Wood floors installed

Comments   0   Date Arrow  December 30, 2007 at 10:22pm   User  by Christina

Our floors downstairs are concrete and upstairs they are wood. We looked at bamboo and several types of wood flooring but chose quarter sawn select white oak. It is 3/4″ thick and installed unfinished over 3/4″ plywood decking. In a few weeks it will be sanded, stained, and sealed. Initially I was leaning towards wood versus bamboo because I liked the deepness of stained wood floors versus the darker color bamboo floor. It’s part of the look of the house to have light color walls and dark stained doors and floors. I just wasn’t satisfied with the bamboo choices. Bamboo seems best left natural. Our other issue is that all the bamboo being installed now is being shipped from China. White oak is a native tree in this area. Oak just kept looking more attractive to us. The other wood that was in the running for awhile was Cumuru which is from Brazil. It is a very hard wood with a beautiful deep color that does not need to be stained. In the end oak just made more sense to us and we are pleased with our decision. I can’t wait for the floors to be stained!


Otherwise December has been fairly quiet. The painter is staining the wood for the ceilings of the terraces, we’ve been shopping garage doors, I’ve been sampling paint colors on interior walls, and we have been trying to complete our long list of final items to be ordered: sinks, lights, door handles, etc…. There is another new house being built across the street from us now and while they are pouring concrete there our driveway and exterior steps may get poured at the same time. We finalized the drive design so that we can be ready whenever the concrete guys are ready for us. Lately more is happening behind the scene that on the site.

Oh- and the heat was turned on inside! Only the downstairs unit is on. Wow it warmed up in there really fast using only the first stage of the downstairs unit or using 1 1/2 tons of our 5 ton system the house warmed up to be super comfortable. Not living in the house, we are not sure how often it is cycling on of off but we are taking this to be a good sign.

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Comments   2   Date Arrow  November 26, 2007 at 8:39pm   User  by Christina

The interior of the house is now sheetrocked and mudded. This happened really fast and now we are trying to finalize our bath tile decisions. This is totally overwhelming because there are so many beautiful choices. Lots of tile questions and I’ll post these soon.

Demand products sells a special anchor for attaching the sheetrock to AAC but our contractor chose to use typical sheetrock screws. This seemed to work fine as far as we are concerned. The sheetrock was screwed and glued to the exterior AAC walls and the interior wood stud walls. This photo is inside the double height dining room.


The window detail on the interior turned out a little different than we had planned but it will still work fine. When sheetrocking the guys cut out the window opening from the panel of sheetrock. Well this method causes the window frames to be gouged as they were cutting. This was disappointing to us and strange that this is the accepted sheetrocking method. How can perfect details be achieved if people are cutting into the windows. Yikes. Typically the gouges are probably never seen since most houses have heavy trim around the windows. We had planned to have no trim. After inspecting the window/sheetrock issue Martin advised us that we really should have the trim guys use a very small wood piece to seal the joint between the window frame and sheetrock. The more we thought about it the more this really made sense. We agreed on this solution as long as this trim piece remains very minimal.


Good example of sheetrock window detail.




Close up of gouged window frame.



Master bedroom



Hallway looking towards Master bath. The door openings that are framed are ready for the EZ-jamb frame that we are going to use. This creates a very sleek minimalist look for the interior doors. I’ll post another photo of the fame once it is installed.










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Stucco gets finished

Comments   4   Date Arrow  November 11, 2007 at 8:04pm   User  by Christina

So the final color is “Pediment” by Sherwin Williams and the final coat looks great! We are so pleased with the work of the stucco guys. The house is now completely stuccoed and the garage is under way.

nov-2007-001.jpg In the photo the color looks white, but it is really a very light grayish creme putty color. Below is the back door now installed. We are planning to have a metal canopy above the door but haven’t designed this yet. The coping on top of the little low walls is precast concrete to match the sills and coping along the upper terrace. They slope a bit and if I had this to do over I would have made them flat. The slope is a bit too noticeable but we will live with it.











They have started to frame the mantel for the fireplace.


The frames for the pocket doors have been installed. This is the door between the dinning room and kitchen.



