When it comes to concrete works, one of the biggest debates is which type of formwork is the best to use for forming; site-built formwork or the systems you can get from suppliers such as Doka, Peri, and Aluma. As you would expect, there isn’t a simple answer, because there are so many variables and each project has specific requirements.
Formwork is a die or a mold including all supporting structures, used to shape and support the concrete until it attains sufficient strength to carry its own weight. It should be capable of carrying all imposed dead and live loads apart from its own weight and the best formwork needs to be quick to be erected and taken down.
Formwork systems come in all shapes and sizes, to meet all kinds of needs, so you would naturally expect it to be the best option, but there are plenty of reasons why construction firms still stick to the traditional tried and tested methods. In this blog post, we’ll examine both the advantages and disadvantages of formwork systems.
The advantages of using formwork systems
One of the major benefits of the engineered formwork systems is that they can be covered in steel or aluminum and this increases the number of times the system can be re-used from maybe a few dozen times to up to a thousand times. Plastic formwork systems don’t last quite as long but can still be used hundreds of times.
Because these formwork systems are built in modules, they can be pinned, clipped or screwed together so much more quickly than the time it takes to construct the traditional timber formwork structures. This can mean that while timber might be cheaper on paper, the man hours involved can make it less cost effective overall, particularly when you take the re-usability into account.
More efficient and sturdy
Another major reason why construction firms turn to engineered formwork is for its reliability. Conventional formwork has the tendency to warp, swell or shrink depending on the circumstances, which can cause major issues with the forming of the concrete.
Health and safety
All well-engineered formwork systems come with health and safety features manufactured into them, making them a much safer option than the traditional methods which do not. This not only looks after employee health, making construction sites more appealing to work on, but also cuts down on costs at a corporate level in terms of paying out compensation after accidents.
Easier to clean
When using plastic formwork, it’s very easy to clean the panels for re-use because the concrete does not stick to them. You can just clean them with water and be safe in the knowledge that the water won’t damage the integrity of the panels or rust them.
Advantages of traditional formwork
As mentioned above, timber formwork will generally be cheaper in terms of materials than any engineered alternative, because it is much easier and cheap to source and doesn’t require much work before it arrives on site. For smaller jobs, where less manual labor is required to put it together, this will usually make it the cheapest option.
Ease of use
Timber is lighter than most of the alternatives and is also a much more straightforward material to use, requiring no special knowledge or tools to pull it all together. For inexperienced crews, this makes it a safer option than going for a more complicated system that they might struggle to set up. Keeping in mind that the leading formwork manufacturers are continuously innovating their systems to make utilizing them simpler.
While engineered formwork comes in all shapes and sizes, the fact that it is pre-fabricated means that it lacks the flexibility of site-built formwork. This means that it can often be the case on sites where some complexity is required, traditional formwork can be used alongside engineered systems for more unique sections of a construction. For this reason, it seems unlikely that timber formwork will be replaced in concrete works entirely anytime soon.
Adaptability on site
A major advantage to site-built formwork is the ability to make last-minute changes to the plans and not have this cause big issues with costs and timescales. With engineered formwork systems, once they have been ordered, there can be little leeway for even slight tweaks to the construction site without incurring long delays and added costs, but building the formwork on-site from timber means that it be can be taken down and rebuilt to the new specifications with a minimum of fuss and expense.
Concrete forming accessories like formwork systems add a lot of potential benefits for construction site operations, not least the amount of times they can be re-used and the improved reliability and consistency of the results. However, there are still many circumstances where traditional site-built timber formwork at least has a role to play alongside the newer systems and it tends to be preferable on smaller builds. So it is important to consider all of these factors and advantages when deciding which type of formwork is right for your build.