Saturday, June 30, 2007

Another Discussion Group

Looking at the most recent posts in the discussion group, it doesn't look very lively. I guess there isn't exactly a high demand for modern castlebuilding discussion and information. At any rate, that makes 3 different castle building forums including the one attached to this site.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Added new links.

A new section has been added to the site, a collection of links at the bottom of the page that is an extension of the resource links to the left of the page. I'm constantly searching the web for castles that are currently under construction or have been/are being built by the current resident. If you know of any modern castles or have information related to castle building, I'm happy to take submissions!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Castle: Finished, Website: Not yet

I came across the website that seemed to have a pretty good head of steam going as it proceeded through "thoughts on building a castle", but unfortunately it seems the author ran out of thoughts before it was finished. Perhaps the building of the castle itself or life in general got in the way. At any rate, there is still some good information to be had, a rather extensive resource link collection, and some Seattle-area specific information.

EDIT: As I perused the site a little further, I discovered that the site creator does have a castle: Burg Jagerhof, and apparently runs a stone and woodworking business out of it. There is also a "Medieval Castle Builders" page as part of the site.

Added a Discussion Group!

We now have a discussion group!

Brand-new, never used. Be the first castle builder to post!

Want to save some money on your build?

Consider factory rejects or incorrectly built windows.

Rob Roy (author of Earth Sheltered Houses) suggests that you can go to a window manufacturer and purchase windows that were built for a job and didn't work for some reason, such as being the wrong size. If you're fairly open in your building plans, you can work some of these inexpensive windows into your build rather than paying for custom windows to be made. Incidentally, Rob Roy does a lot of the work himself in his book and has some excellent pointers on how to do work yourself that is relevant to castle building. Among the subjects he covers, there is information on foundations, how to insulate foundations, and proper drainage to preventing water from seeping into a cement wall.

Olde Good Things: An architectural salvage company

While idly searching for items that might be the must-have finishing touch for a castle, I came across Olde Good Things, an architectural salvage company. They carry everything from lanterns to used flooring and original wrought iron fencing and doors. Prices range from original Victorian iron fence segments for $35, to beautiful Art Nouveau iron door panels in the multi-thousand dollar range. The site does tend to lean towards the higher end of the price scale, so it probably won't work so good for those of us on a budget. Good to look at for inspiration or fun though!

Van Dyke's Restorer's is another business that has a large (free) catalog that features lots of interesting items. While they sell mostly Victorian reproduction goods, many of the items would look fine in a castle; they do have a good selection of wrought iron hardware such as hinges, door handles, pulls, and locks.

A Pittsburgh, PA area castle:

Char Branstetter and Cara McCandless are a Pittsburgh area couple who've decided to build their own castle. They've also put together a website featuring the design they started with as well as construction photos. See the "Builders" links to the left.

Edit: Here's a link to their site:

EDIT II: I've emailed the owners a few times and have received no reply. Sorry castle-builders, it doesn't appear that there is any information forthcoming on this castle's construction or history.

The Cherry, er...Chimney on Top:

Have a castle that you want to add a chimney topper to? Resco Clay Products is one of several manufacturers that makes terra cotta chimney toppers that have a distinctly old-world or even Gothic feel to them. These would look great on top of your castle's chimney. A quick Google search reveals that there's more than one way to top a chimney...

Okay, so it's not a castle; but it's worth seeing:

The Mushroom House

I know, it's not a castle. This very unique Canadian residence is another example of what one person can accomplish with imagination and time. Plus, you gotta like the dragon around the fireplace...

EDIT: Sorry, they took the site down. I'll see if I can find some photos somewhere online.

Yes, you can...

One of the things that struck me when it comes to building a castle is the amount of work that it will involve. We're not talking about something that can be built in the space of a year here, this is more like a 5 year project depending on the size of it - if you're lucky! One thing I do have going for me is that I did some construction work in my summers off in High School and College, and I was no stranger to tools to begin with having grown up in a rural area where the repairing of vehicles to building fences was the norm. Never built anything on the scale of an entire house, though. I hope to put my skills to the test someday...

I spent many months scouring the internet, at first out of curiosity, and then out of honest interest, for homebuilders that wanted a unique place to live so I could see what I might be getting myself into. Now, I'd always had an interest in things Medieval as well as castles, have been interested in architecture for some time, add a fairly recent interest in organic architecture (meaning something more artistic and not just a square) and the benefits of earth sheltered homes, and you have my driving forces in researching this topic.

There's no reason one can't combine earth-sheltering in castlebuilding (build the castle into the side of a hill) or couldn't create a "castle" with organic architecture. I submit to you Wing's Castle, an owner built castle that is a great example of where these ideas converge.

It just goes to show you that you can definitely build your own castle, it need not be some towering edifice, and can be very unique.

Need a Gargoyle?

Design Toscano is a mail-order catalog for some interesting decorative items. If you need a Gargoyle or a miniature Guillotine, they have it.

...And how to cool a large building efficiently.

Consider geothermal cooling as an answer.

