Archive for the ‘ICF Construction’ Category

Electricity Bills in an ICF House

December 29, 2007

Since we’ve been in the house for several months now, we just wanted to add a comment about our energy bills.  We went with ICF construction and splurged on a white metal roof, all in hopes of keeping our energy bills down.  And were we ever right!

Our highest bill was the one for our first month, when our builder was using it for part of the month and running the air conditioner a good deal lower than we actually run it (we keep it around 78 degrees when it’s hot out).  So the highest bill was $63, with the air conditioner running pretty constantly.  Our bills since then have run around $48/month, which is pretty amazing for a 2100 sq. foot house.  We spent more than this every single month in our tiny 760 sq. foot apartment in Kissimmee, so we are thrilled with the savings!

We also pay a good deal less than expected for our homeowner’s insurance because of a few wise design decisions that added up.  Our roof is hipped, with no gables, so we got a discount for that.  We also got a discount for having a metal roof, instead of a shingled roof.  Finally, we got a partial discount for the ICF construction.  I say partial, because if we’d gone with the ICF roof, that would have shaved another $220/year off our insurance costs.  Because our roof is wood frame, we don’t get the ICF discount for that.  Our homeowner’s insurance is still far less than we’d expected, so those decisions made in the design process definitely add up.

We have a propane-powered whole-house generator now, which I will post about at a later date.  And now I must get back to relaxing in my hammock outside.  The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and it’s a balmy 78 degrees outside today: December 29.  Lovely…

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A giant hole in our yard

June 23, 2007

Yes, there is a giant hole in our backyard. Here it is:

“Oh, no!” you exclaim. “Just when things were going so well!” Not to fear; this giant hole is actually a necessary part of the circle of life. It enables us to get through the day. We can use now use the bathroom in our house – or we could if we had toilets. This, my friends, is part of acquiring a septic tank.

I was lucky enough to catch the tank before it was inspected and, thus, buried:

And here is our unburied drain field:

Here, in contrast, is the drain field once it’s been inspected and buried:

The giant hole is still there, just waiting to be filled. The reason for the hole is that the septic tank people needed to build up the land, before they could get the septic tank inspected. In order to build it up, they took dirt from right in front of our back porch. Now that the inspection is finished, Woody can bring in fill dirt to – you guessed it – fill the hole.

And now, a brief rant on our propane company of choice. The one fly in our ointment, throughout this process, has been the proprane company we had the misfortune to choose. They were scheduled to come the week before last, but, without calling Woody or giving him any indication why, they just didn’t show up. So he rescheduled them for Wednesday of this past week, June 20. Part of the crew showed up: the part the brought in our hot water heater. The part that was supposed to bury the tank, however, called in sick. So we will try again, this coming week, to coax them out to our lot.

The tank is yet another thorn in our sides.

It is not a good tank. It is a bottom of the line tank. We told the propane man, repeatedly, that we’d like to pay more to upgrade to a better insulated tank. This would save energy, which is our goal. It is not, however, his goal. The more energy we save, the less money we give him for propane. So he went ahead and installed the bottom-of-the-line tank. We will foil him by wrapping it in a tank blanket. But we’re still disgruntled.

And, finally, the third problem, which, again, we must attribute to the propane company. We told him that we were having an electric dryer. He decided to go ahead and put a propane drop in for our dryer. What can it hurt? Maybe it will help for resale value. Good point, EXCEPT – the electric guy, on seeing that we’re having a gas dryer, then doesn’t install the necessary wiring for our electric dryer. Result: our electric dryer is delivered, and there is no plug. Woody now has to rip out drywall to put in the correct wiring. Thank you, propane man.

Here is a picture of our washer & dryer:

It’s not a good picture, because we couldn’t really get in front of them, but you get the idea. They’re both good, and very energy efficient. We are happy with everything but the propane man.

Our range was delivered today, and, since it’s a dual fuel range, we will need the propane man to hook this up with a special liquid propane kit. Dare we trust him to do this? Will we, in the words of the Flying Hawaiian, David Kala’iki Ali’i when confronted with propene, say to ourselves, “I thank God everyday … that I didn’t get exploded.”

We also now have a bar; the rest of the Silestone has been put in:

The beadboard is going in, in our downstairs bath. This will be painted white when the painters return:

Next week, Woody will return and work on getting our stairs in. The maple has arrived, and is chilling in the garage right now. Unless he thinks up another excuse, the propane guy will return and bury our propane tank. And, once the range is hooked up, we can get the electric inspection and get temporary electric turned on, our first step to getting the bamboo floors installed.

