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Chadbag's House Construction


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I've talked about our plams to build a home and that I was doing the contracting myself as owner / builder (with a home builder contractor (friend of family -- but doing it as a real job with their supervisor) helping watch over things and arrange stuff I can't or don't want to do).  We got the hole dug and footings poured in July and the ICF (insulated concrete forms -- we are using Nudura -- nudura.com) blocks -- at least the first shipment -- was supposed to arrive by end of July.  For various reasons the ICF didn't show up until the end of August.  It took 3 days to get all the blocks moved off the side of the street and down into the hole (a whole 53' trailer packed to the brim worth).  The 3rd day I bribed a bunch of neighborhood guys with pizza and soda and snacks to help us move the bundles and we got the last 30% done in 75 min...


Anyway, I (and my family) are laying out the blocks but I have framers lined up to do the internal framing, floors, roof, etc. and we'll have trades come in and do the plumbing and electrical and wallboard and painting etc.  The first layer of blocks took a lot of time -- you had to lay out, measure, measure again, etc.  We had to put rebar in under the bottom and pull it up into a plastic web that is part of the blocks and zip tie it in.  And then measure again as things move.  I ended up putting an extra bar of rebar on the bottom from what the plans said as I misunderstood the plans notes.  The architect wanted a bar at the bottom of the first layer and then one bar at the top of each layer after that.  I thought he wanted an extra bar on the bottom, based on his notes and what I had learned from the Nudura installer course.  Anyway, and extra bar of steel along the bottom of the basement wall, ie, main wall acting as the foundation, is not a problem, but it took a lot more time and effort.  To help keeps things straight I decided to build some bracing to screw into the side of the blocks so we spent a week doing that.  All said and done it took several weeks to get the first layer done and all filled with rebar etc.  The second layer was then done and this past weekend we finished the 3rd layer, except for about 50-60 linear feet worth.  My son and I usually spend an hour or two at lunch and then I spend some time in the evening during the week and we also work all day Saturday.  I finished up most of the 3rd layer earlier this week and my son and I finished the last couple blocks this afternoon.  (We also had T-joints to do and stuff like that).  This evening I went back and started laying rebar in the top of the 3rd layer -- wherever I could put whole 20' pieces, plus the 90 deg corner bend pieces we had mass produced last weekend.  The wife was there to help with some of it this evening.  So we got a lot of the rebar placed that didn't need to be cut to length.  I then got about 50' or 60' linear worth of the 4th layer of blocks placed.  We have not clipped them together and need to give each one a heavy tap with the mallet to make sure it is locked into the one below.  The top is too high to do it without a ladder so we'll clip them later.    I'm arranging some heavy duty bracing with build in scaffolding arms to support the walls (mainly for the concrete pour and after the pour until the floor joists etc are installed to provide the box-strength of the whole structure) and help us go higher but I am not sure when it will be delivered -- I have to arrange a crane tomorrow to help lift the crates full of these bracing supports/scaffolding (4 crates at about 1700lbs each) off the trailer and into the hole.  Also need to find some scaffolding boards to rent (the guy who rents the ICF bracing/scaffolding supports doesn't do the wood for liability reasons).  So we'll be using some ladders until we get that all set up to go higher.  Our 4th layer is just a little over 6' off the footing so kind of hard to work in the top of it without a ladder.  Need to keep going with ladder so we don't lose time until we have the other stuff.


Here are some pics of what it looks like from when we finished tonight.  It was dusk and low light so the pics are not so good...



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Wow chad, wow! What an undertaking!

Extra rebar is never a mistake. My Dad and I did a huge cement patio and retain wall on a hillside to support it when I was a kid. My dad and I poured the retaining wall by hand and framed and rebarred the patio (like 35’ x 75”) ourselves and used like 3x the rebar the engineer said to use as we got a lot of extra odds and ends from a couple of construction sites. As you say it was tedious to wire it all up, but the patio has not shifted or cracked in 45 years on a good hillside that’s seen damage to neighbor’s foundations and driveways and survived a few california earthquakes without a crack.


doing a project like things with your family is wonderful. I treasure the construction projects I did with my dad and it taught me so many valuable lessons from problem solving to getting a job done.


kudos to you.



