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We decided to build our log dream home ourselves. I won't lie, we had a crew of 2 come in and lay block...about 4000 of them.

Of course, we are at a standstill now with this frigid winter but we were moving right along until Ol' Man Winter arrived. Check out our blog when you can. Would love to hear stories of others who have done the same.

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Wow! That is quite the picture there! That's a lot of blocks.

Good luck with your build. Enjoy the process. It will make the result that much sweeter.

-- Charis w/ Sashco -

Thanks Charis! I'm going to go explore your link....

Crazy?  I'd call you lucky.  This was my dream to build our house, until my wife realized what all it would entail (I would have literally built it myself and taken a few years off of work).  So we started looking for a home and stumbled across our log home that we absolutely love.  Ours was built by a carpenter for himself and he added a lot of little custom details - feel free to ask for ideas as you're building.

I assume you and your husband are acting as construction managers?  Be sure to keep your subcontractors in line and make sure they keep to their contract - and be careful where you direct them as you can quickly incur additional costs if things weren't handled properly in their contract.

Another word of advice being that it appears your foundations are in progress with this weather; if the masons are continuing to work, make sure if they're pouring any concrete that the ground is either not frozen, or they heat it before pouring.  We had a major issue on a project I'm involved with where the contractor didn't monitor this, and they had to rip out about 200' of foundations, walls, and steel work. 


Dear Pittsburgh Architect,

Thank you for your comments. Its sounds like fate helped you NOT build your home and delivered you the dream home you needed. How cool! I envy you that. It would be nice to be done with our project here in the hills of West by God, and I remind myself that THIS is part of a journey. Of course, I should buy stock in Advil and Wild Turkey cause I may need them both, and often!

Thank you for the suggestion on winter and concrete. We are so very lucky to have a concrete business (my husband is joint owner) and this has helped ever so much. We can watch temps and have the product batched or not batched at that time, so that has spoiled us!

That is a shame about your project. What a cost and loss of time! 

Thanks again for reading the blog. I have so enjoyed other postings on her as well.

My new #2 and #3 update for the blog is here


Wow, what are the coincidences of the coal mine?  We've got a coal mine bordering our property.  It was probably the only negative aspect of our home - you can see the trucks across the valley from out living (and bedroom) window and hear them from 6-6 everyday.  I told her that it seemed like an established mine and most have a shelf life of about 30 years, so we'd have about ten years or so of dealing with it, and then they'd have to plant and abandon it (at least in PA you can't build on a former mine for 30 years or so).  Ironically, the mine is rumored to be closed down at the end of this coming summer.

Sounds like your in good hands with your husband having a concrete business.  Feel free to ask questions as they come up with any of the other trades.  And good luck!

We are still in the investigative stage but I was wondering, would it have been any better or cheaper to have poured concrete walls over what it cost for the block and labor to have them installed?  I was thinking of going with poured walls for uniform strength more than the cost.  Possibly less chance of problems as the foundation settled?


Vic, We were going to have the walls poured but the company we had chosen kept getting set back by a large hospital job that they had contracted before ours. We kept waiting and waiting and then decided to go ahead and get 12 inch block and hire block layers to get it started. The started the first week in September. With over 4000 12 inch block to lay and a team of only 2-3 workers, it has been slow but they are very thorough. No mistakes need to be made in the basement, right?  We are going to fill some of the walls with rebar and concrete as a precaution. We also made the footers almost double what they should be. My husband is an engineer and designed the house we are building so great thought has gone into it. We are also building on almost solid rock as it is into the side of a mountain/hill. We dug clay out of the basement if that tells you what kind of soil we are dealing with here in WV.  Good luck with your project!

The photo is from November.

Sherri, the foundations look great!  Oddly enough, your footprint looks very similar to that of my home.  Just keep in mind, as my wife was complaining about yesterday, that cleaning a house that size is a full time job.  I'm sure you will love it when it's done!  It looks like your crew knows what there doing by the looks of this photo - it's encouraging to see the block pilasters on the retaining wall portion (back left of the photo), along with block knee walls for the bearing walls in the center - although not required, the way it appears to be getting built, it's a belt and suspenders detail that should be worth it's money to avoid any settling.

HaHa!  You soil sounds just like Northeast Tennessee!  Clay!  We can wait it out if necessary to get poured walls.  I think I will go with the  concrete walls.  At least the solid rock you are building on will help keep it from settling so maybe block will ok in your case.  That 12 inch block is also a good idea for more stability (in my opinion).  Your foundation looks interesting, a lot more elaborate than what we are doing.  But ours will be for occasionally use only.  I would love to have something much bigger but I refuse to go into debt ever again.  No cash (or equivalent), no purchase!


Having walls poured will be stronger (however, you should be reinforcing your block walls every 4' or so with rebar and grouted solid if they're retaining any earth) but a structure this size would never require that strength.  You shouldn't see any difference in settling of the foundation with a poured wall vs. a laid CMU wall - that would be based entirely on the soils and compaction, along with your sub-grade preparation.

My experience (predominantly commercial) is that poured walls are almost always more expensive - and this is using commercial/union labor rates!  This is due to the additional cost of formwork and a much larger quantity of materials.  If you use a proper strength mortar mix, and can find someone that's relatively good at laying block (anyone can do it with some practice), I don't see any reason not to go with CMU. 

The only other option I'd through out there for you is if you were going to have an occupied basement that's exposed to the exterior on some sides, then you may want to investigate a SIPS or similar wall system - insulated structural panels - where the formwork is basically rigid insulation board, and the walls are poured in between, or some variation of.


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