A Strong Foundation

A house is only as strong as its foundation. And Green Oak Farm’s foundation starts with a relatively slim ribbon of concrete. It is 6 inches tall and 2 feet wide. The building rests on these pads.

The basement for the bedroom wing has been dug and a layer of gravel laid as a base. Form-A-Drain was preassembled on the lot, then reassembled in position within the basement. This rectangular, perforated plastic tubing serves as the form for the concrete footings, and, left in place, provides connected interior and exterior foundation drainage. Furthermore, it becomes integral to our radon removal system. This base was allowed to cure, then rebar was set into it vertically. Fox Block ICFs were then placed on the footings, reinforced with horizontal and vertical rebar, and any damaged areas were foamed. Steel plate which will form the base for joist hangers were secured into the foam and plastic webbing of the ICFs. set.

Finally a specific mixture of concrete with 30% fly ash from a local power plant and local gravel were added to the cement by Keystone concrete. It was delivered to our site, put into a concrete pump and pumped into the ICFs, forming a solid, tight, well insulated wall for our bedroom wing. Larry Crane tells me that it will be 6 months before it is totally cured.

Next, we repeat this process over the next two weeks to form the foundation for the Main Volume of the house which will house the kitchen, the dining/great room, and the pub room, and then the office wing housing my office, the theater, and a reading nook.

In Allen County, it is necessary to get the soil tested at the footings to ensure a strong and stable foundation. The footings for the Bedroom Wing passed but some areas of the other parts of the house required additional excavation and more concrete.

 We are hoping the nice weather holds!

Next step: Finalization of window schedule and construction of the crawlspace walls, damp-proofing and waterproofing.


A Walk on the Site

Before our daughter left town, she shot video of us on the site of GreenOak Farm prior to construction. Since this video was shot, the site has been cleaned up of debris, stumps have been ground down and a Porta Potti miraculously appeared. Groundbreaking is scheduled for Tuesday, August 12 sometime between 7 and 9 AM.

Our Next step: Digging in the Dirt!




Things are starting to break loose on Green Oak Farm. Kudos to Larry Crane and Steve Bell. Their attention to detail in both the building specifications and the graphics helped our project appraisal to come in where it needed to be and we have financing lined up.

Construction insurance?…Check

Closing date for loan?…Possibly this Friday 

Site prep?…The weeds get cut this week or early next and brush and selected tree removal early next week. 

Building permit?…Done!

Power to site?…Next Monday

Silt fencing/tree protection and erosion control?…Next week.

Dirt moving?????? 


Finally, Progress!

We have been very negligent about updating our blog. It may seem as if nothing was happening, and you may have wondered if we’d stopped working towards Green Oak Farm (GOF). We have most definitely not!

It has been a long, difficult process. We have gone from hope to despair to acceptance that our dream might not come to fruition. But we persisted.

We have been patiently saving our $$ and working with Larry Crane, our builder to enter the architectural drawings into a CAD program. The design has been tweaked and the project went out for bid. We negotiated over the contract pricing and have agreed on a contract terms and price. Crane arranged to have the house outline staked. 

Last week, we stepped across the starting line by signing a loan contract with Salin Bank. The appraisal process has begun. That is likely the last potential major stumbling-block in our path to build GOF.

This past Thursday, Andy walked the property with a team from EarthSource, our landscape architecture firm, to select trees along borders of our property which need to be saved. These include multiple beautiful Burr and Pin Oaks, Black Walnut, and Maple trees. As part of LEED, we will need to clear the property of invasive plant species. This tromp through the underbrush is the start of that process.

We will try to update this blog at least weekly during construction with words, photos, and the occasional video clip.

Thanks for sticking with us. 




Another Day Another Compromise

Well, we have started to move forward on Green Oak Farm.  Not in the way we had hoped or imagined, but forward movement none the less.

Unfortunately, we were unable to deconstruct the house in the manner in which we’d initially intended. Although we had been talking with Solid State LLC, out of Muncie, Indiana for over two years about this project, when the time came to finally deconstruct the house, we just could not get the pieces to all come together. Solid State has been doing this work in Muncie for several years.  Rather than demolish old, run down houses, Solid State carefully takes them apart, piece-by-piece and then reuses and recycles the materials, sending very little to the landfill.  Most of their projects involve the architectural salvage of attractive woodwork, but even the basic structural wood components are reused to make chicken coops, dog houses and other interested structures. 

The issue arose around the licensing in our county to perform this work. In Muncie, Solid State has been doing deconstruction for several years and in that county they are not required to have a license, since this work is taking structures apart, instead of building them. Unfortunately, neither Solid State, nor we realized that to deconstruct our home here, they would be required to have a Demolition License. The folks at Solid State chose not to pursue getting a license in our county just for our house. 

A brief survey of demolition contractors in our county failed to find anyone willing to take our house apart and recycle its content. We suppose this is because there isn’t much of a market in places like Indiana for recycled building materials. So we had to make the best compromise decision we could given the realities of the situation.  

We hired a knowledgeable, hardworking fellow to remove all of the fixtures and fittings from the house. Anything of any value for reuse or recycling has been carefully detached. The kitchen cabinets were given to a dear friend who is remodeling her kitchen. The toilets, bathtubs, vanities with sinks, lighting fixtures, ceiling fans, doors, closet systems, baseboard radiaters and gutters all have been donated to the local Habitat for Humanity Restore. The old boiler, air conditioner, water heater, carpets and some of the used kitchen appliances that Habitat couldn’t use were each given away to someone who could use them, all in an effort to minimize what will go to the landfill.   

We gave serious thought to stripping the double layer of asphalt roof shingles and working with a company that turns them into road paving asphalt. However, once again the reality of the situation came into play as we looked into the specific arrangements. The shingle recycling company would charge us about $250 to rent and transport the dumpster.  Add to this the cost and liability of having a couple guys on our roof for several days in the middle of a Midwestern winter. In addition, the only company in our area which recycles roof shingles hasn’t actually recycled many so far. This is because even though they have licensed a great idea to turn asphalt roof shingles into paving material, there is no market here within the state of Indiana for the asphalt they would produce. The roof shingles they have collected for the last few years are simply accumulating in a huge pile, waiting to be recycled. This was discouraging. What was the best path forward? Should we pay nearly $1,000 to tear off and send the shingles into “Pile A” which might someday be recycled, but potentially might never be recycled and go on to become unregulated, potentially toxic waste material or to simply allow them to be demolished with the rest of the house and go to “Pile B” at a monitored, regulated landfill?  No easy answers.

Long ago Tim Gray, our architect, told us that building “green” was ultimately about compromise. In order to move forward on this project compromises needed to be made. We have nearly completed stripping everything of value – for reuse or recycling - out of the house . The final Habitat for Humanity truck comes this week and then the existing house will be demolished. Our plans to build the garden shed, dog houses and firewood shelter out of reused building materials from the house will need to be revised, but we will seek out new ways to build them sustainably.  Such is our reality in Indiana today.