How to Design Falsework and Formwork


Formwork, also known as falsework, refers to the temporary structures in place to cast concrete building elements. Formwork is required for most concrete walls, slabs, beams, footings, and columns. Forms can be designed and approved by qualified on-site personnel, or pre-engineered formwork systems can be used. Pre-engineered formwork is usually less labor intensive than custom formwork, but job conditions may deem it unusable. Projects may require formwork designs and drawings to be stamped by a registered professional engineer.

  • Determine the loading that will travel through the formwork. If you are forming a column, calculating the dimensions and thicknesses of the element being poured and the weight of the concrete would be necessary. Concrete normally weighs 150 pounds per cubic foot, but admixtures or altered properties could make it weigh more or less. Obtain assistance from a concrete formwork engineer to determine an accurate loading scenario.

  • Check the capacity of the desired forming system. If you are using a pre-engineered system, this information can be located in the technical instruction manuals provided with the forming material. If a custom formwork system is being designed, material properties of the wood, aluminum, or steel members must be factored into the design. Consult a formwork engineer to verify the capacities you calculate.

  • Check the architectural requirements of the project. Certain forming systems may not provide the grade of concrete finish that is required by the project specifications. Formwork panels may be altered in order to contain a surface that meets the architectural requirements of the job. A higher grade of plywood may be all that is necessary.

  • Record your calculations. Most projects require calculations to be submitted to prove that the formwork design is safe and effective. Calculations can be executed on numerous software programs, or neatly and professionally on engineering paper.

  • Construct formwork layout drawings. Drawings are important if you're doing the work yourself, or if you're contracting someone else to do it. Formwork designs can become very complex, and the intricacies and requirements of a designed system are best shown on a professionally detailed drawing. Drawings can be completed with the help of computer aided drafting software.

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  • Hurd, M. K. Formwork for Concrete. Farmington Hills, MI: American Concrete Institute, 2005.
  • Photo Credit concrete wall image by Lela Obradovic from
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