Building a house

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Sacred Wolf, Dec 16, 2005.

  1. Sacred Wolf

    Sacred Wolf Member

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    I am looking to build a house out of cement blocks. Does anyone have any experience with this or know where to begin?? Thanks
     
  2. Aintlifegrand

    Aintlifegrand Well-Known Member

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    Cement block foundation or the whole house cement blocks? We used 4 rows of continuous cement blocks on a concrete footer for the foundation/crawl space for our house that we are currently building.
     

  3. JAK

    JAK Well-Known Member

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    There is a very interesting facility in Chilliwack British Columbia, originally the Canadian Forces Officer Candidate School, which is modelled as a medieval town and built entirely of cinder blocks, posts and beams, and cedar shingle roofs. It looks particularly nice in the rain. It is now used by the RCMP after they closed CFB Chilliwack. I was there from Oct 1983 to Feb 1984.

    Here are some nice picks.
    http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/learning/prtc/virtualtour03_e.htm
    http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/learning/prtc/virtualtour08_e.htm
    http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/learning/prtc/virtualtour09_e.htm
    http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/learning/prtc/virtualtour_e.htm

    It looks particularly nice in the rain, which we got a lot of. I guess my point is you don't need to cover the cinder blocks when you are done. Another interesting thing about cinder blocks is you can build temporary shelters by using rebar and dirt as mortar. In Brazil the work crews on a house usually come from miles away and stay until they are done building and the first thing they do is build a temporary shelter until they have enough of a structre to move into.

    Where insulation is needed I would suggest using rigid foam on the outside and then simply parging over it. The cinder blocks can be left exposed and unfinished in the inside, or painted, or covered.
     
  4. BigBoy

    BigBoy No attitude here...

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    If you are wanting to do most of the work yourself then I would suggest doing a search on drystack. Basically, instead of using mortor as you build you just stack them dry. You do start the first course in a bed of mortor. When your done you fill the blocks every 4 feet or so with cement and rebar and then cover the inside and outside of the walls with a fiber reinforced coating.
    Here is a site to get you started. http://www.texasmusicforge.com/gimmeshelter.html
     
  5. omnicat

    omnicat Well-Known Member

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    What part of the country do you live in?

    My house is a cinderblock cape cod. I live in Ohio. It is not insulated. And let me tell you - the outside walls are cold to the touch in the winter. I had an energy audit done of my house just today. The windows are the cheapest version of "expensive" double-paned windows. They're not the best, but better than old wood single panes, of course. Here's the kicker though...everyone knows you loose most of your heat through doors & windows, right? Not always. The windows in my house have a higher R-value than the walls (which are R2. woohoo.)

    Rigid foad insulation on the outside is the experts' advice. Comes in pink blue, and possibly green, and white. But I'm told the white, though much cheaper, is not the same, and, drat, I forget why, but they said NOT the white! I remember that, but not *why*...sorry.

    they get glued directly to the cement blocks with a strong adhesive, then anchored in a few places per section, then you can shape around corners, even add on decorative features (with specially cut pieces, glued on, shaped and sanded), and then you paint, brush, roll, the "goop" stucco-stuff over the whole thing.

    I just paid to have a new roof put on, so I'm going to have to live with the cold walls & cold house for a few years until I can afford to insulate. The material ain't cheap I understand.

    I had a guy try to sell me on drilling holes in the walls and filling the spaces inside with expanding foam. Swears it'll bring the R-value up to R15. BUT (and, maybe since he was selling, he refused to acknowlege this) - that R15 would only be for the sections with the fowm-filled holes. There would still be TONS of "thermal bridging" where there is a solid pathway of cement from inside to outside - and PLENTY of it - and THOSE parts would still be R2 - and the heat loss will follow the path of least resistence.

