Chronicles of the Design & Construction of Two Waterfront Hurricane Proof Dry Stack Modular Green Custom Homes
1. Villa Lagoon, Wilder Italian Style Home
2. Nasello Italian Style Home

June, 2008 Construction

Applying HydroStop with a paint brush Layers of Hydro Stop on top of wall

The tops of our cornice blocks has been treated with special products from HydroStop by Joe Devine who worked over the weekend. We did not do anything like this on the guesthouse so as a result, if we get a really hard, driving rain, we can get water trickling thru our walls where the blocks sit on, atop the other. It only happens once or twice a year, but when it does, it takes about an hour for the water to meander thru the wall and come out the bottom blocks. It is no big deal, since we have a concrete floor in the guesthouse and the rain has to be blowing sideways hard enough to blow up under the roof edge.

On the new house, the cornice blocks now have this elaborate dam system made with HydroStop.

What you see here is the first stage of this treatment.

Part of Hydro Stop System on top of wall
Certified Hydro Stop technician Applying HydroStop to top plate on exterior walls

Next came a tall stack of 2 x 4's that get covered in the HydroStop product too.

Upper walls on concrete block house. Top plate of concrete wall
HydroStop barrier on top plate

You can see where the conduit for electricity, etc. comes out of the blocks, thru the HydroStop dam so it can bring electricity into the attic to be run where needed.

In the photos below, you can see how the trusses attach to this wood top plate on the cornice blocks.

Close up of wind straps on engineered trusses Close upof truss brackets and hurricane high wind straps
Engineered roof trusses with hurricane straps Roof trusses designed for extra height

The whole south part of the house now has trusses with hurricane straps. I think I would want these straps no matter where I lived, as tornadoes can come anywhere.

Matt of Swift Engineered Truss Systems designed our trusses so that we gain about a foot of height on our top floor.

We plan to put up a temporary wall between the partially roofed south end and the still-open-to-the-sky northern end. This will mean we will have a basically dry area so we can go ahead and order our windows and doors. Other building materials can be stored there too.

June 10,2008. Our carpenters are here today framing the interior walls on the top floor. We all just decided that since we have gained a bit of ceiling height with the specifically designed trusses, that we should have 8 foot interior doors rather than the std. 6'8".

North side, garage door opening Decorative concrete panel onupper floor.
Concrete panel between two windows

The blocks are going up around the windows and panels in the master bedroom's walls. The panels had to be re-positioned once. Ted Dial came out to have a look after Mike set them the first time and wanted them re-done...moved deeper into the opening. We do not really have detailed drawings so think kind of thing happens.

Stack of concrete stair treads

We have a big stack of individual concrete window sills that came on our last truckload from DAC-ART.

Using the crane to lift the laminated beam. Support bean for upper deck porch on waterfront

We used the crane to lift the large laminated bean that went across the expanse of the upper deck on the porch. It sits in a bracket that Dan painted with spray-on truck bed liner. After it was in place, the carpenters put the decking boards on really quickly. Compared to the time involved with stacking the exterior walls, everything the carpenters do seems like it is so fast there is a blurr.

Upper and lower south porches

The blocks that we needed up above for the continuation of the columns were done on the lower porch. Mike had the guys slide them close to the edge where they hooked them to the straps on the crane and Mike managed to swing them off the porch so he could lift them up to the top floor.

Lifting comcrete colums for upper deck.
Concrete column blocks going into place. Placement of concrete columns on upper deck. Concrete columns going up.

The use of walkie-talkie type radios allows Mike to know what is going on even tho he can't always see. The men also use hand signals in addition to the conversation on the radios.

We need to get some cap blocks from DAC-ART to go on top of the column ends. We will have to make a railing to go between the upper columns. Might have to use something made out of wood until I can afford to have welded metal sections made and installed. Originally Ted was suppose to have designed a concrete rail in the manner of the Venetian quatrefoil rail designs. He says now that is not going to happen, or at least not any time soon.

Purchased linkbelt crane to place concrete panels.

