Sunday, November 23, 2008

Blog hits go the way of the market, Polls

I have Google Analytics on this site, just to satisfy my curiosity and to assure myself that more than the few folks that post comments are bothering to view the site. The hits have tanked in the last 5 days, literally dropped to almost half, and stayed down. Don't know why; it could be the economy has put a damper on viewer's castle dreams or maybe Google has simply adjusted how hits are counted. Hope it's just the latter.

On another note, I was looking at the poll results so far. The results so far seem to indicate that would-be builders are interested in 5,000 sq. ft. plus castles that cost over $300K, would be built with a contractor's services and are made of natural materials. I get the first three just fine; but there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the first three and the final most selected item, the natural materials. To build an expansive, large building from natural stone using a contractor's services will cost more than $300K, a LOT more. Perhaps respondents are not replying to all 3 polls and the ratio is off. At any rate, there are a lot of big, expensive, stone castles wanting to be built out there.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Another castle building site

Here's a site that looks pretty new and clams that it's purpose is to take you through the steps of building a castle from planning to moving in. Not much there yet, but we'll have to see what happens. The owner is positioning himself in a pretty narrow market (I speak from experience!); but who knows, in this small community any additional information and support has to be a good thing, right?

Here it is: Home Castle Building

Good luck!

Ann Arbor Campus, U of M

Spent a couple of days in Ann Arbor, Michigan to take in a Big Blue game (they lost). There are a lot of fantastic Gothic revival buildings as part of the campus, as on many major university campuses, and in the surrounding area. My time as limited, and it was also snowing and raining out so the photos aren't the best. The water on the lens and filters due to the rain threw the focus off on a few occasions as well.

Despite the dreary day, I wanted the photos for ideas and inspiration plus real "how they did it" details.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The devil is in the details.

No, the blog hasn't died! There are so few castles out there, much less the ones that are on the web, and even less the ones that are owner built. I've "niched" myself out of publication. I guess I could switch blog premises and post all castles being built, heaven knows I see enough palatial homes and, I kid you not, castles being built on Long Island and Westchester County. But alas, that's not what I'm about, and my wallet isn't so fat. Castle dreams and an apartment budget!

At any rate, I'm still working on the most recent Sketchup castle. I've changed quite a bit and added some details. I know I've said it before, but the details are a real pain. Lining up roofs, ensuring there are load bearing walls in the right place, where on earth do I put what room and what to do for windows. All are time consuming, require imagination and more than a few complete "re-dos". I've drifted away from the "stone box" without too many features and headed more towards half-timber and Germanic styles. I've added a pitched roof instead of a plain flat roof, some corbeled windows and just other odds 'n ends. It's still a work in progress; this picture is from the opposite direction of the previous pictures and shows the greenhouse, which is attached directly to the kitchen. I hope to figure some way of capturing the warm air heated by the sun in the greenhouse for circulation around the house during the colder months, plus use the plants as natural air filter for the air in the home. The location off of the kitchen may also allow for use of greywater in the plants, or a specific greywater planter designed to filter and use the water instead of dumping it into a sewer.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

SYWBC Poll #1 results:

Here are the results of the poll, I figure it was a little biased on account folks visiting the site are interested in DIY castles or at least castles in general. There are some new polls up, vote if you wish!

Do you:

Want to build a castle someday?

250 (83%)

Want to buy a castle, old or new?

34 (11%)

Already live in one you've built?

11 (3%)

Think building castles is a silly idea?

5 (1%)

Votes so far: 300
Poll closed

I'm curious about the 11 folks that voted they live in a castle they've already built!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mother Earth News

I've mentioned this magazine on the site before as a source of information. To the point: It has nothing to do with castles, but it does with some of the things that one could surround one with. Yeah it's a crunchy-granola magazine and there are some ads for cure-all herbal remedies and positively charged water (which may or may not be something you're into), but overall it's a good source of DIY everything. Considering that we'd like to have our home off the beaten path a little bit, not in the hinterlands mind you but with a little land and peace around it, so we can grow some of our own food and the like. So far it's had fascinating articles on how to make your own cheese from store bought milk and some good gardening information, all budget-oriented. Plus, as I've mentioned before, the website has information and stories about those who have "chucked it all" and moved out of the city and pursued alternative building methods from slipform to adobe. A lot of the articles on DIY information is unapologetically and without ado geared towards low-cost.

So, while it isn't strictly construction oriented, some of the readers here that prefer to be off the beaten path (or even those not) may appreciate the home-grown DIY information that can save you more than the $10 a year subscription.

We spent our hard earned $10 and honestly enjoyed every magazine. Looking at trying the home-made mozzarella with our container-garden-grown tomatoes and basil for an all home-made home-grown caprese salad.

Mother Earth News

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Google Groups

Well, the castle-builders forum Google Group is pretty quiet. I just stopped by to have a look and realized that the place was being hit by porn spammers. Unfortunately this means that any/all comments will now be moderated for the group, not that there are any! :)

Kasteel Noz Castle

Kasteel Noz is located in Snelling, California.

I know nothing more than what is in this article, and there are several articles on the web featuring this picture and information, but it's great to find another owner-built castle being built. I'll add this to the "need to contact" list of castle builders.

EDIT: I've searched like crazy, even using Google Maps satellite view to try to get more information on this castle. No luck. I'll wait until he makes his information public.

