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Top 9½ Formwork Tips for Concrete Contractors

12.01.2012 | News
Consultation and professional support from the beginning will help you to choose the best suited formwork system for your job. Then you will be able to use the formwork efficiently and to its full capacity. Eliminate unplanned costs and delays by asking questions from the start and work together with your formwork partner through every step of the project.

1. Evaluate total project needs.

The first step in choosing the correct formwork for a project consists of reviewing the project, design, and site challenges. Does the design call for use of multiple types of formwork? Does the site call for work in close quarters where there is no room for the form-work staging? Do a self-evaluation of the conditions you know will be present at the site and then contact formwork suppliers early in the project's design stage. As a concrete contractor, you should be involved early in the process in order to provide advice on the most economical construction methods, as you will be building the structure. Perform a detailed analysis to help select the best system for the construction project. Because conditions vary for each individual project, there is no simple formula for choosing the right formwork supplier or system. Common to all construction projects, however, is the underlying process of assessing the situation, evaluating several forming systems, receiving bids, project planning,constructing the structure, and finally, project close out.

2. Develop cost-effective solutions.

To determine the most efficient solution for a project, evaluate several forming systems. Rely on professional advice when selecting formwork to ensure a cost-effective system is selected. Each concrete structure is unique, so there is not a one-system-fits-all solution. Formwork must be considered in the overall construction plan decision-making process. Crane availability, access to the site, and experience of available labor force must all be considerations. It is best practice to get the formwork supplier involved in early discussions regarding the entire construction process. With this information, a comprehensive evaluation should be developed assessing the total costs. In general, there are two choices: an inexpensive forming material that is labor-intensive or a forming system that may cost more, but provides high productivity, built-in safety features, and more labor efficiency.

3. Invest in value engineering of the project design.

Formwork specialists can draw up assembly
and erection plans to suit your specific requirements and preferences. This optimizes the use of the formwork systems provided and helps ensure success onsite. With a specially designed formwork system, assembly is faster with the use of professional-standard planning documents, resulting in a time savings. With fewer interfaces, greater certainty exists in the formwork system and transportation is optimized, reducing costs. Professional engineering services that recommend design changes to provide for a more economical total project cost is essential. Value engineering is about helping the contractor make the right decisions about every aspect of formwork. Costs are kept under control and risks can be assessed well in advance.

4. Estimate total costs and schedule.

Contact formwork suppliers early in the design process to allow as much information as possible to be included in the bid documents for a more accurate cost estimate. Then the formwork supplier can supply a bid that covers everything known about what the project needs and a corresponding schedule. In addition to the actual rental and/or purchase costs, the estimator also must consider unspoken expenses such as consumable items, plywood not quoted, professional field service support, tools, freight, and labor requirements that may impact the schedule.

5. Decide whether to buy or rent.

This decision should be based on the duration of the project and the overall strategy of the construction company. Typically, if a form system has to be rented for more than 8 to 10 months, purchasing the system might be more economical. However, along with the purchase of a system, additional costs such as maintenance and storage should be considered. Some formwork companies offer reconditioning services for customers who purchase their equipment. These services include professional reconditioning stations where every piece of used material is cleaned, repaired, and replied, if necessary. The quality of the product also must be considered in the decision-making process. Steel-framed wall formwork with standard plywood facing requires more maintenance and repair throughout the life of the form than hot-dipped galvanized-steel frames with specially manufactured plywood designed for longer life.

6. Engineer the design requirements.

Project designs and specifications for formwork often dictate specific engineering requirements. These requirements may include specific submittal requirements such as design and stamping of drawings with calculations by a professional engineer registered in the state where the project is being built. Varying by type of project, such submittals can require up to a 60-day review period where the approving authority reviews and approves. In order to meet the time-lines set out in the contract documents, a schedule with milestones should be laid out in advance with the formwork supplier to ensure enough time for potential revisions and avoid costly delays to the start of the forming process.

7. Develop a jobsite plan.

Effectively developing a jobsite plan involves communication between all parties, including the concrete contractor and the formwork supplier. All elements of the job and the formwork should be considered. Which elements are to be constructed first? Is the formwork being reused in areas? If so, what is the order of use? As you and the formwork supplier determine the order of the events to occur on the jobsite, the details—such as material delivery and formwork assembly, can be coordinated. It is important that both parties execute this in an efficient manner. Ensure that trucks loaded for delivery are staged in a manner that when the first truck arrives you immediately begin assembly. This means that in addition to the formwork panels, it also must contain the necessary connecting hardware to begin erection.

8. Manage equipment delivery and returns.

The formwork delivery must be timed so the formwork is
available onsite when needed. If the site has a limited assembly and storage area, the delivery and removal must be meticulously scheduled. Formwork suppliers supply field personnel onsite during construction so they are always aware of any changes in the schedule.

9. Assemble and inspect onsite.

It is essential to follow the engineering drawings for assembling and setting up the formwork. Not following setup instructions letter-by-letter can lead to accidents. When setting up and dismantling a formwork structure,also follow instructions carefully to ensure safety. Properly installed ties will hold the formwork firmly in place as the concrete is poured. Before removing the ties, the formwork must be supported properly and removed from the set concrete. A number of formwork systems feature extra-safety precautions at the work site through integrated, telescoping ladders, auto-closing manhole lids, and side- and end-guards that integrate into the platform.

9½. Close out the jobsite.

A good formwork supplier makes jobsite closeout their job. Proper organization at the start of the project can simplify the closeout process. It is the responsibility of the formwork supplier to provide an accurate count of material when it is shipped to the jobsite and the responsibility of the contractor to ensure all material is received as stated on the delivery ticket. If any material is missing or gets damaged during the rental period, notify the formwork supplier immediately to stop rental charges and avoid unnecessary costs. On return of material, the best practice is to request a picture list of all items on rent and use this list as a guide for creating a proper bill of lading back to the form supplier. The formwork supplier then can notify you of any discrepancies and provide pictures of any damaged items within a reasonable time frame.

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