Architecture Materials – Board Formed Concrete

Board Formed Concrete

In the ever-evolving world of modern architecture, there exists a unique blend of robust strength and natural beauty, known as board-formed concrete. This technique, which has been gaining traction in contemporary design circles, offers an intriguing twist to traditional concrete by imbibing it with the warm, organic texture of wood grain.

Board-formed concrete is not just a building material; it is a statement, a fusion of the rugged permanence of concrete with the subtle nuances of nature.

At its core, board-formed concrete is about imprinting the natural patterns of wood onto the stark, industrial canvas of concrete. This process transforms the cold, often impersonal character of concrete into a more inviting and aesthetically appealing surface.

It’s a testament to the ingenuity of architects and builders who are constantly pushing the boundaries of materials to create spaces that resonate on a deeper, more personal level.

But why is board-formed concrete becoming so popular? Its appeal lies not just in its striking appearance but also in its ability to bridge the gap between natural and man-made elements, a concept increasingly valued in modern design philosophies.

This article aims to explore the allure of board-formed concrete, delving into its process, applications, and the remarkable way it brings a tactile, organic quality to the otherwise rigid world of concrete construction.

Architecture Materials - Board Formed Concrete

Board form concrete

Board form concrete also referred to as cast-in-place, is concrete that is cast at a construction location. This is not the same as a precast which is carried out at a separate location and brought to a construction site for erection. 

Board form concrete involves pouring mixed fluid concrete into removable and temporary constructed forms or moulds, that are removed and disposed of once the concrete has set. 

Relying mostly on formwork – the structure which helps hold the concrete in place – board form concrete is costlier than normal concrete. The formwork is built on site, and due to it explicitly being designed for board form concrete, it adds an extra cost to its construction. 

Formwork can however be reused depending on the end goal of the project. Various software enables designers and architects to come up with very accurate forms that are adaptable to more than one need. 

Types of concrete 

Concrete is everywhere, and it’s very likely that you consciously and unconsciously walk, drive, and are around concrete every day. For the fact that concrete is used in many ways and for many reasons, we will highlight some of the common types of concrete and how they are applied in buildings. 

Normal Strength Concrete is derived when cement, water, and other materials are mixed while arriving at normal concrete strength. 

Plain Concrete has no reinforcement, the materials are used in the construction of pavements, buildings, and sites where the demand is not high on tensile strength but serve its purpose nonetheless. 

Precast Concrete is usually made at a particular spot and assembled for use at the intended site. Poles, staircase units, and blocks are good examples. 

High-Strength Concrete uses a lower water ratio to others and is used when there is a need for increased strength in constructions. 

Lightweight Concrete has a solidity that is lower than usual, and for building lighter weight structures. To avoid radiation at power plants, for instance, 

High-Density Concrete, used to build power plants for example, is created using crushed rock aggregates to produce heavyweight structures that can withstand a lot of pressure. 

Stamped Concrete gives aesthetic patterns to concrete structures including walls, floors, and tiles. 

Understanding board-formed concrete

Definition and Basic Concept

Board-formed concrete is a unique method in construction where concrete takes on the texture and pattern of wood. This technique involves pouring concrete into forms lined with wood boards. As the concrete dries and cures, it adopts the wood’s texture, leaving a grainy, organic imprint on its surface.

Historical Context and Evolution

While concrete has been a staple in construction for centuries, board-formed concrete is a relatively modern development. Its origins can be traced back to the early 20th century when architects began experimenting with concrete to add aesthetic value to structural elements. The desire to blend the robust, industrial look of concrete with the warmth of natural materials led to the creation of board-formed concrete. This technique gained prominence in modern architecture as it offered a creative and cost-effective way to add texture and visual interest to concrete surfaces.

The aesthetic appeal

Visual Characteristics

The primary allure of board-formed concrete lies in its textured appearance. The wooden forms leave behind a subtle, yet distinct, wood grain imprint on the concrete surface. This pattern can vary depending on the type of wood used and the method of construction, allowing for a range of aesthetic effects – from rustic and rugged to refined and sophisticated.

Comparison with Traditional Concrete Finishes

Unlike smooth, conventional concrete, board-formed concrete introduces an element of natural variability and tactile quality. Traditional concrete finishes often appear monolithic and can feel cold or sterile. In contrast, the wood-grain texture of board-formed concrete adds depth and character, making it a popular choice for designers seeking to inject organic elements into their projects.

Adding Warmth to Design

One of the most significant advantages of board-formed concrete is its ability to bridge the gap between the natural and the man-made. The wood patterns naturally integrate with various architectural styles, from rustic cabins to contemporary urban residences. This versatility is especially beneficial in projects where the aim is to create a connection with nature or to soften the visual impact of large concrete structures.