EDIT 05/09: I have received some anonymous comments regarding Kasteel Noz here on the blog, though I am unwilling to post them in their entirety because they possibly contain a legitimate phone number and email information for Mr. Noz and I don't think I have the authority or permission to post someone else's personal data here. What I can do is post a link to the new Kasteel Noz website and allow readers to get contact information there directly from the source. Also, thanks to some other comments that pointed out the Kasteel Noz site, I have sent an email to Mr. Noz in the hopes of getting an interview with him regarding his castle. If that request bears fruit, it will appear on the front page and a line will be placed here to it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Newman's castle

Newman's Castle in Texas.

I have very little information about this castle other than it is in Texas. I found this slideshow on one of my searches, but I haven't dug any deeper to see if the castle has a website. The castle looks like it is completely built of CMU, and could be owner-built. Will post more info if I can find it.

EDIT: I've exhaustively searched the web for more information, and there's nothing out there other than the bakery associated with the owner. While I'd like to find out more about his castle, I'm not willing to be a castle-owner stalker and call his bakery and try to get in touch with him. As with Noz's castle, I'll just have to wait until they go public.

Update:  You can visit Newman's Castle by seeing a show called "Murder By Chocolate", a dinner theater. Thanks to SYWBC reader Michelle for pointing this out.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Free Sketchup rendering system

For anyone else that is using Sketchup and wants to have a more advanced rendering system for free, I've started using su2pov. You'll need the su2pov file from here and the Pov-Ray file from here. The combination works with the free version of Sketchup, no need to buy the pro version. I've tried several of the other renderers; IRender, Podium, VRay, and Kerkythea. The first 3 are only for pro and are not free. Kerkythea is free, but it is somewhat advanced for the rookie. It does do very good renders, though. I'd also recommend Indigo as a renderer,it's a step up in complexity from su2pov, but the quality is better too. su2pov isn't the best quality system, but it is simple and relatively easy. You can put lights in a building, sunlight through a window... Lots of possibilities to get that nice-looking picture of your project.

The top render is from su2pov (only took a minute); the second render is from indigo (took over an hour, you can see that the foil is "shiny", and a few other goodies); and the third is Kerkythea, which took about a half hour and did a nice job too, but it takes more work to get realistic textures.

EDIT: After playing with su2pov or a bit, the right-click menus are no longer working. I can't assign or change material characteristics. I've tried reinstalling the plugin, tried different models, but it just doesn't want to work. It may just be a peculiarity of my system, but I can't say that su2pov would be a good choice to download if this is a recurring problem.

Wall system

Well, reading all those masonry and construction books has paid off a little. I've finally come up with a standard wall system that is readily available and will fit the bill as far as DIY construction is concerned, and created a representation in my trusty Sketchup. It uses standard CMUs and foamboard insulation. To attach the rubble wall, a truss-type anchor system is employed that allows flexibility to prevent cracking of either wall due to different expansion rates. The cores of the CMUs will be reinforced laterally and vertically when/if required, insulation will be in the remainder of the cores.

The interior is the only remaining question. Due to the standard system, it could easily be wallboard and 2x4s or stone facade. The question is about the second or third floor, how would a heavy stone facade be applied and supported by the wall or floor? Still more research to do.

If interested, click on the picture and it will take you to the 3dwarehouse download.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Yet more...

Yep, still working on the same design. More pictures. Finally got some windows right on the hall, now the rest of the building needs attention.

Click the picture for a much larger version.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Still working on castle model I did a while back. If you check the older posts you can see the iterations it has gone through. The model's square footage is now considerably larger, but that's mostly due to the modification of the great hall. Too bad there wasn't a simple way to make a time lapse of all of the changes, it would be pretty interesting.

So far, in my opinion anyway, the structure is looking better and better. It has more interesting features and several questionable structural designs that would have been difficult and expensive, if not impossible to build, have been removed. As usual, the placement of doors and windows as well as the window design is turning out to be difficult.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

CMUs are the way to go...

After sitting down with a pen and paper alongside my Sketchup castle design with the purpose being to calculate costs per foot of wall, a clear winner showed up immediately. CMUs are by far the least expensive and most forgiving material to use to build the shell of a structure. I don't mean "fancy" split faced or other decorative type blocks, I mean plain-old flat faced standard blocks. A quick look at a 1' thick wall 1000' long full of cement 8' high at $2.78 per foot is over $22,000 at $75/cubic yard of cement, and I've seen many prices for cement over $100/cu yd. Take the same dimensions using $1.30 a block and the cost comes out to be considerably less, even if you raise the cost to $1.50 a block it still wins. Throw in concrete core reinforcement on top of the CMU construction and yet again, the CMU is still cheaper.

Now, folks will argue that one needs to throw insulation in on top of the CMU cost, and I want a stone interior/exterior for the most part, so now we're approaching the costs of ICF. The decision here isn't too difficult either. Due to the unusual design of a castle and the height of the structure, most ICF will not work. Many of the sites only allow for 2 floors of standard height (from the limited information I could find), none mentioned 3 floors of greater height. Gridwall ICF is right out the window. To have these companies engineer something, or to find a specialty ICF, that would meet my needs plus the cost of poured concrete, exterior and interior finishing, ICF gets taken out of the running.

So, in a nutshell, the basic structure of the building will be reinforced CMU with a stone exterior facade; and on the inside, something along the lines of foam board insulation with a stone facade tied in to the main wall. That's pretty much it. This method will allow for rapid construction of the shell and the decorative extras can be added later.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Castle on Little River

I came across this site while doing a state-by-state Google search for castles:

The Castle on Little River in Buckholts, Texas.

