Steve Boone remembers his initial reaction to insulated concrete form (ICF) like it was yesterday, “This is ridiculous.”

Who can blame a former framing contractor for thinking that? A single-family home built with steel-reinforced, cast-in-place concrete? Formed with foam blocks stacked like Legos? It was … well, different.

That was 10 years and 20 ICF homes ago. Today the multifamily and custom home builder is all in on ICF.

“I’d like to hire three or four more people,” admits Boone, pondering a long pipeline of projects, including two multifamily and single-family communities, one nearing completion and the other in late-stage development.

Boone is the project lead and manager of Denlinger Enterprises, a family-owned and operated commercial concrete contractor in west central Ohio. Today Boone’s big problem with ICF is “… we’ve got too much interest. We can’t keep up with demand.”

It wasn’t always this way. As late as three years ago, “… you had to have the right kind of homebuyer to appreciate ICF’s benefits.” Among those advantages: near indestructability.

Extreme Resilience

Consider tornados, as many of Boone’s customers now do. Three years ago on a May evening, a group of tornados ripped through the region, one rated as an EF4 with minimum wind speeds of 166 mph. There were no fatalities, but property damage was widespread and remembered.

“We were able to buy a couple lots where one tornado went through,” Boone recalls. “We put up a spec home there. Our selling point was tornado-resistance. Most folks had never seen a home built that strong. It got people thinking. It sold fast.” ICF homes are engineered to withstand wind speeds up to 300 mph, wildfires and coastal storm surges. They are 4 times stronger than a framed structure and several times stronger than cinder block construction.

Half-Off Energy Costs

In Boone’s view, resilience finishes runner-up to the structural system’s big selling point: energy efficiency. “A low monthly heating or cooling bill doesn’t go away,” observes Boone. Concrete mass acts as a thermal barrier that mitigates outside conditions. As a general rule, ICF construction cuts energy bills in half and is a popular choice in passive house construction.

Price isn’t a drawback, either. “With lumber prices being up, we’re actually building these homes for exactly what a conventionally framed home sells for,” reports Boone. Modern homebuilding’s twin challenges – unpredictable material prices and availability – have spared concrete.

Boone’s Theory

Given these builder-friendly advantages, it’s reasonable to wonder why companies like Denlinger Enterprises and Jems Homes aren’t facing a growing circle of competitors. Boone has a theory.

“Some contractors ask us questions, but nobody really takes off with it. I believe it goes back to where I was 10 years ago. I was used to framing. It’s all I knew. That’s the way it’s worked for years. Why change?”

Owners as Agents

For Boone and the Denlinger Enterprises team, that hesitation has created a moat of opportunity they’ve parlayed into a near-exclusive homebuilding franchise.

“We’ve got 13 owners in our new development. Potential buyers stop by and ask them what they think of ICF. They hear firsthand what life is like in an ICF home. We don’t say much. The owners do it for us.”

Learn how ICF can support your homebuilding program with brand differentiation, material availability and predictable pricing.