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Old 08-17-2009, 04:30 PM   #1
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Cinder block home


I live in Grainger County, TN. No building code here. I have about 8 years of general construction experience as a laborer and semi-skilled carpenter.

I have an old 24x20 (+/-) cinder block home. It seems to have been drystacked and someone filled in the seams (on the exterior) w/mortar for whatever reason. It is built on a slab that has no rhyme or reason). The headers over the windows are pretty iffy, the blocks are not filled with concrete and I don't feel comfortable simply building on top of the block. The house works for us and as I have a kid on the way I have the need to expand.

My question is this: I would like to add an open (studio type) second floor to the house. Can I simply build an exterior wall system to surround the current cinder block walls (I thought about simply running a footer system, building a 2x4 wall system up), run preengineered floor joists which will lie on those new walls and then run from there?

I would be really blessed for any input including sites I should be reading up on; I have photos of my house here and will answer/supply anything necessary. So, thank ya'll very much, in advance!

I don't have a lot of money. For most folks dropping $700 for the engineer, hiring contractors, etc. is no sweat. I make $10/hr and am raising a family so it's not an option for me.

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Old 08-17-2009, 05:06 PM   #2
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It's been a lot of years, but back before the codes went haywire around here, that was a common way of renovating a business that needed to stay open while we built the new, surrounding structure. I've done several. A friend even did a church that way. It generally takes a complete new footing, and about 2 to 3 feet of clearance from the existing structure.

What's really nice is that you can walk on the roof of the old structure like a platform scaffold while building the new one.

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Old 08-17-2009, 05:08 PM   #3
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I believe you need to think carefully about exactly what it is you are trying to achieve. You ask if you can simply build an exterior wall system to surround the house? Well, you stated there is no building code where you live, so if that is in fact correct, of course you can build an exterior wall system. You could also build an interior system, an unconnected building, or for that matter you could tear the old house down and start over. So the question is, what exactly are you trying to achieve?

Do you want the least expensive way to enclose space? The most effective way to enclose space that will last at least 10 years? The method that will have the lowest life cycle cost? The method that can be accomplished by you with little or no assistance from professionals? These are very tough questions, but until you can define the problem, you cannot possibly get an answer from a DIY forum.
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Old 08-17-2009, 08:09 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Daniel Holzman View Post
Do you want the least expensive way to enclose space? The most effective way to enclose space that will last at least 10 years? The method that will have the lowest life cycle cost? The method that can be accomplished by you with little or no assistance from professionals? These are very tough questions, but until you can define the problem, you cannot possibly get an answer from a DIY forum.
I will try to answer these ?'s completely. Least expensive way? Yes, but I will be using all new materials and the engineered stuff will come from an outfit that manufactures them. I need a 7-10 year expectancy as by then I will be able to break ground on a new, real home. This upstairs will only serve as a type of master bedroom for us and the child in its early years and the downstairs (which right now is a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom all togather). I would like to have little or no professional assistance. I have a friend who is an electrician who will do my wiring already in exchange for some labor. I contacted the University of Tennessee Architecture school and they told me they cannot even tell me what books to read! I have access ditch witch, bobcat and John Deere to put in things like footers. I feel competent enough to build what I am proposing; I'm not Bob Vila or whatever, but I can somewhat build.

The current structure is currently being lived in. The roof is all cut up and obviously has to go. The 'joists' running currently would go and be replaced by the new engineered ones so that all the weight would be dispersed to the exterior walls. That's why I am inquiring, and thank you for the first reply as well, as to whether or not it's fesible (sp?) to simply build a new set of exterior walls (and if so what would be recommended), mount the joists to them and skin up the walls and roof.

I can obtain a lot of building materials for my project by simply swapping hours for the materials. Also, this house was given to us as we have a child en route. I DO NOT want to get caught up in loans, etc. and if I have to, will simply stockpile materials under tar paper until I can build all at one time if that makes sense.

I added a picture of the house and the blocks that make it up. In the blocks you will notice my concern about putting dead/live load on it.