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Friday afternoon and yesterday we got a lot done.  We finished (almost) the 5th layer, and got the first block of the 5th layer placed.  Ther is still one wall and corners associated with that wall on the 4th level that need blocks.  I should get that finished tomorrow.  My son cut all the rebar that we need, and standard 20' bars won't work, for the 5th level.   


A neighbor on the street we are building on came bother Friday and Saturday and spent several hours helping put up blocks.  The first day he helped put up the blocks that did not need to be cut to shape.  The second day I showed him how it worked cutting them etc and how they needed to line up, and he and my wife worked as one team, and I worked with my daughter as a second team while we filled in all the odd sized slots, and my son was cutting rebar.


On the fourth row, we still need to install the T-straps on the T intersections (the metal straps you see at T joints that pull the base of the T up against the cross of the T.  And we need to use the mallet to make sure the 4th layer is clipped in well to the 4rd layer (we hand forced the joints so far) and then put clips between adjoining blocks.  The top of the 4th layer is about the 6' 1" line above the footing so is hard to get to without assistance.  Until I get the support posts w/ scaffolding delivered and installed, we are making do with ladders.  We started on one wall using ladders to get higher than the top so we could use the mallet to make sure they are connected, then install the clips.  Then we also will put in the rebar and the next block right away while we are there, so we'll do several steps ate each segment at once while we have the ladders there.


Here are some pic I took this afternoon of it, as it was too dark when we finished last night to get any pics.




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3 minutes ago, gavino200 said:

Wow! That's impressive. You're doing it yourself. How do those blocks work? Do you remove the blue part after the concrete is poured?


Thanks.   No, these are called ICF -- insulated concrete forms.  The foam is the houses insulation and acts as the form and the insulation (this company, called Nudura, from Canada, is that green/blue color -- others with similar products are usually white).  So the foam stays and you just attach your internal wallboard and external siding (siding/stucco/brick facade -- whatever you want) to the outside.  There are plastic webs embedded every 8" which provide a place to screw stuff in like siding etc.


I have a contractor who will do the internal framing and the main floor and roof etc.  And of course the electrician and plumber will do their parts, etc.  We're just doing the foam part, as well as the pipes in the floor for heating, hanging cabinets, etc.   


It is slower going than I had imagined (after taking the installer class) and it didn't help that the blocks were a month late getting delivered.  But we'll pull through and get it done 🙂


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Update.  Last 1-2 weeks we finished the small amount that only had 3 layers, and did all the 5th layer of blocks except a handful right in the front.  Another 90 mins on Saturday and we would have gotten it done.  We've been using ladders to get the last layer in so it is more slow going...   (I also did a lot more of the strapping across seams, more of the spray foam along the bottom on the footing, and other misc that needs to be done).


Today we got 3 crates of bracing delivered and a crane that lifted them off the trailer and into the hole.  Each crate is supposedly 1700 lbs in round numbers.  These braces are placed along the wall and hold it up and support it for the concrete pour and also have scaffolding arms built in so we can work higher.  We'll finish the last handful of 5th layer blocks and start putting the bracing in tomorrow (my employer has made election day a holiday now so we get the day off tomorrow).  I need to figure out what spacing they are supposed to be and how they get put in etc.



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I just love cranes! Dangerous they might be (if you overload it), it's a piece of engineering marvel. 


Nice to see your nest coming on very nicely! Thanks for sharing! 

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Today I have off (election day -- go figure) and am trying to figure out how the bracing works 🙂


The distributr I rented it from is out of town (one of his friends delivered it yesterday for me) and so is hard to get a hold of.  I found a YouTube video for what looks to be the same brand/style but I won't be sure until I get back up to the site this morning.  I may be making a trip to Lowes of Home Depot for some supplies for this...

