You are on page 1of 16


The term ''Formwork indicates a temporary structure erected to receive wet concrete and to hold it in place,
till it is sufficiently hard and strong to be self-supporting without any deformation. It molds the concrete to
the desired shape and size, and controls its position and alignment. The other synonymous terms used are:
shuttering and centering. The formwork can be of different materials and different types depending upon the type
of the structure and site requirements, economy, safety and quality required in the finished work.
The "Scaffolding" is a temporary structure which is used in building construction to support platforms for
workers, structural materials and construction equipment required during construction at elevated heights. The
scaffolding is useful in building construction, maintenance, demolition and repair works.
The economical design and construction of formwork is of great importance as the cost of formwork is a large
proportion of the total cost of the structure and is most difficult part to estimate. The appearance of finished
structure and the speed with which the work can be executed also depend mainly on the efficient construction of
Though the formwork is a temporary structure, which should be easily dismantled, it is designed to withstand
the likely pressures and loads coming on the member during concreting. Concrete forms are required to support
loads such as fresh concrete, construction materials, equipment, workers, various impacts, and sometimes wind.
Poor formwork design and performance leaves behind permanent scars on the structure and has led to failures in
concrete construction. Some of the common deficiencies noticed are lack of allowance in design for loadings like
wind, equipment, temporary material storage, inadequate anchorage against uplift, insufficient slenderness ratio
of compression members, impact of construction equipment and leaking joints etc.
Requirements of Good Formwork
a) It should be carefully designed, so as to be strong enough to resist the pressure of fresh concrete and the
super-imposed loads due to men, materials and equipment etc.
b) It should be rigid enough to retain its original shape without undue deformation.
c) It should be tight enough so as not to allow cement and other materials to leak through the joints.
d) The formwork should not warp, bulge, bend or sink and should remain true to the designed size.
e) The inner surface of the formwork should be smooth so as to give pleasing appearance to the finished
f) The material of the formwork should be cheap, easily available and should be suitable for reuse several
g) All joints of the formwork should be stiff so that lateral deformation under loads is minimum. Also the
joints should be leak proof.
h) The inner surfaces also applied with mould oil to facilitate its removal.
i) In general the requirements of good formwork include containment, Strength, Rigidity, Tightness, Good
alignment, Surface finish, Durability, Resistance to leakage, Accuracy, Ease of handling, Finish and re-use
potential, Access for concrete, Economy, and Ease of stripping.
Formwork operations are risky, and workers are typically exposed to unsafe working conditions. Partial or total
failure of concrete formwork is a major contributor to deaths, injuries, and property damages within the
construction industry. Another common hazard occurs during stripping of formwork in which loose formwork
elements fall on workers under the concrete slab being stripped. Formwork failures result from faulty formwork
structural design, inadequate shoring and re-shoring, improper construction practices during construction,
inadequate bracing, unstable support or mudsills, and insufficient concrete strength to sustain the applied load
after construction. Contractors are generally responsible for stability and safety of concrete formwork.
Economy in Formwork
Formwork is the largest cost component for a typical multistory reinforced concrete building. Formwork cost
accounts for 40 to 60 percent of the cost of the concrete frame and for approximately 10 percent of the total
building cost. A large proportion of the cost of conventional formwork is related to formwork labor costs.
Significant cost saving could be achieved by reducing labor costs.
A formwork system is economical only when it fulfils all the tasks on hand with a few versatile components. A
formwork system is the total system of support for freshly placed concrete including the mold or sheathing
which contacts the concrete as well as supporting members, hardware, and necessary bracing. You are aware that
total cost of concrete construction includes the cost of the formwork. However, sometimes the cost of formwork,
which actually does not form part of the finished concrete structure, may exceed the cost of concrete itself.
Formwork costs are not the only significant component of the formwork life cycle. Other important aspects of
the formwork operation include speed, safety, and quality.
Figure: Distribution of costs for cast-in-place concrete slab wall: (a) slab; (b) wall.