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Yeah Sider Oxydro

Comments   1   Date Arrow  October 29, 2007 at 6:44pm   User  by Dave

Well, the correct stucco has arrived and is on most of the house. We are waiting for the masons to finish up a few things, and for the proper scuppers to be installed (this may have happened today). There was a hiccup with the stucco, but Ivan made it right. Thanks, Ivan.

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Slow Progress

Comments   2   Date Arrow  October 7, 2007 at 8:54pm   User  by Dave

Sorry if we haven’t posted for a while. We hit a snag with our stucco. We were excited to learn that Sider Oxydro could match any Sherwin Williams color for the stucco. We looked at some color chips and chose three that we liked. We asked Sider Oxydro to provide some samples so we could hold them up to the wall, the copings, and the window trim. When they arrived, we looked at them and chose one we thought would work best called “Requisite Gray”. We then placed the order for the stucco.

It arrived and our local stucco masters got to work. They made a sample wall of the tinted stucco and it seemed dark. Our stucco guys said it would lighten as it dried. It did, but not very much, and never to the sample from which we ordered the stucco. Then it occurred to us that something was wrong. We went back to the color chips and realized that one of the samples was mislabeled or for whatever reason didn’t match. We alerted our Rep Ivan at Sider Oxydro and he recommended that the stucco guys do a sample on the actual wall. They did this, and it still doesn’t match the sample that was provided.

We look forward to seeing how Sider Oxydro corrects this, because their product seems great and we really want to be able to recommend them to all of you.

Check back for the resolution.


** UPDATE ** Ivan called this morning and said that they would send out the correct stucco. We are happy with this solution and can recommend Sider Oxydro to you. Our advice is if you order a sample of something, do compare it carefully to what you were originally looking at to confirm they are the same. If we had done this, it probably would have saved us a few weeks.

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Huge Oversight

Comments   2   Date Arrow  September 19, 2007 at 1:38pm   User  by Dave

I thought certainly we had a link to Aercon Florida at the list on the right, but it wasn’t there. But it is now. We had a great experience with them and definitely recommend them. Their product is superior to the others we’ve looked at, and the service is great.

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Stucco work begins

Comments   0   Date Arrow  September 16, 2007 at 5:06pm   User  by Christina

The electrical rough in has gone well, but at times seemed time consuming once the cutting into the block took place. If I had things to do over with AAC construction, I might create specific chases for the electrical and plumbing to save having to cut out the block. Furring out the sheetrock could also prevent the cutting.

elec-138.jpgWe are very thankful for the patience of our electrician and Phoenix Communications for putting up with the cutting of the AAC block for their wiring!

The flashing on the terraces has been redone. The flashing looks great but there is still standing water in this area and hopefully this is going to be corrected. The installation of the scuppers and roof system as a whole has given us issues to contend with. The upper roof still seems to be unfinished for the stuccoed upper edge installation. Most of the subs on the project thus far have been great, the roofers I could not say the same for at this point. No mention of names for now.

Stucco- We ordered our stucco from sider-oxydro and Ivan with this company was very helpful as well as our stucco subcontractor Dewey. In a previous post, I said that we were using a “3 coat” traditional stucco system. Actually for block it’s a 2 coat system: scratch and final. The scratch coat is whiter than I have typically seen and goes directly onto the block, no metal lath. They used fiberglass mesh over the joint between the CMU block of the foundation and the AAC. Fiberglass mesh was also recommended at other joints and changes in materials- over the sills (concrete) and AAC walls.

We ordered both the scratch and the final coats of stucco from sider. The final coat will have a color mixed in and the color is Sherwin Williams “Requisite Gray”. We chose three colors and had sider send us samples of the stucco in these colors. We want the house to be light in color, light grayish. White was an option as we both love the white of the Greek houses but chose a grayish for Memphis. On a vacation to Florida, I visited Alys Beach www.alysbeach.com in August and I kept thinking about the beauty of stark white. But that is the beach and this is Memphis. What I call Pompeii red shows up on inner walls at Alys Beach and I kept thinking about this color also. Dave has suggested this red for the walls of the covered porch. For now the whole thing is Requisite Gray but in the future colors may change and evolve. Apparently because the integral color in the final coat, the house does not need painting. That sounds great, but what about just wanting a new color after awhile?



