The Different Types of Formwork for Concrete Shuttering

  • 10.06.22
  • Construction

Concrete shuttering can be achieved with various materials, sizes, and specifications of formwork. Discover what it is, the differences, and which is best for your concrete construction project.

On average, shuttering formwork amounts to around 20-25% of overall structural costs in concrete construction. But while most formwork remains hidden or works as a temporary mould, it nevertheless plays a vital role in the overall safety, stability, and longevity of a building.

So, whether you aim to use steel or timber for your concrete shuttering, there are multiple variations of formwork materials and methods available.

But which best suits your building project?

Concrete shuttering can be achieved with various materials, sizes, and formwork specifications. Discover the best shuttering formwork method for your project.

Shuttering formwork - Hickman & Love

What are Formwork and Shuttering?

Shuttering formwork works as a temporary or permanent mould when forming concrete structures. After assembling the desired shape for the build through the shuttering formwork, concrete is poured into the mould and left to dry.

Therefore, shuttering formwork is the structural mould, helping the overall permanence of the structure take shape before eventually forming and solidifying. While shuttering formwork can be fixed temporarily or permanently, formwork structures vary in shape, size, and material. But as long as the mould can withstand the concrete, structural designs for the formwork can be anything imaginable.

Traditional shuttering uses timber. However, fabrication applies to steel, plastics, plywood, and other materials. These various materials used for formwork include:

  • Timber
  • Plywood
  • Steel
  • Aluminium
  • Plastics
  • Magnesium
  • Fabric

When the concrete hardens to a safe standard, all the formwork applied to that particular part of the structure can be removed. The term for this process is known as “stripping”. After removing the formwork, each element can be applied again to the next stage of construction.

For vertical formwork projects associated with shuttering, the construction becomes increasingly complicated and requires specialist formwork carpenters to ensure the structure is safe.

What Is the Difference Between Formwork and Shuttering?

Formwork and shuttering are terms which have become synonymous in the construction industry.

Generally, formwork applies as the broader term describing the forming process for concrete construction. While shuttering can be assigned more to temporary mould structures typically found in timber or plywood specifications. However, shuttering can still apply to permanent moulds made from steel.

Shuttering can be distinguished through vertical formwork, compared to ‘Centring’.

Centring is a similar formwork process used to support horizontal structures such as slabs and beams. Both shuttering and centering are distinguishable as specific forms of formwork.

Steel Shuttering

Steel shuttering can withstand large amounts of concrete compared to timber and plywood, making it an ideal formwork design for larger projects. Panels fabricated from thin steel plates can be held together with appropriate clamps, bolts, or nuts.

We suggest using a pressed or plain waler plate for your steel shuttering formwork. The waler paler is secured against the formwork with wing nuts. Both these formwork accessories work in conjunction for securing bars in steel formwork applications.
Pressed Waler Plate - Hickman & LoveWing Nuts - Hickman & Love

A waler plate helps create a large surface area which distributes the tension caused by the concrete against the formwork soldiers. If your access is restricted, we recommend using specific Hex nuts as an alternative to wing nuts.

Hex Nuts - Hickman & Love

Unlike timber, plywood and other materials, steel shuttering is associated more with reinforced concrete which installs steel rebars or prefabricated rebar cages to apply more density and tensile strength to the concrete structure.

Traditionally, rebar is made from carbon steel and has a very high tensile strength and bending strength, making it ideal for fortifying concrete.

Steel shuttering reinforcement bars come in three common variations:

  • Epoxy-coated rebar – Resistant to corrosion
  • Galvanised rebar – Zinc coating protects the bar from rust
  • Stainless steel rebar – Longer structural integrity and better fire and corrosion resistance

On average, steel shuttering can last ten times more than timber formwork for temporary moulds. However, steel is more expensive and heavier, so harder to work with, especially for smaller projects.

Ideal for industrial projects which require intense pressure and flexibility, such as tower blocks and bridges, steel shuttering is also perfect for circular or curved concrete structures.

So, when securing single-sided climbing steel formwork, we suggest using a versatile non-corrosive form anchor, ideal for establishing slab edge formwork or guard rails.

Timber Shuttering

Timber is the most popular formwork material and presents the cheaper option for smaller projects. Aim for the timber to not contains knots and to be resistant to splitting.

On average, timber formwork has a lifeline of usage between 10-12 times. The advantage of timber for shuttering formwork is that you can assemble it quickly on-site to suit various types of designs.

Timber shuttering is commonly associated with vertical structures, where bracing elements need to be strong enough to withstand the pressure of freshly poured concrete.

If you’re constructing a wall, we recommend using adjustable kickers to space the wall shutters from the centre of the wall. Adjustable kickers can be single-sided or double-sided for wide walls or when a war bar is present.

Plastic kickers can also be applied to help locate the timber formwork panel at the base of the walls and positioned with a masonry nail.
Plastic Kickers - Hickman & Love Adjustable Kickers - Hickman & Love

Plywood Shuttering

Like timber, plywood is lighter and cheaper than steel. Its smooth surface provides a nice finish for temporary mould structures. On average, plywood shuttering can be applied twice as much as timber (20-25 times).

Naturally, shuttering plywood is used for outdoor applications due to its water resistance which doesn’t cause rot or warping. When assembling structures for outdoor plywood shuttering projects, softwood is considered suitable for single-use, while phenolic suits multiple usages.

Ensure when you use plywood shuttering that you apply additional wood or metal supports so it can withstand the concrete pressure when it’s poured into the mould.

If you’re aiming to reuse the tie bar during your plywood shuttering, install a plastic sleeve as a spacer between the plywood formwork.

Plastic Sleeve - Hickman & Love

Invest in Specialist Shuttering Formwork Systems and Accessories

Before investing in materials and products for your latest shuttering projects, you should know which best form of shuttering suits your construction project.

With over 80 years of experience as a manufacturer and supplier of shuttering formwork products, Hickman & Love will guarantee your specific formwork project is equipped with the ideal system and accessories.

Whether you seek pointed road pins or weldable anchors, all our products are welded by highly trained professional staff with customisable options available.

For further information or to order please call +44 (0)121-557-2191 or email enquiries@hickmanandlove.co.uk we look forward to hearing from you. Or like us on Facebook to keep up to date with projects and news.


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