Therefore, we should make all efforts to minimize the cost of formwork while keeping the safety aspects in
view. Formwork cost mainly constitutes the cost of materials and labor required for fabrication, erection and
removal of forms. These costs can be minimized by keeping some good points in mind which will lead to
economy in formwork. These good points, steps or measures are now given below:
a) Unless critically required avoid use of irregular shapes of forms.
b) The formwork should be fabricated into modular sizes and in sufficient numbers so as to allow re-use.
c) The structure components of the building should be so dimensioned and designed, so as to permit use of
commercially available forms in the market.
d) The working drawings of the formwork should be properly prepared and checked before fabricating the same.
e) The various components of the formwork should be prefabricated on the ground, using power equipment. This
will reduce labor costs and delays and holdups (delay) in the work. Also, the labor can work more efficiently on
the ground than on the scaffolding at an elevated level.
f) The formwork should be designed so as to provide adequate and not excessive strength and rigidity.
g) In timber formwork, where possible, use double headed nails to facilitate their removal.
h) Construction joints should be judiciously (thoughtfully) incorporated to reduce the quantity of forms required
in one operation thus enabling re-use.
i) The formwork should be handled and stacked carefully. It should be oiled and cleaned after each use to
prolong its usage life.
The selection of materials to be used for fabrication of formwork is governed by job requirements and
economy. The most commonly used materials are timber, plywood, steel and aluminum.
i. Timber: When the formwork is to be used for small works and that took a few times, timber proves to be
more economical than steel or aluminum. Very dry timber will absorb moisture from wet concrete or
atmosphere and swell, while green timber will shrink. When appearance of finished concrete is of little or no
importance, clean sawn timber may be used, but in view of greater ease of fitting, the use of planed timber
will often prove to be economical both in time and labor.
The timber used for the formwork should satisfy the following requirements:
It should be well seasoned It should be light in weight,
It should be easily workable with nails without splitting, and It should be free from knots.
ii. Steel: The advantage of steel formwork is the ability of steel to form longer spans and its indefinite potential
for reuse when handled with reasonable career. Steel sections are used in the fabrication of different formwork
components, namely:
(1) Steel panel forms, (3) Steel pan and dome components used for joist and waffle slabs,
(2) Horizontal and vertical shores, and (4) Steel pipes for formwork bracing.
Steel is used for formwork when other materials are impossible to use because of their low strength. Steel forms
are typically patented, and allowable loads are generally published by the manufacturers. Though the initial cost
is very high, steel proves to be economical when it is used repetitively in large works. In addition the erection
and removal of steel formwork are simple & presents a better appearance on removal. As timber is becoming
expensive and rare day by day, the need for steel to replace timber has increased.
Particularly in case of structures like round columns, curved surfaces, monolithic sewers, tunnels and similar
structure, the use of formwork should be made as a matter of expediency (convenience).
The advantages of steel forms in comparison with timber are :
a) They can be easily and rapidly assembled by unskilled labor.
b) They have a long life even with minimum reasonable maintenance. They may be used up to about 50 times
before repair becomes necessary whereas timber formwork cannot normally be re-used more than four or five
c) May be adapted to a wide variety of usage without alteration.
d) Are non-absorbent.
e) No shrinkage or distortion due to change in moisture content. The main disadvantage in comparison with
timber is that initial cost is comparatively high but this is partly offset by reduced labor charges for assembly.
Also where forms are repeatedly used their cost is less than that of timber forms.
iii. Plywood: Timber is gradually replaced by plywood and today a durable plastic coated material is available to
the user. Plywood is used as sheathing that contacts concrete for job-built forms and prefabricated form
panels. Since plywood comes in large sizes, it saves forming time. Plywood is made by gluing together thin
layers of wood, called veneer, under intense heat and pressure. The grain of each ply is laid at a right angle to
the adjacent pieces. This process gives plywood extra strength and reduces shrinkage and swelling. Plywood
is available in varieties of thicknesses that identify it for sale.
iv. Aluminum: Aluminum has become an increasingly popular material for many formwork applications such
as lightweight panels, joists, horizontal and vertical shoring, and aluminum trusses for flying forms. In the
