The Different Types of Formwork Used in Concrete Construction

Throughout history, there have been many different types of materials used to build structures such as homes and bridges. In early times, timber was used extensively given that trees were abundant and structures could be quickly and easily built using timber. More recently, steel has become a popular material due to its strength and durability and is one of the most widely used building materials in construction today.


Despite this, one building material that has been used for thousands of years and is still used extensively today is concrete. While the use of concrete in construction didn’t become mainstream until the mid-19th century, concrete is still favoured as a building material due to its many advantageous properties.


The reason why concrete is still one of the most popular building materials is because it’s safe, durable, sustainable, and economical. One essential ingredient used in concrete construction is formwork, which are temporary or permanent moulds into which concrete is poured until the concrete is self-supporting. There are many types of formwork used in concrete construction, and today we’re going to explore each of these formworks to give you a better indication of their advantages and intended uses.


Traditional timber formwork

One of the earliest types of formwork is traditional timber formwork which is generally made from timber or plywood. This type of formwork is typically built on-site and while it is easy to produce, it has a short life-span and is very time-consuming particularly for large structures. Today, timber formwork is still used where labour costs are low, or where there are complicated sections that require very flexible formwork.


Engineered Formwork System

This type of formwork is built from prefabricated modules with a frame typically made from steel or aluminium. In comparison to traditional timber formwork, the Engineered Formwork System can be constructed much faster (using pins and clips) and has lower costs since it can be reused thousands of times.


Reusable plastic formwork

As the name suggests, this type of formwork is made from lightweight and robust plastic that create interlocking and modular formwork systems. This type of formwork is an excellent choice for small but repetitive construction projects, such as low-cost housing estates. Reusable plastic formwork has many applications in the construction industry. Considering that the panels are made from plastic, they do not require formwork removing agents and are simply cleaned with water.


Permanent Insulated Formwork

One of the most advanced formwork systems involves formwork that is permanently insulated to provide additional thermal, acoustic, fire-resistant, and rodent-resistant properties. One of the most common types is insulating concrete forms (ICF) where concrete structures are insulated with polystyrene foam which stays in place after the concrete has cured. This type of formwork is energy efficient, sustainable, and environmentally friendly.


Stay-In-Place formwork

Usually assembled on-site and made from prefabricated fibre-reinforced plastic forms, this type of formwork is generally shaped in hollow tubes and used to construct columns and piers. As the name suggests, this formwork stays in place once the concrete has set and acts as axial and shear reinforcement which prevents environmental damage such as corrosion and freeze-thaw cycles.


Flexible formwork

This system uses lightweight, yet high strength sheets of fabric designed to complement the fluidity of concrete by creating highly optimised, architecturally interesting building forms. As opposed to the rigid formwork described above, this flexible formwork uses considerably less concrete which facilitates considerable energy savings.


In modern construction, concrete structures vary considerably and are designed to suit different purposes. Depending on the type of structure being built, any of the abovementioned formwork can be used to construct an affordable, durable, and sustainable structure that provide many advantages over other types of building materials. As you can see, selecting the most suitable formwork for your project is paramount to its success, so if you have any questions or concerns about which type of formwork is best for your requirements, get in touch with our team at Uni-Span by phoning 1300 882 825.