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Old 01-03-2016, 02:54 PM   #1
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Mostly DIY House and Barn


I'm starting a thread here to highlight the building of our house and barn in upstate South Carolina. Although both are mostly done, I'll post the progress over a period of weeks or months. The original project is going on 4 years, so this way I spare you the waiting.

Our story: In 2006, we bought 7 acres of sloping, wooded land in upstate SC. We are about 15 miles north of Greenville SC, the nearest city. It's been a life-long dream of mine to build my own house, so here goes. I say 'mostly DIY', because I did hire some work out. Excavation, concrete, and drywall, for the most part. I did everything else, mostly single-handed, although I had help on big stuff like hanging the roof trusses. This habit of mine of working alone makes for slow going, and I should have hired help for some of it. I'm 62 years old, and though I'm in good shape, I ain't what I used to be. Other than home repair and maintenance, I've never done most of this before.

I'll start with the barn, since that's the order I did things. We got the barn done, and I lived in it while building the house. I had a driveway cut in, and set up an old pop-up camper to live in. I immediately built an 8 X 12 shed to house my tools, as loading and unloading the van every day got old. The first few weeks I worked off of a generator until I got the temporary power brought in. I started the barn in August of 2011. I hired a framing crew, as the 13' walls were WAY too big to tip up alone!





The camper is tarped because the roof leaks (right over the bed, of course) and it kept it cooler in the summer. I had no plumbing at first, either. I used a home made sawdust toilet (Ol' Splinter) and a solar camping shower. First, I built a shed:



The barn is 28 X 48 on a concrete slab. The ceiling on the main floor is over 12', and over 8' in the big loft.









An inside shot of the barn:



It's about 27' to the peak of the barn roof. The roof is Galvalume over 5/8 sheathing. The big doorway is 12' high and 12' wide.





That's a good start. I'll be back next week with the finished pics of the barn, and then I'll start the house. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, fire away. I love to talk about this stuff!

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Old 01-03-2016, 05:47 PM   #2
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I look forward to this thread---7 acres with trees----that is unheard of here in the flat lands.

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Old 01-11-2016, 06:28 AM   #3
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Chapter two. Here's some shots of the barn being finished. Hanging the huge, heavy sliding doors was an adventure for working alone. I hauled them up with a cheap winch, and then attached them to the track hardware.





A shot of the loft. It is over 8' headroom, and covers 2/3's of the barn. The final third is going to be finished as a great room with a 22' ceiling.



It took a while, but I finally got it painted, and poured a concrete slab. Eventually, I'll run 240 power out there, and insulate and finish it up. Meanwhile, I had a house to build!



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Old 01-17-2016, 07:21 AM   #4
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Here's an aerial shot of our property. This pic is more recent, with the house and barn in place. The barn is in the lower right. We have what is called a 'flag lot', because the entrance is narrow, like a flagpole, with the bulk of the property behind it. I've been trying to buy about an acre from my neighbor, which would give us a lot more frontage, and thus increase the value of our property. My real reason for wanting to do this is so that no one builds right in front of us.



Here's a floor plan of the house. It's pretty small by today's standards; only 1295 square feet on the inside. There's only one bedroom on the main level. The basement is the same size, though, and dry and fully insulated. We are on a walk-out basement, so the basement has large windows in the back. Future plans include finishing at least one bedroom in the basement, as well as a full bathroom, which is already roughed in. The entire back of the house faces a view of the mountains when the leaves are off the trees.



The house is ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms). For those not familiar, they are basically like giant Lego blocks, with 2-3/4" foam inside and out, and the 8" thick cavity in the middle is hollow to be filled with rebar and concrete. The blocks are very light, and interlock, so you just stack them up.

Here's the big hole in the ground, and shots of the footing being poured. I used a local contractor who specializes in ICF. He did the site work, footings, slabs, and filled the ICF forms. He was also great as an advisor on ICF.









ICF makes an extremely strong, tight, and well-insulated house. I installed a couple courses of ICF, laid the under slab plumbing, and then we poured the slab before stacking more block. It's a lot easier and cleaner working off of a slab, then slogging through the mud.





After the first (basement) story was stacked, I installed bracing, which keeps the wall in place during filling, and lots of rebar. There is rebar every 16", both horizontal and vertical. The ICF blocks have horizontal plastic webs that hold it together, provide a place to lay in the rebar, and there are plastic strips every 8" for fastening wall coverings both inside and out. The horizontal rebar is laid in as each course is stacked. The rebar is left long so that it will connect to the next story.





Next week, I'll show pics of the forms being filled.
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Old 01-17-2016, 09:23 AM   #5
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Love it. Looking forward to the progress photos and I love the construction (ICF) type!!!
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Old 01-25-2016, 12:44 PM   #6
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I almost missed the update what with all of the snow excitement. We had 7" here in SC, basically an extinction-level event in the deep south.

Here is a typical window buck. There is pressure-treated wood that stays in place, and all of the other bracing is to resist the weight and pressure of the concrete. You can't see them, but the insides of all of the PT lumber has galvanized lag bolts with the heads sticking out (in) to the concrete. This keeps the lumber from warping or twisting over time. Now they have specially made buck material instead of lumber. I made most of the window openings oversized so I could have angled window returns. The walls are over a foot thick, so there is a tunnel effect if the returns are straight. This is my own design- more about it later.



The big day! It's interesting to watch the guy filling the forms and the pumper operator. They never say a word; they just watch each other and know what to do.