A note about living in Florida: you see a lot of sad things. I saw a gopher tortoise get exploded on the road this week, when a dump truck just tore right through him. Very sad. It always stinks to see an endangered species, or, indeed, any species at all, die a nasty road death. Today, while we were driving from our house to the recycling center (we recycle all the cardboard, cans, bottles, etc. from the construction site), we saw another sad road death:

He was nowhere near a pond or lake, so I’m not sure why he was out where he was killed.

But then we came home to our apartment, and the waterfowl were frolicking in our pond, and that was nice:

Drywall is done!

April 29, 2007

Our drywall is finished, and we are ready for painting. It’s amazing what a difference it makes, to have the walls all up and finished. It really looks like a house, and I think it’s a lovely house. I’m very excited that we’re going to get to live in this beautiful creation.

Here is a photo of our great room wall, all drywalled up:

And here is a better photo of our finished door with matching transom window:

In our upstairs shower, the tub surround upstairs, and the downstairs bath, the builders used Durock:

This picture is of our downstairs bath, with octagonal window visible.

When we came to visit our house on Saturday, the drywall was all up, but had not had the spray sealant put on it. However, when we came back on Sunday morning, it had been sprayed, so the texture was visible. This was the sign that the drywallers were completely done and we are now ready for paint!

The reason we came by on Sunday as well as Saturday was to drop our paint choices into the Doc box. I thought we did this rather cleverly, though I’m sure millions of other people have done the same thing! We had an earlier draft of the floorplans, not showing the ICF walls, but that would be suitable to use for this purpose. We color coded every wall, showing which colors we wanted, so that there would be no possibility of error. Can you tell I’m a teacher? I anticipate confusion arising, and try my best to prevent it. We stapled the sheet with our various color choices, including manufacturer, color name, and color number, to the front of our color-coded floorplans.

We wanted our trayed ceiling in the master bedroom to have a ring of the iceberg blue wall paint around the tray area, so that is what’s color coded at the top of this page. And, of course, as part of the green building process, we are using low/no VOC paints.

Our builder, Woody Dortch of Classic Structures, Inc., has been hard at work continuing to install the James Hardie Board siding onto our house:

The first floor is almost done, and, on one side of the house, he’s finished the siding entirely. Huzzah!

Woody said something which really struck me this week, and I thought I’d mention it, since it’s indicative of the type of builder he is. I was telling him that we’d heard horror stories from other people who had new construction homes, about what a difficult and traumatic process it was. Woody said, “When you’re building a house, you have to expect that problems will come up. It’s how you handle it that makes it a good or bad building experience.” I thought that was remarkable, since it was exactly TRUE.

For example, Woody spoke with the propane guy, who said that the ugly propane vent on the front of the house could be moved, but that he (propane guy) was not going to move it (jerk). So Woody told us that he would move the vent himself, and was going to pay to replace the entire sheet of metal for the roof, so that we don’t have an ugly patch job. His pride in the finished product, as well as his dedication to us as his customers are truly remarkable. As a teacher, I generally have a low opinion of people’s integrity, but Woody’s honesty & integrity are striking!

Finally, we resolved the issue of our overly expensive floors. Woody found another vendor for us, who is going to give us just what we want: brown tiles for the kitchen & master bath, black & white subway tiles for the downstairs bath, frieze carpet for the master bedroom, and bamboo flooring for everywhere else, for very close to our budget. Here is a photo of the exact bamboo flooring we’re using: Columbia Flooring’s Ivory Bamboo.

Next steps: the interior will be painted; Woody will continue installing the Hardie Board siding; our garage door will go up; the flooring will go in; our cabinets will be installed.

Will it be a house when the siding goes up?

April 21, 2007

And the dispute rages on. I maintain that it’s more than a lot, but my husband maintains that it’s less than a house! Things are really moving this week, though.

The first news is that our builder, Woody Dortch of Classic Structures, Inc., has begun putting up our siding. Which is why I say that, once it no longer looks like a gigantic foam ice chest, we should call it a HOUSE! Here is a shot of the front of the house, with the bay window partially covered with Hardie Board siding:

One interesting fact about the Hardie Board is that the white trim pieces are apparently extremely fragile. Woody told my husband that he just lifts the trim pieces onto his shoulders, and they snap. They’re quite expensive, about $15 each, so he’s lost some money because of the fragility of this material. Woody said that, if he had it to do over, he’d probably have used PVC trim. He demonstrated for my husband by hitting a piece across his thigh. It broke in two pieces: a $15 demonstration. Yikes!