As to the issue of code, this is no BS. I went to the county to try to get a permit and they DO NOT issue ANY permits except for the septic system. I asked them what if I blew myself up on the electrical or my home collapsed due to my incompetence (this is new or rennevation) and they said only the septic mattered to them. Grainger County, Tennessee.

Once again, thank ya'll VERY much for your input!
Attached Thumbnails
Cinder block home-100_1325.jpg   Cinder block home-100_1326.jpg  

Last edited by ibrrhobo; 08-17-2009 at 08:11 PM. Reason: added permit info
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Old 08-17-2009, 10:00 PM   #5
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Most people here aren't used to living in areas where homes just sort of spike off a highway like 131. We tend to think in "hub" concepts of municipalities. So it's hard to get a grip in not having permits issued by a central location.

Most of my family grew up under the shadow of Roan Mt... Johnson City, Liz'bethton, Kingsport, Unicoi, Mountian City.
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Last edited by Willie T; 08-17-2009 at 10:07 PM.
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Old 08-17-2009, 10:07 PM   #6
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that's a new 1 on me,,, i'd thought ALL building was subject to the southern bldg code once again i learn something new in this forum.

the cores're NOT filled ? ? ? f'n amazing we fill cores w/GROUT, not conc.

the rest of the post has too many no-no's for me to even consider replying & thereby validating 'em,,, i'll leave THAT part to the engineers $700 for an engineer/architect is probably the BEST expenditure you could make, tho, as when you're done, you'll still have a house that scares me as a domicile for my family ( of ANY age ),,, you may want to think about rammed earth or straw bales protected by stucco,,, to be sure, alternative building methods HOWEVER much MORE user-friendly to diy'ers,,, ck out mother earth magazine's back issues,,, ferro-cement's another friendly method.

Last edited by stadry; 08-17-2009 at 10:09 PM.
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Old 08-17-2009, 10:27 PM   #7
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Some o' the things that still go on back in those hills would fry yo' eyeballs.
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Old 08-17-2009, 10:33 PM   #8
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By the way, there is some hope for your house as it stands right now. See.. http://www.drystacked.com/
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Old 08-17-2009, 10:39 PM   #9
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Yeah, you want a real eye opener come on out this way. They're putting in subdivisions out here w/only septic permits. Now, most of these folks are real contractors and follow code, but it's not required. KUB (our utilities) require that the meter 'look' proper though. Yeah Willie oour county has one stoplight! Was just up in J City yesterday buying some 2x4s from a shutdown mill. Some houses out here still are on their rock bases and the equivilant of the sill/bottom plate is oil treated timber slabs lying on the ground. We just made several pole barns out of trees.

As to alternative methods, I'm not really looking for that kind of thing. My theory was that in the same concept that bayou homes are elevated by stilts, I thought that there had to be some kind of way to wrap the existing structure, tear off the roof and ceiling, 'marry' if you will the floor joists to the top of the cinder blocks so that it would become the new ceiling/floor for the second story, build my walls and a roof that would slope straight down from 10' to 8'.

I understand that $700 would be great for an engineer. I live in a rural area where that amount of money would finance a family here for almost a year. That's 70 hours of work for me. Tear down the existing structure? Sure that'd be nice, but can't happen. I would shell out $2000 for that (200 hours of work), have nowhere to live, have to build yet again what is standing now (and it's structurally sound as I've walked all the rafters in the attic) build what I want and do it all w/a pregnant wife living in the front yard.

I would love to speak with you Willie as you have had first hand experience on this type of thing. My email is ibrrhobo@aol.com I also thank all of you who have responded. I know a post like this probably sounds amazing as most folks live in and work in well developed metro areas. There are quite a few (probably thousands) of folks like me who simply don't have that luxury and have to make do with that which we have. My friend down the road actually built a barn by reading through your threads here. I helped him last year. So, granted we are country folks and coal miners, but we can follow directions quite well and simply need a starting point. I hope this clarifies my position.

Last edited by ibrrhobo; 08-17-2009 at 10:42 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 08-20-2009, 07:05 AM   #10
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An architect forwarded information to me concerning post and beam construction/pole barns. This turns out to probably be the best idea. I hope if there's anyone else out there that's in a similar, rural setting that this area of research might help. Not saying it'll work, but at least it's a starting point.

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