production of architectural concrete, formwork needs special attention and offers special challenges. For
domes, inflatable forms over which concrete is sprayed is a novel technique with an innovative approach and
with the range of materials available today; development of other forms is a distinct possibility. The
popularity of aluminum stems from its light weight which reduces handling costs and offsets its higher initial
material cost. The major problem with aluminum forms is corrosion: Pure aluminum is attacked chemically
by wet concrete. Aluminum alloys have proven to be very successful in resisting corrosion.
Aluminum formwork, Enables the walls and slab to be placed monolithically in the same operation and,
using aluminum Consistent concrete shapes and finishes are obtained. The smooth finish of the concrete
greatly reduces or eliminates the need for costly plastering.
v. Glass-Reinforced Plastic: In recent years, forms fabricated from glass-reinforced plastic have found
increasing use because of their strength, light weight, and high number of reuses. Glass-reinforced plastic
also produces high-quality concrete finishes. Glass-reinforced plastic forms are very flexible and can form
complex or nonstandard shapes with little capital investment. The two major problems associated with glass-
reinforced plastic forms are:
- attack by alkalis in the concrete and
- form expansion because of exposure to hot sun or heat from hydration of cement.
Formwork for building nearly account for 25% of RCC work. Selection of formwork material to be used should
be based on maximum economy to the contractor consistent with safety and quality required in the finished
work. Proper selection of formwork has greater influence on:
On reducing materials and labor cost,
Improving the quality of the produced concrete and
Saving time leading to smooth running of the projects.
Factors to be considered at the time of selection are Strength, Economic use, Ease of handling, erection and
dismantling, Ability to form the desired shape and concrete quality and finish required.
i. Knowledge base evaluation
Factors considered are Type of finish, Re-use for good finish, Re-use for rough finish, Formwork component
applied, Shuttering shapes, Likely concrete defects, Area practice, Where to be fabricated, Noise produced,
Fire resistance, Liability of shuttering damage, Formwork repairs, Ease of making openings, Insulation
ii. Project data includes:
Contract Specialty, Contract type, Contract conditions, Project duration, Type of concrete finish
iii. Building Specialty
Building type (commercial, residential, industrial), Structural systems and details, Building scale (shape,
length, width, height and no. of floors) & Building area (total, floor-wise and phase-wise)
iv. Site Specialty
Access to site, Site size, Site surroundings and its relationships & Space for formwork fabrications
v. Contractor Specialty
Contractors experience with different formwork systems, Formwork available with contractor
vi. Construction Specialty
Labor available and productivity, Construction equipments used and frequency of use, Construction
sequence/ program are factors in construction specialty.
The construction of formwork normally involves the following operations
i. Propping and centering
The props used for centring may be of steel or timber plates.
In case of wooden posts are used as props, they should rest squarely on wooden sole plates.
The wooden plates should have an area of at least 0.1m2 and 40mm thickness.
ii. Shuttering
The shuttering can be made up of timber planks, or it may be in the form of panel unit made by either by
fixing plywood to timber frames or by welding steel plates to angle framing.
The shuttering joints should be tight against leakage of cement grout.
iii. Provision of camber and cleaning
it is desirable to give an upward camber in the horizontal member of the concrete structure, especially in
members having long span, to counteract the effect of deflection.
The provision of desired camber should be in the formwork itself during its erection.
iv. Surface treatment
The shuttering can be made up of timber planks, or it may be in the form of panel unit made by either by
fixing plywood to timber frames or by welding steel plates to angle framing.
Before laying concrete the formwork should be cleaned of all rubbish particles.
All surface of timber shuttering that are to come in contact with concrete should be well wetted with
All surface of shuttering should be given a good coating of a releasing agent.
Columns are usually square or circular in section and the shuttering must be able to withstand the hydraulic
pressure exerted on it by the poured concrete. For this reason, the column shutter supports near the base of the
form should be closer. In addition to prevent segregation of the concrete when pouring high columns, it may be
necessary to incorporate a trap door in the shuttering at approximately the midpoint in height of the column (not
more than 2m), thereby allowing concrete to be placed without it dropping full height. Alternatively, is pour the
concrete from the top of the form using a termite pipe.