And here is the side of the house, with siding up to the top of the first floor. Notice the ladder-type thingie (to use a highly technical term) that Woody and his worker stand on to put up the siding:

This is the part I think looks the coolest, because it really shows me what the house will look like. The first floor of the back side of the house has the siding put up. Notice the white chair, one of two chairs that we bought for the workers to sit in while eating lunch or taking a break. After a few minutes of sitting on concrete myself, I felt pity for the poor souls having to do that every time they wanted to rest!

We’ve also had big things going on inside the house. The Icynene insulation was sprayed in on Monday, and we passed our inspection Thursday, so the drywall hanging has begun. Huzzah!

Here is the Icynene inside the 2nd floor trusses over our library:

I think it looks really cool, like a big foam cloud, to use yet another highly technical description. This is how you know the blog is really written by an ignorant consumer, rather than being an ad for a construction company! Here is another shot of the Icynene, this time trimmed off. It’s the insulated wall dividing our dining area & kitchen from the garage:

Since the entire shell of the house, garage included, is ICF construction, we needed a very well-insulated wall dividing our living area from the garage area. Icynene, from everything we’ve read, makes for an extremely well-sealed, energy efficient home, so it fit our bill.

Because we passed our insulation inspection, the drywall hanging began Friday. The workers were still working over the weekend, when we went out to the house, so we felt bad poking around and taking many pictures. Here is a shot of the drywall in the Great Room area:

And here is another shot of the area, this time showing the foyer. Notice the new transom window has been installed, so it now matches the door:

We got our flooring estimate back, and found out that Brazilian maple is wildly out of our price range! So we went back to square one, did some more reading of reviews of bamboo, and found nothing to say that bamboo would be a problem in a humid climate like Florida. Because our HVAC system has been appropriately sized for our ICF home (roughly half the size of an HVAC for a normal home of this square footage), humidity within the house itself should not be an issue. The other thing was that the flooring contractors we were using only carried carbonized bamboo, not non-carbonized bamboo. The carbonization process makes the bamboo weaker, so that could have been why they didn’t recommend it. We found a supplier for them who carried non-carbonized bamboo, horizontal grain, so we are hoping that will re-align our floor budget.

We are now waiting for the drywall to finish being hung (approximately 8-9 days, according to Woody), and then it will be ready to paint. Woody and his worker will continue installing the Hardie Board siding, and when he is finished, the septic tank will go in. Huzzah!

Well, well, well…

April 14, 2007

We have a well! And here it is:

This is the only real development from this week. We got the propane permits (finally) and passed all of our framing inspections. On Monday, the Icynene guys are coming to spray in the Icynene. On Thursday, the drywall hangers are coming to start hanging drywall. And, also on Monday, our builder Woody Dortch of Classic Structures, Inc., will begin hanging the Hardie Board siding. It has been delivered and is sitting in our front yard:

I went to Celebration this week, to meet up with my husband for lunch. We had a nice picnic, and then I fed some bread to this lovely family of Muscovy ducks. They are a couple, with 11 children, and we’ve been watching them grow up. The 11 babies are quite large now, and they are very tame & friendly. They piled around me, begging for bread:

The father duck was very funny; if he felt I hadn’t given him enough food, he began vibrating. He’d raise up the feathers on his head, open his mouth, and start hissing. My husband caught him in the act, with his tongue sticking out:

And now for the bad news. I’ve been outwitted by a squirrel. We saw this man feeding the squirrels peanuts on one of the walkways through the woods at Celebration, and I thought, “Hey! I have some shelled walnuts at home. I’ll bring those and feed the squirrels, too.” Bad idea. I used to have a pet squirrel as a child, but these squirrels are nothing like our Trouble. They are a lot smarter than Trouble. They are a lot smarter than I.

Here is the squirrel, happy, jolly, eating his food:

Here is what I was trying to do with the food: set it out on the posts like this.

But the squirrel was too smart for me, and much too fast. Every time I’d move to another post, he’d beat me there. I could have sworn the squirrel had 12 little paws and a Turbo engine, because he seemed to be everywhere I was, grabby grabby:

That is the squirrel reaching out to grab my hand and wrest the walnut from my grip. But what you don’t see is Mr. Squirrel sinking his incisors into my thumb, poking a hole in my nail and in the top of the thumb.

