Formwork is used in the concreting phase of all sizes of construction projects. These projects can range from small private residential builds through to large commercial and industrial constructions including buildings as large as shopping centres and sports stadiums.
Formwork refers to the name given for the moulds which are used to house freshly poured concrete. The concrete is poured within the moulds and left to harden, then once hardened the moulds or formwork can be removed leaving in situ the structure of the building in the form of walls, columns, slabs, decks, shafts, staircases or foundations.
You may hear formwork also being referred to as shuttering. Both terms are very common and regularly interchanged within the construction industry as these both provide the same method of mouldings for concrete. However, shuttering does differ slightly from formwork as it doesn’t always use wood as its raw material. Quite often, steel will be used as an alternative in the shuttering method. Formwork however always used wood as its raw material and therefore, at times requires experienced formworkers in the project who can manage the skills needed for working with wood in complex situations.
As formwork or shuttering are an integral part of the many stages of construction you will see this used in both the substructures and super structures. A substructure is generally a supporting framework that lies below ground level. This can be the underlying, supporting structure or foundation to the superstructure. Whereas, the superstructure refers to anything built on top of this for example walls, staircases or lift shafts. Whichever element of the project you work on as a formworker, you will be able to play a critical role in ensuring foundations and other supporting elements of the structure can shore up the sometimes-gargantuan projects built on top of them. With masses of construction projects taking place, concrete formwork in London is becoming a great industry to be involved with.
A formworker or formwork carpenter will work in the team of any construction contractors and will work on building the moulds that hold the wet concrete. Generally, you will find a formworker working on domestic, small or mid-size projects whereas a formwork carpenter may be required for larger scale commercial projects.
Formworkers do not necessarily need to be qualified as most of the training can take place on the job. However, being adept at precise measuring and cutting is a must as the moulds have to be constructed to exact prescribed dimensions and standards. This is essential to enable them to hold the tons of wet concrete poured within them. It is a formworkers responsibility to ensure the moulds are built correctly. If a mould fails, through a substandard build, or from being removed too early, then both time and money are wasted whilst the moulds are rebuilt, fixed and the concrete is re-poured.
Maths and technology are therefore great base subjects for general formwork and most contractors will deploy on-site training once you have a good grounding in construction site work. However, if you are a qualified carpenter there are more specialised formwork roles available which can see you working on much larger, complex constructions.