Bluebirds have babies in our crane !

Mid June...

Locationof blue bird nest on the crane Blue bird nest removed from the craneBlue bird eggs un hatched

We began to suspect that the blue bird nest was abandoned. Sure enough, we looked up in there and there were no baby birds and no momma. I wonder if the babies had enough time to mature sufficiently to fly out. It didn't seem like a very long time. We got the nest out to have a close look and there are three un-hatched eggs in it.

North elevation photo of upper floor

We are now all stacked up and grouted about as high as we can go until we get the special curved top pieces of DAC-ART from Ted Dial. We do now have the window openings determined "in stone" so we can go ahead and place the order for the windows and exterior doors from Weathershield.

We asked Mike to go ahead and move all the remaining cornice blocks off the grass so that it could hopefully grow in and cover the big areas of dead sod. After Hurricane Ivan we spent a fortune and worked so hard to grade and cover the destroyed yard with St. Augustine grass. We will have some cornice blocks left over it looks like and they will need to be trucked out. Mike lined them up along the gravel drive off the grass. Dave got out there on the super-dooper rider lawnmower and cut the really tall grass that had grown up between the blocks and I have lightly fertilized it in hopes that it will make runners before the weeds take hold.

St. Augustine costs twice as much as Centipede grass but is much nicer. We paid for St. Augustine after the hurricane so we want to hold on to it as well as possible. Really, it is amazing to me that we have done all this heavy construction for over a year and have not significantly torn up the yard. If you have the right equipment and the right operators, it can be done.

Dave Perry on riding mover on St. Augustine grass on Gulf Coast.
Dave Perry cutting the grass after cornice blocks are moved. Location of concrete cornice blocks in the grass.
West elevationof concrete block hurricane proof home on gulf coast. Concrete Acid Stain frieze on exterior of home

The row of frieze blocks that I painted with the concrete acid stain last weekend are now in place on the top row over the garage/bedroom part of the house. This row will only really be visible from the water.

Oversized casing edge on window openings.

Now, I noticed that it was really odd that the extended part of the blocks around the windows was different on different blocks. I asked Mike about this and he said they would cut them all to the same size after they are installed. This seemed like a hard way to do it, but he simply said "That is how Ted told him to do it" ...hmmmm...

Mike says that they can grind them back and apply a patch layer that will now look any different than the block itself.

Window openings in concrete block house.

It sure seems like it would be easier to cut them on the ground than way up in the air. Of course, having the proper blocks would have been the ideal thing. But remember that I am not only using blocks that were originally poured for a different project, I am using a lot of them that have resided in the 'bone yard' for quite some time !

You can see the little plastic shims under the blocks that help level them and are broken out after the blocks are back-filled and before the grout is applied.

Location of concrete stairs on front wall.

We now have the location of the outside entrance stairs marked on the front wall of the house by Mike and Dan. You can see the pencil lines in this photo. It will be interesting to me to see how they stack up ordinary 'cinder block' concrete block CMU's and place the poured DAC-ART step treads on top. I may use cement tile from Villa Lagoon Tile on the vertical parts of the steps.

French driveway post niche minature grotto. Fresh flower in niche in Italy

I found these two photos on Flickr--An old wall niche in Rome with fresh flowers. These miniature grottos are so sweet all over Italy. You often see them at the entrance to a farm road or long driveway.  I wanted to use the same idea at the entrance to my driveway. I may put mosaics in the recessed back wall area and keep a mason jar for cut flowers in the niche. Not being Roman Catholic, I won't put an image or statue of Mary in it, but maybe something unexpected like a statue of Bob Dylan or Mr. Natural or Mr. T. Mostly I want to have some flowers.

I showed Mike this photo of an old niche in a gate post in France. We discussed ways that we could achieve a similar effect in one of my driveway posts. Mike figured out a way to turn the blocks a different direction than what we originally planned. He is going to cut the side out of the top block on the left hand side (as you enter) and when the block cap is placed on top, it will form a little roof. It is going to be very cool.