Sunday, June 27, 2010

Comansion Castle (remains) for sale

I first saw this castle on the Dupont Castle site.  I think I might have mentioned previously on the blog that it had caught fire in one of the California wildfires a couple of years back and was badly damaged.  Unfortunately it appears that the owner was unable or unwilling to put the castle back together, and the Comansion Castle lot and castle remains are up for sale.  (photo from realty agency site)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Old vs. New: Concrete

Ed pointed out this discussion taking place on another blog regarding the durability of the concrete used in Roman times vs. what we have to work with now.  I thought it was really interesting, considering that folks building a castle with non-traditional methods might choose a concrete reinforced structure as a building option. 

The author's opinion is that reinforcing concrete ruins it, causing splitting and cracking; adding too much water to the mix is bad (Roman concrete was "zero slump"), that ancient structure's longevity is partial proof of this. 

I think he is partially correct.  Yes, steel will rust and expand, causing failure of the concrete.  Without a doubt.  But there are some major differences between then and now in construction philosophy.  I'd be willing to bet that an Roman engineer, presented with re-bar and shown its abilities, would have fired half the workforce used to build those massive structures and put it in his concrete!

So, the Romans used rubble walls with stone or brick cladding.  This allows for a lot of flexing, and essentially makes a composite structure.  Even if the concrete begins to crack, the stone or brick will prevent it from going anywhere.  The structures were also massive, many feet thick.  This also prevents shifting or collapse.  Try building a one foot thick wall using Roman methods, I bet it never makes the 500 year mark, and would probably be lucky to make 100 years. 

Also, let's consider that reinforcing concrete allows us to build structures lighter, thinner, and higher than any Ancient Roman could have.  It also can prevent us from being buried under our structure in event of an earthquake, even if some of the concrete should fail. 

So, while I agree that re-bar is bad for longevity, the alternative is massive structures needing much more time, money and material; and that's from bridges to the slab under your house.

BTW it was nice to see the pics of Rome again, we were just there a couple of months ago and saw a lot of the same places.  We ate at that very pizza roach-coach in the foreground of the Pantheon picture.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Mini-interview" With Stephenson Castle Owner

Not really an exhaustive amount of information, but certainly good info nonetheless.  You can gather the rest of the info from his blog at Stephenson Castle, and what we have at SYWBCE here.

EDIT:  He's also shared one of the latest construction pics.  Looks to be moving along very quickly for a one-man job.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Castle Project Castle

The Castle Project is a tilt-up owner built castle project with a blog.  Have a look at the construction site and progress at the website.  Very interesting!  I looks like the builder is using a DIY tilt-up system.

Eastwind Castle

Eastwind Castle is in Aiken, SC, on 25 acres.  Looks like they have a Ren Faire or festival on the property as well.  Looks to be owner built, but no other information other than this article.

Stephenson Castle

Another owner-built castle!  I came across Stepehnson Castle being built in Ohio.  It loos like the owner is doing quite a lot of the work themselves, and perhaps is doing the contracting as well.  They've elected to use Azar Block, a CMU product that is similar to Faswall block in the way that it is designed to be dry-stacked and assembled very quickly, but Azar is strictly concrete, not a composite type material.

Anyway, the site for the castle is in blog form, and you can see the castle being built.  It's definitely worth a look.

