Copyright 2009 by Dovlas. All Rights Reserved.

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Unless you watched a demolition and excavation carefully, one would think that this is probably the easiest of all construction-related activities. But is it? If you watch our video, you will be amazed with the precision and the skill with which the house is brought down while separating different types of materials, even in hard to reach places. Separation is done because different materials are disposed of in different ways. Another fact that is easily missed is that there is a strategy in how different parts are demolished, moved around and placed onto the truck. For example, in our video you can see how the excavator uses debris to create an "island" for the machine to rest on in order to reach remote spots, without having to move over undisturbed soil. Only when the remote spots are all cleared and excavated does the "island" get removed. Pins that have been previosuly placed into the ground by the surveyor determine the location and depth of excavation.

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Demolition and excavation
 
Construction
ICF forms came on a truck, packaged folded to save space. Since more than 97% of the block is foam, it is light and easily carried by hand.

We already mentioned that ICF forms are like Lego blocks. Each manufacturer has their own selection of straight blocks, corners, T-blocks, etc. Each manufacturer also uses proprietary dimensions and interlocking patterns, so blocks from different manufacturers cannot be mixed. During the planning stage, we looked at a number of ICF manufacturers and agreed that Nudura was an appropriate choice for the project. For example, significant portion of our design utilizes straight walls so Nudura's 8'x16" straight block makes it easier to quickly assemble such long and straight wall sections.

Different concrete wall thicknesses are possible with ICF. Typical concrete wall thicknesses for home construction are 6" and 4" walls. In our design, we originally considered a combination of 6" for the basement and 4" above, which was allowed for our ICF block of choice. However, in the end we decided to go with 6" walls all the way, mostly out of the concern that there was a remote possibility of pockets of air in the 4" concrete because narrower gap makes it a little bit harder to pour concrete.

The sides of each ICF block are connected by multiple plastic braces spaced equally and perpendicular to block's walls. This serves multiple purposes: It gives the block enough strength to sustain shocks during assembly, before concrete is poured. The bracing is also specially shaped so that horizontal rebar (reinforcement for concrete) is easily inserted and suspended during assembly. Furthermore, it extends to near-the-surface of the foam, providing a strip into which the drywall is fastened with screws.

For exterior brick support, brick ledge type of form is used. This type of block uses standard width at the bottom of the form but then widens as you go up the block. Since brick or stone finish can go up several storeys, to support all this weight horizontal upside-down U-shaped mini-rebar is placed along plastic braces of this type of form.

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The "Blue Mountain"
 
Footing takes a couple of days to do. On Day 1, footing is formed and rebar is laid. To make things not as simple, the part of the footing supporting the garage is a couple of feet lower than the rest of the footing. This has to be done to prevent frost from reaching the footing through the garage slab.

In addition to horizontal rebar, vertical rebar is placed into the footing and left exposed, to allow for ICF concrete, when poured, to bond firmly with the footing.

On Day 2, concrete is poured.

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Footing
 
Construction progress chart
Once concrete has been poured and set for the basement, floor hangers are installed. These are U-shaped metal profiles into which TJI beams are inserted.

Main level subfloor is installed before upper levels are assembled and poured. The reason for this is that, once the subfloor is installed and sheeted, it is a lot easier and safer for the ICF crew to move around while installing ICF forms and door/window rough buck for the next level.

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Assembling the subfloor
 
Construction of the main floor is similar to the construction of the basement: both horizontal and vertical rebar is inserted as ICF forms are interlocked to form walls. As in the case of the basement where vertical rebar of the footing was left exposed so that it can be tied into basement's ICF, in this case exposed vertical rebar from the basement is tied into the rebar for the main floor.

As before, rough buck wood frame for all windows and doors is installed at the same time. Due to enormous mass of concrete, window and door frames have to be reinforced so that they can withstand the pressure until concrete sets.

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Main floor ICF
 
Once main-floor pour sets, floor hangers for the second floor are installed and interior wall partitions of the main floor are built. Priority is given to load bearing sections so that interior LVLs and hangers can be installed, allowing the installation of 2nd floor TJIs to start as early as possible.

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Main floor interior framing and 2nd floor subfloor
 
Construction of ICF walls for the second floor is the pretty much the same as for the main floor. The only difference is that, because this is the top floor (there is no more ICF sitting on top of it, just the roof trusses), our ICF installer put a U-shaped metal layer over the interlocking pattern of the top row of ICF blocks. This is not required and is considered a quality feature.

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ICF - second floor
 
With the completion of framing of the second floor, the ICF crew has completed their portion of work. Job well done so far, with precision and good coordination and teamwork between our GC Tony Siesto, ICF contractor Paul Stevens and ourselves. The building has been cleaned up from major debris and is awaiting the roofing crew and materials.

