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granadaCoder 11-28-2011 03:02 PM

Concrete (Cinder) Block Barebones Home : Seeking Advice
Long story short: My aunt's husband abandoned her and her daughter (and took the savings account with him.).
Both my aunt and cousin are living with my family currently.

Her mom (my grandmother) left her some land and an old concrete (cinder) blocked home. It is in rough shape, but I think there is hope for this thing.

The house has existing plumbing and water (well).
However, the floors have caved in. It has been abandoned for several years, the roof leaked a little, windows were broken in by (someone) throwing rocks. I think the broken windows and dampness from the earth (under the existing wooden floor) caused more issues than the small leaks in the roof.
The house was very very cold even before being left empty after my grandmother passed away.

The best visual for this thing is ... imagine a basement being built, with no dirt-walls around the exterior. It's just sticking up in the air.
The concrete footers are covered with dirt, and about (4 blocks high) is covered with dirt.
And the floor of interior area .. is dirt.

Right now, there is a dirt floor (let me clarify ... what is under the wooden floor which has rotted and has caved in).
The block walls ARE on a poured footer, which is what gave me hope that something can be done here.

The inside walls are falling apart as well. This is a complete gut job, I know. What I mean is the furring strips attached to the block walls, and the drywall that was attached to the furring strips. The block walls themselves are in good shape.

I'm trying to figure out a rough "plan of attack" to see if my family can pull its resources to make it livable again for my aunt.

This small parcel of land and "block house" is the only resource we really have at our disposal.

What I am thinking is ... pouring a concrete slab and letting it be the floor of the house.
I am thinking "thermal break" from the block walls and the ground.
And install radiant heating inside the concrete slab floor.

1. Will rigid foam (2 pieces thick for 4" thickness) provide "expansion room" for the slab. I don't want the slab to expand and damage the cinder blocks walls. Or is there a separate product used to allow slab expansion?
2. Should I install a radiant-heat reflector between the rigid foam and the concrete slab?

The block walls themselves. The exterior of these walls are exposed to the elements. Right now there is parging on the outside.
What I was thinking here was studding walls on the interior of these block walls with a little space behind them. Foam (spray) insulation is expensive, so I am wondering what is the best way to insulate these walls in a cost effective manner.
The plumbing will be ripped out, minus the primary "in" water line and the "out" main line that goes to the septic system.
(I mention this because I know I need to be aware of where the lines are in regards to cold walls).

For the roof, I am thinking pre-fab trusses that would allow for a future bonus room sometime down the road.
Something like this.
The span of the trusses (from one block-wall to the other) would be about 18 or 18.5 feet.

(The length of the house is like 24 feet, it is NOT a big place. But a small home is better than a guest bedroom as a permanent solution.)

With some help, I think my family and I can handle alot of the labor.
We have one family member who is a licensed plumber as well.

The best plan of attack remains up in the air.

I like the idea of radiant heating in a (thermally broken) concrete slab.
That seems to make the most sense to me....also knowing we have decent headroom (wall height) but not extra tall head room.

We're planning on getting things permitted/inspected as well.

The fact we have an existing building with a working septic and dug-well is what might make this possible.

Thanks for any advice. My aunt is doing OK, its been almost 2 years since the abandonment. With a depleted savings account, just getting bills paid has been challenging. But I don't see a housing solution anytime in the near future unless we can pull something off as a family.

My cousin is looking for a place with some friends or some kind of roommate situation. My cousin is out of high school now and has a decent job she likes.

The concrete slab with radiant heat is my initial idea. I'm not married to it, just based on what I'm seeing, it seems to be the best idea. Other ideas are welcome.

Other tidbits:

The house is in northern VA.

I'm primary concerned about heating needs.
Cooling needs can be old-school-rough-it-out (aka, some big fans!) ..... or 1 or 2 window a/c units will work for the small space. We'll be wiring electrically for this (running extra dedicated better gauged wire for this specific need.)

The distance between the old wooden floor (bottom of the joists) to the dirt floor was about 12", and there was no opening. So I would never call what was there a crawl space.

The windows are "block cut-outs". They do have lintels at the top to support the block above them.
Same thing for the two doorways.

The existing kitchen area and bathroom (3 piece) are plumbed and do work. Of course, pouring a a new floor most likely will require their removal. (Which is fine, they work, but they are not in great shape.)

Wiring in the house is very under-whelming. Most wiring will be ripped out when the existing walls are removed. The panel is an old "fuse" based panel.

If push comes to shove, the existing trusses could be reused. But if we're going to do this, then putting up trusses that allow for a bonus room in the future would be a better idea then trying to retro a roof in later.
The pitch of the roof would be better in a different configuration. (Instead of water falling off on the west and east side of the house, water would fall off on the north and south side...this would help with getting water away from the house.) The doorways would actually work better if the roof was reoriented as well.
18' by 24' feet is very tight for one person, I know.
But 18' by 24' with an attic bedroom (10' by 24' maybe judging from pictures of the attic-room trusses) (in the future sometime) would be workable IMHO.

