We're building an ICF house

Discussion in 'Shiny Things' started by adam_c_eckhardt, Jun 16, 2012.

  1. adam_c_eckhardt

    adam_c_eckhardt halfway there

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    There. I said it.

    A few of you locals that I've met in real life have encouraged this thread and I was against it for a while. I've seen other threads like this where all the Internet contractors come out of the woodwork and point out all the things that you've done wrong and say things like "that roof is going to cave in" and "I would have done it differently because I'm not an idiot. You should sue your contractor."

    Fact is that I need a bit of motivation and this thread might help. I lost my mother unexpectedly about a month ago and it's been hard. She was 63 and died of a head injury. Anyways- that's not what this is about, but that's where I'm coming from.

    My wife and I have been working on our 5 acre lot for a few years now pecking away at it. We've got the driveway roughed in. It all has a firm base of bank run gravel, and I've got 3" hardpack on top of that on about half of it. I'll work on "finishing" the 3" secondary base over the course of the project. It'll be finished off with 3/4" hardpack after all the heavy truck traffic is done. We've also got underground electric service installed and hooked up. Meter still reads "0000" but that'll soon change.

    We bought a used excavator and so far it's been a good choice. It's a John Deere 490E and while it has a little slop in the bucket pins it runs great and is a really strong digger.

    I spent the last day or two digging the foundation and now I've got a lot of hand digging to do. We've got a terrible ledge situation and have to take out all the organic/loamy stuff. Essentially the footings are going to be right on top of ledge, and we'll fill in the voids with compacted crushed stone. The idea is to get the footings poured in the next week and start building.

    So like the title implies the entire house is going to be built using ICFs- Insulated Concrete Forms. At first I was completely against the idea but after it settled in I think it's pretty good. Yes, there are some limitations, but I think the benefits far outweigh them. We found an ICF guy that's willing to show us the ropes and let us handle most of the project. He'll be around to help with bracing and pours. After that we've got a GC that's willing to take over and get it finished. The BEST part is that he too is letting us take on some projects- like pulling wires, rough plumbing, pre-painting trim, etc. He's a pretty cool guy and comes with great references. I think we are the poorest people he's worked for in a long time based on some of the reference homes we were allowed to visit. :lol3

    In New Hampshire home owners are allowed to install their own septic systems and I've started that. I dug the hole for the tanks (yes, two tanks- One is a standard tank and the other one acts as a pumping station up to the leach field.) Yep- we had to blast for that.

    For what it's worth you can find the house plans online if you go to www.rosschapin.com and click on "cottages and homes" and then click on "Morgan Hill House." It is essentially that house, but we bought the plans from Ross Chapin and paid one of his architects to stretch the house a bit. We added a pantry for the kitchen, widened the entry hallway, and changed the configuration of the stairs. No affiliation with Ross Chapin, but we're really impressed with his designs and he and his affiliate were a pleasure to work with and cost about 10% of what a local architect wanted.

    And without going into too much detail, here are a few other features that we'll get to down the road-

    -Marvin Integrity Windows and Doors
    -Fiber Cement siding (we think)
    -Hambro suspended slab flooring system (for radiant heat)
    -Hoping to do some thermal solar and some PV solar
    -Gonna build our own concrete countertops
    -Have a cabinet maker friend building custom cabinets for the same price as the home depot stuff
    -Would like to wire for whole house audio, and WILL need some advice on that
    -Already purchased a Woodstock Soapstone woodstove
    -Wife is going to manage a time-lapse photography setup to capture major portions of the project

    Ok, this has gotten long enough. I'll post up pictures and updates when I can. Thanks for reading and thanks for the support.
    #1
  2. ImaPoser

    ImaPoser adventure imposter

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    Wow. That's not how I would have done it. :yikes














    :lol3
    #2
  3. tcs06

    tcs06 The Clueless Wonder

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    [​IMG]



    Very nice!:clap
    #3
  4. Mercury264

    Mercury264 Once you go Triple...