In summary, board-formed concrete stands out as a construction technique that marries functionality with aesthetics. Its unique appearance, rooted in the blend of concrete and wood, offers architects and builders an innovative way to elevate their designs beyond the ordinary. This technique not only enhances the visual appeal of concrete but also adds a tactile dimension that enriches the overall sensory experience of a space.

board formed concrete

Pros and cons of using board formed concrete

Some may consider board-formed concrete to be technical while others might believe it to be a simple process if it is well thought out. No matter how you view it, board-formed concrete like many other construction forms and styles has its own pros and cons.


Depending on the context of construction, board form concrete might not be the go-to. But in the case where it is needed, construction workers consider the make-up of what they are working on. What is important is that irrespective of preference or choice, board-formed concrete, when properly developed, can stand the test of time and purpose.

It can also have aesthetic appeal and complement other architectural structures around it. 

There are some advantages to employing board form concrete, but its characteristic unique feature is that it can be very reliable thanks to its long-lasting nature. We can also mention how formidable it can be. The prospect of combining board-formed concrete with other materials is also a welcoming idea for builders.

There are a good number of purposes board-formed concrete can serve as:

Helps with Warmth and Coolness 

As you may know, concrete holds temperature. This can be very advantageous to a structure especially ones that serve as offices, homes, train stations, and others where people constantly use. During cold seasons, board form concrete structures keep hold of warmth from sources like natural or electric fireplaces and heaters.

Aesthetics Appealing

Some concrete structures are bland and are unattractive to look at. Even though the main aim of concrete work is aesthetic, board form concrete structures can provide a sense of adventure in design.

This creates a unique embellished and ornate feel to concrete designs. While maintaining that board-formed concrete could be a great addition to the design of edifices, various looks can be created as a result of the limitless options and unlimited resources to depict designs, that not only serve its primary purpose, but also to represent an artistic view around constructions.

Structural Fortification

Needless to say, board-formed concrete is strong and sturdy and there is no doubt that in these periods of climate change and unpredictable weather, it can serve as a great guard to protect it. 

As concrete tends to be a strong construction material, it can withhold terrible snowfall, torrential rain, and tornadoes to some extent. It is advisable to construct with board form concrete when you are in environments where the climate is severe and unpredictable, to guarantee the safety of structures. 

Generally, these are some of the benefits when you incorporate this into your construction. However, this is not to say there are no downsides to merging this with your designs. Let us consider some of the cons:


One Chance to Get It Right

In many fields of work, skilled workers have a chance to correct their mistakes and get it right at subsequent trials. However, builders of board-formed concrete are not so fortunate. 

Even with the opportunity to test run before eventually carrying out the process, there is still a chance that something can go wrong. If that happens, there might be no way to amend any error that comes up after board-formed concrete has been cast. 

End Result Mostly Imperfect 

The result of casting board-form concrete is usually not guaranteed to be perfect. For the builder, it can be very discouraging when perfection is not derived after putting so much effort into creating the structure. 

With the risk of tearing it down if perfection is not achieved, it therefore becomes costly to build. A successful result is dependent on many factors and these factors should be adequately considered in the developmental stages.

Time Wasting 

Board forming takes a lot of time to construct and the processes involved are quite elaborate and extensive. With different elements coming to play (formwork earlier mentioned as an example), it gets discouraging. 

There is also a chance that the process might be repeated if the result is not achieved at first cast. The process of board-formed concrete is meticulous and must be unhurried. 

Therefore, a painstaking method is channeled during construction. Only experienced hands take this on, and some builders feel it is a total waste of time and resources. 

In the end, the successful outcome or failure of board-formed concrete is contingent on design, experienced hands, and the client’s ability to be flexible with the outcome of the project.

Tips for forming board formed concrete

From the moment you decide to introduce board-formed concrete to a project, you must take necessary steps to get the process right, thereby arriving at a satisfying outcome when completed. 

The builder faces various challenges while striving to attain the perfect result during and after construction. Let us consider some tips that can help with making the right mix and arriving at a required outcome.

Getting the Right Team 

As with any architectural or construction project, it is important to bring on board technicians and construction workers who understand the nature of what is to be achieved, when working with board form concrete. 

Priority should be given to bringing together a crew that understands the science of mixing different forms in a proportionate measure and could be dynamic before, during, and at the end of construction. 

A layman who does not know about board form concrete will invariably not appreciate the process of getting the right mixture. Getting a team that understands concrete, how it functions and eventual product result is therefore important. 

Creative and Art Cognizance

The outcome of board form concrete should be both functional. However, there is no harm to infusing art with concrete. Apart from the purpose it offers, a board form design can express creativity and art. 

Board form concrete is usually used for various compositions and is therefore typically located in different parts of a city. As parts of structural walls, poles and pillars, pathways, bridges, and others, the technicality of putting these together should not just be construction’s sake, but could also depict artistic values and purposes. 

Creativity then comes in play here between the designer and the builder to ensure a fusion with functionality. Objectively, board forming is an old method of construction that was used before the advent of plywood and aluminum forms. However, architects now make use of this for textured and patterned designs that give life to concrete structures more than ever before.

Objectivity and Attainability 

At the start of any construction, the objective is to be put into consideration. You want to ensure that you can achieve your aim while arriving at a desirable outcome. 

