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Thread: Concrete houses


  1. #1

    Concrete houses

    Hello everyone,
    I have posted questions here before about lots and construction, and I appreciate the thoughtful responses I received. I m still daydreaming about building a house on 30A, and I have some more questions. I was wondering why I don t see more concrete houses built in this area. It seems like it would be a desirable structure because of the hurricanes that threaten the area yearly. Do they cost a lot more to build that wood frqme structures? Is the roof also concrete in this type of construction? Was all the concrete in the area used up in building the Hilton House? Thanks for your responses

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  3. #2
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    Until recently it wasn't a common method of construction in Florida. I've seen houses built in various combinations from complete bunkers, just walls, to even just the first floor. There aren't many contractors in the area that specialize or even have very much experience in the process. I would strongly suggest contacting Gidget that posts on here as she has the most experience of anyone I know of.

  4. #3
    I grew up in South Florida where 90%+ of the construction is concrete block, so I was very surprised to see all frame construction when I moved here in 1999. I just had a 2 story cottage built in PC Beach with the first floor block and the second floor frame. The builder that I used charges the same for block or frame.

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    I think one of the other reasons for frame over concrete was due to the vast timber readily available for decades.

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    Maybe it's because of an insurance, building code, wetlands issue? Many houses here are elevated and on pilings and just wont hold the weight of concrete.

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    My dad at one time built the wood frame houses, many in Grayton, but later switched to block due to the storms and sand. Most of the houses on the beach built before 1970 were his work. Concrete block is much cheaper than other materials. By the way, he died in 1975.
    Last edited by florida girl; 10-15-2010 at 03:07 PM.

  8. #7

    Concrete homes

    My husband is a contractor in the 30A area and has built several homes in the area with poured concrete. I does cost a little more but is worth it (utility savings, insurance savings, and safety when the next hurricane comes through this area). We stayed in our house for every hurricane since 2004 and felt very safe. Sandy

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    This is not a simple question and shouldn't be given a simple answer. I am an architect and have worked with many types of construction. I see advantages and disadvantages to both. Concrete and concrete block need to be reinforced with steel to resist horizontal forces caused by hurricanes as concrete is not strong in tension but very strong in compression. Concrete is not a very good insulator and has no waterproofing characteristics, so it has to have a waterproof coating added.
    I see a lot of stucco on concrete walls and wonder if sealers are added to the finish to make them water resistant. You generally have to build a 2x4 wood wall on the interior to run electrical and to add insulation in the wall cavity. This seems like building 2 walls instead of 1 to me. Wood construction is fine as long the structure is properly engineered to meet today's stringent Florida Building Code which was developed after Hurricane Andrew. Wood buildings have to be sheathed in plywood and contain a multitude of metal connectors to tie all wood components together. They are typically better insulated. Walls are wrapped with housewraps and sealed around windows and doors. Roofs are coated with waterproof materials before roofing is applied. If you are trying to meet Fortified Home requirements to reduce insurance costs, concrete houses allow more flexibility in the configuration of the house. I believe all Alys beach houses are required to meet these standards. All in all if any house or building gets a direct hit from a hurricane or strong storm surge, I would not want to be in it. I fear there is getting to be a concrete good, wood bad mentality that is not accurate. If it is the look you are after then by all means go for it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dmarcht View Post
    This is not a simple question and shouldn't be given a simple answer. I am an architect and have worked with many types of construction. I see advantages and disadvantages to both. Concrete and concrete block need to be reinforced with steel to resist horizontal forces caused by hurricanes as concrete is not strong in tension but very strong in compression. Concrete is not a very good insulator and has no waterproofing characteristics, so it has to have a waterproof coating added.
    I see a lot of stucco on concrete walls and wonder if sealers are added to the finish to make them water resistant. You generally have to build a 2x4 wood wall on the interior to run electrical and to add insulation in the wall cavity. This seems like building 2 walls instead of 1 to me. Wood construction is fine as long the structure is properly engineered to meet today's stringent Florida Building Code which was developed after Hurricane Andrew. Wood buildings have to be sheathed in plywood and contain a multitude of metal connectors to tie all wood components together. They are typically better insulated. Walls are wrapped with housewraps and sealed around windows and doors. Roofs are coated with waterproof materials before roofing is applied. If you are trying to meet Fortified Home requirements to reduce insurance costs, concrete houses allow more flexibility in the configuration of the house. I believe all Alys beach houses are required to meet these standards. All in all if any house or building gets a direct hit from a hurricane or strong storm surge, I would not want to be in it. I fear there is getting to be a concrete good, wood bad mentality that is not accurate. If it is the look you are after then by all means go for it.
    You sure about that?

    You don't have to build an interior wall for wiring and insulation, in some cases if the end user desires a small sub-wall can be built using 1x1 firing strips, but a full two inches is unnecessary. As far as building out for insulation that's also incorrect as many poured in place homes now use a Styrofoam form so the insulation is built in.

