There are many different footing form systems hitting the market today, but the majority of them share a common thread: non-wood forms. With the concrete industry moving in the "green" direction, and with an emphasis being placed on the materials used, the trend to use aluminum or plastic forms instead of wood is growing.
These new forms have multiple benefits, including a longer life span than wood, which results in less construction waste. The trend has been growing, and new footing products are gaining popularity among contractors who want to explore alternatives and reap the benefits these new footings systems offer.
Making the switch
Tri-State Builders, N.Y., spent nearly 22 years using standard 2 by 12 wooden planks and stakes to create footings, says Skip Collins, owner. But three years ago the company switched to using Fine Line Footings. This aluminum form footing system requires no stakes, which was exactly what Collins was looking for.
"We were doing a pour in a rock quarry, and the bottom was all solid rock," Collins says. "We really couldn't stake any planks so I was looking into other systems that would accommodate that, and Fine Line fit it perfectly."
Collins says there is actually a lot of rock in that area of the country, so those situations can be common for his company. On the other hand, he says they also have pours in river valleys where the ground is very silty. Both situations make it difficult for stakes to hold in the ground. The Fine Line Footing forms work great on both ends of the spectrum, Collins says.
Del Greco Project Management, Ontario, was also using conventional wood footing forms until three years ago when a local supply company introduced it to CertainTeed's Form-A-Drain, according to Ray Del Greco, owner. "The advantage of the plastic Form-A-Drain is the fact that you have coverage both on the interior and the exterior of the house because the footing is formed on both sides," he says. And the Form-A-Drain drainage system starts working immediately after it is placed, he adds.
The first time Del Greco used this new footing product was on a job with a high water table. He says Form-A-Drain works well for footings done in high water table areas. People tend to think that if the outside water that comes from snow melt and rain is handled there won't be any problems, he says. However, with large houses, water can creep up the middle of the slab and cause problems. "By having the Form-A-Drain you get virtually 100 percent more coverage. And you can also independently drain off the inside part and the exterior part to wherever you wish," Del Greco explains.
Another reason the Form-A-Drain products work well in areas with high water tables is because of the height of the forms. "A typical drain is 4 in. high, and these pipes come in 8- and 10-in.-high sections," Del Greco says.
The footings Del Greco Project Management installs are split fifty-fifty between using Form-A-Drain and wood forms, Del Greco says. "It's basically a client to client decision," he says. Often, if a site is excavated and there is a higher than expected water table, Del Greco's clients will opt for the Form-A-Drain.
If he had the opportunity, Del Greco says he would use Form-A-Drain for all his footing projects, and he is finding it easier to convince clients to use Form-A-Drain when it falls under the "green technologies" category. "I have had a customer use the Form-A-Drain because it saves in cutting trees. That reason alone was good enough for him," he says. However, some clients are still hesitant to use the Form-A-Drain because the product is new and it requires certain tools that may raise labor costs.
Watterson Bros. Construction, Utah, also switched from wood footings to an aluminum forming system three years ago, according to Josh Watterson, part owner of the company. Watterson Bros. Construction uses the EZ-Footings aluminum forming system from Concrete Forms Services for all of its footing projects now.