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Old 03-11-2015, 01:51 PM
chrisser Male chrisser is offline
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Default Concrete block construction

Looking into various options to build our house. At least part of it will have a basement.

The other day, it occurred to me that once the basement walls are laid, it wouldn't be all that much work to just keep going up and make all the walls concrete block - basically put in the fill around the basement walls and pick up at ground level again.

Been looking at this method, both traditional mortar and drystack. Seems to have many things going for it, not the least of which is it's not all that affected by weather while waiting on the roof installation, and it's mostly fireproof and insect proof. Initial cost estimates don't seem to be that bad - wood's been getting very expensive over the last few years...

I think I'd insulate it inside and out much like ICF construction, and finish it to look like a regular house (we'd probably do cedar shingles, but not yet decided) with a metal roof.

Anyone live in this type of structure or built one? This would be in WV which has cold winters with some snow and hot, humid summers. Our land is in a valley which tends to be on the damp side, and, at least now, is still pretty wild in terms of insects and critters.
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Old 03-11-2015, 02:16 PM
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I think you'll find in the end it will cost more than a conventional wood frame house, because you will need more expensive types of insulation, and will still need wood framing for the interior finish.

I'd check the costs of doing the walls with ICF's unless you are planning to lay the block yourself, which isn't an easy job if you have no experience
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Old 03-11-2015, 04:03 PM
chrisser Male chrisser is offline
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Unfortunately, everything will have to be done by me and hauled down to the site by me with the exception of the excavation. There's just no way to guarantee a heavy vehicle will be able to get back out unless it has tracks. If we get a serious dry spell during the spring or summer, I may get a window where delivery is possible, but I can't count on it.

I probably will have some help (in some cases whether I want it or not).

I plan on building a workshop first that will have a covered area beside it, so I will have an out-of-the-weather place to do some work and store materials. Most of the materials for that are already on site, and I'll likely be using concrete piers for that structure.

One of my concerns with stick-built is that the framing is all going to be exposed until I can get a roof over it. Depends how the weather cooperates as to whether or not that's a big problem. I can try to mitigate that by building in sections, using tarps, etc.

I've done both construction and some concrete/masonry work when I was younger, although it's been a few decades. I don't think it's going to be easy, but by necessity I'll be doing a lot of it in small bits at a time.
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Old 03-14-2015, 12:33 PM
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Concrete Masonry Units (CMUs) that are dry stacked are very owner friendly, affordable, durable, flexible and straight forward.

I have seen these work just fine in Northern New York; two of the places are well over 20 years in performance.

We are starting our build this year using Dry Stacked CMU's. I would not do it any other way.

I would suggest that you wrap the outside with XPS rigid insulation and have all sides of your footing insulated as well so that you prevent a low dew point creating moisture issues on the inside.

There is no way I would insulate the inside...because you then lose tons of thermal mass that will help regulate the 'fly wheel' impact of temperature changes. Really consider this.

Concrete type homes (if built right - which is pretty easy to do) are very durable, safe, quiet and low/no maintenance.

We are building an Alaskan Foundation and using Attic Trusses across the top with a metal roof...simple, efficient, expedient, economical.

Read up on this stuff...there are some excellent resources of what it is all about, how it works and why it works so well when done correctly in the correct sequence...which is very straight-forward.

Go to the website: thenaturalhome.com

Definitely buy, read, re-read, and hi-light Rob Roy's Earth Sheltered Houses.
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Old 03-14-2015, 01:09 PM
chrisser Male chrisser is offline
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Our neighbor used dry stacking after having the footing poured.

He had some wall cracking so he's not 100% convinced it's the best way to go, but I can't recall why he said he thought it cracked. I'll have to talk to him again. He may not have filled some of the cavities or put in bond beams at the right places. Or it could be the nature of our soil - maybe a wider footing would be required. I don't know if he had a soil analysis done or anything like that.

He's a few hundred level feet from the road, so getting machinery and material to his place was no problem. We're a few hundred feet below the road down a 3/4 mile muddy rutted driveway. The climate can be significantly different. Of course, we won't have to chain our furniture to the porch to keep it from blowing away in the wind, either.

