How much does formwork cost? A guide to the costs of formwork


Concrete has been the one the most commonly used building materials for centuries now. Prior to the introduction of Portland Cement in the mid-19th century, wood was one of the most commonly used building material that was cheap and easy to build. Despite this, there are several disadvantages of building with wood, such as shrinking and swelling and being prone to termites. Some of the benefits that concrete has over wood as a building material is that it’s more durable, sustainable, versatile, and cost-effective, and as a result, concrete quickly became the leading choice for building materials during the 19th century.

Today, concrete is used extensively in construction projects all over the world. From houses, buildings, bridges, tunnels, roads, and dams, concrete has arguably been the foundation of modern society. But, concrete needs to be shaped and moulded before it can cure, and these frames and moulds are called formwork. Formwork is a specialised skill that is performed by carpenters, concreters, and even formwork carpenters for complex jobs. Every concrete structure requires the use of formwork, so today we’re going to examine the role of formwork in concrete construction and more importantly, how much it costs.

What is formwork?

Formwork is essentially temporary or permanent moulds that holds wet concrete in place while it cures. For example, when a concrete slab is poured on a flat surface, strips of timber or plywood are cut to the desired height and act as formwork while the concrete sets. The strips of timber (formwork) are fixed in position and has evenly spaced pegs. The concrete is poured to a level where it reaches the top of the formwork, smoothed evenly, and then left to harden.

At the same time, formwork can also be much more complicated, such as the formwork used to build bridges. In these cases, specialised formwork carpenters are needed because tonnes of concrete are being poured and the formwork must be strong and stable enough to support it. Needless to say, one small error can lead to a disaster!

The most commonly used materials in formwork is timber and plywood, however other materials such as specially designed steel and plastic can also be used for more complex jobs. In most cases, formwork is removed after the concrete has cured but there are times when permanent formwork is needed to provide additional support. An excellent example of permanent formwork is Insulated Concrete Formwork (ICF), where polystyrene foam acts as permanent formwork which provides superior thermal, acoustic, and fire resistant properties.

How much does formwork cost?

In simple terms, the cost of formwork depends on the complexity of the job. If you want to build a driveway for example, a handyman might charge you roughly $40 per hour plus the costs of materials. On the other hand, they might quote you for the entire job including labour and materials which will include the costs of formwork. The qualifications of the contractor also play an integral role in the overall costs of the project. For example, you don’t want to be hiring a contractor who specialises in major projects to build you a patio simply because they’re overqualified and will charge inflated fees.

If a handyman were to complete a very basic job on a flat surface, the costs of formwork, supplies, and labour for an area that is 100 square feet is outlined in the following table:

Items Cost
Formwork Costs $28
Basic Formwork Labour (3.5 hrs) $140
Formwork Job Supplies $12
Formwork Equipment Allowance $26
Total $206

This is a very rough estimate of the costs of formwork, supplies, and labour for a basic job. As you can imagine, the complexity of some structures is profoundly increased and it’s just too difficult to provide accurate estimates on larger jobs.

If you’re looking for a quote for formwork, it’s best to speak directly with the professionals. Uni-Span are one of Australia’s most trusted formwork companies and have been undertaking various formwork projects in Australia for over 40 years. For more information, phone 1300 882 825.

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