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Been putting up the bracing that came in Monday and was put in with the crane.  Just lunch break work with my son and by myself evenings Tuesday, Wed, and today.


I'm headed back up there tonight to try and finish putting the strongbacks on the wall and tomorrow we'll finish with the yellow supports and scaffolding.



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On 11/5/2021 at 7:01 PM, cteno4 said:

I think I see the train room!




I don't think so.  DIfferent floor.  Though you might see where it is on a different level if you can see a better shot than my last ones...

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Ahh didn’t realize there was a full basement, I thought the lower level hobby/entertainment level was basement level. Or is the train room upstairs? I’m confusing myself now.



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17 hours ago, cteno4 said:

Ahh didn’t realize there was a full basement, I thought the lower level hobby/entertainment level was basement level. Or is the train room upstairs? I’m confusing myself now.




There is a basement.  Then a main level.  All the normal living space is on the main level, so when I am old and decrepit, I don't have to negotiate any stairs to get to necessary space.   The basement has a guest bedroom, an open small kitchen and family room, a few different rooms for activities (music practice, or workout, etc), several storage rooms, mechanical room, etc.   The garage is a suspended slab so there is room under there as well.  Some for storage, and some for my hobbies (not trains) like the R/C and wood working and reloading rooms :).  I knew the wife wouldn't let me take 1/2 the basement rooms for hobbies, so I just said I would take space under the garage 🙂


There is no proper second floor, but there are rooms/open space above the garage area, including mud room and pantry, and front entry area.  This includes a larger room above the main double garage which will be the train room.  The longer third garage will have a few small office spaces (since I work from home I'll have one, the wife will have one she'll never use, and one will be for kids' arts/crafts).  All smaller.



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We have 6 levels of blocks in as of Saturday.  This is basically the height at which we can poor.  For the non-garage parts we may need to add a seventh layer, but it will be quick to do as it is just laying down consecutive blocks...   I need to ask the framer.  The joist supports span from the 6th to the 7th layer but we may be able to put in the joists with the supports only partly encased in concrete (and then add the remaining concrete when we do the second part, the main floor walls).


What is left is finishing the window and door lintels -- extra steel over and under the window opening and over the door openings, as well as installing the joist hanger plates into the foam.  And then put in wooden "bucks" for the window and doors.  Then we can pour the first concrete.  (Well, we need to get the last 13 or 14 pieces of bracing delivered and installed).  Oh, and we'll use floor joists temporarily, screwed to the wall, to straighten the wall out and make it nice and straight and ready for concrete...  And I have a bunch of strapping to add to various seams, add foam to seams and stuff, as well...


We have the door and window done with lintel steel (that can be seen in the last pic) and added but not tied the steel for a door lintel in the long under-garage wall with lots of doors (center pic though you can't see the door that is done that well in it).  Should get all the lintel steel placed this week.


The framer (head) is coming by tomorrow (Tuesday) or the following day with his fancy lasers and stuff to exactly mark where he wants the joist hangers, height wise, as well as a beam support piece that needs to be embedded in the concrete in a wall.


I was supposed to have all last week off, as the company I work for wanted to give its employees some extra time away due to all the work and stress of the last year.  But of course, last Monday after lunch, while working at the house, my boss called and said he needed my help on a customer escalation that was causing problems, and I ended up spending 2x  1/2-days and one full day on that, losing a good portion of my house work time  😞



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On 12/7/2021 at 3:27 PM, gavino200 said:

Is it an illusion or is that an enormous house? What's the square footage going to be?



Sorry, I missed this.  The house does have a large footprint.  The idea is that all the (necessary) living space is on one floor.  The main floor is about 3200 sq ft plus the garage.   The garage is suspended slab floor so the basement has the square footage of the main floor plus the garage, plus a cold storage under the front porch.  There is no second floor, but there is "bonus space" above the garage and front entry area of the house.  There will be some open lofts on each end plus an open walkway looking down into the main open living room/dining/kitchen area.  The bonus space also includes the train room which is more or less above the two car garage part.  There is a third car garage on the side which runs all the way to the back of the house (and a garage door on the back so you can pull all the way through into the back yard if you wanted to).  This third garage will have 3 small offices and one of the open lofts.  Since I work from home (have been since way before Covid as my "office" is in Indiana I'll have a small office for me.  One for the wife to do whatever and one for family project room.  They are not that big.   Except where the bonus space is,  all living spaces are vaulted ceiling (including bathrooms, bedrooms, main kitchen/living room, etc).  There is no attic.


