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.