It's really hard to get my head around the dry stacking with parging being just as or even more structurally sound than mortared joints, but it seems to be the case if done right.

Sure would be easier.

I haven't had the chance to run the numbers yet to see if it would be worth going stick built on top or block. Part of the problem is I don't know what's under the building site until we excavate. We're fortunate in that the site lends itself to being bulldozed out rather than having to get a backhoe down, and my neighbor has a bulldozer and has already made a path onto our property from his from when he built a pond.

But once we start digging, it's very possible we'll hit large boulders or even a rock ledge and that may mean no basement or no basement in parts where we want one without demolition. I expect to have to do a stepped footing at minimum, but it all depends on what we do or don't dig up.

The guy at drystack.com has a book/video for sale. Been thinking of getting it - he has a lot of info already at his site.
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Old 03-14-2015, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by chrisser View Post
Looking into various options to build our house. At least part of it will have a basement.

The other day, it occurred to me that once the basement walls are laid, it wouldn't be all that much work to just keep going up and make all the walls concrete block - basically put in the fill around the basement walls and pick up at ground level again.

Been looking at this method, both traditional mortar and drystack. Seems to have many things going for it, not the least of which is it's not all that affected by weather while waiting on the roof installation, and it's mostly fireproof and insect proof. Initial cost estimates don't seem to be that bad - wood's been getting very expensive over the last few years...

I think I'd insulate it inside and out much like ICF construction, and finish it to look like a regular house (we'd probably do cedar shingles, but not yet decided) with a metal roof.

Anyone live in this type of structure or built one? This would be in WV which has cold winters with some snow and hot, humid summers. Our land is in a valley which tends to be on the damp side, and, at least now, is still pretty wild in terms of insects and critters.
Don't forget the cost of steel reinforcing for wall at bottom out of footing at at top tiring into roof framing ). and if you go above 9 feet you may have to use 10inch block on the bottom. I can't remember all that from school 40 years ago.
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  #7  
Old 03-14-2015, 07:32 PM
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The numbers are readily available regarding dry stack vs mortar joint block, and they aren't even close...dry stack with surface bonding wins hands down.

...that being said...like anything it's only as good if it's done right. Proper thickness on each side, spray/mist the block first, avoid working in direct sun...and so on.

Buy a bag and put up a 4x4 wall...see what you think.

Footers ... if they aren't right then nothing else matters....correct size, correct placement of rebar and size of rebar, bearing of the soil, drainage, mix, curing, etc.

Obviously I am a fan of dry stack, I have seen it do well and perform well in an very cold environment.

I highly recommend the Rob Roy book I mentioned earlier...he lays out earth berming, dry stacking, structural information, insulation, etc.

I have not seen the complete package from drystack.com...I know a few people who have and they were not too keen on it...they found more value in the two resources from my previous post (1 is free and the other is like $18).

