What Does a Formwork Contractor Do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A formwork contractor sets up the necessary forms for concrete pours, and firms that offer formwork contracting may also have related services such as excavating, setting up structural steel, and installing other construction components. People working in this field may be employed by specific companies and sent to job sites as needed, or they can work as freelancers. They advertise their services and take on jobs by request from construction companies, individual contractors looking to subcontract work, and direct customers.

Formwork contractors must have knowledge of concrete footings and reinforcing elements like rebar.
Formwork contractors must have knowledge of concrete footings and reinforcing elements like rebar.

When formwork contractors arrive on a job site, they evaluate the area to collect information they need to develop the forms. They also review the construction plans, which may be prepared with input from engineers to confirm that they are sound and suitable. Working as a formwork contractor requires an understanding of concrete and structural elements like rebar, along with the building code and industry standards and practices. Forms need to be able to safely hold the concrete in place while it hardens, and must provide sufficient shape and thickness to adhere to code.

Pouring footings can be a stressful job, since the forms need to be poured quickly and in the right conditions.
Pouring footings can be a stressful job, since the forms need to be poured quickly and in the right conditions.

This work is not entirely about mathematical calculations and consulting building plans. A formwork contractor can also work on projects that may require some degree of artistry, such as curved and unusually shaped concrete installations. In these cases, part of the work can include a strategy for achieving the desired shape, which may include complex custom forms. People with more experience tend to take on such tasks, because they require advanced skills.

A formwork contractor may lay gravel to provide drainage for a home or business.
A formwork contractor may lay gravel to provide drainage for a home or business.

Site preparation for a formwork contractor can include excavating, setting up gravel and other drainage, and carefully measuring before starting work. Posts can be installed to hold the forms, which may be made from a variety of materials. Some firms work with reusable forms that snap together in a variety of configurations for different projects. These can be more convenient to use, although they may require some customization for challenging environments.

Once everything is in place, the formwork contractor checks it and confirms with other staff to make sure it meets the need. The concrete can be poured and allowed to cure before the contractor removes the forms and the team moves on to the next aspect of the project. Careful planning is an important part of formwork contracting, because teams want to be sure concrete installation doesn’t create a holdup on a job site, while still working carefully to reduce the risk of errors. After concrete is poured and set, it can be difficult and expensive to redo the work.

Concrete is often poured into a form made of wood or similar scrap building materials.
Concrete is often poured into a form made of wood or similar scrap building materials.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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