How Can I Prevent Formwork Fails?

Formwork failures can lead to structural collapse, blowouts of concrete, and falling of broken or damaged materials. And all of these issues can lead to injury to workers and dramatically increased costs for companies due to needing to re-do or repair areas of concrete construction. Fortunately, many formwork fails can be prevented, and there are actionable things you can do to avoid them.


In many cases, formwork fails are caused by the following:

• Improper design or incorrect design for a particular application

• Modifications to original formwork design that compromise its structural integrity

• Formwork improperly constructed onsite (or elsewhere)

• Defective or damaged formwork components

• Premature stripping/removal of formwork before concrete adequately cures

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Preventative Measures

Many of these issues can be addressed before they result in larger problems and fails. Below are some of the central and most impactful ways to prevent formwork fails:

Erect Formwork Properly

Before it’s erected, make sure its design is suitable for any required dynamic and static loads. Erect formwork according to any manufacturer’s recommendations. If you are using a custom designed type of formwork without manufacturer’s recommendations, have a qualified engineer erect formwork to test and guarantee its capabilities. Once formwork is erected, be sure to thoroughly inspect it for any issues or things you may have overlooked during the installation process. Document the results of the inspection, and make any necessary changes before concrete is poured.

Keep Tabs on Formwork During Pouring

While concrete is being poured, have staff members closely monitor formwork to make sure it doesn’t collapse or get damaged under pressure. It’s very important to not overload forms during pouring and put unneeded stress on them. Likewise, as concrete cures, formwork should be carefully observed and any potential problems that arise should be promptly addressed.

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Avoid Stripping Formwork Too Soon

Concrete must completely set and reach its maximum strength and stiffness before formwork is removed. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to allow concrete to set during the minimum curing time established by any manufacturer’s guidelines that pertain to both the concrete and the formwork. Any impatience or negligence at the stripping stage can have serious consequences and result in formwork failure, danger to workers, and/or costly damage. Concrete specimen testing may be necessary before formwork is stripped.

Don’t Neglect Formwork Aftercare

To help maintain the quality of formwork, it should be taken care of well after it’s stripped. This means removing any concrete residue as well as applying a release agent to the formwork before it is put in storage. Ideally, formwork should be stored in a covered, shaded area where it won’t be damaged by harsh weather. Maintaining your formwork well will allow you to prevent formwork fails due to deterioration in the future.

Final Thoughts

As we mentioned, most concrete formwork fails are preventable. By doing everything you can in your power to erect formwork properly, monitor it while concrete is being poured, strip it at the right time, and take good care of it after you use it, you’ll help avoid costly failures and keep your staff members protected.

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