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Can You Build a Concrete House?

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Jody in Texas is building a new home and looking for some advice. What can we do for you?

    JODY: I’m planning on building a concrete home. I live in hurricane territory in Corpus Christi, Texas. And I wanted to build a home either out of concrete block or just concrete walls. But I had no idea if you could do it and where to start.

    TOM: Oh, I have a third option for you, Jody, which is even better. Have you heard of insulated concrete forms?

    JODY: I have, yes.

    TOM: That is really an awesome technology. What these are are they look like foam blocks; like large, foam blocks. Think of huge LEGO blocks.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: That’s what they look like. Except, Leslie, they’re hollow …

    LESLIE: They’re hollow on the inside.

    TOM: Yeah, they’re hollow on the inside. So what you do is you stack them up to form the wall and then inside of them you snap in rebar; the reinforcing steel bar. And then once it’s all in place and it’s exactly where you want it to be and it’s all braced in place, then the concrete truck comes in and it pours a fairly loose mixture of concrete in between the insulated foam blocks. So what happens is that hardens and then you get this like super-insulated, super-tough wall. So I really like insulated concrete forms. And I’ll tell you, if I was building a house today, Jody, that is definitely the technology that I would take advantage of.

    JODY: How does the price differ from a wood house? Is it more expensive?

    TOM: No, it’s about the same price as a wood house to do this. But the advantages are you get the storm resistance. You can’t have – the walls are absolutely rock solid. They’re also quieter homes.

    LESLIE: It’s good insulation value as well.

    TOM: They’re super-insulated. In fact, if you build an insulated concrete form home you can downsize the heating and cooling system by a third, so you’ll actually realize some savings on the flip side there as well.

    You know, a good website for those, Jody, is ConcreteHomes.com. It’s a website that’s managed by the Portland Cement Association. It’s got great ideas, lots of great photos and you get more information on it. And there’s a whole bunch of manufacturers out there that make ICF blocks today.

    JODY: OK. Do they have any kind of plans; like house plans (INAUDIBLE)?

    TOM: Well, I will say this. I don’t think that building a concrete form house is a do-it-yourself project. (Leslie chuckles)

    JODY: OK.

    TOM: It’s a little – you have to work with the stuff.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) But you can incorporate it into any style of home being built.

    TOM: Well, you certainly can.

    LESLIE: It just replaces the wood framing.

    TOM: Yeah, you certainly can incorporate it. But I would hire a crew that’s used to doing this. I would not do it myself. If I was doing it, as much as I know, I’d hire people that work with these blocks everyday to get the walls up in place. I might take it over from there. But you know, it’s just like anything. If you work with it everyday you get pretty good at it.

    JODY: Right. And what about the roofing? Would you use like wood to do the top roof or steel or …

    TOM: Correct. The roofing would be standard and, as long as it was tied down to the walls properly, then it’s going to be secure. And if you’re in a hurricane area you’re probably not going to want to do a gable roof. You’re going to want to do a hip roof because they have the best hurricane resistance. It doesn’t have that flat end wall for a hurricane to sort of grab onto.

    JODY: What’s it called?

    TOM: A hip roof. Where all sides slope up like a triangle.

    JODY: Oh.

    TOM: Or like a pyramid, I should say.

    JODY: A hip roof.

    TOM: A hip roof. Yep. H-i-p.

    JODY: OK.

    TOM: OK? Think pyramid.

    JODY: OK, thank you.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

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