resist uplift, overturning, and sliding forces.

When designed and built according to FEMA guidelines, a tornado safe room or shelter, for a home or small business, will create a space for the occupants that provides maximum protection during tornadoes. A residential safe room constructed with Fox Blocks meets and exceeds the criteria for a FEMA residential safe room design for a continuous load path and impact resistance.

Please visit Fox Blocks for more information on building a safe room for a tornado safe house.

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