The basement has a small guest bedroom, and family room with small kitchen, some open areas in the middle and a bunch of store rooms, a music practice room, an exercise room, game room, etc.  Stuff to fill the space.  The most important space is under the garage, since 3/4 of it is mine 🙂.  The wife wouldn't let me take over the basement but I could have the space under the garage so there will be a main storage room for our food and stuff we buy (buy a case of chili?  Goes in this room), and then a room for my wood working, a room for my R/C planes and drones as well as the non wood working part of the guitar building (ie the electronics), and one room for reloading and other "things that go bang" endeavors.  None of these rooms are terribly big but it allows me to actually exercise all my hobbies as needed.  


The main floor is divided into 3 main zones.  The public zone, the semi-public zone, and the private zone.  Once you get through the fornt doors (there are two -- the first leads into a small entry room for removing coats, shoes, etc. Then a second front door to enter the house.  (This also keeps the cold air out of the house coming through the front door).  There is a wide hallway as you go through the front door and a set of double doors with frosted glass at the end (we haven't actually chosen the exact doors yet). Off to the left off this hallway is a front parlor that fronts the house (windows looking out over the porch).  I call this the salesman (or Home teacher) room.  This is the public room.  Salesmen or others who call and want to speak with me/us and they go into the parlor.  Also off this entry hallway is a small toilet room (only a toilet and sink).  This is mainly for guests who need to use the facilities, though because of where it is, it will get a lot of family use.   This is public area -- this hallway, parlor, and toilet room.


Once you go through the doors at the end of the entry hallway, you enter the semi-public space, which is the main living room/dining area/kitchen with vaulted ceiling.   From here you can look up into the bonus space and loft space.    This large main room is the semi-public space because it is where we invite friends over for dinner, to watch a movie, or for whatever reason.  It is also the main living space for the family that is not private.  There is a suspended stairway going up to the bonus space and a stairway going downstairs here as well. 


There will be a large barn door on the left at the bottom of the stairway (on the left of the stairway) that goes to the private space (bedrooms, bathrooms, etc).  With that closed the family private space is separated so if guests are over they don't see the bedrooms, dirty laundry, people in bathrobes, etc.


There are 3 bedrooms -- a master, and two othhr ones in the back of the private space.  A laundry room, a bathroom off the hall, and our "Japanese bath" which is a wet room with wall mounted shower and a soaking tub, and a partially separate small changing space with sink.





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Wow. It sounds like an amazing design. Keeping it mostly one floor for living is a great idea. Less stair climbing in years to come will be appreciated by your future self.

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2 hours ago, gavino200 said:

Wow. It sounds like an amazing design. Keeping it mostly one floor for living is a great idea. Less stair climbing in years to come will be appreciated by your future self.

yes, that was my thinking.  As I explain it to people who ask:  "when I am old and decrepit" I don't want to be climbing stairs.  When that time comes I don't NEED to go down to the basement, and won't be going up to my office or train room either if I am not able.  And I made the stairs straight one shot (and wide -- 54 inches wide) stairs so that if need be I could install one of those lift chair thingies.  My parents looked at them as they are now old and my dad can't easily go up stairs, but their stairs have two 90 deg turns and it would be $20k or more while a straight shot version would be $4-6k...  I also am avoiding more than one step up into the house and no steps from the garage into the house.  I see the difficulty my dad has as he is now 86 and suffering from prostate cancer, and the treatments he was receiving made him weak and he started having problems even with just a couple steps.


