Eiffel 101: Brief History of Concrete Formwork

Concrete formwork has been around since antiquity. People realized early on that it was easier to create concrete shapes of desired dimensions using molds. Formwork allows concrete to be poured and then set in a secure structure. Forms were somewhat rudimentary when they were first invented, and they have become more efficient and durable over time. They have always done the job of speeding up and simplifying concrete construction. If you’ve ever wondered how concrete formwork has changed over the course of history, we have the historical scoop. Below is an account of the progression of concrete formwork over time:

Ancient Rome:

The first known use of formwork was in ancient Rome. Formwork in ancient Rome was made of materials like reeds and fiber, and it helped create some of the most famous and celebrated architecture of the time, including the Pantheon and the Colosseum. After its success in ancient Rome, formwork spread around the world.

Switch to Timber:

At an undetermined time after the fall of the Roman empire, timber became more widely used that reeds. Timber was a bit stronger and more resistant to water than reeds, but it served the same purpose and functioned similarly. Timber formwork is still used to this day.

Concrete Formwork for Sale

Rise of Fabric Formwork:

The only downside of timber in comparison to reed formwork is that timber is much more rigid and less flexible. For some applications, flexibility is a plus, and fabric formwork provided both strength and flexibility. It gained significant traction in the early 1900s and remains popular for pillars, footings, and walls that benefit from its flexibility, which enables extra aesthetic control and flair.

The Steel Era:

Between the 1910s and 1950s, steel became the most widely used type of formwork. Steel allowed for wider-scale projects at a faster pace than many earlier types of formwork. Plus, steel forms can be re-used over and over again, which isn’t the case with other types. First popular among road projects, steel formwork soon became widely used in bridge, tunnel, skyscraper, and overpass projects. It remains widely used today.

The Advent of Aluminum:

Aluminum formwork has the benefit of being affordable and lightweight. It became a popular option in the 1960s and remains in wide use today.

The Arrival of Plastic:

Plastic formwork hit the scene in the early 2000s. It’s an affordable, flexible option that is easily produced and transported. It's not necessarily ideal for heavy-duty projects, however, because its weight bearing capabilities tend to be a bit less robust than steel and aluminum options.

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Present Time

Nowadays, there are concrete formwork options available for any concrete construction application imaginable, and you can choose from an array of different formwork materials: timber, fabric, steel, aluminum, plastic, and more. Since steel and aluminum forms can be re-used multiple times (even hundreds of times in the case of steel), used formwork is a viable option that ultimately increases the number of affordable choices on the market.


With concrete formwork’s rich history in mind, it will be interesting to see how formwork evolves and advances in the future! One thing’s probably for certain: it will stick around and remain a viable part of concrete construction, just as it has for the past couple thousand years!

Buy and Sell with Eiffel Trading

Eiffel Trading’s used concrete formwork inventory is robust, as is our used foundation equipment and used shoring equipment inventory. Furthermore, our material inventory includes used hdpe pipe, new and used steel plates, used crane access trestle, and much more.

All of our listings are constantly being updated, but if you don’t see what you’re looking for, create a wanted listing.

Ready to sell your used heavy equipment or construction material? List your products today on Eiffel Trading’s online marketplace.

If you have any questions or would like additional information, please call us at 1-800-541-7998 or email sales@eiffeltrading.com.