Castles can be big, no doubt about it. You shouldn't have to be a Vanderbilt to afford one, or the associated costs of keeping the interior at a comfortable temperature. Some people choose to build their own castle themselves due to the prohibitive cost of having someone build it for them. $100,000 of materials and a lot of DIY will build you a pretty darn big castle, $100,000 and a contractor would be lucky to get you a very small cottage in most places. So DIY castle builders generally don't have a lot of spare cash to throw around to begin with, otherwise they'd have someone build the castle for them at $500,000 and not be a DIY builder!

At any rate, all that square footage requires some form of climate control that could be prohibitively expensive to operate in that volume. One of the benefits of a castle that is built from stone or cement is the thickness of the walls and material type can retain the coolness of the night and prevent the heat of the sun from warming the interior of the building too much during the day. Planting trees to shade the building is an excellent way to provide cooling; trees act as natural air-conditioners, and when planted strategically, prevent some sunlight from reaching the building and heating it in the first place.

Then there's geothermal cooling (Examples and Explanation). Basically what this system does is use the Earth itself as a heat sink. I'm sure many have heard that the Earth maintains a relatively constant temperature (45-55 degrees F), and this is what the system takes advantage of. It consists of running a tube for a fluid (such as water or an anti-freeze solution) into the Earth either in a "well" or some kind of pattern, allowing the earth to soak up the heat in the fluid, which then loops the cooled liquid back into the building through a heat exchanger which takes the heat in the air and transfers it to the fluid, and back out the fluid goes. The warm air in the house is passed through the heat exchanger and cooled, and then directly back into the house, or on into a conventional air-conditioning system. In a conventional A/C system, the pre-cooled air means the system doesn't have to run as hard or as long to cool the ambient air in the building to a comfortable level.

It isn't cheap to install this type of system, as it requires quite a bit of excavation or drilling into the earth. A builder would have to take into consideration the current and future expected energy costs of cooling the building using geothermal vs. conventional methods, along with the immediate costs of installing the system. The efficiency of the system along with low maintenance due to simplicity, low operating costs, environmental benefit of not needing Freon or comparable coolant, and it could be comparable or considerably less in total cost to a conventional system in the long run.

How to keep a large building heated efficiently:

Solar hot water radiant floor heat could be the answer.

Most of us remember seeing the big solar hot water boxes that began to appear in numbers on roofs during the 1980s. These boxes were merely frames painted a dark color inside with a dark pipe running through it and a top of clear plastic or glass to trap the heat. They didn't work all that well.

It's a different story today. Evacuated Tube Collectors (comparison, product example) can provide hot water for heating your floors or even your shower in your castle/energy efficient home. They even work during the winter; the vacuum around the elements in the tube is one of the best insulators around. These are fairly simple affairs (mechanically speaking) compared to an oil-fired, electric or gas furnace. The cost is comparable in some instances to the installation of a brand-new conventional heating system, yet costs much less to operate in the long run, and burns no fuel. It heats from the bottom up, rather than trying to blow enough air around to mix it to a comfortable temperature. To make this system work even better, ceiling fans can keep the air mixed efficiently, or if you must, a standard air circulation system could assist as well (though at a higher energy cost). Solar heat: Good for your pocketbook, good for the environment, and toasty floors when you get up in the morning!

Some products for you to peruse...

I've added some links to the left side featuring products you may desire for your castle:

Designer Wall Tapestries features several tapestries that look pretty darn good. Even if you don't have your castle yet, these tapestries will add a touch of the Medieval to any room; fuel for the imagination.

Need a big, heavy door for your home castle? If you can afford it, has some massive doors that would suit the entrance to any keep. Sorry, I didn't see any portcullises for sale...

So far, this is the only person I've found that actually professes to build castles: Castlemagic Castle Builders. The site seems to lack photos of complete castles built by the creator, though it does feature sketches and designs for castles as well as a few castles for sale. Hard to judge a craftsman without any full examples of his finished work.


Welcome to a blog that is dedicated to the people that dream of living in their own honest-to-goodness castle. One of the first themes for the the reason this site came about was the simple reason that we live in an area of the country where house prices are outrageous, and even though we are homeowners, we have a desire to have a totally unique home that hopefully can be paid in full before we retire; it just happens that we'd like a castle!

This plays into the second part of the theme for this blog, in that we hope to feature owner built castles, or at least castles that had heavy input from owners along with some amount if direct involvement of the construction, this site by no means excludes castles that aren't built 100% by the onwner. These castles need not be massive 50-room luxury motte-and-bailey type castles, they could easily be a suburban home that has had a serious makeover.

The final theme for the material presented here will be the environment. I don't mean rants about tree-hugging and saving the whales (though those are honorable and necessary professions, just not the ranting bit..) but I do mean green construction and energy saving devices. This covers anything from thick-walled heavily insulated buildings (say, like...a castle?) to passive solar heat and hot water.

To sum up: Live in an affordable, energy efficient DIY castle.

I'll provide links to any castle sites on the web that I find, along with links to anyone who professes to build or provide services related to castlebuilding such as designers or engineers, and any suppliers of "castle-like" products such as leaded-glass, furnishings, or whatever.

I hope that anybody who happens across this blog will also submit any information they might find, such as products or services used, or castles they may have built as well. I also am willing to have a reciprocal link exchange upon request and agreement.