The good news is that I don’t have to get a rabies shot, because, according to the CDC and the FL Dept of Health, there are no known cases of a squirrel transmitting rabies to a human. Since the bite was a “provoked bite,” (yeah, I freely admit it was provoked- I was eager to feed him, and the cute little squirrel with the big teeth was too much for me), which is apparently quite common in Florida and other states, no rabies treatments are recommended. If I hadn’t had a recent tetanus shot (within the past 5 years), I would have had to go get one of those. Luckily, I had mine in 2005, so I should recover just fine from my provoked squirrel attack.

The good, the bad, and the downright ugly

March 31, 2007

Our news this week is a mixed bag. On the bright side, the white metal roof is nearly complete. The roofer was short four sheets of metal, so he will need to order those before he can complete the roof. Our builder, Woody Dortch of Classic Structure, Inc., told us that this is normal. The metal is so expensive that they want to be sure they don’t order too much.

The bad news, for Woody, is that the windows supplier ordered a transom window. Woody told him not to order it, but he did it anyway. So the transom window installed here is not actually the correct one. Woody has already ordered the transom window that actually matches our door, so that is on the way. I think it’s pretty low of the windows supplier to buy extra pieces, though, and stick our builder with the bill.

Here is our front door, seen from the inside. Keep in mind that the transom will be changed to match the decorative door glass.

And now, the downright ugly. This is our first real problem in construction – we knew something was coming, and could probably have told you in advance that it would be caused by the propane supplier. Our particular supplier chooses not to return calls. He first offers you a 325 gallon buried tank and then changes his mind and says his offer includes a tiny tank and, if you want the large one, you will have to buy it for an additional $2000. He will tell you that he’s faxing something to you and then he just won’t. He will do this five or six times in a row. And then he will tell your builder that he is actually waiting on YOU to send his fax back. He is a bad egg.

Here is what he did to our beautiful roof:

Woody pointed this out to us this week, so that we wouldn’t be horrified when we got to the house. He doesn’t know why the propane people chose to just go out there, when his people weren’t around and, without asking, knock a big hole through our FRONT facing roof and stick this ugly pipe up out of it. I know why they did this; it was the most direct vent and, thus, the cheapest for them. They are bad eggs.

Woody said that he will call the propane guy on Monday and take it up with him. We’ll see how that goes, but we are NOT PLEASED with the propane guy. I am sensing that a complaint to the BBB is imminent, if he doesn’t rectify his stupidity and cupidity.

What is next, you ask? We are still waiting on one more bid from kitchen cabinet suppliers, and, once we get this bid, we will make our final decision and order the cabinets & countertops. Woody hopes to get the interior framing inspected this week, so that he can call in the Icynene guys and then begin putting up the drywall. And our Hardie Board siding in Boothbay Blue is coming this week, hopefully. That will take about 3-4 weeks to hang. Our garage door has been ordered, and it is INSULATED! This is good, as it fits in with our energy efficient theme.

We will see how it goes with the propane man, though; he is one bad egg.

Adding a roof

March 24, 2007

We’re getting a roof finally! And we have windows! And doors! (Though the doors aren’t all put up.)

First the overview:

Now the close-up of our partial white metal roof and white soffits:

We chose white metal for its strength and reflective properties, and we are hoping that a white metal roof will have a much lower heat gain than a standard, black or gray shingled roof. Here is a photo of the roof metal, lying in the front yard:

Here is our HUGE, 12 foot wide great room door. It’s very cool, because the three portions move independently, so that we could open the first and middle panels, or the first and third panels, to get a breeze going through the house.

We have many windows, but the octagonal one is pretty cool. You can see that it still has gaps, so it’s open to the exterior around the corners. This window is inside our downstairs guest bath.

Our windows are MI Windows, and they are the BetterBilt series. The ratings vary, though all have a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient in the .34-.37 range. They are Low-E, Argon filled windows, in keeping with our energy efficient home theme.

Finally, here is our entertainment center. It was so interesting to see our sketches come to life!

We are really happy with the way things are going, and can’t wait until the roof is finished and the siding and drywall start going up!

We’re wired!

March 11, 2007

The electrician, plumber, and HVAC contractors have all been busy at work on our home this past week. The results look like this:

And this

And this

(The above is a photo of the tub for the master bath, the Aquamarine model by Izzi Baths).

While they’ve been busy wiring, we’ve been busy shopping. As confirmed apartment dwellers, we have no real furniture. A futon with the arm chewed up by our dog, sure, we’ve got that. But not real house furniture.

