20x34 2-story universal in upstate NY

Started by NathanS, May 13, 2016, 11:04:09 AM

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Last fall we bought the 2-story universal plans and have made a few modifications. The biggest change has been adding an 8x12 mudroom to the entrance area. I am planning to do most of the work myself, the exception being the excavation and sitework. We are also going to have our excavator do the flatwork - our house will be a slab on grade.

Here is our basic layout. The bottom edge of the plans face south. I am moving the mudroom door entrance to the north wall of the mudroom. The hallway between the mudroom and kitchen will be a pantry that extends under the stairwell.

Here is a view the property facing south - the house will be relatively close to the shed I built last fall. We have 24 acres, 10 in hardwood and 14 in field. We've also got a nice stream that separates the north field (where pic is taken) and south field. We are surrounded by 1700 acres of public land. It is a very peaceful place. Remarkably electric is available and it will cost $437.25 to hook it up to the house.

Here is the excavation. We had a relatively dry April, but you can see that the deepest corner is seeping some water. Go figure we got 2 inches of rain the next day, and are getting more rain right now. I ran string and got things pretty square and level, but I decided that forming and pouring the footing by myself is not a one man job. It has been too much for me to keep up with the mud and water that is leaking out of that corner. I called the excavator and he will be doing the footing for me. The high water table is one of the many reasons we decided to not do a basement.


Looks great! I am excited see your progress!


Quick update...

The footing is done. When I stopped by they said the lines I ran for layout were level and square, so at least I was on the right track.

There are 2 #4 rebar in the footing. Hoping to get started on the block later this week. The plan is to lay 6 courses of 8" block then backfill inside and out, put in lots of insulation and pour the slab.

By the way, the furthest pile of soil you can see is the beginning of our leach field. We have about 2 feet of top soil and then hard pan.. which is why any water that gets in the trench stays there. A leach field requires 4 feet of soil. In NYS if you have less than 2 feet of top soil things get very expensive. It's against the law to build a house without an engineered septic system.


Looking good... those are some serious footers.  What about your vertical bars?  Will you roto-hammer them in after you lay out your walls?  Around my neck of the woods the inspectors like to see them tied into the footing... we used to just wet set them but we're not allowed to anymore.


Thanks for the input nailit.. I am going to drill #4s @ 48" OC once the block is laid out.

I have been a little on the fence about doing the verticals.. we will only have 1 foot of unbalanced fill.


When I look at foundations, footings, etc. they always seem like they would be too small for what they are intended for, but when the building goes up it always works out and I am amazed! I am not much of a visual person as I am a conceptual person.

Good job!


My wife cried when she saw our footings (man down!  :D)... I drew another floor that night, which I don't regret in the least, but, now I remind the owners that they are comparing it to the great outdoors for awhile. The feeling changes as it closes in.

That wouldn't get verticals here, or just a token few. I would use clean gravel to backfill the interior. Edge insulation is very important. At 1.5" of foam on the edge I can feel the heat wicking out 2-3' back into the room on a cold day. I had run xps from footing to top of slab but later removed the section between ground and bottom of siding when I saw tunneling beginning. I wrapped the remainder in flashing at that edge, anyway a poor detail, think that area through it can be a serious heat wick. I've never hooked up the radiant but the tubing was cheap enough to put in there prior to pouring.


Don that sounds similar to what I'm planning... I am putting 4" of XPS under the slab and 2" on the inside edges (slab will be poured in a basin of insulation). I wanted to miter the top edge of the insulation because I'm already going to have a problem with the edge of the block sticking out inside of the 2x6 framing.

I had been thinking about popping the block walls out 2" in all directions but I really don't want to have to cut all that block. I want to keep it simple. I also want to keep the slab exposed at least for a few years.. we have a lot of massive Ash on our property and I daydream of using it  for a flooring when the borers kill it all.

Also thinking I will run pex in floor with no plans of ever hooking it up.. since it's cheap :)

I did not want to run the exterior insulation subgrade because I am worried that it's going to act as a conduit for ants. I am considering doing 3" of Roxul comfort board on the exterior of the house. Not cheap but I think that is the most resilient insulation out there. Rock wool is the only thing I trust under ground long term.


Making progress on the blocks. Rechecked for level and square after laying the corner for the third course and have stayed very accurate.

This is my first time doing block work.


I'm closing in on the half way point for laying the blocks.