Dave getting a closer look at the first coat of stucco.

sept-16-2007-174.jpg Stucco has been applied on the chimney and walls on the left but not on the front entry yet.

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Windows get started

Comments   4   Date Arrow  August 13, 2007 at 7:10pm   User  by Christina


Notice the precast sill, regrouted with a lighter color. We love the windows and the sills! They are Kolbe & Kolbe which we got from Gates Lumber Company. Good job, Dirk!



Precast coping around the front entry porch.





Sill and window close-up. The windows are wood clad extruded aluminummetal in a bronze factory finish. The little white strip on the right side in part of the packaging.


Raccoon footprints!


  Interior closeup of window.




North wall. Pipes for gas meter and air conditioner hook up cut through the AAC wall.

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Comments   1   Date Arrow  August 12, 2007 at 8:50pm   User  by Christina

We’ve been analyzing the mechanical system alot over the past week. This is what gets tricky when you start building out of materials new to the local industry. Suddenly there are a lot of questions and many different answers. Not being a mechanical engineer or HVAC installer, the information seems convoluted to me. My wonderfully technical husband has been great in helping to decipher the information and decide on what exactly our route was going to be.

Here’s what we started with and where and why(?) we ended up with the system being installed. Others out there with more knowledge of heat and air systems, I welcome your comments.

All along when researching AAC, we were told to not oversize the system or the system would cycle on and off too often creating a damp environment and burn out the system. This was stressed to us. We were told that the AAC-4 block walls are an R-25 for our area based on the performance data. We were also told that a rule of thumb is 1 ton per 1000 square feet for AAC homes. Now we have been told to get calculations and don’t operate on rules of thumb.

So with a 3273 square foot house we had a 3.5 ton system priced in our overall cost estimate. We were also allowing for this size system to fit in the designated mechanical closet.

Last week we were informed that the HVAC installers wanted to put in a 6 ton system for double the cost! Great. Our initial reaction was too big, too expensive, not needed. We sought outside advice from a consultant who works to get homes Energy Star rated in our area and knew about alternative building materials. He recommended a book to us called “Building in mixed Humid Climates” found on the www.eeba.org website. I ordered the book but haven’t received it yet. Long story that I’m trying to make shorter, he found that the walls of our house will perform at an R-15 with 37.4 btu/hr of heating and 27.4 btu/hr of cooling. Run these numbers through an equation and you 5.39 tons. He also ran numbers for us if the walls did perform at an R-25 and then also at R-8 which is as high as you can go for Energy Star rating (not sure why the R-8).

Thus with the assumed R-15 value we are going with a 5 ton system. This is an electric heat pump with 3 tons (two-stage) for the first floor and 2 tons for the second.

I am lamenting the loss of space in Dave’s closet that will be needed for some HVAC equipment. I know it’s his closet but I still hate that valuable space is getting eaten up by equipment. Lessons learned.

We will post more about the actual performance of the house once we live in it.

august-10-2007-025.jpg Looking into downstairs closet.


august-10-2007-033.jpg The robot!!

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Plumbing started

Comments   6   Date Arrow  August 5, 2007 at 3:49pm   User  by Christina

Plumbing installation has now begun. A few photos show the AAC as it has been cut away to receive the pipes. Sheet rock will go over the walls so all of this will be covered over latter.
Hot&cold and the drain to the sink in the kitchen. The black is insulation over the pipes.
kichen-plumbing-with-insulation.jpg kitchen-plumbing-aac.jpg Different view, same kitchen pipes before insulation.
kitchen-plumbing-aac-2.jpg aac-for-hose-bibb.jpg This is a cleaner cut made using a saws-all. This is the preferred method. Trial and error, everyone getting used to cutting through the material. I should note that on a demonstration of AAC the blocks seemed to cut very easy. Reality is that they are a little less forgiving and a little more cutting skills are needed on site. This pipe serves water for the hose bibb connection. hose-bibb.jpg And on the other side of the wall the hose connection.