    As far as steel reinforcing, while that may a code requirement I can show you hundreds of examples of concrete block homes throughout the gulf coast that have weathered hurricanes just fine without steel reinforcement.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dmarcht View Post
    This is not a simple question and shouldn't be given a simple answer. I am an architect and have worked with many types of construction. I see advantages and disadvantages to both. Concrete and concrete block need to be reinforced with steel to resist horizontal forces caused by hurricanes as concrete is not strong in tension but very strong in compression. Concrete is not a very good insulator and has no waterproofing characteristics, so it has to have a waterproof coating added.
    I see a lot of stucco on concrete walls and wonder if sealers are added to the finish to make them water resistant. You generally have to build a 2x4 wood wall on the interior to run electrical and to add insulation in the wall cavity. This seems like building 2 walls instead of 1 to me. Wood construction is fine as long the structure is properly engineered to meet today's stringent Florida Building Code which was developed after Hurricane Andrew. Wood buildings have to be sheathed in plywood and contain a multitude of metal connectors to tie all wood components together. They are typically better insulated. Walls are wrapped with housewraps and sealed around windows and doors. Roofs are coated with waterproof materials before roofing is applied. If you are trying to meet Fortified Home requirements to reduce insurance costs, concrete houses allow more flexibility in the configuration of the house. I believe all Alys beach houses are required to meet these standards. All in all if any house or building gets a direct hit from a hurricane or strong storm surge, I would not want to be in it. I fear there is getting to be a concrete good, wood bad mentality that is not accurate. If it is the look you are after then by all means go for it.
    The concrete block houses dad built were reinforced with steel, and he drove pilings down very deep. One house in particular I saw had an interior supporting wall that was actually 3 concrete/brick walls in one. Another I discovered had a sidewalk around the house that the concrete was 4 feet thick. Insulation was mostly an unknown at the time, but most of the beach houses were just that, summer houses. Concrete is cooler than others, especially positioned for the winds to blow through the house. You could tell after a hurricane which ones dad built for the most part.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SWGB View Post
    You sure about that?

    You don't have to build an interior wall for wiring and insulation, in some cases if the end user desires a small sub-wall can be built using 1x1 firing strips, but a full two inches is unnecessary. As far as building out for insulation that's also incorrect as many poured in place homes now use a Styrofoam form so the insulation is built in.

    As far as steel reinforcing, while that may a code requirement I can show you hundreds of examples of concrete block homes throughout the gulf coast that have weathered hurricanes just fine without steel reinforcement.
    I agree with the first part, haven't seen the second. All dad's concrete block houses had steel reinforcement. There is some cool new stuff used now made from concrete that also insulates.

  13. #12
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    concrete block may be cheaper than wood, but you will need a lot more block than you will need wood, and I bet that the labor to lay all that block is much more expensive as it will take much longer to frame.

    Concrete isn't cooler. It takes longer to heat and cool (much more energy).

    Roofs? I've seen concrete roofs on concrete homes, but I've also seen every other type of roof on these houses. I see =/- with wood and concrete construction.

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    IMO the best way to go is to do the insulated concrete forms - pretty quick, solid as heck, and very well insulated.

    Any new wood frame house in Sowal is full of $$ metal straps and clips, so you don't really save on metal compared to rebar in concrete block or formwork.

    Big savings on homeowner's insurance too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Koa View Post
    concrete block may be cheaper than wood, but you will need a lot more block than you will need wood, and I bet that the labor to lay all that block is much more expensive as it will take much longer to frame.

    Concrete isn't cooler. It takes longer to heat and cool (much more energy).

    Roofs? I've seen concrete roofs on concrete homes, but I've also seen every other type of roof on these houses. I see =/- with wood and concrete construction.
    Dad used to put up a block house in about 2 weeks. I live in his dream house of concrete block, it holds the heat, and cool longer than wood frame. Miserable in the winter, but awesome in the summer. I've added a hip roof with attic and insulation which made an unbelievable difference to winter misery.

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    Concrete has excellent thermal mass but is a poor insulator.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNJed View Post
    Concrete has excellent thermal mass but is a poor insulator.
    That's why I like the ICF - styrofoam insulation on both sides of the concrete solves that problem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scooterbug44 View Post
    That's why I like the ICF - styrofoam insulation on both sides of the concrete solves that problem.
    Yes, that method is great. Much like the SIPS (Structural Insulated Panel) method for pre-manufactured homes. For me though, if you insulate concrete on the outside you lose the thermal mass advantage because the sun can't heat the home. Maybe not a bad thing where winter's are mild

    I have tons of links on different homebuilding methods that I think are fun and brilliant. Here are a few companies I like:

    FabCab

    Cabin Fever Home

    Compact Cottage Company

    hip & green


    And then there is this blog which features "tiny homes". I'm not a tiny home person but I find a lot of great links and ideas there.

    http://tinyhouseblog.com/

  20. #18
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    Any wall system you consider, you need to address theses issues: moisture infiltration, insulation value, strength under hurricane wind loads, how windows and doors are installed (sill waterproofing and flashing,crack sealing), exterior finish, interior wiring and outlet space and interior finish and make sure the Florida Building Code and Walton County accepts the type of construction you are proposing. A structural engineer is going to have to sign off on your plans to get a permit. Finally cost. There are a lot of interesting systems out there but there is usually a premium paid for systems contractors aren't used to, not in materials necessarily but in head scratching time and making sure every sub on the job is familiar with how you are putting the components together. Work with your architect and get some cost comparisons for different systems from your contractor. Moisture is your biggest enemy. You need to maintain a strong moisture barrier between the exterior and interior finishes. High humidity levels can and will cause mildew growth on the back of drywall and wall coverings that you don't see but could be breathing. Uncoated porous materials like concrete, concrete block, styrofoam and wood can wick in moisture so you need some other type of moisture barrier. Air conditioning dehumidifies in the summer but in the winter heating will not and can actually help mold growth. Codes and building officials don't pay alot of attention to waterproofing and moisture issues or good flashing practices for that matter so you, your architect and your contractor have to.

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    Florida allows Architects to self seal residential plans.

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