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    Looking to move to NH in the not too distant future so this has my full attention :lurk
    #4
  5. A-Bone

    A-Bone Indubitably

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    Adam,

    Sorry to hear about your Mom... :eek1... Must have happened just after we saw you guys...

    Looking forward to seeing the project get off the ground...

    Should be fun... stressful at times.. but you know that... so it should be a good experience....

    -A
    #5
  6. subvet

    subvet Long timer

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    a good friend of mine built an ICF home in the NC mountains near Boone. I knew nothing about them until spending a few visits at their place and talking at length with him about it. He poured a ton of time into researching construction techniques, the best windows for the environment, etc.. The way he summarized it: if you are in an area where 1 season dominates the environment the home will have to endure, ICF is the best choice. (at his elevation, it's predominantly a fall-winter environment)

    The place is awesome. It's a weekend getaway place for them and in the winter, he never even has to winterize like you would a conventional stick built house. They get some ferocious winds up there too....you never hear a creak or groan from the house in high wind conditions.

    Good luck with your project. I wil enjoy following your progress
    #6
  7. adam_c_eckhardt

    adam_c_eckhardt halfway there

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    Ahhh. Someone smart enough to post a picture of it. Although we'd love to do cedar shake, I think we're going with clapboard.

    If anyone has suggestions on color, that'd be awesome. I like a dark red (barn like) and I also like grey-greens. Of course it's up to the wife so whatever.
    #7
  8. adam_c_eckhardt

    adam_c_eckhardt halfway there

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    Thanks- She took a bad fall the day before Mother's day.

    You're welcome to visit the jobsite anytime- just call for directions.
    #8
  9. Dave in Wi

    Dave in Wi Long timer

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    I'll spare you the Internet architecting and say good for you, and best of luck with your house. I like the plan, it looks very space efficient. If I ever build a house it will have cement plank siding, it seems to hold up and hold paint very well. From observing others building their own homes, the hard part seems to that push to actually get it completely finished. I look forward to updates on hour progress.
    #9
  10. MrBob

    MrBob Out there

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    -Marvin Integrity Windows and Doors
    I've installed Marvins for over 20 years and never had a call-back.
    -Fiber Cement siding (we think)
    Yes, relatively inexpensive, bug and fire resistant, easy to work with. Come out here to Colorado and watch those houses with the pretty Cedar shakes going up like torches.
    -Hambro suspended slab flooring system (for radiant heat)
    In floor heating is by far the most comfortable. Tile setters and electricians like to poke holes in the tubing so be alert.
    -Hoping to do some thermal solar and some PV solar
    Certainly for your water heating. Thought about heat exchanger for heat?
    -Gonna build our own concrete countertops
    -Have a cabinet maker friend building custom cabinets for the same price as the home depot stuff
    You might want to price IKEA. Much nicer than Home Depot and I saved almost 2,000.00 in very good quality boxes. Not that I want to take work away from a cabinetmaker.
    -Would like to wire for whole house audio, and WILL need some advice on that
    -Already purchased a Woodstock Soapstone woodstove
    -Wife is going to manage a time-lapse photography setup to capture major portions of the project

    Ok, this has gotten long enough. I'll post up pictures and updates when I can. Thanks for reading and thanks for the support.
    #10
  11. urbancowboy

    urbancowboy Vicious Cycler

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    :lurk

    hey adam.

    sorry about your loss.

    looking forward to keeping an eye on your house project. and i'll work for beer. i won't have any real vacation until september, but i may be up north before that for a day or two.

    send regards to your better half!
    #11
  12. adam_c_eckhardt

    adam_c_eckhardt halfway there

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    Hey E-

    Thanks. Look forward to seeing you next time you're up!
    #12
  13. adam_c_eckhardt

    adam_c_eckhardt halfway there

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    Thanks for the positive reinforcement!