I fired off an email to Mr. Greiner to see if I could get some information about his castle and construction; he kindly replied and pointed me to a rather obvious button that I failed to see on his site that gives a pretty good summary of the construction of his castle. While I wish I could provide an"interview", I hope the information contained on the site will be found informative and maybe a little entertaining.

Thanks to Mr. Greiner of The Castle on Little River for the reply and information.

Direct link to construction information.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Lost another one...

After checking the links to verify if the targets were still alive, I discovered that Rittersburg's site no longer exists. I don't know if the site has been moved ( a quick Google search reveals nothing ), or if the plans and ideas have ceased to be.

Until something comes up to indicate the castle plans are still in motion, Rittersburg is removed from the lists...

Small update

Changed and updated links at bottom of page. Also, there is now an store featuring the books I've mentioned on this site as well as a few others that we own or hope to soon purchase.

Wing's castle has moved to a new site and hints at a new project as well.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hammond Castle Construction

The castle construction was started in the mid-1920s and finished in 3 years to the tune of a half million dollars (around $4.5M today). I don't know if that includes the cost of obtaining and shipping all of the antiquities used by Hammond in the castle's construction. Incorporated into the castle's design were parts of Medieval buildings and antiquities from around the world; I saw everything from Byzantine-looking plaques and carvings to the entire shop fronts of original buildings. The whole thing has a rather slap-dash eclectic look to it, especially the main castle. I don't mean slap-dash as in poorly built, but sometimes as I viewed the structure I wondered about the lack of continuity, even in the space of the same wall! I suppose I can't fault the designers, when I design my castles in Sketchup, I'm always trying to mash more than one style into the works to make it more interesting. As far as the major styles of the castle, it was built with a "German" section, and a "French" section. Basically the older looking section with the great-hall, turrets and the like is the former, and attached to that is a chateau/castle building in the latter style.

The French themed building was very well done, quite neat and pretty on the exterior. You can't quite get a good view of it in the photos due to the trees and the inability to get far enough away to get it all in one shot. You can see similar buildings here to kind of get a feel for the look.

The interesting thing is that the Chateau is "hollow"; it's basically a square with rooms on the sea and street sides, hallways at the farthest end and attached to the castle great room at the other end. The interior of the hollow square is covered with a glass roof and has a pool and a very nice little courtyard. Facing the courtyard are two real Medieval shop fronts, what looks to be a Gothic church entrance and a Romanesque wall. This end of the castle has all of the bedrooms (at least the ones that were accessible to the public), the dining area, the kitchen and many of the normal-looking living areas of the castle. The kitchen is a mix of modern and old, obviously added to and re-done as time went by. In this end of the house there were sitting areas, a library, and offices (Hammond ran his business out of the castle for a while). The dining room was possibly authentic Medieval as well; if it wasn't, they did a great job making it look so. Also, one of the rooms apparently has tiles brought from Diego Columbus' (son of Christoper) home.

The main castle had lots of little passages, rooms and spiral staircases. It contains a chapel as well as what looked to be a small real Medieval armorer's shop and tools, and the castle armory. I think there were several rooms that were unavailable to the public in the castle, from the outside one could see rooms stuffed with objects that we didn't get to see, as well as many, many locked doors. The overall layout of the castle seemed pointless, there were small rooms scattered about that didn't seem to serve any purpose other than to hold the items collected by Hammond. They were too small to be functional and too difficult to get to for daily use. I get the feeling that the castle was more of a curiosity and novelty for Hammond's guests, but all real living was done in the Chateau.

Unfortunately, the dungeon was inaccessible to the public while we were there. I'm not sure when or if it is available for viewing. There is a photo of a rather realistic deceased dummy on the other side of a grated door in a dark passage in one of the photos, I assume this is one of the dungeon's access points.

One of the disappointing things about the castle was the fact that throughout the castle, new, "tacky" items have been added. There were modern resin gargoyles glued to the walls, cheap production swords from catalogs (I've looked at them in those very same catalogs), Thomas Kinkade prints on the walls. If I were younger, I'd be pretty excited at all the shiny, sharp pointy things hung on the walls. Now it just doesn't seem right.

My observations on the construction...

The buildings were constructed of poured concrete in many places, or concrete and stone where it had stone incorporated into the design. It's pretty random as far as what went where. The photos show some of the odd arrangement of materials. I think insulation was unheard of or unplanned for due to authenticity or it simply wasn't done with those materials back then. Our house was built just prior to 1900 and I don't think they had any insulation at all in the walls until someone cut holes in the exterior and blew some in. The castle's buildings have solid walls, meaning probably quite warm and humid in the summer and cold and clammy in the winter (just like the real thing, eh?). As a side note, the museum curator showed us on the B&W photo of the castle where the high tide line was today vs. where it was when the photo was taken. There was a 20-30 foot difference. Sinking earth or rising sea levels? You pick... Anyway, the castle was definitely lacking in windows and ventilation, much of the castle proper was stuffy, humid and dark; almost claustrophobic. The heat generated by the lights needed didn't help the situation and it was a somewhat humid day to start with. If I were to build one it would have better ventilation!

