Building trends break new ground

One new home has wallsof poured concreteinstead of lumber.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Unusual things are happening at home construction sites -- basements are being built without concrete blocks and walls are going up without lumber.
Several area companies are hoping to get Mahoning Valley homebuyers used to the changes:
USuperior Walls of Ohio offers a different way of building basements. It pours concrete basement walls for homes in its Warren factory. The wall sections are put in place by cranes on the job site. No concrete blocks are used.
UCustom Prefab Contractors has a new way of building above-ground walls. It uses computer-aided design techniques to assemble wall sections in its North Lima factory. Cranes then place the wooden sections on the job site.
UJDH Real Estate Development has a different method for building both basement and above-ground walls. A $200,000-plus home the company is building at Legend Condominiums next to Avalon Lakes Golf Course in Howland doesn't have wooden walls or concrete block in the basement. Instead, all the walls are made from concrete poured into foam molds.
Looks most unusual: Of all these new techniques, this one looks the most unusual. Construction is started by snapping foam molds together, then clipping them into place to form the basement and above-ground walls. Dan Crouse, JDH co-owner, said they fit together like Tinker Toys.
They become strong, however, once reinforced steel bar is inserted and concrete is poured inside.
"It actually becomes something like a highway turned on its side. It's that kind of strength," said Crouse, who also is a Realtor with Realty One in Warren.
When done, siding can be applied to the outside and drywall can be applied to the inside. The home looks just like one built with lumber, except there are no concrete blocks along the basement.
Energy efficiency: Crouse said the primary advantage is the energy efficiency that the five inches of concrete and foam provide. Homes with insulated concrete form construction cost 50 percent to 70 percent less to heat, he said.
It costs 5 percent more to build the shell of a home using ICF, but the cost of a mortgage plus utilities often is less, he said.
Homes using ICF construction also are more quiet, fireproof and tornado resistant, he said.
The home, which is not sold, is being built by Hold Fast, a Dayton-based distributor for Tech Block of Columbus. Ken Jenkins, a Hold Fast representative working on the Howland home, said his company has built at least 150 of the homes across the state in the past four years, but this is the first in this area.
Harry Hamilton, president of Warren Concrete & amp; Supply, said his company poured 64 tons of concrete for the home.
His company has poured concrete for commercial buildings and some residential basements, but hasn't done walls for a home for 15 years. That home is owned by George Walsh of West Farmington, who built the home with his sons. Walsh said he is satisfied with his choice of construction because he thinks it has resulted in lower utility bills.
Superior Walls also works with poured concrete, but its concrete is poured inside its Warren factory, which employs about 50. The controlled environment provides a consistent flow of concrete for the basement wall sections that are produced, said George Schuler, company president.
The concrete walls are 420 percent more energy efficient than block walls and prevent moisture so there is no damp, musty smell in the basement, he said. The walls give a basement an inviting atmosphere that prompts homeowners to spend more time there, he said.
Barry Tancer of Reed Family Builders in Canfield used the concrete walls in a home he built for Parade of Homes in Howland last year.
Faster work: Speed is the primary advantage because the basement can be finished in one day, as opposed to seven to 10 days with block construction, he said.
The disadvantage is that the concrete walls are much more expensive, he said. If a homeowner wants a finished basement, however, the cost of the two methods is about the same because Superior's product comes ready for drywall, so insulation and related construction materials aren't needed, he said.
Schuler said the higher cost is offset by the energy savings and a 15-year waterproofing guarantee.
Each basement wall is custom made by using the builder's drawings.
Schuler's company, which has been making walls for two years, serves Ohio and surrounding states as a licensee of Superior Walls of America. It is installing about three basements a day but he expects it to reach 10 to 12 homes a day.
Custom Prefab is making wooden walls for between 200 and 250 homes a year in Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh and the Mahoning Valley. It also has worked on commercial buildings such as the new Dutch Village Inn in Columbiana and Don Pablo restaurant in Boardman.
Advantages to prefab: Dennis Holisky, company president, said the advantages to having walls built in his North Lima shop are time savings and reduced cost.
Costs are cut through reduction in waste, he said. Scrap on a construction site can be 15 percent, but it is only 1 percent in the shop because a computer is used to determine how to best cut the wood, he said.
The 6-year-old company, which has 25 employees, makes walls, headers and doorways, which are then assembled by its own crews or by builders.
"You set these up like a puzzle," he said.
Holisky said he had a construction company that was framing houses when he became frustrated that houses couldn't be done in the winter. He began building the frames inside and then expanded when he found a computer program that aided in the design.

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