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BuildBlock ICF Installer Training Series: Basic Tools

Basic Tools

Welcome to the BuildBlock ICF Installer Training Series. This 20 part video series is intended to be an educational walk through of the ICF building process. From the early planning phases to pouring concrete and finishing walls, this series will provide the basic knowledge you need to have a successful BuildBlock ICF build.

This video explores the basic tools needed to build with BuildBlock ICFs. We also discuss some optional tools that add speed and efficiency to your project.

The videos in this series are produced as a companion to the BuildBlock Installation and Technical Manuals available for free download on the Publications Page or for purchase via the BuildBlock Online Store. You can view more videos in this series via the BuildBlock Blog or by subscribing to the BuildBlock YouTube Page. For a more in depth training experience you can take the free Online ICF Installer Training Series.

Video Transcript

Recommended Tools

Very few basic tools are necessary to build with BuildBlock ICFs. We’ll cover some optional tools that may save you time and labor.

First, some basic tools should be on hand at any job site. Items such as a hammer, drill, and tape measure will come in handy throughout the process. To keep your project level and your openings square, you’ll want to have a standard level or laser level as well as a framing square. Chalk lines are usually placed on the footing marking the outside edge of the block, so keep a Mason’s Line or Chalk Line on hand as well.

Throughout the building process, blocks will need to be cut to the correct size for your project to create a running bond eliminating vertical seams if possible. Cutting block is also required to create openings for windows and doors. The Expanded Polystyrene Foam that makes up BuildBlock ICFs is very easy to cut and the blocks are designed with a 1-inch repeating interlock pattern that produces very little waste. Cut lines and measurements are molded onto the block itself and these cuts can be made with a folded pruning saw, short shark saw, keyhole saw, skill saw, or even a table saw. To produce even cleaner cuts with less waste, a Hot Knife can be used.

You can also use these cutting tools to produce openings for penetrations such as sleeves for plumbing and mechanical systems and after the wall is poured, creating electrical and plumbing chases.

Horizontal reinforcing Re-Bar is installed as the forms are being placed. To prepare the rebar for installation you’ll need both a rebar cutter and bender. As you place the rebar you will also want a rebar tie tool to connect vertical and horizontal bars together if required. Tying vertical steel is usually recommended on the top course.

Before the concrete is poured, the ICF walls will need to be aligned and braced. This can be done with a variety of tools such as the BuildBrace Bracing & Alignment System which is popular for contractors. The BuildBrace stongback is designed specifically to align with the patented BuildBlock Hard Attachment Points, on the form, for the strongest connection.

Zonts and Zuckles by FabForm is another option typically used for DIY installations or when bracing rental isn’t available. It combines regular lumber with a turnbuckle system to align walls. You’ll also need scaffolding planks or walk boards to provide space for the crew to work as concrete is poured and walls are raised. Walk boards are typically the same material that will be used for the top plate when installed.

As concrete is poured into the walls, it must be consolidated using a Concrete Pencil Vibrator. All concrete is required to be consolidated by internal vibration. Vibration causes the concrete to become fluid again, settle completely removing any trapped air and ultimately creates a structurally strong wall.

After any pour, you’ll also want a Concrete Trowel to evenly spread wet concrete and create smooth surfaces. It’s also advisable to have a foam gun with foam and cleaner to fill any cracks or unwanted void space.

If you’re looking to save on time and labor, some of these optional tools and accessories will be helpful. For cutting (especially rebar) the Benner Nawman Cutting Edge Saw, available in the BuildBlock online store, will cut most anything and works inside the wall cavity under window openings without sparking. Permanent markers are also a handy item for effective communication on the block itself. You can mark block cuts, window centerlines, rough opening sizes, vertical rebar locations and much more.

Lastly, items like sunscreen, work gloves, brooms and floor scrapers can often be forgotten but make a big difference when it comes to keeping a clean, safe, and efficient work environment.

For more information on the tools and accessories needed to build with BuildBlock ICFs review the BuildBlock Installation & Technical Manual. To browse all of our products, visit us online at