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

The Roof, The Roof, The Roof is on mostly…

Stone has been chugging along, bits of framing here or there, chimneys, breezeway stuff. Not a whole lot of big monumental things. We have our first few windows installed, more will go in next week. Plumbing has started and we’re about to turn HVAC and fire sprinkler guys loose.

The biggest recent development has been the completion of the majority of the roof. Why only the majority of the roof? Well, because we’re using different roofing systems. The majority of the roof is flat and uses what is called a TPO membrane. I want to thank Chris Fetty of TriState Roofing for getting that done for us. First they had to put down multiple layers of foam boards for insulation, then glue down the reflective white (and man that thing is bright, I think I need snow goggles on when I go up there – but that just shows how much heat it is reflecting), and of course flash all the penetrations. I had them use grey membrane for the sides of the parapet walls, it is the same material, just a darker color, and not as reflective. From a distance it may look like stone. Of course the tops of the crenelations will get stone, but then the inside of those walls up here I’m fine with leaving the more artificial (but water tight) finish. I wanted to use the white on the roof for the energy efficiency benefits, but the parapet walls aren’t insulated conditioned space so I’m fine with them absorbing a little more heat from the sunlight with the grey finish – and it makes it much easier on the eyes to look out over the battlements too. I’m not kidding, it is bright up there.

We will also apply spray foam to the underside of the roof deck, so when you combine that foam, the foam on top of the roof deck, and the reflective white membrane, I think we’ll have a very efficient roof assembly.

All we need now is the copper for the front conical turret caps, and then to crane those up and into place.

We also had some metal ship ladders built by JC Electric Gates installed for accessing the roof of the rear towers (the 5th or 6th floor if you count the basement or not), the view from up there is epic.

We do not yet have the skylight installed, but it is covered up for safety (and covered with plastic to keep the rain out).

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Its a wrap…

Still no roof, but we’re so close I can taste it. We have our roof decking, just not our membrane, things are starting to get flashed. We’re close, and oh so close to windows too, windows!

But the final silhouette of the castle is basically there, and it is a sight. The only thing missing are the conical turrets for the front towers, which are on site, just on the ground, we are building them on the ground and will hoist them up with a crane. It is safer that way.

So we’ve gotten finally almost completely wrapped with Tyvek, it is now a bright white beacon on the hill, and the masons are making good progress on the stone (though there is so very much to do). No finished pool yet, or greenhouse, or skylight. No doors installed yet, though soon on those as well. We did just get a massive driveway gate, it is just the metal framework now but once I put wood on it it’ll look like the gate from Jurassic Park.

So, here is how things look now:

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And since we’ve got decking on those flat-roofed fourth floor towers, I can provide what would be the fifth floor views, if there was a fifth floor.

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Crenelations

We have crenelations, yes, we do, we have crenelations, how bout you?

Since the resolution of the light gauge steel problems things have started moving pretty fast. The crenelations have gone up in a few days. Next will be the front tower 4th floor framing, then, or concurrently, chimney chases and rear tower framing, and we should be about ready for our roof membrane.

People the world over recognize crenelations as one of the quintessential characteristics of a castle, and it is a personal pet peeve of mine when people try to mimic them without the proper scale. These were meant to hide defenders, so unless your castle is being defended by the lollipop guild you need them to be pretty big, mine are. They are a functional part of a castle, not decorative.

The tooth part is called a merlon, the gap is called a crenel, and whole thing is a crenelated battlement, you could also possibly say a crenelated parapet wall. Additionally it is cantilevered, which means it projects beyond its lower supporting wall. This cantilever was done to provide space for little gaps at the base of the wall, called machicolations, that provided an avenue for dropping rocks or oil down on ladder climbing attackers (while not having to expose yourself over the top of the wall). We will not be having the machicolations, but we will be adding corbels to complete the cantilevered look.

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Aerial Views

The ICF contractor had a drone shoot their final pour, and I have photos.

We’re still waiting, and have been waiting around the full month of May, for this light gauge steel resolution. I think we finally, finally, got there today. This is the same steel that should have been installed in March. We’re still searching for an HVAC installer who can do multizoned ductless minisplit systems and geothermal heat pumps. If anyone knows anyone.

We’ve had some thefts up at the construction site recently, pretty major thefts, a tractor and a cement mixer and some smaller tools. I’m told the police may have some leads but I also want to help so I’m offering a $1000 dollar reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible. If you know who did it, and maybe you don’t like them so much, now is your chance to get a thousand bucks richer and teach them a lesson. If you’re worried it gets back to you I’ll happily keep you anonymous. If you know anyone who recently came home with a bright red new Mahindra tractor (Max 26XL) or an old grey cement mixer, some shovels and wheelbarrows and the like, get rewarded for doing the right thing. Of course, I’d appreciate any and all help in getting the word out on this as well for those who are local. Someone will know something. If you see someone trying to offload these things, please, don’t buy them, but if you can, see if you can snap the serial number or other pictures and send them to me. The thief may have also been stealing just to get new equipment for themselves.

That out of the way, here are the pictures.

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4th Floor Views

The 3rd floor is finally done, well, mostly.

1st floor took 80 days, the 2nd floor 52 days. I thought the third floor would continue that trend and be done even faster, it was smaller, all told than prior floors. February 20th was when we finished with the 2nd floor, the third floor wasn’t done until this week, 72 days or so, and the truth is it isn’t quite done.

I thought we were going to have a delay with the ICF walls, and we did, a little, but then they showed up and knocked out their portion pretty quick. We were doing good, but then came the light gauge steel, again. Despite having the plans for over a year the LGS supplier hadn’t yet done the engineering necessary to design the trusses. So we waited, and we waited, and this level is complicated because we’ve got these cantilevered battlements (a cantilever is when you suspend a building out beyond its foundation, a battlement is a crenelated wall), and finally we get our steel, and it’s wrong, or insufficient. So we have these trusses in some spots about 2 feet long, cantilevering out 18 inches, tied back into nothing structural in the house and secured to the wall with like 4 screws. And this is to hold 400 pounds a linear foot plus wind loads. There is another spot where the original structural engineers I’ve paid large sums to put a truss in the wrong place, blocking a stair, so that needs to be changed as well. It’s frustrating because these are costs that shouldn’t exist, and waiting that shouldn’t happen. We waited so long for this complicated engineering and it isn’t even right.

In the meantime, work has progressed on the site, just not work in our “critical path” to getting dried in and ultimately completed. We have a handful of interior walls now. The decorative wood trusses are up. Windows have been ordered. The south wall finally has exterior framing. More exterior patios have been framed, stone is starting to appear on the outside, the pool garage has a roof. The pool is maybe half done. Stairs have been built or poured.

The ICF crew is back now, working on the 4th floor walls. These are so small they won’t take very long, but then we may have a delay again because of this steel issue because some of the other 4th floor walls are steel framed. I think June sometime is when we might expect to be dried in.

Here are the views from the 4th floor.

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Here you can see the start of the cantilevered battlement, the steel framed south wall (which includes a 6′ diameter round rose window that is going to be stained glass), and some of the stone work.

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And finally, here are two shots of the 4th floor walls going up. Only the corner towers get a 4th floor.

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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.