I mentioned earlier that the place was slap-dash in construction. It seems that whatever architectural items Mr. Hammond collected that could be embedded in cement met that exact fate. Plaques, reliefs, carvings, anything and everything was placed in the walls as the building went up. I think that some of the Medieval doors that were collected were simply hung on the walls and led nowhere; they may have been only decorative in nature. There were furnishings placed in front of them.

Some of the parts that really interested me were the Gothic architectural details. Many of them were poured cement, exactly what I'd like to do. Some of the trefoil windows, arches, and spiral staircases were all poured segments and not carved from solid stone; a few were just solid cement. The walls could easily be constructed in modern times using Castlemagic's method, slipform or a combination thereof. The building is huge, but not that huge, the Chateau living area I would guess at 2000 square feet. The castle is probably close to that as well. The great-hall alone is 65 x 28 (100' high) and just under 2000 square feet alone, not including the little side rooms.

It was really quite helpful to see the scale of the construction, even the little passages that were only 2 feet wide (I measured them). I can see already what I've overdesigned space-wise in the buildings I've done. With this castle nearby, I may have to make another visit and spend a whole day there with a surreptitious measuring tape.

At any rate, here are some of the pictures I've taken. Unfortunately, I don't have a wide angle lens so some of the shots don't really give the big picture, and also the lighting was poor so I did my best to not use a flash. That means I had to hold the camera very still or rest it on something; for the shots I wanted that wasn't always an option, so there may be some blur in the pics.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hammond Castle

I had the opportunity to visit Hammond Castle in Gloucester, MA today. It doesn't really fit into the site as far as modern, homebuilt, or efficient, but I found it very interesting and informative as far as scale, construction, and design goes. It was also just good fun to see the building and the imagination that went into it. While Hammond Castle lacks the long history and location in Old Europe, it's certainly cheaper and easier to get to than the castles across the pond! I can't believe that it's taken so long to get there, it's only 45 minutes drive from the house.

More photos and a better write up to come when I get time.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I originally started this post as a reply to the comments regarding the post below, but it got a little long winded so it now gets it's on spot on the front page.

Castle interiors were whitewashed, and were often painted with decorations to boot! Thanks for the reminder though, the structure would definitely be partly stone and partly "finished" interior.

You know, I've been to the Castlemagic site several times drooling over the really nice work that they do, and as I've advanced my construction knowledge I haven't stopped back by to look at the work going on in the pictures. Thanks for making me look again!

From what I can see, Castlemagic does a masonry stone wall, on the inside and outside, only one layer thick. In between the two there is a fairly large gap on the order of 8-12" that has re-bar and foam insulation in it. Once the masonry walls are set up, concrete is poured around the insulation to fill the gap. The stones are probably brought in, they border on quarry cut ashlar variety. They are very consistent as far as thickness and quality. This means they are very expensive but guarantees a good, consistent finished product. Looks good, works great. One could buy a mason's stonebreaker, hand pumped [image here], powered by air [image here] and fully powered hydraulic [here]. The first two are under $2000, the last is over $30,000. If one was willing to take the time to split stones, a very nice finish could be achieved. For $30,000 one could probably buy all the pre-split stones one would need for a reasonably sized building.

My issues are that I don't have the knowledge yet to appropriately design a masonry/cement wall for the height of the structure I'd like to build. I may very well be way out of line on my estimates for the structure I've been looking at because of that lack of knowledge. Also, the amount of concrete fill Castlemagic uses looks to be very large, ergo expensive. I'd like to minimize additional costs.

Here's a thought; why not use the slipform method or the method mentioned in the aforementioned book and build in a re-bar and insulation core?

A quick search of the internet reveals a really nice flash presentation of a pretty house done with slipform: House of Stone There are several sites that build using foam cores and a reinforced stone fascia, Hollowtop is a green building site that features this method in many places.

Overall, these methods seem to require more cement, but the build times are shorter and there's less stone to haul. I'll really have to work at finding out what type, quantity, strength and design of materials will be required to build something. Guess it all boils down to how much money is in the bank or how willing one is to haul lots of stone when it's time to build!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Building ideas

After spending many hours reading and re-reading books like The Stonebuilder's Primer I've decided that the garage/barn will likely be the first built.

The reason this choice was made in the scenario using the buildings below is the size of the garage makes it livable and it has the least amount of stonework. I figure that the base can be constructed rapidly with stone to a point, and then the rest could be anything from steel I-beam supported to SIP walls. Likely SIP will be used for the upper half of the building because of the overhang, stone would be impractical and heavy not to mention never used in that fashion for a half-timber design.

I-Beams could be used to support the roof ridge beam and a more open floor plan. The lesser need for stonework would allow a "practice session", if you will, to learn to work with the material for the gatehouse and the large amount of stone needed for the main building. The main building's material is still up in the air... It would take hundreds of tons of stone to build it, and that leaves the problem of insulation. If I were to create a gap for insulation I could wind up increasing the wall thickness by 50% because it would render some of the wall non-structural. One could simply throw an insulated stick built shell inside, but what if you want a nice interior stone wall for decorative purposes as well as thermal mass? It's gonna be a lot of work!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Yep, still here...

I haven't made too many posts lately, but that isn't because I've given up on the ideas here. I'm actually still working on the design below; there are a few changes that I've needed to make in order to create a more buildable design, things like trying to arrange rooms requiring plumbing closer together so that long runs of potentially leaky pipes won't be required and can maintain a decent slope to the drains to keep waste flowing.

