Featured Posts

  • Aerial Photos and First Floor Walls Finished

    Happy Thanksgiving. Two days ago the first floor walls were poured finally. So ICF is a really long construction process, really, really, long. There is a ton of residential construction going on where I live right now and I’m forever jealous of these stick frame homes I see go up in a week or two,… [more…]

    Aerial Photos and First Floor Walls Finished
  • Castle Wall Stone Options

    One of the main reasons to build a castle is because you like the way castles look, obviously. Otherwise you wouldn’t take on such an ambitious building project. One of the key components to how they look is the exterior stone cladding for your walls, and that can also be a significant budget expense. I’m… [more…]

    Castle Wall Stone Options
  • Exciting Day: First Looks at Castle Exterior

    After dreaming this place up at least a decade ago, putting it in the “what if” and “maybe someday” category, gradually moving it into the “possibly” category, then the “probably” category, and now hopefully in the “definitely” category.  After over a year of finally getting down to the nitty gritty and nailing down the interior… [more…]

    Exciting Day: First Looks at Castle Exterior
  • An Energy Efficient Castle

    We’re building with concrete, for a number of reasons. It is strong, it can survive hurricanes and tornadoes, it is thick, giving us the wall thickness we desire, but also it is incredibly energy efficient, and I wanted to build an energy efficient castle. Concrete has immense thermal mass which allows it to only slowly… [more…]

    An Energy Efficient Castle
  • My Modern Castle Design Philosophy

    I am not building a time capsule. It is not my desire to recreate a castle as it existed back in 1350. I am aiming for a more evolutionary structure. Conceptually with the idea that the castle may have been originally built many hundreds of years ago, and the bones of the structure would be… [more…]

    My Modern Castle Design Philosophy

3rd Floor Wall Pour

The third floor was poured last Friday. We’ll see how soon the steel gets out here to finish it up, we had a two weekish ICF break in early march and they still cranked this out pretty quick.

Pictures below are taken right before the pour, some nice dawn shots. These are taken at a “sitting on the roof” sort of height.

The main rectangular section of the castle tops out at 3 floors. It still has a 60 inch battlement that will be built cantilevered out 18 inches from the wall, with corbels underneath (machicolations they’re called). So the walls, overall, get 60 inches higher than this, then they stop.

Except the towers of course. The larger, rear, towers get one whole additional story (12ish more feet), and then the same battlement on top, so call it 17 more feet. The front towers get another story as well and then a conical turret style roof (copper, yay!).

In all cases where we cantilever a battlement we’re framing it, and not making it out of concrete, because of weight. Cantilevering a stone clad framed wall is hard enough without adding in concrete. So the barbican crenelations you see below are the only actual concrete crenelations we’re making. The rest are all framed with stone cladding.

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First Crenelations

The first crenelations have been formed. I like them. They’re accurate.

One of my pet peeves is inaccurate crenelations, they are not just a decorative afterthought. People who want to build a “castle” add them, but they don’t see the point, so they make them short and decorative.

Crenelations have two parts, merlons (teeth) and crenels (gaps). The merlons need to be tall enough to hide a man, otherwise they’re pointless. So when you see supposed castles add these 1 or 2 foot tall crenelations just laugh, they might as well not add anything. The whole point was to give cover for defenders to hide behind, allowing them to peek out, shoot, and duck back under cover.

Granted, I don’t expect goblin hordes to attack my castle, but understanding the original use for these architectural features allows me to maintain appropriate accuracy, the last thing I want is for it to end up looking like a play castle.

Did you know in medieval England you needed a “license to crenelate”? The king didn’t want strongholds all over his lands, which could aid future potential revolts. So you needed permission to fortify your property.

Crenelations, properly sized, are one of the key features everyone tends to recognize as defining a castle, vs a mere home with stone walls.

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In unrelated news, third floor walls are being poured tomorrow. We’re estimating a roof in 6-8 weeks.