Good luck with what ever you decide...many good ways to build a home.
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Old 05-02-2015, 10:01 PM
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A little late to the party, but what the heck. I built an ICF home and moved in last June. Eight inch concrete walls covered on each side by 2 5/8 inch foam. Simple enough to do and straight forward. The main problem you will encounter will be keeping the walls straight and vertically true. The only other problem was when I installed the sheetrock and the exterior siding. It can be a little problematic when the screws sometimes don't hold well. Aside from that, I love the sound deadening properties and the serious savings on heating and cooling. I erected the walls myself, trued them myself, but had 3 friends assist with pouring the concrete. I used FoxBlocks and their representative was outstanding. Let me know if I can help with anything.
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Old 05-24-2015, 06:57 PM
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...did this thread die out?...I was hoping it would run with more input...well, happy building.
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Old 05-24-2015, 07:30 PM
Kellrae Female Kellrae is offline
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Just in case this catches anyone elses eye...I read where there may be a problem with moisture inside the house.
I live in SE Tx and its pretty humid here. Too much so for papercrete I think. I'd like a building addition to my farm stand and I thought about concrete block.
Also I was thinking of different ways to build an outhouse. I like the look of tin, and that's what my farm stand roof is, but I'm afraid it would be too hot in our high '90s and 100 degree summer days. Maybe concrete block?
I'd like it to have screening somewhere near the top. I have some old greenhouse panels I thought would make a dandy roof to let some natural light in. It'd be close enough to one outbuilding to wire in a light fixture if necessary.
I plan on hosting a few events and an outhouse is pretty much a necessity to keep strangers out of my house.
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Old 05-30-2015, 10:27 AM
offtheradar Male offtheradar is offline
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Concrete block construction is a great way to build if you follow all industry standards that apply. I am not a fan of the dry stack method. When you build anything you must address the various forces that are imposed on the building.
One of the forces is compression and concrete block excels at this. Another one is Tensile strength. Concrete block with mortar is poor in this, therefore steel is added from the footer to the tie beam. This transfer the load from the roof to the footer when high winds are imposed on the building. Another factor is racking loads. This happens during high winds or seismic. This is addressed with horizontal steel in the mortar joints. The most common is a product called "Dura-wall". It is put in every other course. When you see destruction of buildings, wether earthquake or wind look close and you will not see the steel reinforcing in the concrete block. Its not hard to design a concrete block building to withstand winds of 200mph if the reinforcing is in place.

The other thing that concrete block has going for it is the mass it has. It does not heat up or cool down like wood frame construction. Once the inside of the house reaches a comfortable tempture it does not change fast even if the heater or A/C goes out. This mass also helps in dampening sound from the outside.

Termites will not eat you out of your house (load bearing walls).

If you fill all the cells with grout (mortar) it will stop most bullets.

As far as water proofing is concerned. Water will enter through the mortar joints if the out side is not painted or some type of siding is put on. This different than water vapor which is handled differently.

Just some thoughts on CMU construction. Probably more than most people want to know.
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Old 05-30-2015, 07:53 PM
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As some know, I am a believer in dry stack block/surface bonding.

Was wondering...has anyone here built this way...not looked at another person's job...but actually done it?

I have and I also know several other's that have...all with high success and longevity.

My experience is up north...with 48 inch frost depths and 150 inches of snow.

The sheer strength is greater than a mortar laid wall by 7 fold if parged inside and out with the 1/8 th inch spec and applied with correct moisture.

When grouting the cores you add an incredible amount of strength and thermal mass...vertical rebar every 4 ft is inexpensive and worth the money.

Combine this with a bond beam at the top and you have a solid structure that will stand up to almost anything mother nature can throw at it. (bond beams can also be added at other horizontal heights in the wall as well)

Any block construction can be good or bad...depends on the guy doing the work.

I have seen many mortared block walls with cracks and very very few mortared wall without them.

I have seen a lot of dry stacked walls/buildings (and built them) and only seen one crack.

Like anything...it's all in how you do the job it's either right or not.

I can build any way I want to. I am doing dry stack block.

...the biggest problems I have seen when building with block is people just pour a footer...and go...you have to make sure you have good weight bearing ground...'virgin ground' is not always stable or good at weight bearing...and ... you need proper drainage...if you need a sump pump then in my experience you should find another build site for a lot of reasons...footings need to be sized to the what you are putting on top and also to the bearing of the soil beneath (best $200 to $300 you can spend IMO)...you need the proper mix for the footing...and rebar in the footing is HUGE...most contractors do a poor job of placing rebar in footers, it belongs at a certain height for a reason (compression and tension are the name of the game here).

Using materials correctly along with good building practice is what it's all about...no matter how you build.

....there is a custom home builder in my region...booked out for 3-4 years with jobs...he will use nothing but permanent wood foundations...(no, it is not just PT...it is ground rated PT and that is a 'bit' more $$)...

...gotta do it right...no matter what you do.