I'm approaching this as....if we can get the price of materials and permits at about 3 or 4 years of comparable "rent" in the area for a basic 1 bedroom apartment, then after 3-4 years, you at least own something, even if its a very small something.

We're not against using resources like the Habitat for Humanity store to get decent parts, like basic cabinets, shower, toilet, etc, exterior doors, etc.

Thanks for any advice. I watch a lot of home shows, but am not an expert by any means. Really, I'm trying to pitch in and see if we can find an option for my aunt who got a raw deal. Sometimes a marriage does not work out, I get that part of it. But the savings-cleanout was something else. She does not want to pursue anything legally. She wants to put it behind her. (The grapevine has it that he has spent it all anyways.... on "another woman" (who left him as soon as the money ran out)). But that's a different (and not edifying story). And we're talking about DIY projects here.

Thanks again.

gregzoll 11-28-2011 04:15 PM

You need to look over Dorf dude's build in Germany, to get an idea in how much work is involved, in something of this nature.

granadaCoder 11-28-2011 08:41 PM

Pink Panther

Originally Posted by gregzoll (Post 780809)
You need to look over Dorf dude's build in Germany, to get an idea in how much work is involved, in something of this nature.

Thanks. There are ALOT of posts.
Page 25ff starts the concrete slab. Page 117ff kinda has the walls.

The slab stuff is pretty much what I was expecting. He did weepers on the exterior walls, I was thinking of running weepers on the bottom of the interior walls. But his idea is probably better.

The wall stuff isn't quite a direct parallel, since der Deutscher's don't do the "pink panther" method.

But the link was beneficial. Thanks.

gregzoll 11-28-2011 08:50 PM

It has been interesting in what he has done with it. He has found uses for materials, that you normally would not think to use, but overall, has made a really nice home out of what he started with.

Wildie 11-29-2011 07:45 PM

First off, forget about making space on a 2nd level. It would need a staircase to access it and that would require too much space from the main level.

A poured slab with radiant heating would be OK if its electric. Hotwater needs a boiler and that will take up space.
Inside the block walls 2X4 framing should be used. This framing will allow room for plumbing, electrical and insulation.
The windows should be replaced with double glazed vinyl ones.

To do a project of this nature, it probably require about $50k for the material. Labor????????

gregzoll 11-29-2011 07:51 PM

Wildie, have you looked at what DD did to handle that, and maintain enough space. If stairs took up too much space, we would all still be using ladders, or circle stairways.

Wildie 11-29-2011 10:25 PM


Originally Posted by gregzoll (Post 781669)
Wildie, have you looked at what DD did to handle that, and maintain enough space. If stairs took up too much space, we would all still be using ladders, or circle stairways.

Who is DD? Sorry, I'm at a loss about who you are refering.

The building is 18X24, a bit over 400 s/f. Thats not much to live in. Even losing an area of 4 s/f for a ladder would be hard to give up.

gregzoll 11-29-2011 10:56 PM

You never even read post #2, nor the link I posted. Maybe you should. As for the structure, it is 432sqft, and a stairwell can be done. I take it, that at that size, you feel that no closets should be allowed. For your info, the stairs, would actually be a ladder, or as is done in European countries. There is a lot of places here in the U.S., that do not care how you build, nor even permit a lot of builds, so a lot of things fly by, that you would not even believe.

Wildie 11-30-2011 11:54 AM


Originally Posted by gregzoll (Post 780809)
You need to look over Dorf dude's build in Germany, to get an idea in how much work is involved, in something of this nature.

Thanks greg, I seen the link and meant to get back for a look and then forgot!

A fellow would need lots of time and money to undertake a project like that.

granadaCoder 11-30-2011 03:46 PM

Small Foot Print
I had given some thought to the stairwell. The german house stairs is pretty much what I was thinking.

One option, place the hot water heater and radiant heat stuff under the stairwell. I know it'll take up some precious space, gives you some more precious space (upstairs) in the end.

The footprint of a water heater / radiant heat fixtures / stairwell is smaller if there had to be a dedicated "sleeping area" on the first floor.

I also saw this on "This New House" (This-Old-House and Sweat-Equity hosts .. they host this new show).

user1007 08-11-2012 05:45 AM

Sooner rather than later you should check with the municipality with jurisdiction to see what they will require to approve occupancy.

Sorry to hear of your family's plight. It strikes a personal nerve.

md2lgyk 08-11-2012 07:03 AM

Since you have existing water and sewer, why not purchase a park model RV and put it on the property? That would probably be a whole lot cheaper, and certainly a whole lot quicker solution.

If you're in NOVA, I'm not far from you (tip of WV's Eastern Panhandle) so I know what the winters are like. When my wife and I were building our log house by ourselves, we lived in our travel trailer on the property for over two years. With some good skirting, we never had a problem staying warm.

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