You may note some important features:

i) Column box consists of two ends and two sides. The height of each panel is equal to the storey height minus
the slab thickness and the floor sheeting.
ii) The width between two opposite panels is kept equal to the actual dimension of the column plus twice the
thickness of sheeting.
iii) Yokes are equally spaced on both sides and ends. They project at both ends by about 25 cm.
iv)A hole is usually provided at the bottom of formwork to remove debris etc. before placing the concrete. This
cleanout hole is covered before starting the concreting.
v) The form components of column are required to be designed to resist high pressures which result because of
continuous filling/pouring of concrete.

Fig: Formwork for column

This is basically a three sided box supported and propped in the correct position and to the desired level. The
beam formwork sides have to retain the wet concrete in the required shape and be able to withstand the initial
hydrostatic pressure of the wet concrete, Whereas the formwork soffit apart from retaining the concrete has to
support the initial load of the wet concrete and finally the set concrete until it has gained sufficient strength to be
self supporting. It is essential that all joints in the formwork are constructed to prevent the escape of grout which
could result in honeycombing. The design of the shuttering should allow the slab and beam side forms to be
removed while the beam soffit remains supported.

Fig: Wooden Formwork for Monolithic RC.C. Beam and Slab Floor
The important features of this formwork are as follow:
a) The formwork for slab is generally supported by means of wooden centering on the floor below.
b) The formwork should be strong enough to support the weight of concrete and the additional load of
approximately 30% to provide for construction loads like labor, equipment and storage of materials, etc.
c) The formwork for slab maybe of steel forms while the other components are wooden.
d) Desired slope should be given in the floor forms itself.
e) Generally, the beam formwork is fabricated on the ground level and then hoisted and placed in position with
the slab formwork above it.
f) Openings should be provided in the main beam formwork to receive the formwork for secondary beams.
This type of form work consists of timber sheeting supported by vertical studs or posts and horizontal struts or


The landing is first set in position. The process for constructing the landing is the same as that of floors. After
the landing has been set, the flight will be constructed.
Special Form Systems
Stay-in-place forms become a part of the completed structure. They are often used for concrete floor and roof
slabs cast over steel joists or beams, for bridge decks, for a top slab over a pipe trench, or for other inaccessible
locations where it is impractical and expensive to remove forms. These forms are often steel or thin precast,
restressed concrete units that are placed on supporting formwork (when used for floors) and bonded to become
the bottom of the concrete element. In some cases, the stay-in-place form is designed to carry some of the loads
for which the structure is designed. Ribbed or corrugated steel decking is used both as a stay-in-place form and
as reinforcement. Steel that is intended to provide continuing support or reinforcement should be galvanized.
Slip forms place concrete by extrusion. The concrete is placed in the forms, which are then pulled or jacked
vertically or horizontally, extruding the concrete, in the shape of the forms. The most spectacular use of slip
forms is for tall towers, silos, elevator shafts in tall buildings, and building walls. The movement of the forms is
slow enough for concrete to gain the strength to keep its shape and support its weight. Vertical slipforms are
usually moved by jacks riding on smooth steel rods in the concrete. Horizontal slip forming for such structures as
canal linings, highway pavement, drainage channels, curb and gutter, and highway barriers may move on a rail
system or shaped beam, or may be accomplished by a self-propelled slipforming machine controlled by a
stringline. For either type, the working deck, concrete supply hoppers, and finishers platforms are carried by the
moving formwork. Slipforming, especially vertical construction, requires an experienced crew and careful,
experienced supervision. It requires complete planning of delivery and installation of all embedded items such as
dowels, reinforcing, weld plates, and blackouts.
Jump forms are similar to slip forms except that rather than extruding the concrete, the form is cycled, that is,
filled with concrete, stripped, and then jumped to the next level after the concrete is set . These ganged forms
may be lifted by crane or self raised (electrically or hydraulically). Properly designed, they minimize the number
of pieces to be handled and simplify the task of resetting the forms while meeting the tolerances specified.

Foundation Underpinning

Underpinning may be required to provide the additional foundation support needed to withstand increased
loading, to halt ongoing settlement, to underpin existing shallow foundations prior to adjacent new construction,
and for seismic retrofit.

A variety of solutions is available to remediate or avoid settlement problems, including foundation underpinning.
Foundation underpinning may be selected when grouting techniques alone cannot improve poor soils.
Foundation underpinning techniques bypass the problem soils by using structural elements to transfer the
buildings load to underlying competent soils or bedrock. It usually refers to structurally reinforced concrete
beams, pilings (pipe piles), columns (caissons) which are placed under your foundation system to provide
adequate vertical or lateral support.

A solution could include underpinning elements combined with a retaining wall. Jet grouting can be constructed
to resist overturning and sliding while maintaining the integrity of supported structures and nearby utilities.
Building underpinning is a part of strengthening and enlarging foundations. There are several different types of
underpinning activities in the industry. Concrete underpinning is regarded as one of the most commonly used
methods. Currently, resin injection is another well-known method for house underpinning. This is a job that has
to be accomplished by experts who are aware of its real nicks and knacks. Before you decide on what kind of
underpinning should be done, you should get the soil tested by a geotechnical engineer or a structural engineer.