Also the positioning of load-bearing walls is having an effect on how the building's floor plan can be created. I realized that my positioning of the dining room knocks a substantial portion of structure out from under one of the main building's walls. Not good.

Also another concern is the span of the floor and the ability to frame it while avoiding building more stick-built load bearing walls and lolly-columns in the basement to support long floor joist spans. A solution could be the addition of steel beams midway across the floor to support shorter spans. That would require a cost calculation; would engineered spans cost more or less than steel beam supporting a normal joist setup? I'd like to maintain a completely open floor plan for the reason that walls can be positioned wherever necessary without having to redesign any load bearing walls and do major structural work in the event that remodeling is required. Don't like where a wall is? Need to create more rooms? Need to install an elevator for handicapped access? Just unscrew the walls from the floor, take them down and put new ones where you need them.

So many questions. I'm also trying to locate and calculate engineering data for the type of exterior walls I'm considering. I'd like to find out what quantity, quality and strength of material is required for this type of building. CMU, ICF, and stone, whether it be slipform or whatever, are all in the running. CMU would likely need to be filled with cement in certain areas plus the cost of the CMUs themselves, ICF is fantastic stuff but may be too expensive considering the height of the structure and the finishing required to have a non-styrofoam exterior and interior, and a solid rubble stone structure's walls may need to be more than 2 feet thick at the base to support a building like this if code even allows it. That's a lot of tonnage that one could smash fingers with, and a LOT of work that will take a long time compared to laying blocks of CMU.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Final version

Well, I'm done tweaking this model. I'll probably go through and add windows at some point, though they're difficult to design and place. One sees a castle and thinks "Arrow Loops!" for windows; problem being that those little slits don't let in much light, so I'll need to strike a balance between looks and practicality - always a battle when it comes to designing something like this.

At any rate, the castle has turned out to be more modest in some ways and yet more complicated in others. The square footage is way down in the main building, only 2,500 square feet (compared to the 4,000+ in the other models), but yet I was able to work in a "secret room / staircase" as an unintended result of the layout. What castle would be complete without at least one secret something-or-other? The floor plan is done, nothing too complicated, consisting of the basics: kitchen, living room, stairways, dining room, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, library, basement for HVAC along with water storage for solar hot water, and the only thing out of the ordinary, the large great room. The difference is that the square footage is arranged vertically, 3 floors up, that make this design more imposing and castle-like. There's also a good sized greenhouse attached directly to the kitchen that, in addition to growing edible plants, can soak up heat during the winter and warm the house while cleaning the air. The walls could be out of stone, cement, ICF or CMU to provide good thermal mass for keeping the structure cooler during the summer.

The outlying buildings, the gatehouse and garage respectivley, both have usable living space in them; one about 800 square feet and the other about the same, not including space intended for parking vehicles. Even though the gatehouse looks smaller, the high peaked roof makes more room available on the top "attic" room whereas the garage's shallower pitch reduces the available vertical volume that could be used as living space. In other words, you'd be cracking your head on the ceiling if you tried to use more of the floor space. The gatehouse was modified from it's previous version to fit in with the half-timber style present in the garage.

An added benefit to building separate structures is that it allows the ability to build one structure and live in it and then begin building the other. Likely the garage would be first and the rest to follow. Also, if we were to turn this into a B&B venture, the outlying buildings' interiors could be rearranged in a fashion more suitable to having more bedrooms.

Click on the pictures to see a larger version, it may take a bit to download though. You'll just have to use your imagination and throw a in an formal garden, paved areas for walking, and ivy climbing the walls to complete the picture.

Honestly, at this modest size, there's no reason that this couldn't be built. There's less square footage here than some good sized modern tract homes.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Minor update on a Sketchup model

Just a minor update and a different view on the sketchup model shown previously on this site. Also I've added a terrain layer to it and a few other odds 'n ends. Not too bad considering the number of revisions done to get to this point. Unfortunately the model is too large for 3dwarehouse, so this version is not available for download.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Poggis Castle

A fellow dreamer has produced a website with ambitious castle plans. His Ideal Castle. Best of luck.

EDIT: It appears that this is part of an "imaginary castles" webring. Take a look at the bottom of the page here. Lots of "plans", but I don't know how serious any of it is.

Halfway Castle Sketchup Model

I decided to keep working on different versions of castles as now the large castle is getting too "heavy" to continue to model in Sketchup and far too large to upload to 3D Warehouse. There are too many textures and faces, and it's really slowing down the program. I suppose if I removed the textures, it might be a lot easier to work with, but after spending a lot of time lining some of them up properly I'd hate to have to do it again. At any rate, in this building I took some of the half-timber look and mashed it together with the stone just to see what it would look like. Not too bad, except the tower is much too large. Overall square footage on the first floor is 2600 sq. ft., and there is room in some of the areas for 2nd floors bringing an estimated total of 4000 sq. ft. with no walls or structures inside.

UK Homebuilt Castle

I'm sure several of you have seen the news bites about the castle built behind haybales by a UK farmer. Here's another castle built by the owner for around £330,000 during the 1990s (that's around $500K US at the time) that has attracted a lot less attention, probably because he did it legally. At any rate, Braylsham castle is a really neat castle that was built by an individual with the help of his family on a time budget of around 3 days a week. Many of the building's interesting parts are architectural salvage and some of them were created by hand in modern times. Many might think that a towering, turreted brick of a building is the only castle that they would want to build, I think this building's design as a family home and castle is fantastic. While it isn't an owner built castle here in the US, it's such a well done piece I figure folks might be interested.

