2 foot thick walls

Jack KennedyApril 13, 2012

Hi Everyone,

We've started the design process for the forever house. Most likely a few years away form actually breaking ground. My other half want's walls that are 2 feet thick. Has anyone done anything like this? I'm thinking that ICF construction is going to be about the thickest we should do.. House is palladian villa ish about 6k sq ft. Will have bronze casement windows and a copper roof. Thanks for any advice.

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Well, there are straw bale homes or genuine adobe homes, or solid stone castles, but those are about it when it comes to such naturally thick walls. Any more thickness than needed for actual structural integrity or insulation is just money spent without any return. You might as well do a dollar bill bale house!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 1:25AM
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We did an ICF house, with the ICFs up to the top of the 1st floor. DH said if he had to do it over again, he'd do ICFs for the basement, but do a double stud staggered wall for the rest.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 7:59AM
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Andrea Palladio was one of the world's most influential architects but it is difficult to use that design tradition for modern single-family houses without the help of a design professional familiar with his work and the work of that period in Italy because the ideas and details are so easily corrupted by the limitations of today's construction methods and trade skills. You should spend some time researching his villas and, if you can, visit some of them.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 10:54AM
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Epiarch Designs

does he have a reason for that thick of walls? I did a building that had 17" thick wall out of ICF last year. 12" solid concrete core and 2.5" form foam on each side. However this was for a FEMA rated Tornado saferoom designed to withstand 250 mph winds and 100 mph puncture resistance.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 11:08AM
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Adobe and straw bale were what I thought of first too.

If the purpose is for insulation (temperature or sound), I think there are better/cheaper ways to go about it. A guy I used to know had a house here in Phoenix and was paying about $50/month in summer for electricity while I was paying $350. That was a seriously well-built and well-insulated house.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 1:45PM
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Jack Kennedy

Thanks everyone for your comments so far. Renovator8 - We are extremely familiar with Andrea Palladio, We really want an authentic Palladian villa - hence the 2 ft thick walls. It's so difficult to find good and accurate information about the details, such as wall thickness, ceiling height, room dimension, etc. These are the details that we want to get right. We are not concerned with resale value and we actually fix a full dinner and eat in the dining room every night. The formality of his villas fit our life and that is what we want. Maybe we should just move into one of his. It may be easier and cheaper. We have multiple books of his and about his work. We do plan to travel to visit some of the homes as well.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 8:47PM
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A four-sided Pantheon with statuary: Villa Rotonda, by Palladio

A Palladian fixer-upper: Villa Forni Cerrato

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 10:10AM
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OK, so you are at the other end of the scale from having an of the grid mountain lot in the desert and a trailer of straw bales to plaster together into a dwelling. :)

Hmmmm.....you aren't talking about just buying a Maserati in the land of Chevy Caprices here. You are talking about finding casting experts and custom metal workers to take the actual carbon fiber and aluminum ore all the way from it's raw state to a new engine design and a supercar level finished product. Production from scratch, using the highest quality products and held to the highest quality standards of expectations as to results. Sorta Formula 1 race car production without the competitiveness of the race included.

Stonemasons who can do the type of work needed for this just don't exist in America any more that I'm aware of. I'm not sure if they exist anywhere. Rock quarries are more accustomed to mining for veneer slabs than large building blocks. Your project would have much more in common with commercial or public buildings than a family home, so that might be where to start talking to architects for such a project. Concrete can be made into just about anything that you want, and it's cheaper than solid stone. But you have to have someone who really knows how to design with it, as it shrinks when curing and cracks form if done in too large segments. That's definitely a commercial architect's territory, and maybe even a civil engineer! You know, the folks who build dams. LOL! :) But they will be light on residential requirements, so you will need them to partner with a residential architect and possibly interior designer so that the actual scale of the people inside the municipal building isn't forgotten about when planning such a grand structure.

Needless to say, this will be an EXPENSIVE undertaking on a whole new level of expense! San Simeon-esque! You've got to document this and update us with frequent results.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 11:56AM
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I don't see why you would need to have 2 ft thick walls. That thickness would only be seen at openings between spaces so let that happen and use recessed cabinetry, alcoves, etc to reclaim otherwise wasted space.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 1:19PM
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Jack Kennedy

GreenDesigns - Nicely put. We actually are looking for a lot, mountain or mountain top or entire mountain.We want the house to be as sustainable and "green" as possible. We would like to be completely off the grid, using solar, etc. We are avid gardeners and farm our current plot in the city and love that. The footprint of the house is only about 1800 sq ft. so we are looking at going up not out, and want to maintain minimal impact on the surrounding area. We are thinking more of stucco exterior and plaster interior. We are very aware that the type of craftsmanship that me most likely desire is not available, so we are trying to design it down to something that is buildable. We don't have to have gold fixtures and polished stone everywhere. We're much more rustic that that, honed marble floors are just fine.... we have them in our sunroom now and drag things all over them without worry. I'll keep you all posted on the progress....