These photos are the typical plumbing methods through the stud walls on the inner walls.
plumbing-stud.jpg plumbing-stud2.jpg

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A few updates

Comments   2   Date Arrow  August 5, 2007 at 3:31pm   User  by Christina

In July we decided to test the covered porch and had friends and family over to the site. A few candles, fans, a light bulb or two, and beer and the trial run was a success.

august-4-2007-003.jpg august-4-2007-007.jpg

I finally found the tub for the upstairs bath. I thought a rectangular, white cast iron tub (not a claw foot, just a simple tub) was something normal. No, everything these days is all tricked out with jets and whirlpools and made of fiberglass/acrylic or enameled steel. This is one of the many things I wanted a certain way. We finally decided on the Kohler Mendota tub for the upstairs bath and a Tea for Two for our bath. White, cast iron. I think it killed the guys to hoist the tub upstairs. What have people been doing for the past centuries? Tubs have always been heavy and quiet a few located on the second floor?

Garage coming along.

Roof of the upper terrace. Flashing installation is under question. More on this later as a resolution is apparent. The plan is to have concrete pavers over the material you see in the photos and the water will run off the pavers to the scuppers. Presently more water is remaining on the roof than we like to see. This has caused us stress.
roof.jpg roof-flashing.jpg

The precast concrete window sills were installed today. The sills are by Rockcast that we found through a local distributor. Love the color we chose. There are 20 or more colors of the Rockcast material to select from. I think the mortar color should be lighter on the joints. These sill pieces come in 3 foot lengths (longer and they tend to break) and most of our windows are longer than 3 feet, thus the need for joints. I think that typically I would want the joint in the center of the window? but I’m ok with the three sections since this seems to be a uniform method on the windows. The mortar color is bothering me. The mortar seen below will be covered by stucco and windows should be installed sometime soon.
sill.jpg sill22.jpg

The back door stoop has also gotten a start this weekend. AAC with a precast coping. The back door will probably get some type of fabric awning. Still working on the design for this. Future awning might be something fancier of glass or metal, but fabric will get us started. stoop.jpg

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Comments   0   Date Arrow  July 19, 2007 at 7:36pm   User  by Christina


The roofing began today and it looks like we are going with a light color modified bitumen roof. There was a discussion about EPDM roofing versus a modified. I am really not sure which is better. Our ultimate goal is to have a green roofing system (laid in with trays of sedums, not grass to mow) so we discussed this with Martin. The scupper holes were cut into the walls during this roofing process. The roof is designed to slope to the north with a parapet wall around the perimeter.




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Tools and AAC

Comments   3   Date Arrow  July 11, 2007 at 7:36pm   User  by Dave

As far as tools for AAC go, this is my advice:

Order from Demand Products (see link at right). We bought a tool from the company in Georgia, and it came crushed. They never did anything about it. Never called back.

Buy the expensive 4″ drill bit for coring. You will never order down to the block the number of o-blocks you need, so some will have to be made onsite. Probably a lot of them. The expensive 4″ bit has served us throughout construction. The pilot bit broke, but it can be replaced.

As for the band saw, this is trickier. We used the 8″ block, and our masons were able to cut it with a 12″ gas powered circular saw with a table. It takes two passes and creates a lot of dust. The band saw they sell is around $5000 or so and has some sort of dust abatement system (I think). I suppose you could take a chance on selling it used after your project and getting half of your money back, but that’s risky to me. I understand you can also rent this item for around $600.00 per month. This actually might be the best option. I’m sure there are shipping charges involved. Just remember that you are actually crushing the block rather than cutting it.

As for hand tools, we bought (2) trowels especially for AAC, which the masons used for two days before they went back to their own. We couldn’t convince them to use less mortar. The beds were fine, but there was a lot of mortar squished out the sides (and wasted!) We bought the cheaper saw since they were out of the expensive one. It worked just fine. We also bought the big rasp. This is a must in my opinion, since the blocks can’t be levelled with mortar, but must be rasped to level on top.