3rd Floor Views

With some nice clear days finally, and stairs rather than sketchy ladders, I managed to go up and get some pictures of the 3rd floor views. A few new mountains have come into view though in this photos you probably can’t make that sort of detail. ICF is supposed to start back by the end of this upcoming week, pool shell any day now, I’ve been doing a lot of work in the garden already, and we’ve been working on doing the trusses in the great hall – which deserve their own post so I won’t post their pictures here.

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2nd Floor Done

The 2nd floor is now done, I am working this weekend and haven’t had a time yet to go and take good pictures of the views, but my builder sent me a lot of photos.

Today is February 20th. The 1st floor was finished on December 30th. 52 days. The first floor was 80 days, so this is an improvement, but I think we could have done better. The ICF went up really fast this time but the light gauge steel still took longer than it should have. We of course had some weather, but I don’t know if there has ever been 50 days of good weather in a row anywhere on Earth so I don’t think that is abnormal. The ICF was essentially done Feburary 3rd so it took 17 days for the steel and subfloor, when, under ideal circumstances, it should be about 8 days. Still, this is almost a full month faster than the 1st floor, a vast improvement.

The great hall is starting to take shape with our heavy wood trusses partially installed, I don’t have good pictures of those yet, but with finally a ceiling, and not just sky, on the great hall the ceiling height is evident, and it is very impressive. The space feels really good on the inside, exactly as I had hoped, or better. Portions of the first floor are going to feel like a hotel lobby, and that was my goal.

Theoretically the third floor should take less time still, there is less in it, every floor gets slightly less as we go up. For the third floor the barbican (the front entry protrusion, the militant cousin of a foyer) goes away completely, and that seemed like it was always 3 days of work right there. The walls overall get simpler, with less variance in window sizes, and there is less heavy steel, and the light steel is also more uniform. Then the fourth floor drops away very strongly with only the towers getting that. So the fourth floor should be very quick. However as of right now the ICF crew is off the project working elsewhere on some other project, and I do not know when they will be back. This is most certainly not a good thing, it delays our critical path, but I’m sure the owner of the other project feels the same when they’re working on mine and not theirs. If they were here and working I wouldn’t be surprised if we could have the third floor poured by the first/second week of March. Then if we had the steel portion down to 2 weeks by April 1st at the latest we could have a 3rd floor roof/4th floor subfloor on. Then, really, I think the fourth floor could be done in two weeks, then say two weeks to roof everything, maybe May 1st we could have a roof on the whole structure. But with this ICF delay I’m not sure.

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The greenhouse base and breezeway are done (well, blocks are up, but not poured, ICF crew did this before they left). There was a slight delay there when the wrong blocks were delivered, but they spent that day building window bucks I think so weren’t idle. The breezeway, seen to the right, holds a bathroom for people using the pool, as well as it connects the kitchen to the greenhouse and the pool patio. It is very much going to be a bit like an indoor/outdoor room, though still fully insulated.

Greenhouse Base

2nd Floor Walls and Garden Fence Done

The 2nd floor walls were poured last Friday, Saturday they were knocking bracing off, and now we’re waiting on the heavy steel to start. The crane is up there today but they didn’t get started. In the meantime the pool steel is pretty much all formed and so one of these days that will be done, and my garden fence was finished today.

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I had the hardest time trying to find someone to build my fence. It isn’t a complex thing, and people build these all the time, it is a deer proof garden fence, or people often use it for chickens as well, in my case I’m using it for both. But all it is is an 8 foot wire fence with wood posts. Simple right? But I couldn’t get a fence company to bid it, and it isn’t a small fence, over 400 linear feet. Decent size job I figured, but I couldn’t get people to return my calls, or give me bids, or give me bids what I wanted (like I would tell them what I wanted, then they would quote me something else).

Then I found Jesse from Generation Fence and he had my fence up in, I think, less than 10 days after I called him at a good price.

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Now I have over 5000 sq/ft of gardening space, and an over 1000 sq/ft chicken run. The house may not be done, nor is it likely to be until another summer passes, but I will be planting in here in a couple weeks and gardening all summer.

