What Are the Differences Between Steel Formwork and Aluminum Formwork?

Tips & Advice

Steel formwork and aluminum formwork are both considered types of engineered formwork. Engineered formwork and conventional formwork are the two main categories of formwork. Conventional formwork is typically made from timber, while engineered forms are made from steel, aluminum, or plastic. Plastic engineered forms are less frequently used than steel and aluminum forms. In most cases, conventional formwork is constructed on-site, while aluminum and steel formwork are prefabricated. This means steel and aluminum forms are constructed off-site and then transported to construction locations. Timber formwork costs a bit less, but it’s not as durable and rigid. It also can’t be re-used and re-sold numerous times after its initial use, like engineered formwork.


If you’ve determined engineered formwork is the right choice for your project, you may be wondering which type you should choose: steel or aluminum. Steel and aluminum forms can be used for many of the same projects, but there are key differences between them. Below is some information about the differences between the two materials, in terms of things like strength, longevity, advantages, and disadvantages.

Steel Forms

They’re great for large concrete construction projects, where they can be used and re-used over and over to create repetitive structures. Steel is the most common type of engineered formwork, and there’s a lot of it on the market, with many both new and used options. Since it can be re-used for thousands of cycles, steel retains its value exceptionally well. In comparison to conventional formwork, steel does not absorb water, and therefore honeycombing occurs less often. Steel is more durable, rigid, and stronger than aluminum. It’s less likely to warp, and it’s also easier to customize it to a specific project’s needs in comparison to aluminum. If steel formwork needs to be adjusted, it’s usually a relatively easy process to secure components in place to connectors using a hammer.

Aluminum Forms

Aluminum forms are also ideal for large concrete construction projects. Their biggest perk in comparison to steel is that they’re lighter in weight. This means they’re easier to transport and haul around project sites. Additionally, aluminum formwork is often a little cheaper than steel. If you’re looking to cut upfront costs, this can be a major plus. Because aluminum isn’t as strong as steel, forms usually need to be used in larger sections. This can be a downside. Another notable disadvantage of aluminum is that it’s very difficult to modify once it’s been fabricated. This makes it less versatile in the long-run. Something else to consider is that aluminum materials are more likely to be stolen than steel materials because of the re-sale value of aluminum scraps. If you do opt for aluminum formwork, make sure it’s stored in a secure area when not in use.


There are pros and cons to both steel and aluminum forms. Ultimately, the specific needs of your project should dictate which you choose. Keep in mind that both can be re-used and re-sold after you’re done using them for a project. Thankfully, both steel and aluminum forms retain their value well on the resale market. This can definitely offset the extra you may have to pay upfront for engineered forms vs. what you might have saved by purchasing conventional timber forms.


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