It is without a doubt that when you are ready to cast your concrete mix, you have just one opportunity to get it right. It is therefore very important that the builder is aware of what the end goal is. Board pattern has to be symmetrical in design and not haphazardly done, so you might want to consider how attainable your goal is in respect to construction materials. 

Usually, a mock-up is the best-case scenario before delving into board form concrete. A mock-up, being the sample, will help in giving the design some form of evaluation and demonstrate how effective it will turn out to be. This will ensure angles, alignment, appearance, and direction are reflected on before the real work starts.  

Ratio Balance and Mixes 

Earlier, we touched on the importance of getting a lot of factors correct, and this tip borders around ratio balances to attain the best possible mixture. 

During the process of creating board form concrete and when it is being poured or cast, formwork is constructed on site. This enables it to stay in place while it hardens and sets. Formwork can either be a temporary or permanent mold where concrete is poured. This supports concrete until it forms. 

Usually, formwork is constructed out of plywood so it can easily be removed after the objective of casting concrete has been attained.

To get your board-formed concrete, an additional layer of plywood formwork is applied to accomplish the desired patterns. For all of these to be possible, you want to use the right amount and mixes of cement ratio that guarantees the type of concrete you want to acheive. 

Getting the wood’s detail on the design is also very procedural. Consistency is important in generating the planned design, if need be.

It is necessary to reiterate that for formwork, caution needs to be taken when building. Sometimes, the procedure can be two or three times longer, as opposed to making use of the orthodox concrete formwork. 

Therefore, if carried out in a disorderly manner, it will be evident for all to see that a shoddy job had been done and would mean failure in executing the intended framework of the construction. Putting all these into consideration and if properly cast with the right amount of mixture, the outcome will be favorable. 


How to start when you want to build board form concrete?

In the process of constructing board form concrete, it is important to know how to mix all materials to make the right context for the appropriate structure. 

When the process is not properly pieced together, it could be structurally damaging in the short or long term, and the fundamental reason for carrying out the design is therefore defeated. 

When built properly, it is advantageous for the general functionality of the project. So, go for reasonable and achievable designs, while using experienced hands for your project. Building the required concrete footing will ensure your construction is likely to be successful. 

How expensive is board-formed concrete?

Board-formed concrete costs more than regular concrete constructions. This is because there is more attention to detail and materials that are used during the construction of the architectural structure.

You have to consider additional materials, more experienced hands, the base footing, wooden supplies, and much more. Most construction firms and even individuals charge almost double what will be used in building a typical edifice using other materials that do not include concrete. 

You also have to put into consideration the design cost and factors such as time, labor, and extra effort that guarantees a positive outcome. It is however great to know that you can cut costs by using wooden boards to create an embellishment. 

This helps the design look more practicable. Ensure that you discuss all these options with your project manager to see what works best for the budget available. 

When is it okay to take out concrete forms?

Formwork should be removed before the concrete becomes 100% dry. This requires some skill because you do not want to remove it when it is still considerably wet. 

Ideally, it should take about two days, at the very least, before the form that holds the concrete in place should be removed. If this is removed before its time, it could make concrete form become shaky and shapeless, and could easily fall apart. Patience is key in maintaining the perfect balance in this case. 

What is the function of a form release agent? 

Mostly, the function of a form release agent is to ensure that it is easy when separating concrete from its formwork. It allows a clean breakaway of these two materials and if not ensured, may make the look design of board-form concrete horrible.

It can also serve the purpose of reusing formwork for other concrete constructions. Some of these agents might include; commercial oils, paraffin-based mineral oil, castor oil, vegetable oil, lanolin, and water emulsion wax among others. Some construction workers and designers love to use rubber mattings because they do not have to apply or use any release agents. 

It is however important for rubber mattings to be thoroughly wiped, while the surface is cleaned with water before usage. 

What does concrete glue do?

Most of the time, concrete sticks to wood. The same can be said of metal castings as well. After pouring concrete into wood panels and metal castings depending on whichever is used, the wood is removed after it dries up. 

A release agent is then used to make removing the formwork easy.

What does concrete not glue to?

In most cases, here are some of the agents and formwork that concrete will not glue to:

Paint, molds, concrete, oil and glue.

To sum up…

Board-formed concrete can guarantee one thing among many others, functionality, purpose, and a play on designs and patterns. 

The limitless ability to create beyond the ordinary while still maintaining the intended purpose is an exciting option for architects, designers, and of course, stakeholders. The fact that it is also complemented by other materials like wood and glass guarantees sustainability in its continuous usage.

Though the outcome might be imperfect, there is perfection in imperfection. 

The cost might be on the high side but long term, it proves to be an advantageous choice in its look, usage, and options in design. No matter what it is used as, for residential, commercial, monumental, and other purposes, you can be assured of elegance, dependability, and flexibility, while adding a strong architectural element to construction.

If anything, ensure it is well done and you will be more than glad you did.

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