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 8:09PM
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glenwood how is your build going? i'm thinking of an earth rammed dwelling on my mountainside as i wish to have super thick insulation and walls also.
is yours started?

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 5:38PM
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There is nothing sustainable or green about building in today's world using 2-foot thick load-bearing masonry construction, which is probably sufficient for the Hagia Sophia. And there's nothing close to the "minimal impact on the surroundings" that it would take to move the materials onto the site and to erect such a structure.

Vanderbilt, who had his own railroad, could afford to build a spur line and to bring in the materials, find and import the European builders and craftsmen for his home at the Biltmore in western North Carolina. But even with all that, construction took years and years.

This may be a romantic, strongly-held dream, but it is certainly not a realistic one.

There are certainly modern technologies and building skills to achieve the look you desire, but at great cost and time. There's an old construction saying, "anything is possible; it's only time and money!"

Good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 5:54PM
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FWIW, my parents lived in a very old stone farmhouse in the UK that had walls that thick, and while the house was very quiet, the main thing the very thick walls achieved was making the rooms smaller.

That and letting the house stand for hundreds of years...

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 10:33PM
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Zone4, did your parents live in the house for hundreds of years, and get a return on the investment of the excess construction for a simple residence? Or was it a multistory manor?

If one likes natural light in the interiors of their houses, for aesthetics and/or passive solar energy, then thick walls and small windows (with proportionally smaller interior spaces, compared to external dimensions) is exactly the wrong way to go.

Of course, if one is talking about hay-bale/straw walls, adobe, etc, rather than medival masonry construction, then that's another story. In such cases, the designs take into consideration the path and angle of the sun, and the need for heat sinks, sun shielding and permitted light, etc.

Whatever, there are modern ways to achieve the goal (whatever it is--I can't really tell what the goal of the OP is, other than getting a rise out of the viewers of this thread), without attempting real or faux reconstruction of Chartres Cathedral.

Good luck with the project.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 8:38AM
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I grew up in a house that was built in 1930's which was built by an old-school Italian fellow in a county famous for solid stone 17th and 18th century houses. The below-grade first level had 30" thick masonry walls, the main floor was 24", but the gable walls were 18". The third floor was under the large german-style roof, as was the attic. The masonry construction took several years to erect, and the inner part of the walls were lined with terracotta (hollow) tiles for some idea of thermal break. Then plastered with a very thick mortar. The idea of remodeling such a structure was a non-starter. You could only afford to heat it as long as oil was $1/gallon.
We believed that this was the very last solid stone house erected in Ulster County NY.
You could get the appearance of thick walls by just building regular stud walls with dead space in between, but the floor space sacrificed plus the double wall expense would be appalling.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 12:12PM
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Virgil-- they rented. It was a lovely place in which to live for a few years. :)

    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 8:21PM
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All Hands Working Carpenter

You can have your cake and eat it too.....

It sounds as if some have taken you literally - or too literally. I hear you saying that you want to build an energy efficient, sustainable, healthy home on you own mountain.

The style of your house even with such a 1800 sq ft footprint will not be cheap - but if you are contemplating buying a mountain then enough said.

Regardless of your financial outlay for marble, stone or granite you can still affordably build two foot thick (energy efficient) walls - using today's techniques - Just go with:

Larsen trusses, or with REMOTE/PERSIST style walls (the latter being the more durable, healthier, and energy efficient).

Add a stucco exterior or use a fiber cement board panelized system.

ICF's are possible too.

Zone4 - I bet the life cycle cost of that old house your folks rented was was a fraction of what our homes most build now-a-days are (50 yr) life cycle at most....a house still standing after 3-4 centuries is a true return on investment and a true building green philosophy - if only more tried to build that way today.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 11:32PM
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glenwood705: Anything is possible, so long one is willing to pay for it. On that note, what's your budget?

    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 11:52PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

This is odd to me....I've heard of many different starting points for home design...style, location, size, function....but never wall thickness. I can understand energy efficiency being a goal and then using the technology required to achieve it, but wall thickness itself? A new one on me.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 9:41AM
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Annie ~ The original poster wanted to built a replica of Italian mansion on top a mountain that they are planning to purchase. So the question is not how to do it but how much one is prepare to spend. With unlimited budget, it is of course possible.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 1:08PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Ah I see...now it makes sense. thanks.

then again, there's replicas and replicas....like Disney, if you can touch it, it should be real, but if you can't, then fake it.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 8:07AM
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I'd like to ask Glenwood how his plan is progressing. Are there many homes here that are using green technology?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 5:16PM
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Consider rammed earth construction which could look pretty stunning

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 6:14AM
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