Preliminary plans for a simple – open air – country home
Single huge, dramatic, operating, steel door
By: Otis Bradley
An extra $50,000 expense is not the way you want to start a job!
Many houses had been built in this neighborhood in the past 60 years – with no problems, but you just never know until you do the tests – drilling into the ground and finding out what you’ve got. Its amazing how soils conditions can be radically different over the distance of just a few feet. Geology is all about shifts, lifts, and millions of years of evolution. A hill, a ridge, a little valley can all be tell tale marks to the experienced eye – but often overlooked and sometimes can even fool the experts.
Because of the underground water that existed on this property, a massive foundation was called for by the structural engineer. In order to follow code, steel reinforced concrete caissons had to be sunk up to 40 feet into the ground.
Once the caissons were set, we had to place a grade beam on top of the caissons – this grade beam is essentially a 2 foot by 3 foot XXX steel reinforced concrete beam. This allows a structural concrete slab to rest on top of the grade beam – which will later be the foundation to a new home! The next time you drive into a multi story parking garage – look up at the posts and beams – typically they are built in this style. Although, on this project we were doing this in the ground – not in the air!
Typical parking garage below:
Because this massive slab of concrete was called for, why not make it the finish floors. Since all of this concrete was required by the engineering design, I decided to finish the concrete so the concrete could be the finish floors, saving cost from adding another floor like hardwood. At the time – this was an unusual idea.
I decided to form the concrete into large 5 x 5 squares to make the concrete look like giant tile. After “cutting” in the squares in the wet concrete – by hand troweling into a super smooth surface – the beautiful surface was later “stained” – colored with acid.
Finish concrete (see concrete floor video – click here) is an art. Scoring, coloring, and finishing can create either a beautiful material or an ugly mess. Like many processes in the building world, concrete installation is a science and an art.
Different scoring methods produce different results. Some installers (also typical in construction) insist that there is only “their way” to do it. Concrete coloring whether “stained,” integrally colored, or surface coated can produce drastically different results. Countless methods from “broom” to aggregate exposed to highly polished finishes will provide an endless number of options.
On this project we used acid staining, creating lovely color variations. However, you really don’t know exactly what you will get – so you better like the general idea and be willing to accept a lot of variation.
Tip – sometimes during a project you get hit with surprises – sometimes an opportunity to make it better!
Feel Free to copy, share, or re post this article. Kindly make sure to include this information: Written by Otis Bradley, a Custom Home Builder, in Southern California. Please see OtisBradley.com for more information on Custom Home Building!
By: Otis Bradley
Here’s a conundrum … it’s really important to know your property before you buy it. In our area of southern California soils engineering is key. We are in a high xxx earthquake zone.
But – lots of soils engineers won’t do soils tests before a sale because if they find challenging conditions and the buyer decides not to buy – then the soils guy gets blamed and sued!
A catch 22….cart before the horse. Some engineers will give “opinions,” – happened here.
Looks like a normal lot !
After removal of the existing house – the soil is removed and re-compacted. A “flip flop” technique is used meaning you dig one side of the lot and pile up your dirt on the other – then vice a versa. Excavating 5 feet down with a huge bulldozer and then re filling the dirt tightly compacted with testing done each 2 feet by the soils engineer – the ground is made uniform for the new structure.
“All clear, shouldn’t be any problems, go ahead.” But shortly after the purchase, the test borings for the soils report – (soils engineering is required for the structural engineer to design the appropriate structural system for the house). revealed an underground water! Underneath a house that already existed on the property for 40 years with no signs of problems. But to build by today’s code we had to sink 16 concrete caissons into the ground from 30 to 50 down. With grade beams to support a structural slab to hold up the house. Kind of like building a parking structure into the ground to hold up the house.
My friends, Richard and Betina tell their story about building their new home in Ojai as only a novelist could ! A great read !
I am in it !
This is a great book to read if you are thinking about building a home.
By Richard La Plante
“Never Again,” Richard La Plante promised after he and his new wife completed building their family home in East Hampton, New York.
But he did not keep his promise. Instead he bought twenty acres of raw land on a mountaintop located three and half thousand miles away, in a small town that he had only visited by internet… And the nightmare began. A house in New York to sell, a massive loan to pay off for the newly purchased land, dishonest builders, some of the most stringent building codes in America, and the economic collapse of 2008. With no general contractor, because they had decided to save money by doing it themselves, La Plante and his wife face an empty bank account, a black widow spider infestation and a large wooden frame with no windows. With two young sons to raise, a stony silence between them and a marriage counselor who says in sagely fashion, “There’s only one answer. Finish the house,” the La Plantes stumble from hilarious disaster to not-so-hilarious disaster to ultimate success.
Never Again is a seven-year chronicle of trial and triumph, both a warning and inspiration to anyone trying to build a dream.
Buy it on Amazon or iTunes
A recent shot of the palace!
by Otis Bradley
Gotta love concrete !
What you see in the video above is a new custom home we built in Ojai, California. The home, which has many special environmental features, is built on a concrete slab which is both the structural foundation of the home as well as the finish floor. The concrete is integrally colored, meaning we add pigment and mix it in the concrete, rather than add a stain or paint on top of the concrete. This particular rich chocolatey color actually lightens up quite a bit as the concrete cures.
It’s crucial to have enough skilled concrete finishers on the job. When concrete goes off (hardens) the troweling has to be done at just the right time. By scoring the concrete in just the right places and by trowelling the concrete smooth the end result is a luxurious finish floor. And the thick mass of the concrete keeps the house cool in the summer and with the radiant tubing – warm in the winter.