    But I speak from experience - unless you have a cheap source of heat (wood burning stove, maybe, and a small house) it will be EXPENSIVE to heat that sucker if it's not insulated. It's not especially cheap for me (I set it to 57 at night, 62 when I'm home - though I added a small wood stove 3 weeks ago, and it does help)

    And don't put your bed against an outside wall. You will KNOW it on the first cold night.

    (don't get me wrong, I love my house, but I'll love it more when it's insullated...)
     
  6. mountainman_bc

    mountainman_bc Well-Known Member

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    Make sure you aren't in an earthquake zone for this, seems to me they'd shatter?
     
  7. Richard6br

    Richard6br Well-Known Member

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    Why do you want to build with blocks ? Unless wood is hard to find in your area or maybe too expensive, I would build a conventional wood framed home. You will find that there are a lot of negatives with blocks. Insulation and wiring being the main concerns.
     
  8. jeffreyc256

    jeffreyc256 Well-Known Member

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    colored split faced blocks look real nice but are expensive and must be waterproofed. An alternative is to have the block plant save you the odds and ends of the different color runs and after laying them paint with a good exterior paint. Do a good concrete foundation with filled reinforced cells at 4' on center. fill cells with peralite insulation. pour a bond beam at the top for the trusses to sit on. Put a tie strap in the bond beam to anchor the trusses to. The walls will seem cold but when money comes available you can furr out the interior walls with metal hat channel, insulation and sheetrock. Block buildings work even better with slab on grade concrete floors. for info on this check out www.ourcoolhouse.com
     
  9. Sacred Wolf

    Sacred Wolf Member

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    I had been looking for the best way for a single guy to approach this project. I am sure a few friends would help from time to time, but the major part of the work is on me. Thanks for the great links and advice. I was worried about it being a bit of a pain to heat one made of blocks. That is something to look into, one other option I had looked at was a dome structure or oval building. But I figured the block method would be the best for one guy to handle over a longer period of time. I like the sound of dry stacking, that is a thought, I want to know if it is as strong. As for price, yes wood is not cheap as I am sure it is not anywhere. But most are of the nature you really need two plus people to do the work. Again thanks for the help and advice I will respond back as I figure out where I go with what I have.

    First off thanks for all the help. This is my first time with a forum, and I can say I am very happy and be a regular. My land outside of Ponca city, Okla. And as for the well situation, I have been trying to call to see 'nicely' if I can get them to just drill the well and case it for me, and I supply the rest. As I have been told but have not yet confirmed the local government does require a lic. to drill a well. And so, doing it myself will be out of the question. I did find a company over in Tulsa that has solar equipment but the cost shot up over $5000.00 +. I am not the richest man on the block so this project will be one that I approach as I save up the funds. The current depth as for the area I am in is approx. 40 ft. not to bad but not one you could just go out and dig yourself very easy, or with comfort. I am making a web site of this venture to share with friends and family, so feel included in the first and check in from time to time, Ihope to have updates as things get done or I find out info. Thanks for all the advice and I will be putting it to good use. And I will post when I find out for sure what is going to happen one way or the other. Thanks to all again

    http://www.freewebs.com/staggsfarm/

    The link above is to a web site I am sitting up for friends and family so check it out in the future to see where I am at on this project. My land is located out west of Ponca City, OK. Thanks again to all of you. :goodjob:
     
  10. omnicat

    omnicat Well-Known Member

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    You can buil a right tidy, easy-to-heat home of cob. (a clay/sand/straw mixture - like building with wet-adobe)

    You can get interesting features, as it's sculptural. You don't need a lot of skill, bugs don't eat it, it won't burn down, and it's dirt cheap!

    'course, a lot will depend on where you live. I'm sure you can't build a cob structure in a major city. most city building codes don't even mention cob, so they'd freak.

    Look up The Hand-Sculpted House for a good overview, and lots of pretty color pictures of existing cob houses. They're also very earthquake-durable
     
  11. JAK

    JAK Well-Known Member

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    T,

    Good luck with your 5 acres. That is a nice amount of land for one person and you are close to a good marketplace. It is small enough to farm intensively but large enough to keep you very busy. What do you have in mind? What you decide to do might dictate what sort of building construction is most suitable. If you focus on developing the land productivity first you can just sort of camp out just about anywhere while you go about your business.