We’re into February now, so we didn’t quite get the 2nd floor done in 30 days (I consider it done when the subfloor above is on), but I’m keeping my finger’s crossed it will be done by the end of next week which will put us somewhere around 40 days, cutting in half the 1st floor’s 80 days. Though I do hate it when we have day’s like today, where we catch a break and don’t have forecasted rain, and we don’t make much progress down the critical path.

2nd Floor Walls

So far, 2nd floor is progressing much faster than the 1st floor. It took 80 days, 80 days!, to do the 1st floor. My builder things we can do the 2nd floor in 30 days, and so far we’re on schedule, the ICF is definitely going to be done in time (though this very recent cold weather (no school tomorrow for the kids) I hope doesn’t delay things), the question remains the steel. Theoretically the steel can all be done in a couple days, the big question is, will the steel be ready to go when the ICF is done, the light gauge steel gave us a 21 day or so delay on the 1st floor because it wasn’t ready on time.

Every floor is slightly less than the prior floor, but the third floor really drops down from the second floor because the barbican stops at 2 stories. So, if we’re able to execute this 2nd floor in 30 days, then I have no reason to believe we shouldn’t be able to do the third floor in 30 days, and the fourth floor and roof portions as well. Really the fourth floor, which is just the corner towers, should be done in less.

So putting on my prediction hat, at the current pace, we could have our roof around April 1st.

Here are some pictures of the 2nd floor walls, the ICF blocks are basically up and done, except the barbican. There is some fine tuning to be done before the concrete pour. One thing becoming evident is the height of the great room ceilings, 24 feet, and actually the ceiling above the central staircase will be 36 feet (actually possibly as much as 46 feet to the peak of the skylight). Then the rough openings for the 14 foot tall cathedral windows on the side of the great room are done. Some of these pictures are starting to show that scale.

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2nd Floor Views

After rain and delays our 2nd floor subfloor is finally complete. This is just about 80 days since the 1st floor subfloor was complete. To put this in perspective, up the road from where I live now about 80 days ago there was a wooded lot, and today there is a completely framed, wrapped, and roofed house on it, they’re now on siding and windows. In that time I got 1 floor of framing. The ICF contractor cannot start back until Monday so, now that it finally stopped raining and we have nice weather, we’re not making upward progress. I feel that weather has been so unkind that every day with good weather should be seized with a vengeance.

But the 2nd floor subfloor is done and today was finally sunny and I was able to get some nice pictures. The house already looks so tall and the view already seems so elevated it is hard to remember this is only the 2nd floor. There will be 2 more floors in the towers, and then you can go on the tower roofs to get even more height if you wanted a truly spectacular view.

Master Bedroom View

Southeastern view from the master bathroom

Southeastern view from the master bathroom

The view to the north off the front of the house

The view to the north off the front of the house

The great hall as seen from the central staircase. The balconies to the left and right are permanent, the great hall has a double story ceiling, 24 feet total. The three windows in the background will eventually be 14 feet tall.

The great hall as seen from the central staircase. The balconies to the left and right are permanent, the great hall has a double story ceiling, 24 feet total. The three windows in the background will eventually be 14 feet tall.

Master Bedroom View

View from 2nd floor front balcony (directly above the front door) looking down the driveway. Here is where you would stand when negotiating with the goblin horde trying to get in.

View from 2nd floor front balcony (directly above the front door) looking down the driveway. Here is where you would stand when negotiating with the goblin horde trying to get in.

Master Bedroom View

I have also had dirt delivered for my vegetable garden, a really sort of high end soil. I need to still till it down and mix it with the forest soil that is underneath, and then put in a deer proof fence. But I will be able to grow a whole bunch of veggies with this garden (5000 sq/ft for veggies, 1000 sq/ft for chickens). I’ve dreamed of having a garden this big for years. I am currently seeking to hire a fencing contractor to put in the fence for me, should anyone have a referral.

The plot for my backyard vegetable garden.

The plot for my backyard vegetable garden.