Happy building.
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Old 05-31-2015, 12:02 PM
offtheradar Male offtheradar is offline
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I have built with dry stack. It is not bad but in my opinion it did not address any diffential settlement of the footer. The dura-wall in mortar did. Another item to be considered is the type of block you use. Do not use the regular block. Instead use the light weight block that has the large aggregate and a ruff surface to bond too. This will give you the strength the manufacturer gives. Furring out the inside can be a problem if the parage is not prefectly smooth.
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Old 05-31-2015, 02:30 PM
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Howdy Radar...

...when your talking about differential settlement if the footer...generally if and when the footer settles it either cracks and/or the blocks/joints do as well...to me the footer has to be right or any wall is going to have problems...would you agree?

The inside wall is not anything I am worried about with my application, we are not furring it out...we are insulating with rigid insulation on the outside to provide the thermal mass on the inside...as for the inside, we are putting on a clay plaster as finished wall...we are going for the older look and something similar to my family's homes in the alps.

I agree the type of block is a key element...at the end of the day it's all about a system that works in harmony.

Here is a link to a guy I know and how he built...we are doing pretty much the same.

http://countryplans.com/smf/index.ph...4&topic=5690.0
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Old 05-31-2015, 06:52 PM
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You will not have a problem with the footer if you compact to 95% modified proctor. No home owner does this. Many footers will sit on uneven compaction and this will show maybe a year later. Also there maybe some expansive soil a few feet under the footings that when wet or dry will cause cracks when the footer settles. I like to plan on all conditions and so far the dura wall meets as close to the conditions I have experienced. When designing for structural loading there are two basic conditions: Impact loads and sustained loads. The condition I am concerned about with the coating is sustained. What ever system you get have the manufacture give you the ESR report ASTM spec. If they don't be careful.
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Old 05-31-2015, 06:59 PM
jvcstone jvcstone is offline
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after 40 some years in the masonry business, I've had experience with both sorts of block construction, along with some other weird types of block walls.

Foundation is critical for any ridged material, and there are a lot of factors that affect the amount of reinforcing steel, depth and width of beams and strength of mix (4 sac, 5 sac etc). Down this way, we do not worry about frost heave, but expansive clay soil plays hell with a lot of non-engineered foundation both slab and masonry wall beams. A lot of modern construction shows bad foundation through cracks zig zagging up a wall usually getting wider as they rise--also a lot of structural cracking due to expansion will open in dry weather and close back up in wet (or vice versa) leading to more damage if repairs are made to the crack usually at it's most open state with a hard mix. One of the reasons many old buildings with structural (double width) masonry wall have no cracking problems even though they may have minimum or no real foundation is because lime mortar was used which is somewhat plastic and self healing as opposed to hard mix which isn't.

My biggest problem with the dry stack-surewall type construction is that block are modular requiring a certain mortar spacing to reach nominal height and length. In other words, three block laid end to end will come up short of 4 feet by the width of 2 mud joints--around here normal block joints both bed and head are 3/8 inch. Take that into consideration during design, layout etc, and the dry stack method does work out rather well.

When it came time for me to build my own building (on a historical main street of a small town) I chose the traditional block construction--steel and grout from footer to roof plate in all three corner cells at each corner plus every 4 foot of wall, plus grout and steel in all jambs--door and window tied into bond beam headers, plus dura wall ladder reinforcing every third course. Went up 2 ten foot stories with steel floor framing for the second floor, and steel roof framing which was wielded to the stub outs coming up from the slab. Since the building was in use from the dry in point, we used an elastimere paint to water proof the block exterior until final exterior could be completed. That consisted of split face CMU with slurried joints on three walls and hand pitched limestone on the main street side. Took about 5 years total since I built it out of pocket for the most part, but sure look good when finished, and the community was proud of a new building that replicated the early 20th century structures that were still in use in appearance, if not exactly in technique. The other "new" buildings along main street were mostly metal sided affairs which didn't do much for the ambiance.

Oh, my building was commercial space on the first floor--office and show room for my stone carving business-- and living quarters on the second with a nice big second story deck on the back side facing the shop area and yard. When it was time to get out of the big urban area which was rapidly swallowing up my little town, and head for the woods, I was able to sell it for a tidy sum--even had a bit of a bidding war on it. FUN.

JVC
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