Braylsham Castle

Saturday, April 19, 2008

In the storybook style...

I took a break from detailing the big castle to work on a different style. I tried to head in the direction of the "storybook style" popular during the early part of the 1900s. I've generally stayed away from it because it winds up looking a little to "Disney" and tacky. The previous building posted tends to look a bit more serious, this idea was to head more towards cozy and English Cottage-like rather than impressive. Anyway, there are several good sites to find out about storybook homes on the web, Storybookers comes to mind off the top of my head, and a really good book to look at the style is "Storybook Style: America's Whimsical Homes of the Twenties" by Arrol Genner and Douglas Keister.

If you download this one, ignore the square footage. I didn't get the scale right and the first floor alone is way more square footage than the entire large castle below.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Medieval World

I got this information from a viewer (Thanks Gary!) who brought it to my attention. It looks to be a rather lage scale project that hopes to be built in Colorado as part of, or as the main element of a Renaissance Festival. It's a huge project, containing a castle keep and a small Medieval village surrounding it. It seems to be along the same lines as the "Realms of Legend", except with a serious dash of sensibility thrown in. This one looks to have a serious shot at actually being built. While it isn't necessarily an "owner built castle", I'm sure plenty of folks here will find it interesting. Besst of luck to them, and if I can get any additional information from the builders/project dreamers, I'll post it here.

Visit Medieval World.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Interior Views

More views of the front and interior. Some of it just doesn't look right to me, I haven't figured out what looks best. The exterior steps need a wall or railing, the interior steps seem a little too wide (I designed them that way, but it doesn't look right; anyone who has tried moving furnishings up a narrow stars will understand why the extra width!) and the space under the stairs seems wasted. I'll probably enclose the stairs at some point and put a closet under there, or even stairs to the basement (most likely).

The view looking in the door is rather plain, I haven't yet decided how to include the half-timber/stone/stucco-plaster-ish look that seems to be working in the great hall. Plus all of the normal things you expect to see in a house are absent from these models such as lights, some trim, baseboards and electrical outlets. Not to mention that some of the textures/paints are rather monotonous, but I'm no GIMP/Photoshop expert so it isn't easy for me to make these things unless I find something online that I can use with minimal tweaking (like the flagstone floor, it was a rubber door mat that I edited to work)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Main hall, view #2

I figured out why Sketchup was overwriting previously uploaded files. It appears that the 3Dwarehouse assigns a file # to each upload that is saved in association with your original file on your computer. It does this so that when you modify or update the file on your computer and upload it again 3Dwarehouse simply updates the original on the server rather than having a host of the same files stored, each with some minor changes. Good for 3DWarehouse, but bad if you accidentally overwrite a file you needed. The fix (in case anyone else has this trouble) in Sketchup is to go to:

EDIT > Select All,
EDIT > Copy,
go to
FILE > New, and when the empty workspace appears,
EDIT > Paste.

You've basically copied everything in the old file and pasted it into a new file that 3Dwarehouse hasn't seen yet. You can then FILE > Save As and overwrite the same file you've been trying to save it as. Upload, and you're good to go!

On that note, I've fixed the links on this site to match the proper models on 3Dwarehouse, and added this model which shows the inside of the main hall again except looking the other way. You can click on the picture and it will take you to the 3Dwarehouse model. Again, this is only a chopped up section of the overall model just arranged and finished to provide a visualization what the real thing might look like.

Main hall

Designed for the building posted below. I "cut" the segment free and started working with it. I shortly found several problems; it was only 15' wide, you could over the space in 3 good paces which means there was barely enough room for a couch with a decent coffee table which would leave you staring at a wall; there was a lot of wasted vertical space (some height is needed to make the cathedral style, though) and the window placement and height didn't work.

The modifications needed: Add more, smaller windows, widen the building, raise the eaves and lower the roof's peak. Now it measures 22' wide x 28' long, including the rounded end, usable floorspace without the fireplace and hearth, which will knock 2-4' off the length. The fireplace sits roughly where the camera is but inside the model's boundaries. There are some modeling errors, but nothing I can't live with seeing as this is only for visualization. The only other change I might make is to simplify the windows and make them one large pane instead of 3 panes apiece.

Again, I'm trying to make it look complicated and interesting without going overboard. The hammerbeam structures won't be solid, but will be layups of 1/4" or thicker ply or solid wood. The stone will be veneer, and the walls will be dry-board with plaster. If you download the model, you'll be able to see the 6" thick walls, the exterior with "buttresses", the basement below (you'll have to imagine the total height of 9') and see where the building rests on the ground plane. It's designed to have only 4' or so of the basement below grade in order to give the building a sense of greater height.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Final revision

After many, many failed designs, this is one I keep coming back to. I've taken away the old garage from the previous version of this building, which simply didn't fit, and replaced it with a simple thatched "barn" type building that is more reminiscent of a stable or workshop and fits in better with the English/German tone of the structure. I don't know why, but it seems that 3DWarehouse has replaced the previous version of this building with the more recent one, so the ability to compare the two is gone until I can re-upload the old model and fix the links.

This model needs window and door placement, as well as some scale adjustments to make it right and some serious thought abut what the interior will look like, but this layout is a finalist for construction - meaning that unless something better comes along or I start to come to my senses and not build something so out of the ordinary - this is it. The best thing about this one is that it looks more complex than it really is, looks larger than it is, and has something interesting to see from almost every angle.