Hope this helps,

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Interior framing

Comments   2   Date Arrow  June 26, 2007 at 7:24pm   User  by Christina

Trim joists

Looking up at joists connected to ledger that is bolted to AAC wall. The trim joists are between the first and second floor.


Dining room as seen from second floor.

The Garage. The garage has an ongoing role in our story. The construction of the garage began this week and it is being built of AAC. The garage is very important to Dave but for awhile I thought that its size was straining the budget and I reduced the size. Dave has always wanted the garage to be AAC. Although not opposed to this, I thought it would be better as wood framed. Through a good series of circumstances we had a surplus of AAC and thus Dave gets his wish for the garage to be AAC. This photo is taken from inside the house looking out toward the garage. The neighborhood “laws” required that the structure be detached which serves us and fits our lot well.

Earlier this week in a discussion on items we have different opinions about, he began to dangle the “red heron” firepole again (as a means of passage between first and second floor- not as a fire escape?). Glad that at least we’ve made it this far and Dave is happy with an AAC house and garage. Still trying to keep the firepole out and the project going smoothly.

Apparently our windows and doors are in town ahead of schedule (not to be installed for a few more weeks)! Amazing! Things so far are running on schedule but I love to report surprise way ahead of schedule items! Thank you Kolbe!

Lighting discussions, wood stain colors, wood species, door designs, designs for the built-ins….all still ongoing.

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More on the Arches

Comments   1   Date Arrow  June 18, 2007 at 9:39am   User  by Dave

When Christina says the arches were cut out, they were literally cut out. The masons put up a rectangular frame and then blocked straight across, with a lintel positioned above where the arch would be. Then they traced a plywood semi-circle directly onto the block (front and back). Then they took a router with a straight 2″ bit and cut on the line on both sides. About three inches of block connection remained, and they simply knocked this out and smoothed it with a rasp. This material is so fun to work with.

Christina worked out the ratios and radii of the arches, and I think they are perfect. Their heighth lends an elegance that I probably would not have gotten right. Good job, Hon!

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Arches cut out

Comments   4   Date Arrow  June 14, 2007 at 7:48pm   User  by Christina

Terrace arches

Front Entry

Window sill detail showing the AAC block below with a precast sill. We are using a wood clad casement style window from Kolbe. Our objective at the windows and doors is to be able to install them without using a wood frame. So far this is the direction we are heading. When the windows arrive in a few weeks I’ll include installation photos.

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Second floor Exterior walls going up

Comments   0   Date Arrow  June 10, 2007 at 6:56pm   User  by Christina


Notice the bolts protruding through the block to connect the floor joists to the walls. Concrete is in the U-blocks at this location and you can see the gray drips of the concrete. The drips are a good sign to us and let’s us know the blocks have been filled correctly.




Work on the arched openings- right now that have blocked up the arched area that will be cut out based on the plywood template seen at the ground level.

These are the templates for the arches. This is the terrace right now, in the future it will have roof. The door above is to the master bedroom.

Trusses for the floor joists and ceiling joists.



LVL beam above Family Room to support wall above.

LVL beam.

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Questions about building with AAC

Comments   9   Date Arrow  June 10, 2007 at 11:37am   User  by Christina

A few weeks ago a couple who are building in the western United States contacted us through our blog and asked us more specific questions about building with AAC. We are very excited that others are considering using this material and love the questions they posed to us. We thought it would be helpful to others who might be considering building with AAC if we posted the questions and answers (or just our experiences so far) on our blog.

Fri, 25 May 2007

Q: We are trying to figure out which size blocks to use (8, 10, or 12). We’re in the mountains of Boulder at 7500 ft, and were told 8 inch should be sufficient, but we have concerns still about whether that’s enough R value. What did you use?

A: We are using an 8″ block and also u-blocks and o-blocks. Really the 8″ block just made the most sense to us. Our site is not huge so we wanted to conserve space, the 8″ does have a good r-value for our area, and the 8″ seemed to me the easiest to handle. The thicker walls would be nice aesthetically but were not really needed for us. We have been told that for our area the 8″ block has an R-value equivalent of 16 but also to consider is the much tighter construction with AAC so the value may actually be higher. In a separate email I am forwarding you some information we received regarding the R-values that I think you will find helpful.

