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Concrete Basics

When is it safe to remove wall forms and to backfill?


top to bottom. Bracing for residential
concrete basement walls usually consists of one 2x8 or 2x12 lumber brace
for every 25 linear feet of wall. Walls
30 to 60 feet long may require two
such plank braces at one-third points.
A good rule of thumb is to keep
all construction machinery away
from foundation walls at a distance
equal to the wall height. The earthmoving operator is responsible for
any wall cracks created by improper
backfilling methods. Cracks can
occur from concentrated pressures
exerted by incorrectly placed fill material. Cracks are usually seen by
contractors (and owners) at outside
corners and midspan on the inside
face of the wall.
Some builders take risks. They
have backfilled subgrade walls for
years without lateral bracing and have
never experienced cracks or failures.

This practice is not advisable based
on established industry guidelines.
First, there can be significant variability in the magnitude of lateral forces
placed on foundation walls, depending on the backfill material (sandy or
clay soils, presence of boulders) and
on whether the soil is wet or dry.
Accurate estimates of live loads of
heavy earthmoving equipment are
often not possible. Finally, there are
few jobs in which the builder can be
completely confident that walls are
built exactly as designed, that walls
contain the recommended, precisely
placed reinforcement, and that there
was no human error in the construction or mix design.
*Some of the guidelines are taken from “Formwork for
Concrete,” ACI SP 4, by M.K. Hurd; ACI 347, “Guide to
Formwork for Concrete”; ACI 332, “Guide to Residential
Cast-in-Place Concrete Construction”; ACI 301, “Specifications for Structural Concrete”; ACI 318, “Building Code for
Structural Concrete and Commentary.”

tripping wall forms after 24 hours
is common practice in our industry. Early formwork removal and
backfilling keep construction schedules on track and provide easy access
to the work—both important considerations—but safe? To avoid damage
to concrete that may not have attained full strength or may be overloaded in the stripping or in subsequent construction operations, here
are some guidelines*:
■ The contractor is responsible
for designing and constructing the
formwork and making sure it is safe.
For important structures, the engineer/architect should specify when
forms and shores should be removed.
Minimum stripping time for walls
when minimum strength is not specified is 12 hours total (not necessarily
consecutive), during which the ambient temperature is 50° F or greater,
according to ACI.
■ For basement walls, the interior braces should be left in place
until after backfilling. Walls are usually braced a few days after forms
have been stripped and before backfilling operations begin.
■ When forms are removed,
supporting forms and shores must
not be removed from walls (or other
structural units) until concrete is
strong enough to carry its own
weight and any other superimposed
dead or live loads.
■ Careful supervision and continuous inspection of formwork erection and removal can prevent many
accidents, and these operations
should be performed in a manner to
ensure the safety and serviceability of
the structure.
Backfilling near unsupported
walls and the movement of heavy
equipment nearby may cause structural failure. Backfilling should not
take place until adequate support is in
place for the foundation wall—from
Publication #C02H050, Copyright © 2002
Hanley-Wood, LLC. All rights reserved

Removal of subgrade wall
forms without
adequate lateral bracing can
cause cracking
in foundation