At this point, suggestions, comments, corrections and even criticisms are welcome regarding this model.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Concrete Walls?

Something I really hadn't considered too much as an option was a solid concrete wall. I'd always figured concrete would be prohibitively expensive, but that prejudice was probably instigated by looking at how much a bag of pre-mixed concrete costs at the local big-box hardware store. I made a couple of posts over at just as feelers for the cost and merits of various materials (CMU, ICF, SIP, etc...) for an owner-builder. One of the posts recently got a reply and referenced that many CMU walls would likely require reinforcing by filling some of the hollow cores with concrete and re-bar. This was something I knew, as it is likely a requirement by many building codes especially if you live in a hurricane or earthquake area. The post made a quick reference to something I didn't know though, which was that the cost wasn't as high as I thought for reinforced concrete. A quick internet search brought up a site for a software designed for building cost estimation called Goldenseal. I'm not really interested in the software, but the estimates it gives for a solid concrete wall vary between $6-$9 an hour per linear square foot of wall, the upper end being for a twelve inch thick wall. Sounds expensive, but here's the real savings: This includes the cost of formwork! Assembly and disassembly of all wooden forms needed to pour the wall. If that is correct, a poured concrete wall is a considerable time savings over a DIY CMU wall, especially if you can get it at the cheaper price. This needs more research...

As a side note, I just found Perma-Form ICF block offering a $6.99 form block which puts their cost per square foot of wall at $1.99 per square foot of material. Wow, look for one thing, find another; questions begetting more questions!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Removed from the lists..

Darkling Castle no longer in the running to be a castle. What once was a castle plan has now turned into a large home with wraparound porches and a Gothic touch or two. Looks nice, but no longer fits in here. Maybe they'll do something castle-like as they progress, I'll keep checking. Congratulations and good luck with the house.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Storybook Guesthouse Castle

Storybook Guesthouse, located in Fairhope, Alabama, is the result of a long evolution of a single building. I don't necessarily know if it qualifies as modern, but seeing as it appears to have been worked on pretty steadily from the late '40s until fairly recently, I'll post it anyway. The building started out as a shell for a regular house and slowly changed to become a sort of castle made with local stone. This castle is available for rent.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Another Sketchup model, this one taking the gatehouse from one of my previous models. This one's not too bad as far as construction difficulty, mostly straight walls, not too many corners, and a lower pitched roof where it isn't flat. I just threw in the gatehouse because I needed an attractive way to close off the courtyard, but it's unfortunate that the gatehouse is standalone which will limit traffic to it. Overall the building is a little on the large side (5,000 sq.ft. minus garage and gatehouse) without any internal structures such as walls or stairs. Add walls, counters/cabinets and the like and it will be mid- to upper 4,000 sq. ft. The courtyard would hopefully be able to be used for a wedding or event venue if this were to be used as a bed and breakfast type setup. The model in this picture is essentially hollow (no floors, walls, etc...) because the free version of Sketchup only allows 10MB uploads to 3D warehouse I had to remove all excess materials to allow for the extra detail and coloring. As always, this and my other models can be downloaded and played with if you have Sketchup, just please don't claim it as your own or use them unless you give credit.

I'm starting to discover one of the additional difficulties of home design; you can arrange the rooms however you want, but the traffic flow through the building may prevent rooms from being used due to the misfortune of being "out of the way", or more difficult to use i.e. separating the kitchen from the dining room with a hallway, nobody wants to carry dinner plates or pots through the house just to get them to the dining room. Other rooms that are cut off from a functional traffic flow may sit relatively unused and become wasted unpractical space. In old castles that have all of those very interesting architectural details, hallways and rooms, the first practicality was defense, practical arrangment of living space was a second priority. The trouble then for me is to design a building with the castle details and modern practicality. Not so easy!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Small update apparently has taken a step from the "wish" castle stage towards the actual building stage. After revisiting the site to see if there were any changes, they have apparently purchased land for the purpose of castlebuilding. Best of luck to them!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Castle Mckenzie

Castle Mckenzie appears to be a modified residence. I really don't know much about this castle other than it's in Murphy, NC. and appears to be a house that has had some extensive modifications, though I could be wrong, it might be built from the ground-up. At any rate, it appears to be for rent, fractional ownership and events like weddings. If I can get more information I'll post it.

Friday, February 1, 2008


I've wound up with another pile of books to go through, this time all from It gives me something to do when there aren't any new owner built castles to be found on the internet and I've run out of ideas for sketchup. I usually go to the local mega book store and check out as many books as I can, I like to see what they contain before I buy them seeing as Amazon's previews can be almost worthless at times; in which case I usually wind up making a decision based on the user reviews. It's just not worth buying new books from the big book stores anymore, the below mentioned Carpentry and Construction book cover price is $50, the Amazon price is $33. I can certainly wait for it to ship while saving $17 minus shipping. At any rate, here's the list of books that I now have for reference or learning purposes:

The Timberframe Way by Michael Morris and Dick Pirozzolo. This book was another "idea" purchase. I wanted to see some examples of homes that had timberframe construction and maybe get some inspiration or at least a little more knowledge of the building method. Honestly, I wouldn't buy this book again. I don't mind that it's a coffee table book, but it's more of a "look at my massive modern home with expensive stuff all put together by a designer, oh and it's timberframed too..." kind of book. Not that there aren't some neat examples in there, but it's all modern, and the design is more about the "stuff" and how it's arranged rather than the design of the woodwork. My fault I guess for not paying closer attention to the description, but I think is partly to blame as well due to a preview that doesn't give you the whole story.