    Yeah- we really knocked ourselves out over picking windows. We looked at them all and just liked the look and feel of the Integrity line. We were surprised to find that while they weren't the cheapest, they were pretty close to the lower end of the price scale. We got a quote from Pella- $44,000!:eek1

    In terms of poking holes in the PEX- yes I'm concerned about that, BUT the ICF guy is also helping with that flooring system and he's pretty anal about mapping out the PEX and documenting it. The good news is that I'm essentially the electrician on this project, (good friend is a master electrician- and he's making me do all the grunt work).

    As far as the cabinets go I think we're pretty much committed to our buddy building them. His work is really impressive and he's affordable. If anybody in Vermont or New Hampshire is reading this and needs any cabinetry work (or doors- he's big into building doors too) let me know I'd love to put you in touch.

    The big question is how we're going to heat this place. Like I said we'd like to throw a couple of solar collectors on the roof to heat the water, but I'm not sure what we're doing for the backup. One company suggested a high-efficiency water heater (Polaris), another suggested a propane boiler, and another suggested a tankless heater. Of course there are heat pumps too, but that gets expensive. This is one area I'd love to get opinions on. I'd also like to run duct work for air conditioning. I don't do well in hot humid weather, plus I think it's good for the house to remove a bit of humidity.

    Well- I'm heading back out in a few to fill in the low spots with crushed stone for the footings. I'll run out of stone in a few minutes and need to order more tomorrow. Damnit that stuff is expensive! I'll try to take some pictures today.
    #13
  14. green hell

    green hell yawning or snarling

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    i'm sorry about your mom.

    the house looks to be a beautiful distraction, however.
    #14
  15. Schmeds

    Schmeds scarce

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    Sorry to read about your mom, Adam. I'm with GH. An ambitious creative project -- especially one to put a family in -- will be a good thing.

    If there's a point where you need a lot of gruntwork/beerdrinking done, post up a weekend date. I'm sure we could come up with a crew who'd love an excuse to ride to NH.

    This'll be fun to follow, at any rate. Beautiful choice.
    #15
  16. Commuter Boy

    Commuter Boy Long timer

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    Dual or triple source heat is a GOOD thing. Try and plan out the wood fireplace so it will provide enough heat to the core living areas if there's a power outage. You might even be able to rig up a heat exchanger through the wood system that will keep the hot water heating in the event of a power outage, my folks did a setup like that with their wood furnace in eastern Canada.

    Solar hot water has a stupidly quick payback period. Don't even think twice about that. Solar PV can be done less expensively if you grid tie instead of setting up a battery system. I'd think a generator would be cheaper and easier to maintain than a battery setup for outages. Think about wiring for one to a secured outside box.

    Heat pumps are great if you have reasonably priced electricity, and will do double duty in heat and cold, but not for extreme heat or cold.

    I always wondered if you need two types of ducts for heating vs cooling to get the best efficiencies. Any HVAC guys got an answer for that?
    #16
  17. seuadr

    seuadr Wee-stromer

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    depends on what you consider "best" i suppose. For the cost and space involved, i can't think of very many situations where a dual duct setup would be an advantage over a single duct system. In theory you could have losses during a swap from high heat to high cooling, but that situation does not typically happen in a climate control scheme. Google "hot deck, cold deck" :deal
    #17
  18. r3mac

    r3mac Been here awhile

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    I just a few days with some friends who are about to start building a home near Augusta me using ICF. Sounds like a great product and should be a terrific experience. Best of luck to you.

    And condolences on your mum.

    Cheers
    #18
  19. Manuel Garcia O'Kely

    Manuel Garcia O'Kely Back at last

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    Hey, if you heat or cool you will really like it. My BIL built one in Tahoe and it's solid, quiet and well insulated. I think he's happy with it.

    Lots to like about that construction.
    #19
  20. Heyload

    Heyload Remastered Classic

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    I am looking forward to seeing this as it progresses.

    I have looked at Ross Chapin homes in the past, some really nice plans.

    Wishing you good luck with your endeavor!
    #20