Sunday, January 6, 2013

"Oh...that's really interesting."


Usually spoken in the tone one uses for a small child showing you his latest art project.  We've grown used to this reaction when we first tell people we are building a round house.  That is until we show them  pictures.  That seems to be enough to pique anyone's interest.

It is hard not to begin waxing poetic about the benefits of that round house being a Deltec.  If they stay interested long enough to hear about the 10" thick walls, and a Deltec home's propensity to stay intact despite pretty much anything that Mother Nature can throw at it, I'd say thay are pretty much hooked...as we are.


My wife Debra has wanted a round house since she was in high school, largely because of one a local doctor had in our home town.  She spoke frequently of her love for the round house and never missed an opportunity to point out anything architecturally similar.  Personally the only interest I had in building and living in a round house had to do with making my wife happy.  I would have been more content with something much more mainstream and “normal”.  That is until we discovered the Deltec Company during an Internet search of round house stuff.  I had to admit I was more than a bit intrigued after spending a little time researching the Deltec, and seeing some of the design elements and how well they appeared to be built.  I had survived a direct hit from a tornado on my house many years ago, and anything as strong and well built as to be called hurricane resistant was more than a little interesting to me.  We followed with the usual request for additional information, and a few e-mails back and forth with their representative.  Finally we decided the best way to know for sure was to go have a look.  We signed up for a Deltec home builders seminar held on September 17-18 of 2011.  Off we jetted to Asheville, NC with nothing more than the intent to satisfy our curiosity.  This little weekend jaunt proved to be a pivotal moment that would make a difference in our lives like we never would have believed.  Before we left Asheville at the end of our weekend, we had actually signed a contract and paid a retainer towards our new home.  So impressed was I with how well built and energy efficient the Deltec homes were, that I had become the more vocal cheer leader towards that end.  That weekend was the beginning of a journey and adventure that neither of us could have imagined up to that point.
Visiting the factory floor

Now that we had committed to a house in our name, we needed to find land for our venture, and on a distinct timeline, too.  Because we signed up at the builders’ seminar, we had a little over one year to take delivery in order to take advantage of some generous discounts offered to us at that time.  In January 2012 we first viewed some beautiful acreage far out in the hills of west central Wisconsin, and in April we were able to close on that 55 acre piece of our future.  Then the real drama began.  We discovered that in our part of the country, where Deltec is not as well known, financial organizations suddenly get extremely skittish when dealing with homes that are not “traditional”.  We went for months before finding a bank across the state that saw nothing out of the ordinary about our Deltec design.  “As far as we are concerned, it’s merely a ranch with a walk-out” was the quote that was music to our ears.  With funding in place, contractors lined up, and winter weather fast closing, we charged ahead.

First up was clearing.  I cut over 100 trees this summer to start clearing the build site.
12/03/2012 Construction starts with roughing in the driveway and clearing brush from the site and down the hill in front.

Driveway roughed in
Clearing the view to our south
 12/04/2012 Basement excavation starts.

Basement excavation starts
12/04/2012 Septic system installed.

Septic tank at the top and septic field at the bottom of the hill

12/05/2012 Basement and footings dig completed
12/07/2012 Geothermal field goes in.  We are utilizing a 4 ton Water Furnace Synergy 3D Geothermal system that will supply in-floor heat for the basement, forced air heat and cool for the main floor, and supplement our domestic hot water supply.  Nothing in the house will use gas of any kind.  We felt gas prices and supplies tend to be too volatile in tough times, and eventually want to place solar electric panels on the house to further add in the self sufficient green life style.

Trench dug, coils laid, and trench filled all in the space of one day.

12/17/2012 First concrete pour for the footings.  By this time the race is on to try and stay ahead of the winter weather rapidly heading our way.  After the basement and footings had been dug, large thermal blankets were laid down to keep the ground from freezing, and keep things nice and stable for the footings.

The first of many loads of concrete being brought in.

12/19/2012 Electricity was cabled underground from a considerable distance to our remote build site.

Burying cable beneath a thin frost layer.

12/19/2012 Pouring concrete for the basement walls begins.  The first real signs that make it look like a house!

Filling the forms with a concrete pump

From this point our original timeline had the semi trailers (three of them) with our house components arriving on site the 27th and 28th of December, right after the holiday.  Our contractor had a full crew ready to set the shell the week of the 2nd through the 7th of January 2013.  It was just before Christmas that we learned problems had arisen with our scheduled delivery, and the trucks could not arrive before the 7th of January.  With this change we now will not have a crew to erect the house for several more weeks, as they had other prearranged jobs after the 7th.  New arrangements had to be negotiated, and the house would be coming on the 3rd and 4th.  At least that way we would have a crew there to unload the trucks.  The only other alternative was to pay storage on the house components until we could reassemble our build crew.

01/03/2013 Up at the house site, our contractor had folks putting on the outer basement wall insulation, back-filling, placing the Radon rock in the basement and rough sculpting the landscaping.  The rest of us were awaiting the first semi arrival at 0900 on this cold morning to disgorge it's load of components.  The trailers proved most challenging to unload.  Almost everything was loaded flat on the floor with no pallets for support.  Everything had to be moved by hand to the back of the 53 foot trailer, where our all terrain fork lift would remove them to the staging area.  This trailer had all but three of our 10 inch thick house walls, which are reported to weigh 675 pounds apiece, although bets were made on site that they weighed considerably more.  The first truck took the six of us five and a half hours to unload, followed immediately by the second truck, which we finished unloading just as darkness fell.  Everyone went home this night very sore and tired.

One of the exterior 10" thick wall panels with window and siding installed.

01/04/2013 The third and final semi arrived at 0830 with the remainder of our house components.  Considering the difficulty in unloading tons of cargo by hand, I think we did pretty darned well. We finished with some very distinct bruises, one broken window, and a couple pieces of chipped siding.   Everything will now be covered in place with plastic until we can arrange for our construction crew to return and begin erecting the shell.  (Date to be determined)

It's pretty difficult to visualize, but there's a house in there somewhere.

1/04/2013 One final act before knocking off for the weekend...the crew placed the sill plates on the foundation, and erected the center floor support pole. 

Centering the main floor support pole in the basement.