Can anyone recommend a waterproofing for the the foundation walls?

The slab is going to have poly underneath it, and that vapor barrier will connect to the sill sealer.. so we shouldn't have interior moisture issues even if the walls weren't sealed. Still, I'd like to at least cover the exterior of the walls in addition to running a foundation drain to daylight.

There are a lot of paint on products that claim they are rated for below grade exposure.


Adam Roby

I wouldn't rely on "waterproof" paints.  There are elastometric asphalt emulsion membranes designed for waterproofing foundation walls and other structures, and the dimple board mentioned is also good to help divert water downwards.  That would also mean you should consider a french drain around the base of the foundation to give that water an escape route away from the foundation.  Consider also grading the surrounding area afterwards so runoff goes away from the foundation, and any downspouts dump far away as well.


Yeah the paints (drylok) didn't sound right to me. Thanks for the input. It looks like I can order that BASF stuff online.


It should require at least a week of accelerated weathering including various soaps and solvents and it should be able to find places where you have no idea how it crept to or it isn't any good.


Don, I don't understand what "a week of accelerated weathering including various soaps and solvents" means?

Do you mean like field testing a product in the worst possible conditions and seeing if it passes those tests?


You should look like a Br'er Nathan by the time you crawl out of the hole, that's a sign of the really good stuff  ;D



Making progress..

Building inspector stopped by this afternoon. He was happy with how everything looked and said he started out as a brick layer. I thought that was pretty cool.

He thought tar would be fine for the walls.

For parging it looks like just make sure the block is clean, make it a little damp and trowel on some type S?


 I prefer to go as dry as I can to reduce shrinkage cracks, you'll find what works. When it is thumbprint hard I take a slightly damp sponge and smooth the surface. If it is going to show it usually takes 2 coats to keep the block grid from telegraphing through. Lime can make it stickier but it weakens it too.


Only one course left.

I found some old 90s block laying tutorials on youtube that really helped me out.


Also this guy Mike Haduck has a lot of great 'how to' videos on masonry in general.


One tip for newbies like me, even when you're laying block to the line you should still check for level perpendicular to the line. I didn't do this on a few courses so some of my blocks are about 1/16th out of of level. Can't really see it, but if you run your hand down the wall you can feel the edge of the block here and there.

When I was laying out everything for square, I took every single triangular measurement I could take.

I was satisfied within 1/8". When laying the corners I confirm the top of each course is plumb, level and in units of 8".



Save the address of that pic and post it often  [cool] (include building dimensions on that sheet as well). I really appreciate it when the designer includes that page, although you can do the math in the field with a calculator you aren't going to do it all. With that sheet prepared ahead of time you are much more likely to get it right.


Thanks Don and Greg. I printed out several copies and during layout, and on the 3, 4, and 6 courses I wrote down the actual measurements along every diagonal. I never needed to make any adjustments because I was able to keep the corners very plumb. I thought it would be cheap insurance, though.

All measurements for 6th and final course are within 1/4 inch. I walked around with my 4' level to check how close I am to 48" everywhere, and I'd say I'm +/- 1/8". I'm satisfied.. it's probably more straight than any of the lumber I'll be working with.


Finished laying the block on Friday. Hard work, but went surprisingly fast. Two weeks prior we spent the day squaring the corners, then that Saturday we layed two blocks in every corner. I also did not work every day.

Anyone have suggestions on what to use for core fill? Have been reading up on it, and as with most things masonry, it's a little cryptic.

ASTM C476 is the standard specification for grout. The paper itself is hidden beyhind a paywall. But I found other sources that say it is really just a watery concrete mix. 1 part cement, 2.25-3 parts sand and if you want to make coarse grout you would also add 1-2 parts crushed stone or pea gravel. The standard calls for at least 2000 psi.

Seems like the simplest thing to do is buy premixed concrete and make it a little runny. I need to fill at least 8 cores to a depth of 4 feet. At .13 cu/ft per core .13 x 6 = .78 cu/ft per core fill. Lowes has 50lb bags of 4000psi concrete on sale for $1.89. Two bags would give me .76 cu/ft if I didn't mix it runny, so with the extra water I should easily get a core fill per two bags. So we're looking at about $3.78 per core fill.

Any opinions?


That would be fine. The grouting codes are kind of hidden in the wall chapter (if you can't find something look in that chapter for whatever reason  d*) Check around R609