I designed the house layout on graph paper and then let the architect fix everything and make a real house out of it.  But he was pretty faithful to what I had outlined, in general.  I thought long and hard about all the pain points I had had in life up to now (no room for hobbies, not being able to have guests in the house due to messes because bedrooms are off the main hall or main living room, etc) as well as the pain points my parents were having as they enter old age and have physical difficulties.  So I attempted to address all of these through the one floor for living space, segregation into public, semi-public, and private sections with discrete doorways separating each, etc.


Our current house is a single floor 1250 sq ft finished and an unfinished basement.  We don't own it -- just rent it -- and so we have lots of pain points from it since we have two kids and me, the biggest kid, mess, and hobbyist of them all, trying to share the space.


One other thing I took from my parents experience in designing the house.  It is bigger than just me and the wife need, despite all my hobbies and stuff.  My two kids are at home but my son just turned 19 and may be off into the world soon, though I expect he will come back for periods in this first period of adulthood


(I know I did -- went to school the first year, came back and lived at home for around 8 months, then did an LDS mission in Germany, came back and went to school one semester, then started working and lived at home for 2 1/2 years before going back to school a year to try and graduate, and then working in Germany for 18 months.  Then I came back and eventually lived in my parents basement after getting laid off from WordPerfect and trying to make my own self-employment work.  Then I moved away 5 years including getting married, but we had some unemployment issues  with the dot com crash and then the house we were renting getting sold and we ended up staying in my parents home in Utah [they had moved from New England back to where they were from to be near my mom's parents as they got old] for several years before moving out to where we are now.)


All of my siblings have lived with their families for short times (one to a couple years) at my parents home while they got retrenched after major life events.  My daughter is just 14 and will be with us still for a while, but I expect that once both kids are gone, they may need to come stay with us for periods of time as they retrench after major life events, just as we and my siblings did.  So we wanted to make sure the house was big enough to have another family stay with us for maybe a few years or whatever as one of the kids and their families need a place to stay.



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I'll post some more pictures soon.  We unfortunately have not yet poured the concrete yet for the basement layer but are very close.  WIth just my son and I doing most of it, it has been slower than planned, and with some bad weather over the long holiday break meaning I couldn't use that time to full advantage, and then our family had covid the first half of January so not a lot got done for a few weeks.  And I was needing 13-14 more pieces of bracing and had some issues getting it. I finally got 10 pieces a little over a week ago (and the boy and I got it set up this past week and today along with re-attaching all the other bracing and re-plumbing the walls, which took a week or more of lunch time and Saturdays).  I still need 3-4 more pieces of bracing.  The guy I was renting from didn't have it (all his other stuff is rented out and those other jobs are not ready to be done yet) and so he referred me to a builder friend of his who has the same brand bracing.  He have 10 pieces ready and is looking for 3-4 more for me but all his work is up in Wyoming under 3' or more of snow...


Anyway, we've been putting in a lot more rebar and stuff since November and some extra layers of foam and all sorts of stuff.  WIth this latest new bracing and scaffolding we can do the last layer of foam and rebar at the very front and in the 2 car garage.  Then I have to install some joist hangers and ledger board connection points and door and window bucks and we can pour.  So close...


(Originally I wanted to hire a crew to do with ICF structure with me on the labor force but no one I talked to wanted to do just that -- they wanted to contract the whole house, which I did not want to do.  A siding guy was recommended to me by the siding distributor and it turned out he had been  the main siding guy in past times for the builder who is acting as my advisor and had lived in the past in my parents neighborhood and knew them, and I pribably knew him 20 years ago.  Anyway, he had built his own ICF huose and had helped on another 1/2 dozen of them in another state when he had moved away for a while.  He didn't want to build my ICF structure as contractor but was willing to help as laborer and advisor with his experience.  But unfortunately when we were ready to start he never got back to me.  My hime builder advisor heard from him that he was busy with siding jobs.  So I was down one experienced man and so just me and my son have been doing it instead of with him so we have made a lot of mistakes that we could have avoided if we had had his experience.  Another reason this is taking forever....)



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