Removal of formwork is also important as erecting it. As soon as concrete gains enough strength to eliminate
immediate distress or deflection under loads resulting from its own weight and some additional loads, formwork
should be stripped to allow other construction activities to start. The operation of removing the forms is called
stripping or wrecking the forms. Formwork can either be partially stripped by removing small areas to prevent
the slab from deflecting or completely stripped to allow the slab to deflect. As a general rule, formwork
supporting members should not be removed before the strength of concrete has reached at
least 70 percent of its design value.
Formwork should be stripped or removed with care so as not to damage the concrete. Wedges should be
slackening (loosened) gradually to avoid sudden imposition of loads on the structure. In normal circumstances
and where ordinary Portland cement is used, forms may generally be removed after the expiry of the following
Member (FROM EBCS 1995)
Stripping time
a) Walls, columns and vertical faces of all structural members 18 hours
b) Soffit formwork to slabs 7days
c) Beam soffits 14days
d) Removal of props under slabs : 14 days

e) Removal of props under beams and arches : 21 days

For other cements, the stripping time recommended for ordinary Portland cement may be suitably modified. The
number of props left under, their sizes and disposition shall be such as to be able to safely carry the full dead
load of the slab, beam or arch as the case may be with any live load likely to occur during curing or further
You may also observe following general points during stripping
As formwork is stripped, it should be cleaned and properly stacked.
All small parts such as wedges and bolts etc. should be stored immediately in separate containers. Such a
practice reduces loss of material.
Steel forms should be greased immediately after cleaning and before stacking.
Ambient Temperature
Layout of concrete viz. horizontal, vertical or inclined
Type of cement used
Grade of concrete
Use of retarders, plasticizers, etc.
Feasibility of removal with props left under
Feasibility with re-propping
Standards of finish required
Structural configuration e.g. simply supported or cantilever
Curing procedures adopted
Formwork should be planned and constructed in such a manner that it is possible to remove the different
components in the following order of sequence:
i. Shuttering forming vertical faces of walls, of beams and columns sides, which bear no load but are used
only to retain the concrete, should be removed first.
ii. Shuttering forming soffit of slabs should be removed next, and
iii. Shuttering forming soffit of beams, girders or other heavily loaded shuttering should be removed in the end.
Formwork Economy
Formwork is the single largest component of concrete building. Considering the impact of formwork on the total
cost, the engineer should design the formwork so that the maximum economy can be obtained. Economy of
formwork begins with the design development of the structure itself. The following point should be considered
while designing formwork for a building structure.
i. While designing the structure, consider the material and tools that will be required to make, erect, and
remove the formwork.
ii. Design the structure with standard dimensions that will be unit multiple of forms and centering sheets.
iii. Use the same size of columns from the foundation to the roof; this will permit the use of column forms
without alteration (modification).
iv. Use beams of the same depth and spacing in every floor; this will permit the reuse of beam forms without
Some of the important points to achieve economy in formwork expenditure are as follows:
i. While designing formwork, maximum usage of material should be achieved.
ii. High quality finish on concrete surface is not required for sides that will not be exposed.
iii. When planning forms, consider the sequence and methods of striping.
iv. Use prefabricated panels wherever possible.
v. Strip forms as soon as it is safe in order to facilitate maximum reuse of forms.
vi. Create cost awareness among carpenters and other workers involved in formwork construction.
vii. Use long length timber or plywood without cutting, where their extending beyond the working area is not
viii. After removal clean panels and store them at a safe place so that they can be reused.
Facilitate the striking or removal of the formwork by preventing the concrete from adhering to the form face.
Most oils will fulfill the function of a release agent, but some oils can produce blow holes or variations in the
color of concrete, affect efflorescence, or retard the hardening of the surface.
Formwork Design Principles
The person designing the formwork for a project is doing much more than planning the containers with in which
the in situ concrete will be cast. Formwork design includes design of the formwork support structure, the
formwork deck and connection details. The design of formwork will involve decisions on the location of
construction joints, which may impinge on reinforcement detailing, and will certainly relate to the volume of
concrete to be placed in one pour. It will also be necessary for the designer to take into account the skills
available, both quantitatively and qualitatively, for fabricating and handling the formwork.
The failure of formwork is always embarrassing and expensive for everyone involved in the project. Failure may
be collapse of entire formwork or part of it. Someofthe reasons for the failure of formwork are given below:
a) Improper or inadequate shoring
b) Inadequate bracing of members
c) Lack of control of placement of concrete
d) Improper connection
e) Premature striping of formwork
f) Improper design
g) Failure to follow codes and standards
h) Negligence of workers or supervisors
In order to prevent failure of formwork the following precautions should be taken:
i. The formwork should be designed properly
ii. Erection and stripping should be done only under engineering supervision
iii. The sequence of removal should be pre-designed and correctly executed.