We looked at several places, like Ethan Allen, Badcock, Broyhill, Wood You, and American Signature Furniture. Our favorite at first was Ethan Allen, before we realized that, even though we would be paying through the nose for their furniture, they 1. use particleboard in some pieces’ construction and 2. exhibit all the signs of fine, Chinese craftsmanship. The floor models had big mistakes, like lopsided doors that had misaligned hardware and armoire doors that scratched up the bottom of the armoire every time you closed them! For those prices, we were underwhelmed by the low level of quality. My husband read several reviews that corresponded the decline in quality with the exportation of pieces to China to be built. Yummy…

Badcock sketched us out, and Broyhill was far, far too large, heavy, and ornate for us. We were very excited, though to find Wood You and American Signature. Both those places only sold furniture made of actual, solid wood. American Signature’s pieces were still assembled in either China or Vietnam (some one, some the other), but they seemed to be of better quality.

We really liked their Plantation Cove line; it fit with our beachy theme. We purchased a sofa (the Sonja) in celery green. The cushions are so, so soft, and have a 5 year warranty. We purchased the additional Scotch Gard protection, as this will definitely pay us back in protection from doggie paws.

We also bought, for the living room, a cocktail table. We got the rectangular dining table and 6 chairs for our dining room (all in white). For the master bedroom, we got the king bed, Simmons Napa Super Pillowtop mattress, two end tables, a tall chest of drawers, and an armoire. The master bedroom furniture is all in black, and we plan on having a black/teal/white color combination in this room.

The nice thing about American Signature Furniture is that you can put down only a 10% deposit, and that will lock in the price for you. They will hold the furniture indefinitely, at no charge, for people like us who do not have the house completed yet.

We also liked the Wood You mission style, and are thinking that we will get some combination of this type of furniture for our guest bedroom. This is unfinished wood furniture, so we would have to paint or stain it ourselves, but the prices were very reasonable and the quality seemed to be pretty good, with all-wood construction.

Duct, duct, goose!

March 5, 2007

It’s true; we now have some ductwork done. Nothing too thrilling this week, though it was neat to see the large, silver snakes of our ductwork winding their way through the 2nd floor trusses.

First, a photo of the HVAC ductwork:

Here is one of the vents sticking out of our roof:

And the vents in our ceilings:

The plumber has done some additional work, and he left behind our tub for the downstairs bathroom! It’s a standard, 5 foot long, white American Standard bathtub.

This week, we finalized our choice for the front door. It will look exactly like the picture below:

This is an ODL door with the Oak Park model of caning. We also made the final decision for our Hardie board siding color. Our house will have Boothbay Blue siding, with white trim.

And, finally, while we were at our house, we stopped to observe some of the insect life. This huge dragonfly was very noisily crunching on a ladybug – yuck! – but he made a pretty cool picture.

Rooms, rooms, glorious rooms!

February 17, 2007

See this photo of the house?

Looks the same, doesn’t it? Which just goes to show you that looks can be deceiving, because we are now the proud owners of, not just the shell of a house, but an actual, factual house with ROOMS! True, there is still no metal roof, but that, my friends, is coming in the next 2-3 weeks.

The builders have been busy framing up the interior of the house. It is amazing to see how what was last week sketches on paper has now been transformed into actual rooms that we can walk around. We can now really see the sizing, and it’s probably the most exciting part for me of the entire process.

Here is a picture of our front entrance, with stairs and, just to the right of the first part of the staircase, what will be an under-the-stairs closet. You can see how there is room for a door, and we’ll be able to make use of all this under-stairs area for storage.

Just above the doorway, the reading nook/walkway is visible. From here, we can sit upstairs, read, and keep an eye on goings on in our great room.

Here is a photo of our arched doorway, just to your right as you enter through the foyer. It leads into the kitchen area:

Behind the arch, the stairs are again visible.

And here is an upstairs view, looking down into the great room, dining room, and kitchen. The kitchen island will be open to the great room & dining room:

And now, proceeding upstairs, is a shot of our whopping big closet!

The master bath is visible to the left of the closet, and here is a better view of the master bathroom:

The tub will be in the corner, under the window, and on the far left side of the photo, another small window is visible. The walk-in shower is in this area, below the tiny window. We’re very ninja-esque, so even when bathing or showering, we needed to be able to see someone sneaking up our driveway.

Here is a photo of the master bedroom, with the long window that will be above the bed & the picture window looking out into our wooded backyard:

And, finally, here is the view from the larger window in our master bedroom.

You can see the roof over the back porch, in the bottom right hand corner of the photo.

I’m so glad that the stairs have been built, so that I could finally check out our second floor! Our builder, Woody Dortch of Classic Structures, Inc. seems to be moving right along. He’s chosen our roof vendor, so before too much longer, we will have a completely white house: white metal roof, white foam walls.