    Nice climate in Tulsa:
    http://www.climate-zone.com/climate/united-states/oklahoma/tulsa/

    3691 F Heating Degree Days
    2017 F Cooling Degree Days
    In such a climate I would build on an uninsulated slab and just insulate the roof and walls and down 4' at most around the perimeter so that you will not have to use air conditioning in summer. I think the average ground temperature is 60F, which is very nice. For a small house I wouldn't go to the expense of ground source heat pumps unless you did it all yourself.

    40.6" Precipation
    For water if a 40' well is expensive I would consider rainwater at first. For each gallon/day you would need about 14 square feet, so a 700 sqft roof could provide 50 gallons a day. This water would also be very soft so you wouldn't need to use as much soap or rinse water. This would make the water better for greywater recycling also. If you use a dry composting toilet you should be all set. Of course depending on the farming you are doing you may need a well eventually, but 5 acres catches its fair share of water if you are growing wheat.

    Construction Materials:
    Do you have many trees? Post oak? You could use pole construction and save on the cost and waste of a sawmill. Cordwood would be a bit extreme for your climate, but you could start out as a homemade yurt and maybe fill in the walls with dirt as you go. I am sure there are a lot of traditional ideas that work well in Tulsa. Sod roofs maybe. A metal roof would be better for catching water but if you had a sod roof using very loose well drained soil it might share more than half its water and be lighter and better insulating as a result. Of course depending on what sort of a barn you might need you could incorporate that into your house.

    Best wishes.
     
  12. kuriakos

    kuriakos Well-Known Member

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    To answer one of your questions, dry stacking blocks with surface bonding cement is actually stronger than using mortar.
     
  13. Melissa

    Melissa member

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    The exterior of our house is all built with block. The back part of the house sits in the hillside about 5-6 feet deep, and front is exposed. We did insulate and fir out all the walls and cover with lumber, stone, and slate. The outside of the house is covered with slate and it has a red shingle roof. Most of the interior walls are white pine logs we cut ourselves. We do use a woodburner and a fireplace to heat the house. It stays nice and warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I would not want to live in any other kind of house after living in this one. We went away yesterday evening for a little while and when we came home Brady had the house up to 85 degrees with the woodburner going.
     
  14. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

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    Researching foundations, I found that a 8 inch thick poured concrete wall is exactly the same strength as a mortared concrete block wall [built with 8X8X16 blocks].

    Concrete block homes are very quite, and resistant to high winds. good choice.

    :)
     
  15. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Check out TioEd's web site. He has carefully documented the building of his 2000+ sq ft house made of concrete block. It will take you a while to read through it, but if you are serious about block, it will be invaluable.

    http://www.texasmusicforge.com/gimmeshelter.html

    Another product you might consider is flexcrete block(similar to autoclaved aerated concrete). An American company has inovated the process and now has them for sale. The R-value is much higher than standard block. The website claims their 8x8x24 inch blocks are the equivalent of R-20. You can also get 8x12x24 block (R-30) and panels for roofs, floors and inner walls. The prices are reasonable when you consider the insulation value. A 8x8x24 block was about $3.50 this fall.

