With the tilt-up method, concrete elements (walls, columns, structural supports, etc.) are formed horizontally on a concrete slab; this normally requires the building floor as a building form but may be a temporary concrete casting surface near the building footprint. After the concrete has cured, the elements are "tilted" to the vertical position with a crane and braced into position until the remaining building structural components (roofs, intermediate floors and walls) are secured.
Tilt-up construction requires significant organization and collaboration on the building site. The chronological steps that need to be taken for a tilt-up project are: site evaluation, engineering, footings and floor slabs, forming tilt-up panels, steel placement, embeds and inserts, concrete placement, panel erection and panel finishing. Once the pad (casting surface or floor slab) has cured, forms are built on top. Dimensional lumber, a high quality plywood or fiber board that has at least one smooth face is typically used, although aluminum or steel forms are also common. Carpenters work from engineered drawings designed for each panel or element to construct on site. They incorporate all door and window openings, as well as architectural features and other desired shapes that can be molded into the concrete. Studs, gussets and attachment plates are located within the form for embedding in the concrete. The forms are usually anchored to the casting surface with masonry nails or otherwise adhered to prevent damage to the floor slab.
Next, a chemically reactive bondbreaker is sprayed on the form's surfaces to prevent the cast concrete from bonding with the slab. This allows the cast element to separate from the casting surface once it has cured. This is a critical step, as improper chemical selection or application will prevent the lifting of the panels, and will entail costly demolition and rework.
A rebar grid is constructed inside the forms, after the form release is applied, spaced off the casting surface the desired distance with plastic "chairs". The rebar size and spacing is generally specified by the engineer of record.
Concrete is then poured, filling the desired thickness and surrounding all steel inserts, embedded features and rebar. The forms are removed when the concrete is cured; rigging is attached and a crane tilts the panel or lifts the element into place. In circumstances when space is at a premium, concrete elements can be cast one on top of the other, or stack cast. Quite often a separate casting pad is poured for this purpose and is removed when the panels are erected.
Cranes are used to tilt the concrete elements from the casting slab to a vertical position. The slabs are then most often set onto a foundation and secured with braces until the structural steel and the roof diaphragm is in place.