Aerial Photos and First Floor Walls Finished

Happy Thanksgiving. Two days ago the first floor walls were poured finally. So ICF is a really long construction process, really, really, long. There is a ton of residential construction going on where I live right now and I’m forever jealous of these stick frame homes I see go up in a week or two, literally from a foundation to a fully framed home in a week or two, whereas my home is taking 8 weeks a floor.

ICF is still superior, far superior. It is essentially a double walled cooler with a large thermal mass inside, the energy efficiency of the walls is amazing. Additionally, concrete building is the safest building you can do. Who remembers major hurricanes or tornadoes where house after house is destroyed, and then you come across one that is barely damaged – that home is usually concrete. It is more expensive, but I knew that going in, I didn’t realize how much longer it would take. ICF is really slow. Perhaps we need a larger crew working on it? That would help.

But finally the 1st floor blocks were up and so two days ago they poured the concrete in them. Also on that day I happened to have a helicopter flight I won at a charity auction so I’m sure you can guess where I wanted to fly to.

It will take two weeks to set the steel and subfloor system for the 2nd floor. This is another thing that takes longer than a stick frame house. Steel just takes longer, but here it really was the only option. We have large clear spans inside. I wanted the castle to look very authentic from the outside, and the 1st floor of the inside I wanted it to have very appropriate decor and finishing details, but one area where we are definitely not traditional is the size of our rooms. The first floor is basically one big open floor plan, huge rooms, big clear spans, like any other modern house we don’t really have much in the way of walls separating areas of the first floor. An actual castle would have had relatively small rooms simply because they lacked the engineering for the big spans. But with steel I beams and engineered trusses we can do that sort of thing.

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So, I’m told around December 14th we’ll start the 2nd floor walls. Hopefully things speed up a little, I wanted to get the roof on by Valentine’s Day but unless things speed up that won’t happen. The floors should get easier as they go up, there is a little less material in each floor. At the rate things have been going they might only be starting the 3rd floor walls around Valentines day.

I want to thank Rock Creek Aviation for the helicopter ride. I will have to go up again when the castle is finished.

First Floor Walls Going Up

They have been working on the first floor walls, so far the first floor seems to be going much faster than the basement. The big key will be how fast the steel goes in after the walls are poured.

Its starting to get really fun to visit the building site, to be standing in rooms that have only been in my head or on paper for literally years. I am a bit of a liar though I guess. I always said I could visualize things, I could put myself in the space, and I think to a large degree that holds true, I am very good at visualizing things, everything is turning out well with rooms so there is that. But… actually being there I can still be awed and surprised and impressed, so I guess I was not quite visualizing the truth.

For instance, this ginormous window, on paper it fits the space and it makes sense and all that, but I never really appreciated how big it was until I was there on site looking through it. Kids are here for scale, but this window is essentially 12×7…feet. This goes into our “morning room” aka breakfast nook attached to the kitchen. I was worried that the kitchen would be too dark… not anymore. This window is matched by a window almost as big adjacent to it on the corner (just off the left side of the photo). The corner they form is where our breakfast table will be (ya, its that kind of house, a dinner table and a breakfast table). So… natural light, check.
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The walls continue to go up, I think they have about a week left until they’re ready to pour the concrete. Theoretically, maybe we’d be having 2nd floor walls going up around Thanksgiving, and 3rd floor walls around New Years. Maybe we could have a roof by Valentines Day. 11666258_1019977351398489_4193075074899766269_n

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1st floor subfloor completed

We have a floor. We still do NOT have the hollowcore concrete slabs installed for the pool deck, so that portion of the 1st floor is not done. But the rest of the first floor subfloor is done, and the 1st floor walls are now being started as I type this. Here are two pictures.

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As slow as everything is going I worry that the subfloor will fail from weather exposure, but we’re using Advantec subfloors and I’m told they can stand to months and months of weather.

I also made a photosphere, which you can view below, or here (bigger). This is pretty cool, makes it seem like you’re there. I took this while sitting on a 10 ft sadder on the 1st floor, so my camera position was about where the joists for the 2nd floor would start. The actual view from 2nd floor windows will be 6-8 higher than where I was.