    http://flex-crete.com/index.asp

    good luck
    post your progress
    take lots of photos
    Gary
     
  16. speedfunk

    speedfunk Rock On

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    Of all the options I've looked into the concrete block drystacked is one of the best. We are planning on building a pasive solar house www.thenaturalhome.com
    He's in the rockies and he heats his house with only a woodstove on the coldest of nights...if you read the pages there is alot of good idea's.. The block will be your best bet for DIY. Right now we are using the process for a foundation and it's going pretty fast yesterday drilled holes for rebar in the footer and stacked 4ft high by 35ft long in about an hour with 2 guys.. The Parge is taking a bit longer we managed to get 3/5ths done in 4 hours (both sides of the walls mind you)...also very easy for anyone with no expriernce to get great results, you can even leave that cement and paint over it..no need for drywall and a nice organic look to it (prefrence i guess)...I'm not sure if there is anything with a quicker learning curve to it then dry stack and parging with fiber cement bond. Rigid poly-strene or poly urethane insulation would be a must for a cold location. The great part about the way this is constructed is there is no "thermal bridge" as someone up above put it....your insulation runs completly un-interupted around your house forming an envelop you will not achive the same results with 16 on center stud walls. This system compared to other ways of alternative building is easy to get through codes....easy to get loan for..... which is a nice plus

    Hope that helps....We will be doing tons more parging and stacking for the remainder of our basement of a spec house we are building...good luck
    Jeff
     
  17. tiogacounty

    tiogacounty Well-Known Member

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    I don't want to be argumentative, just clear something up here. An 8' tall unreinforced poured concrete wall using standard #3000 concrete is SIX times stronger than an unreinforced 8" block wall, when lateral loads are applied. Current codes require that a typical full height basement wall be either an 8" poured wall or a heavily reinforced 10" block wall. Because of this engineering issue, in this part of the country, block basements are becoming unusual in new construction. They are too labor intensive, and end up costing more than a poured wall when all the extra reinforcing work is factored in.Modern hurricane resistant construction may have a lot of blockwork, but the real strength lies in the vertical rebar filled block cores, reinforced concrete columns and continous bond beams. In an earthquake or hurricane, a non-reinforced block wall is a liability not an asset. A typical third world home is a two room block building. The staggering death tolls associated with disasters in these areas are frequently a result of the collapse of poorly designed and reinforced block buildings. Block can be a great material if used correctly. Block and mortar alone is not a particularly stong way of building anything. On a lot of industrial and commercial work that I do, block is limited to non-structural, above grade, use. Anything below grade is poured. Anything structural is steel.
     
  18. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

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    I was looking at either doing:
    1- a 8X8X16 concrete block with horizontal and vertical rebar in it;
    or
    2- a poured 8-inch wide concrete wall with horizontal and vertical rebar in it.

    And I was told by my civil engineer that both options would give me identical strengths. He was drawing the plans for my foundation to go underneath my steel building.
     
  19. frazzlehead

    frazzlehead AppleJackCreek Supporter

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    Have you looked at the styrofoam blocks that you fill with concrete? We used them for the foundation (crawlspace) under the house ... they set together like lego blocks, and then you pour concrete into them. They are very easy for one guy to set up, and then you need 2-3 people when the concrete truck comes to do the filling (and showers for everyone after, it is a MESSY job!).

    Check out insulating concrete forms (ICFs) on the web and see what you find in your area. They are a bit more expensive, I admit it, but you have the insulation already there, both inside and out. No cold passing through. You stack up the blocks, and then the concrete truck comes and fills the spaces, and voila, you have a concrete house, with rigid foam insulation on both sides. I have seen places (Florida sounds familiar) where they build whole houses out of this, rather than just foundations. We painted tar stuff on the oustide, then backfilled, and put our subfloor on top (and built a stick house on top of that). Worked like a charm.
     
  20. clovis

    clovis Well-Known Member

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    I think that your decision of what kind of house to build should be a direct answer to the question,

    "Where do I want to be in 5, 10 or 20 years?"

    If your dream is to eventually build a 4,000 s.f. home on your site, then I would either build a building that could serve as a garage in the future, or be part of the finished house.

    If your goal is to live as enviromentally friendly and to live as simply on the land that you are possible, then that could lead you to a straw bale house, yurt, etc.

    I would still urge you to strongly consider building yourself a wood stick frame house. I think you would be better off in the long run, with more advantages. Better resale value, easier to heat, easier to build (IMHO), allows more flexibility in design and future additions, etc.
    clove