Tech Talk - Subtle advantages found in smaller details
By: Jim Baty
When you walk up to a home or walk in the front door, what is it that attracts your attention? Do you find the spaces, the light, or the colors calling your eyes to look, or are you intrigued by the finer elements that show the care taken during construction? Often the craftsmanship of the home is one of the most overlooked aspects of today’s home construction process. Unfortunately, it is also craftsmanship that is often missing in much of todays production homes. Perhaps this is a reason why custom home building is still so popular. How can you deliver custom home building with production-home efficiency? It may not be any more difficult than looking at concrete …
Exterior architectural elements
The features that make residential architecture striking often extend beyond the massing of the form. Certainly roofs and wall juxtaposition are keys to sophisticated designs, but what about the wall surfaces? How about columns integrated into porticos and entrance vestibules? These are integral features of monolithic concrete forming systems that make the construction process more efficient and the durability of the home significantly greater.
One example of pushing the flexibility of RCF housing can be found in the Palm Coast area of Florida. Here, Poured Concrete Walls of Florida has taken concrete housing from simple exterior walls for builders to total solid concrete home solutions. Features they have begun to incorporate in these custom homes with production efficiency include radius forms and formed features emulating the architectural elements usually constructed of wood, concrete block and/or foam. Adding radius walls in concrete produces a greater palette for designers, while adding cast-in architectural molding features eliminates damage potential from storms tearing off delicate shapes and highlights. Their latest accomplishments also feature vertical posts (columns) and horizontal beams, and a lanai (veranda) that was poured at the same time.
Still more examples have been produced, expanding the palette of exterior wall finish architecture from flat concrete ready for coatings to expressions of molded concrete and embedded finishes. Consider for a moment the impact of having siding patterns permanently “set in stone,” pre-molded from the concrete during the construction operation requiring only a paint selection to finish. The ability to adapt the vertical, removable formwork with a variety of liners has contributed yet another level to the architectural sophistication of this construction method.
A large majority of homes today incorporate the scale of brick into portions, if not all, of their façades. The ability to place brick and eliminate issues of cavity failures and leakage is another exciting advancement to RCF technology. Similar in theory to the use of siding, shingle or shake liners, brick liners secure thinner profiles of real brick vertically while the concrete is placed. When the forms are removed, the result is a striking brick façade that optimizes efficiency in the construction schedule.
Interior architectural elements
To lessen the need for finish carpenters and extensions in the schedule, the interiors of the all-concrete home have also seen a dramatic improvement in the as-cast architectural detailing. One of the features often requested in custom and production homes alike is crown molding. Typically installed by finish carpenters, crown moldings bring a look of sophistication to nearly any room. This is accomplished with natural wood stained to the desired shade, or the more modern and popular method of painting to detail the chosen room. Although many of the earlier concrete homes were constructed leaving the finish carpenter wondering how to attach the wood crown strips to the concrete wall and/or ceiling, today’s concrete homes feature forming sophistication that integrates this shape monolithically with the wall. The result achieved is the permanence of concrete without gaps due to warping or shrinkage in the wood with the flexibility of finishing to nearly any look.
Yet the all-concrete home hasn’t stopped at architectural trim shapes. Just as the vertical posts and beams on the exterior have become feasible and efficient for the exterior, the integration of all-concrete stairs provides increased levels of quiet and structural soundness to the interior. Complete with self-supporting stringers and reinforcement as required, the concrete stair has upgraded the concrete home to another level eliminating typical noises such as wood squeaks and foot traffic, and they allow any finish to be easily affixed to the final concrete surface.
The residential market is experiencing an exciting transition spurred by concerns for efficiency, durability and safety. The response to this transition developed in the RCF systems continues to open doors in markets from Michigan and Oklahoma, to Florida and points in between. As we talk about the details that make these systems work, we will see many of the reasons for resisting this trend turn to urges to get involved in the progress or take ownership of the state of the art in housing.
For more information about CFA, see cfawalls.org or call (319) 895-6940. For more information about CHC, see concretehomescouncil.org or call (319) 895-0761.
Jim Baty is Technical Director of the Concrete Foundations Association.