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Types of Concrete FormsLearn about the many types of forms available, from basic wood to specialty systems for decorative concrete
A square foot of conventional concrete weighs about 150 pounds, and a typical concrete project may require hundreds to thousands of square feet of concrete to be placed at one time. All that weight needs to be held back by concrete forms, which is why most forms are made from rigid wood or metal. In recent years, there have seen some advancements in concrete forms made of plastic, fiber glass and resins, but the cost and strength of these materials are slow to overcome the proven performance of metal and wood.
Concrete forms are often categorized by where and how they are used. The best form for a particular project is often a function of the pour size, the amount of concrete the form needs to retain, and the pressure or weight that will be pushing against the form. For example, the typical concrete forms used for flatwork (such as a patio, driveway, sidewalk or road) range in height from 3 to 12 inches. Because the majority of the weight of the concrete in flatwork applications is spread across a prepared subbase -- which relieves much of the weight pushing against the form -- these forms are most often wood, with metal being used for larger commercial or highway work. In contrast, a concrete form used to construct a bridge pier or high-rise building foundation will hold back hundreds to thousands of square feet of concrete, with the height of the form ranging from 12 inches to 20 feet. Because of the massive amount of weight being exerted against these forms, they are made of high-grade steel and can weigh thousands of pounds.