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Framing - second floor
 
Pre-engineered roof trusses arrived on a truck. Most of the roof was assembled within a day. Sheeting the roof and details such as eyebrows for windows on the 2nd floor take a few more days.

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Roof assembly
 

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Front porch





















Plumbing




























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There are numerous resources on the Internet that talk about hydronic radiant floor heating. In summary, PEX pipes are laid down and fastened to a steel mesh before basement slab is poured. Pipes are usually routed in such a way that they first run along the footing, thus delivering more heat to the areas where heat loss is greater. Before pipes are installed, a layer of insulation is placed to prevent heat loss into the ground below the basement slab. Since the length of a typical loop of 1/2" PEX pipe should not exceed 300', we had to use multiple loops to cover the heated area (approx. 1200 square feet). We also have three huge concrete footing pads that support steel posts (structural support). We asked that these concrete pads also be insulated.

In our case, we decided to go with hydronic heating for the basement only. This is the most common application of hydronic heating in the area since it has the best performance vs. installation cost ratio. In addition to hydronic heating, traditional HVAC will too be available in the basement, giving us the opportunity to chose the better of the two heating systems. Cooling however, if needed, will be provided by the HVAC system.

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Hydronic radiant floor heating
 
Upon placing the order, the windows were manufactured by the supplier and were waiting at the supplier's depot until it was time to install them. In our case windows were installated by ICF/envelope contractor because it was a part of his package.

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Windows
 
Coordination with other construction activities required brick and stone to be installed in a specific order: rear side, right, left, front. For the same reason, it could not be all installed at the same time - it took around 5 days over the course of ten days.

As explained in the ICF section, brick rests on a layer of ICF brick ledge forms that is just above ground. Brick is installed with a gap of around 1/2-1" between the brick and the ICF wall. This lets any water that might get between the brick and the ICF wall run down freely and exit through holes in mortar that are regularly left between bricks. Sills rest on brick while brows require steel lintel support due to their weight.

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Brick and stone
 
The whole basement, including the mini-staircase from the entrances and into the basement are done in concrete. Before the pour could take place, all the below-slab plumbing (including in-floor heating) had to be complete and inspected.

As with the front porch, the concrete crew did a excellent job forming and leveling the slab.

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Basement slab
 

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Electrical (cont.)















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Steel entry doors - installation











Framing - fixes for drywall











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Soffits















ICF foam patching











Insulation barrier (2nd fl. ceiling)


























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Due to compaction, original backfill around the house had to be re-graded. Furthermore, a part of the driveway area that was previously left unexcavatied for practical reasons is now removed as time for garage slab pour approaches.

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Excavation and re-grading
 
This is a very important step in construction - all the little things that go into the walls and that are not that visible when done have been installed: ductwork, electrical, low voltage wiring, plumbing, sound-proofing, foaming. It has all been inspected so drywall can be installed.

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Drywall
 
Due to frequent exposure to outside temperatures as well as low R-value of a typical garage door, garage walls and ceilings require insulation in most geographical areas. In our design, garage walls were done in ICF. Ceiling remained the only area that had to be taken care of. Once electrical wiring, low voltage wiring, plumbing and HVAC were complete, foam was sprayed between TJIs and over exposed HVAC ducting. Not only the foam prevents heat loss, it also acts as a sound barrier and reduces vibration and warping of TJIs.

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Insulating the garage
 
Garage slab is poured by the same crew that did the basement slab and the front porch. Gravel is leveled and several sheets of mesh are laid as reinforcement. It takes the crew a couple of hours to pour the slab, forming it roughly to the required elevation and slope. Concrete is then left for a couple of hours, to set just enough to be nicely leveled with a power trowel.

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Garage slab
 

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There are several options for attic insulation: cellulose, fiberglass, foam, etc.. In our case, the attic is insulated using blown-in fiberglass. Before the house was drywalled, a barrier was installed on the bottom side of the roof structure. Insulation is blown into the attic area and settles neatly between trusses and onto the barrier that in turn rests on the drywall.

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Attic insulation
 
Tiles and cornice trim are installed almost in parallel, followed by hardwood floor.

Marble tiles are 24"x16" and require special cement base with a wire mesh.

Hardwood floor is 4"x3/4" Jatoba and is installed over wax paper and then protected with a temporary layer of paper on top. The gardwood floor requires moisture to be kept out of the house so our contractor brought a temporary propane burner to maintain climate.

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Tiles, floor, trim
 

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Jan

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Occupancy deficiency list items







Driveway







Exterior finishes