Say you needed to place an elevated slab with several thousand 12-inch-diameter penetrations in a closely spaced grid. You could dedicate a carpentry crew for a couple of weeks to make the block outs or here’s another option: Farm the whole thing out to a manufacturer of prefabricated formwork like UFP Concrete Forming Systems.

UFP Concrete Forming Systems, a subsidiary of Universal Forest Products Inc., has a lot of advantages over having a carpentry crew building forms onsite:

  • All of the formwork will be designed and fabricated to meet the specific application in terms of size and shape, surface texture, stripping ability, and durability.
  • The formwork is built in a factory setting to precise specifications.
  • Repetitive pieces can be cut to the exact same size with one cut through a bundle of lumber or through multiple pieces of plywood.
  • Any member will be provided in its proper size so there’s little need for making cuts onsite. For example, if you need 7-foot-long pieces of plywood, you don’t have to buy 8-foot sheets and cut them off. There’s no waste lumber or plywood left onsite.
  • The entire wood formwork and lumber package can be ordered all at once, even including things like jobsite plan sheds.
  • The forms arrive at the site when needed on pallets packaged in shrinkwrap for protection from the elements.
  • This service allows contractors to take on more complex projects than they might otherwise and also allows tight control of the wood form package.
  • As North America’s largest buyer of plywood and lumber, UFP gets the best prices on wood.
  • UFP has 25 manufacturing operations across the U.S. that allow them to deliver complete formwork packages anywhere in North America.

Precise Formwork Package

To develop a formwork package, contractors can simply provide a CAD file of the finished structure. UFP’s designers will devise a proposed formwork plan which, once accepted, will be built indoors under tightly controlled factory conditions.

Trusses and supports are preassembled and then the entire package is shipped as a whole or as needed for the job with detailed assembly instructions. On complex projects, the forms are like a giant jigsaw puzzle that needs to be carefully constructed.

When a contractor is using a formwork system, such as European-style forms or frames, UFP tailors its forms to complement and supplement the existing forms. This allows the contractor to maximize the use of their own forms and supplement them as needed with prefabricated wooden forms that they don’t have to build on site.

Certainly there’s a price for all of this, but in many cases it may be that overall, you will be saving money. Kirby Mano, UFP’s director of sales for commercial construction and concrete forms, says, “I really don’t feel that construction companies want to spend the majority of their time trying to figure out the best way to build a wood form. They want to get out there in a great construction market, bid formwork confidently, and know that they have a manufacturing partner who gives them a competitive advantage to complete the wood formwork for their projects as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Holey Slab!

At the Avago electronics plant in Fort Collins, Colo., the owner needed a slab that allowed for a huge amount of ventilation to prevent dust, bacteria, and other contamination from affecting the computer chips. The slab was designed with thousands of 12-inch diameter openings, each sleeved with a galvanized steel tube. The steel tubes on their own were not strong enough to support finishing operations and workers and would also have been difficult to position and keep in place during finishing.

UFP designed a spindle structure that was attached to the deck forms and that could be easily stripped from the bottom or top after stripping of the deck forms. Concrete subcontractor, Concrete Frame Associates, Aurora, Colo., placed the reinforcing steel, positioned the tubular forms, and placed and finished the concrete to create one of the more unusual slabs ever built. The general contractor on this project was J.E. Dunn Construction, Colorado Springs.