What is formwork in concrete construction?

What is formwork in concrete construction?

Formwork in concrete construction projects consists of moulds into which concrete is poured. These moulds – or forms – are usually made from timber or steel, designed to support the weight of wet concrete. Formwork is a crucial element of the construction process, shaping the structure.

Formwork can be temporary or permanent. It’s generally removed once the concrete has gained sufficient strength but can be left in place in some cases. Although timber and steel are commonly seen in formwork, other materials – including plastic, plywood and fibreglass – may be used for specialist applications.

Formwork is used for many concrete structures, including:

  • Walls.
  • Columns.
  • Staircases.
  • Slabs.

Because freshly-poured concrete is wet, it can't hold its shape on its own. Formwork moulds support the weight of the concrete mix until it dries and is able to support itself.


Where is formwork used?

Formwork plays a major role in the construction of:

  • Homes.
  • Offices.
  • Shops.
  • Factories.
  • Warehouses.

Formwork moulds are also used in large-scale civil works infrastructure developments such as:

  • Roadworks.
  • Railways.
  • Reservoirs.
  • Dams
  • Sewer systems.


Safety in formwork jobs

While formwork contractors have to work to deadlines and budgets, safety is the main consideration.

Without adequate safety measures, accidents such as falls from height are an ever-present danger when erecting formwork. Other high-risk jobs in the formwork process include the operation of equipment like cranes, and excavation work for foundations.

Safe Work Australia insists on a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) for formwork projects, drawn up in conjunction with workers and their representatives.


Formwork temporary and permanent solutions

Although formwork isn’t typically part of the final building design, it’s an essential component in the construction process of practically every structure that incorporates concrete.

Temporary formwork provides critical access and support during the construction of permanent structures. However, some types of formwork – such as Dincel walls - are designed to remain in place as part of the finished job.

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