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Electrical in ICF Walls

January 24, 2013 |

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posted by Ana White

When we decided to build with ICF blocks, the first question we had - and many of you had - was how the heck to do run electrical in the walls?  

For those of you new to the Momplex blog, the Momplex is actually built out of foam blocks.  We used ARXX blocks, and the technical term is ICF short for Insulating Concrete Forms.

Was she really that little then?

The blocks are lightweight and hollow in the center.

You simply stack the blocks just like legos, one on top of the other, interlocking.  Inside the blocks, you place rebar for reinforcement, and then pour concrete.

The concrete fills the void and creates the structure of the building, and acts as a vapor barrier.  The foam stays on as the insulation.  And the black webbing is designed to be used as a fastening strip for attaching siding and drywall.  It really is a slick system and you end up with a super insulated wall.  

But how to do electrical?

I've heard the term "hot knife" but haven't quite warmed up to the idea yet.  Exactly how is this all going to work?  

Let's find out!

Electrical in ICF Walls

This is the hot knife. basically, the blade out front heats up and melts the foam, cutting it.

Electrical in ICF Walls

For an electrical box, you set the depth of the wire blade to the depth for the electrical box. Remember, we still have drywall to add, so the depth is set in 1/2" to accommodate drywall.

Electrical in ICF Walls

Then we mark the location of the box on the ICF.

Electrical in ICF Walls

And start by inserting the hot knife in at the bottom. Notice the hot knife blade for electrical boxes is sized just right in width, so all you have to do is get the height of the box right.

Electrical in ICF Walls

The hot knife goes in smoothly and easily. You don't want to force it, but you don't want to melt the whole wall!

Electrical in ICF Walls

Once the knife is all the way inserted, you can let the hot knife rest flatly on the foam, and just move upward or downward.

Electrical in ICF Walls

Here we move upward.

Electrical in ICF Walls

All the way to the top of our box outline.

Electrical in ICF Walls

When you reach the desired height of the electrical box, just pull the hot knife straight out.

Electrical in ICF Walls

And remove the foam cut out.

Electrical in ICF Walls

And insert the electrical box!

The electrical box is attached to the concrete poured in the center of the blocks with concrete anchor screws to keep in place. After wiring, around the box can be spray foamed as well to protect from heat loss.

So that was easy, but I know a lot of you smart folks are also asking how do you get the wire to the boxes? There's nothing that get's by you!

Electrical in ICF Walls

Well, you use a channel blade for the hot knife. Just set to desired depth.

Electrical in ICF Walls

And insert and move along!

Electrical in ICF Walls

And just go with it!

Electrical in ICF Walls

Then you can pull the cut out out and run your wire.

We are demonstrating on a scrap piece ICF, so you may notice we ran into a black fastening strip.  What you do in practice is run the channel at the joint between two blocks, where there is no fastening strip.

So we will be running a channel all the way around, one block up, to run wire to each electrical box.

One thing we can't stand about our current house is not enough outlets, despite building to electrical code.  Its always a hunt to plug a laptop in!  So we will be putting extra boxes in just to make Mom's life as easy as possible.  We've definitely got our work cut out for us today!

Have you done ICFs?  What did you think of the electrical process? 

clips

Outlets with USB chargers!

You can get outlets with USB charging ports built in, for the phones and tablets and other stuff.

Consider adding a few of them in some areas so mom can charge her phone wile cooking.

posted by Tsu Dho Nimh | on Thu, 2013-01-24 19:02
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Ana White's picture

Tsu - I really gotta do that

Tsu - I really gotta do that for our house too! Do you think USB is a safe bet? These things just change so fast!

posted by Ana White | on Fri, 2013-01-25 14:39
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Lady Goats's picture

The excitement grows!

I keep thinking, "We're so close to drywall!!" ("we're" because I feel totally involved from 2K miles away ;-)). That has actually cleared up a LOT of questions (but then I feel bad for anyone that needs to reroute wires in ICF for any reason! haha!), thanks for sharing, as always!

Gina - Lady Goats
DIY Blogger (when I'm not procrastinating)
http://www.ladygoats.com

posted by Lady Goats | on Thu, 2013-01-24 19:14
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Ana White's picture

Hi Gina! Thanks for

Hi Gina! Thanks for encouraging us all along and being part of the project!!! I am so excited too, can hardly wait for the drywall to happen!

For the wiring, you'd do any rewiring or anything like that whenever possible on interior walls. Most of the thermostats, comm ports, phone jacks, etc are on the interior walls. We just put the necessities - outlets every 4-6 feet and exterior lighting on the exterior walls. In most rooms 3 of the 4 walls are interior, so the exterior is really a small part of the wiring.

posted by Ana White | on Fri, 2013-01-25 14:38
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UlrikeDG's picture

Wow! The foam is a lot

Wow! The foam is a lot thicker than it looks. It makes a lot more sense now.

posted by UlrikeDG | on Thu, 2013-01-24 23:17
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Ana White's picture

Yeah, the foam is 2 5/8"

Yeah, the foam is 2 5/8" thick on both sides. We are now putting heat to it and are very pleased with how well it holds heat!

posted by Ana White | on Fri, 2013-01-25 14:35
clips

electric in ICF

We just finished the rough in electric in our ICF home, it was so easy. And if we want to add more outlets or switches later it is so easy to just cut into the foam and add them in. We aren't using drywall though, we are using Gigacrete instead so that makes it easier too.

House looks great..
Hannah cottonwoodmeadow.com

Hannah
38 posted by Bagelpower | on Sat, 2013-01-26 22:16
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tracysmith's picture

USB...

Since USB has been around for quite some time, I would think that it would be a safe bet. If the technology changes, you could always go back a do a retrofit. If you are only doing them in 1 - 2 places then the expense of the plugs (and later retrofit if necessary) would be minimal but the convenience would be huge! IMHO. Keep up the great work Ana!!

http://www.simply-designed.us/blog

posted by tracysmith | on Mon, 2013-01-28 17:15
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Attempting Aloha's picture

Almost to the fun stuff!

You're so close to all the fun stuff! I'm so curious to see how the interiors are going to be. Are the moms each choosing their own furniture, etc? I can just see them browsing your site trying to decide which bed they like best. ;)

Aloha,
Charlie

posted by Attempting Aloha | on Tue, 2013-01-29 22:23

RE

To complete an Oracle certification it is necessary to choose the certification path that is right for you. These include Oracle9i, Oracle10g and Oracle11g. Each qualification level has its requirements depending on which path is chosen.

posted by bethwhite | on Tue, 2013-02-26 01:27

I love it!

Wow! look at all the effort everybody is putting into that! even the kids! haha wish I was there Nopalea Juice Benefits Thank you Ana!

posted by anathompson99 | on Tue, 2013-03-19 02:17

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posted by reshhia | on Wed, 2013-05-08 00:00

We are in the utility

We are in the utility installing phase of the Momplex. We are starting with who has the biggest pipes and working our way down to the smallest. First up, we installed 6" diameter piping for the ventilation system. To get the ceiling insulated to hold heat, we've already installed bathroom and kitchen vents as well. Panic Exit Hardware

posted by reshhia | on Fri, 2013-05-10 10:19

In such circumstances, my

In such circumstances, my family could really use a waterloo tool chest to begin with, then they could use a contractor if things get out of hand or they don`t have enough resources to take on the entire work and finish it.

posted by rose mist | on Sun, 2013-05-19 23:30

Info

I love the way little girls are helping, nice post it is very informative.
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posted by raulb4s | on Fri, 2013-07-05 06:01

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