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RP Watkins, Inc.

Many homeowners assume that a concrete home will cost considerably more than a comparable stick-built house. But in reality, you may actually save money by building with concrete when you factor in life-cycle costs, utility and insurance savings, maintenance requirements and overall health of the occupants. Other important benefits you can't put a price tag on include increased safety from disasters and comfort from even temperatures throughout the home, improved air quality and decreased outdoor noise levels, all equating to better quality of living due to a healthier, safer environment.

The cost to construct an ICF home is only slightly higher than for a comparable wood-frame home, and according to a study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, ICF construction adds about $2 to $4 per square foot. They summarize that on a “typical 2,500 square foot, two-story home and lot (sale price of $180,000), the additional cost amounts to about $7,000.

COST SAVINGS

Heating and cooling costs and equipment

Field comparisons done by HUD found that “ICF wall construction can provide a 20 to 25 percent savings in annual heating and cooling costs.” Just how much you'll save depends on many factors, including the thickness of the walls, the number and types of windows and doors in your home, ceiling insulation, the size and efficiency of the heating and cooling equipment, and the climate in the region where you live. What's more, ICF construction allows the installation of smaller heating and cooling equipment, which can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in upfront costs.

Insurance

You can also recoup your investment in a concrete home with big savings in insurance costs. Many agencies offer discounts on homeowner's insurance policies of up to 25% for ICF homes because of their resistance to fire, tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes.

Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM)

Homeowners planning to build or purchase an ICF home may qualify for an Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM), which allows borrowers to qualify for a larger mortgage as a result of the savings in energy expenses. This would give the owner the ability, for example, to invest more in an ICF home because of the lower monthly heating and cooling bills. For more information, read the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development's Energy Efficient Mortgage Program.

Maintenance

Costs to maintain an ICF home through the years may be considerably lower due to its resistance to dry rot, pests such as termites and other forms of degradation.

COST CONSIDERATIONS

Additional costs and challenges may occur with window and door installation due to the increased wall thickness. There may also be some impact on plumbing, HVAC or electrical installations, as well as certain architectural features. Due to increased weight of the building, there may also be increased requirements for the foundation.

Read more information on HUD’s findings, Costs and Benefits of Insulating Concrete Forms for Residential Construction.

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