UPDATE:  I was able to contact the owner, and he was kind enough to share some information about his castle building so far: 
As for my castle, the website is about 2 months behind on updates.  But, should be updated in the next 2 weeks.  I am not skilled in any construction at all.  My previous skills include building a pine wood derby car and a bird house in scouts.  So, my project moves slow and I spend a lot of time on the site siting scratching my head.
As for the planning, I search typical home blue prints after blue prints until I found one I liked and resembled a castle.  Of course I looked at many different options for building and was leaning to ICF, but was afraid of doing it myself and having a costly blow out of one of the forms.  So the local concrete supply company had some samples of the Azar block and gave them to me.  I was sold when I got home and played with them.  I was shocked at the unit price of $3.25 each.  However, after a year of waiting, and they could not move them, I had over 9000 blocks available to me at $1.25 each.  So, I bought as many as possible, 2 1/2 truck loads. 
I have tried to do 99% of the work.  I did contract $600 of work for a trackhoe and licensed septic installed to draw septic plans to be submitted to the county.  I also paid $125 to get the first course of blocks laid level, after my test footing came out un-even.  Ever thing else, I have done my-self with the help of typical construction DIY books. 
As for the Azar block, my test building, AKA the water tower I find the product excellent to work with.  They are 42lbs a pice which makes a lay person like myself cringe every time I think of laying more block.  The first six or seven courses went up fast.  The ones higher up slowed us down due to the weight.  I did discover, these CMU shed small chips of stone and concrete which do cause un-even places.  Now, I watch carefully and dust off all new courses as I build up. 
I wish I had more skills because I see my dreams and money sometimes vanish when I can't figure out something I want.  Like, I am not sure how much rebar to use.  I have been told by masons and contractors that I am wasting money by using to much, but I joke that my castle is going to be around for thousands of years and well with all the rebar and concrete I am using, its not going any place any time soon. 
In the main keep, I might hire more skilled labor to figure things out like ceiling beams and roofs. However in the water tower and carriage house, I am building myself working out all the bugs... hopefully!
Great info!  It good to know that there are folks that are not experienced in construction out there building a castle, and doing it as inexpensively as they can.  Stephenson Castle is going to be high on my watch list, especially as we hope to follow a lot of the same route he does.

Friday, June 4, 2010

From the Department of Useless Information:

While updating this blog and doing some Sketchup I ran IOGraphica just for fun. It tracks and plots mouse paths and clicks. Pretty useless, but entertaining. For some odd reason, one hour's worth of my mouse tracks and clicks is reminiscent of a picture of the United States.

Faswall block

Faswall Block

One of the visitors and fellow future castle-builders here suggested this material to be of potential interest. I spent a few minutes looking through the site to get some information about it, and in a nutshell: Treated woodchips with a cement coating formed into CMU-like blocks. It has better insulative qualities than straight CMU, can be dry-stacked, and supposedly is mold-free. Also stated that it is similar in cost to ICF or SIP, and supervised unskilled labor may be used for installation - great for owner-builders, they say.

My thoughts are mixed after reading about it. Cement is hygroscopic, and one should never place wood structure directly in contact with stone or cement, it rots faster; but the site says that rot isn't an issue. I wonder why? Are there additives preventing rot? Also, I'm curious about the engineering data on these blocks: How high can they be stacked? How much weight can they bear? Also, at a cost comparable to ICF and SIP, is this with or without labor? And if the cost is similar to ICF, and ICF provides a higher R value, why go with these blocks at all? Also with the expense of the needed cement reinforcement, the total outlay maybe comparable to ICF or SIP. 

I don't mean to sound negative about the product, it looks pretty neat; and I'm all for someone making a green product that is good for an owner-builder to use. I've done lots of research on alternative building methods and materials, and often they don't turn out to be all that they're cracked up to be, so I'm reserving judgment on this one. My concerns may be simply because I'm uninformed. I hope it does well, and certainly would consider it as a material in the future.

Thanks for the link, Gary.

Simulated slate recycled rubber roofing

Something I've always thought that would look great on a castle or Schloss would be a real slate roof.

Obviously a real slate roof requires a master mason, or at least a highly skilled and specialized team of laborers to attach them to the roof - not cheap!  Add to this the reinforced structure required to hold the weight, the cost of installation and materials, and slate becomes unaffordable to all but the wealthy. Certainly unavailable for the wishful builder like myself.

I haven't been able to find a cost PSF for this material yet, but it sure looks good! There are a few places that sell it that I could find online, but of course there's no price, you have to call to find a local installer/distributor.

Anybody besides me think construction material suppliers should get over the "fill out this form" or "call us" shortly followed by a full-press sales pitch method of business besides me? I just wanna know how much 1 unit of "x" material costs!

Anyway, here's some manufacturer's sites, and the have some pretty pics in their galleries.

DaVinci Roofscapes
RuBBur Concepts