The blue tape is to keep the top of the forms clean, as another floor will be getting stacked on it later.



To mount the main floor, you have to have ledgers to attach the floor joists to. You're not allowed to bolt them over foam; the ledger has to contact the concrete where it is bolted. I made a number of plywood patches which covered the 6" holes I cut in the foam. Each patch holds a J-bolt in place for future mounting of the ledgers. I also installed these outside on the back for attaching a future deck.



We had record heat during that summer- officially 107 degrees F., the highest temperature ever recorded in our area. Brutal! When you build your own house, you will see the hottest, coldest, driest, wettest, snowiest weather ever seen.



With the basement pour completed, the braces got stripped off, and I built the floor deck.





The first stairs I ever built, and they came out right!



Once the floor deck was done, we waterproofed and backfilled the basement. I used a peel and stick membrane, plus a dimple board drainage plane. Most of the backfill was gravel for drainage, covered with geotextile, and then topsoil at the surface. I do NOT want a wet basement! Next week, we'll start building the main floor.
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Old 01-25-2016, 12:51 PM   #7
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WOW, thats looking great!!!!
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Old 01-27-2016, 09:26 AM   #8
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BTW- If you have any questions about the process (or my sanity) fire away. I could talk about this stuff for hours!
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Old 01-27-2016, 02:58 PM   #9
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looks really cool - nice progress photos
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Old 01-27-2016, 08:10 PM   #10
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I like the ICF forms----that is some nice neat work---

(doesn't it feel good to have your stair cuts work out right?)
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Old 02-01-2016, 06:11 PM   #11
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Here we go on the main floor. Rebar was left sticking up from the basement pour, and the concrete was left good and ragged so the upper floor would bond strongly. Filling the forms requires some experience. The concrete has to be vibrated to get the air pockets out, but if you overdo, the concrete can blow out the foam forms. They fill the forms about three feet at a time, starting in one corner and working their way around. By the time you get to the starting point, the concrete is stiff enough for the next lift.



All stacked up! The lintels above door and window openings are just poured with everything else, but there is a lot of rebar in there.





After getting the walls filled, we poured the slab for the attached garage and the front porch.





I did conventional stick framing on the attached garage. It is an oversize one car garage for my wife's car. Don't feel bad- I get the whole barn! I put the garage roof trusses up by myself, but we hired a crane and had a couple buddies help with the main house trusses. They are some 37' long- not something you can handle alone.









Phew- Got the last one in! We carefully braced each truss as it went up. A man was killed near here when they put up all of the trusses without bracing, and they collapsed.



The trusses are 'raised heel' trusses, which are about a foot taller out at the edges rather than coming down to a point. This allows for full attic insulation all the way out to the edge of the walls. I also had the trusses built to a higher wind rating, and attached them with big H-10 hurricane clips. Not required here, but I lived in FL for 30 years, and wanted a strong roof! Next week, we'll start sheathing.
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Old 02-01-2016, 06:36 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MushCreek View Post
BTW- If you have any questions about the process (or my sanity) fire away. I could talk about this stuff for hours!
Holy cow, I just filled out the fox block estimator today trying to figure costs and such for building my own home. What are the odds I'd log on and see an diy and icf house to boot!

So what's your impression of the block so far? I helped out a local icf contractor for a few days for free in trade for seeing how things were done. I've come to the conclusion to do it like you did where I hire out the footing etc but Id also hire out the first row down and then do the other blocks and such myself until ready to pour. I also figured hiring crew to help layout scaffolding, that seems like a bear.

I also plan on raised heel trusses too. I'm a few years out till build date but have spent the last 8 months or so designing the house and researching all I can. I'm pretty sold on the icf especially given it will eliminate the first floor exterior framing.

I'm really trying to figure out the cost of the icf vs stick built with blown in and 1.5" rigid exterior for a thermal break. I keep thinking of how much time would be wrapped up in having to trim out all the exterior foam on the stick built.

This is way too exciting to see, looking forward to more pics!
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Old 02-02-2016, 05:05 AM   #13
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We used Fox blocks, and I was very impressed with the quality. Everything came out extremely square, level, and plumb. The overall dimensions came out within 1/4". It's extremely important that the footing be perfect, and the first course laid out square. I bought a good foam gun, and used a lot of foam canisters. The first course gets glued down with foam, and I glued the corners, and used tie-downs everywhere else to prevent the blocks from floating during the pour. I can give you lots of tips and pointers. ICF requires more planning, as it's hard to drill holes, or God forbid, move a window!

As for performance after the fact, the house is amazing! Extremely strong and quiet, and the temperature uniformity is remarkable. We condition the whole house (1400 square feet) with a single 12K BTU mini-split year-round. Temperatures here range from single digits to occasional triple digits. It's important that the HVAC system is designed by someone who understands energy efficient structures. Old-school HVAC contractors will try to sell you a system that is way to big! I bought a $50 HVAC program, HVACCalc, and carefully entered all of the data to the best of my ability. The thermal mass of the ICF performs particularly well in areas that aren't really extreme. We turned our HVAC off in September, and did not need the heat until early January, despite some nights in the 20's. Our basement has no HVAC, but stays above 60 all winter, and below 78 during our long, hot summer.

As I said, I could talk about this stuff all day, so feel free to ask, or PM me.
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Old 02-02-2016, 07:20 AM   #14
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Great progress pics.

Looking good.
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Old 02-02-2016, 09:03 AM   #15
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Looking great.

Thanks for posting.

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