Timber Framing for the Rest of Us: A Guide to Contemporary Post and Beam Construction by Rob Roy. This is the second book I've purchased from this author and I like his writing style. The subjects in the books are very simply explained and relatively easy to understand from the writing. The only dislike I have for this book is that even though it is well explained, it still is lacking in true "how-to", insert tab "A" into slot "B", type information.

Country Wisdom & Know-How by The Editors of Storey Publishing's Country Wisdom Boards. I got this one just for fun. There is an incredible wealth of information in this book, everything from tasty recipes to basic equine care and gardening. I take snacks with me to work and there's a tasty looking granola recipe in there that I'm gonna try tonight. Something you could pick up and learn something from every day by opening a random page.

A Visual Dictionary of Architecture by Francis D. K. Ching. This is the second book I have from Ching (first one is Building Construction Illustrated). As with his other book, it covers hundreds of items very briefly with excellent illustrations. This one I picked up to learn the language of how buildings are put together, such as truss types, brick types, structural elements such as the sofit or dropped ceilings. A wealth of basic information that will help making decisions and understanding what a sub-contractor may be telling me or what I need to ask for from a materials supplier.

Roberts' Illustrated Millwork Catalog: A Sourcebook of Turn-of-the-Century Architectural Woodwork by Dover Books. I got this for reference and ideas. This book is a catalog in the real sense. It has various pieces of historical woodwork and hardware along with period prices. Various styles, from Victorian to simple country. Lots of nice pictures and cross sections of trim and the like should one choose to reproduce some of it.

The Stonebuilder's Primer: A Step-By-Step Guide for Owner-Builders by Charles Long. Even though it looks like I'd use CMU to build the basic structure of our house, I still entertain the possibility of part of it being stone, or perhaps some of the outbuildings might be. This book offers good working practices and pointers on pitfalls to avoid. If you could find land in an area where the city or county allows it, you could probably use this book to build a basic house. EDIT: I finished this book in a couple of days. I liked it quite a bit, it seems to split the difference between "Build Your Own Stone House" and building a true stone walled house using ashlar or closely fitted stones. Good stuff, still need to filter it through whatever local code may require.

Pictorial Encyclopedia of Historic Architectural Plans, Details and Elements: With 1880 Line Drawings of Arches, Domes, Doorways, Facades, Gables, Windows, etc. by Dover Books. Another reference book like the illustrated millwork catalog, this one having more to do with architectural elements rather than decorative.

Carpentry & Construction (Paperback)
by Mark R. Miller, Rex Miller, Glenn E. Baker, Mark Miller, Glenn Baker. This one appears to be a classroom textbook for those learning the construction trade; there are study questions at the end of each chapter. It probably wouldn't hurt for me to actually do them... This book covers modern construction methods, everything from carpet to electrical. It will probably be pretty useful, it shows a lot of things that are hidden from view once the walls are up and finished, and it's written to be read by someone like me learning the construction trade. EDIT: I've read a little way into this book by now and I'm liking it quite a bit. It starts off a little slow, "...this is a hammer, these are called nails, you'll need a toolbox...", but it gets into some of the things that a lot of do-it-yourself homebuilding books seem to gloss over; things like how to site a house, how to use basic surveying tools, different types of foundations and how they are set up, considerations for local code, storage of materials on site, insurance... Lots of information, some not very detailed but it lets you know that these are things that should be taken into consideration. I'll look for other textbooks from these authors when I'm done with this one.

As you can see, that's a lot of material to read. Time to hit the books.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Another castle for sale by Castlemagic.

I paid another visit to the website and see that they have one of their castle creations for sale. The place looks great from the exterior, and the interior looks very nice as well. You can have this 5,000 square foot castle on 1/2 acre of land for just under $1.8M USD. Anybody got a winning lottery ticket they just have to spend? If you look at castlemagic's site, you can see many photos of how the castles they build are constructed. It's a very nice owner built modern castle.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Minor update

Added links to the discussion group pages.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

To build or not to build?

Looking around on the internet it appears that there are many castles here in the U.S. for sale. Everything from modified homes to full-on castles built by The good thing about buying an already built castle is skipping the headache of building it and if you get an old castle, then you have the added interest of owning a historic property as well and maybe the added plus of some neat historic architecture and details as well.

The drawbacks? You're limited to where the castle is located, which may not necessarily be where you want to live, and you're living in someone else's dream home. Additionally, some of these places can be pretty pricey to boot. I don't think I've found one that is really neat for less than $1M dollars.

If one were to DIY you have to deal with all of the headaches of design and building the structure, purchasing the land and the fear that once you've started on the project, life or finances could interfere and you'd have to leave it before you could enjoy the fruits of your labor. It's not a run-of-the-mill house you're building that you could find a similar replacement house anywhere in the country, no - it's a potential work of art that could last ages and be a family treasure if you're lucky. The upside of DIY is closely related to some of the downside; it could be a treasured family heirloom, and DIY can keep the costs down to a manageable level for the average person. You are also building something that is from your own imagination, not someone else's. Life interfering - well, that could happen to anybody at any time so you just have to get over it.