The AAC-4 is a stronger block than the AAC-2 but I am not sure of the exact numbers. The data is on the AAC websites if a structural engineer needs them.

We looked at (and went to) Ringgold, GA to see the Safecrete operation some time ago. While they sold us on AAC, their factory seemed not to be in production. [**UPDATE: We have been contacted by Safecrete, telling us that they are producing blocks. See post below**]. We also looked at Contec in TX, but their block ships from Mexico, so the cost of shipping was too prohibitive. We went with Aercon, but you may find Contec to be cheaper shipping-wise for your location. With Aercon, we got AAC 4 instead of AAC 2 with Contec, so this may be a consideration.

Q: With manufacturers, it appears that Texas Contec also buys from Mexico, so that’s where it would ship from? So I guess we need to price out Florida vs Mexico in terms of block and shipping costs. I think there might be a difference in fly ash content, too (with Mexico not having any…which we actually prefer.)

A: From our research we heard about fly ash being used in the block that is made by Safecrete in Georgia. Our blocks from Aercon did not have fly ash.

Q: We also haven’t yet figured out approximately how many blocks we’d need. I’m curious how many you needed and the total sf of your perimeter?

A: Amount of block- this is still in question to date- probably by the end of next week I can give you an exact number. I discussed our designs with Contec through the design process to make sure our design would work with AAC. The material seems versatile enough that it pretty much works with any design. When our design was finalized we paid them to create shop drawings and a block count. It’s still questionable whether that was money well spent or not? It was helpful and continued our ongoing discussion preparing for construction- so for now I’m going to call it money well spent since this is a new material for us. Charles Smith at Contec was very helpful to our project. Our contact person with Aercon is Don Perkins. I can get phone numbers and emails if you need them.

With our contractor we kept analyzing how much block we needed. I think we are finding that Contec’s number was pretty close and we were calculating too much. Our house is 3273 sq ft. Two story, 10′ high ceilings down, 9 up. We ordered 53 pallets of block with 60 blocks in a pallet with a portion of this being u-blocks for lintels and 2 courses at the 2nd floor level and o-blocks for the rebar cores. The block came in three flat bed trucks. As of today’s on site conversation it looks like we have plenty of regular block but are running low on u-block and will place the second part of our order next week. We intentionally knew that we would order a bit more block once construction started. It just made sense to us to order three trucks full of block, get started, and then request more.

We also ordered the repair mortar and the special AAC mortar. I am not sure the repair mortar has been used. The AAC mortar is a must. The block company will also help you estimate how much you will need.

My husband ordered a package of special AAC tools from Demand products. They all arrived undamaged. The damaged package on our blog came from Taylor Trading Company. The masons have been bringing their own gas powered circular saw press to the site to cut the block as well as using a hand saw.

Q: And did you do any interior in block?

A: We are using wood frame 2×4 construction for the interior walls and 14″ deep wood joists for the joists between the 1st and 2nd floor. We are also using wood trusses created with a slope for the roof. We thought about using AAC for the roof but somewhere in the construction drawings I came to the truss conclusion, primarily because they can be designed to slope which is needed for our low sloped parapet roof.

Q: Do you have a good ballpark for labor costs to install? Did you use people already trained in AAC or did you have someone train you? Are you going to use their special stucco on the exterior and regular plaster interior?

A: Our ballpark number for labor costs are $25,000. Our labor costs are probably fairly low in Memphis? I can give you more exact numbers pretty soon if this helps? You labor costs may be very different?

The masons have been great with the material. There was a bit of trial and error in the first hour when they started and then things went smoothly. We had a sales rep named Don Perkins who is familiar with the material on site the first morning for some helpful tips. No special training at all for us or the masons. The primary mason was familiar with unique masonry systems such as the Isokern fireplaces so things just clicked when he learned about AAC. I thought there would be a much greater learning curve.

Sat, 26 May 2007
Q: I’m also curious what your average temp is in the winter?

A: Our winters are very mild. Mostly in the 30’s in December and January. We might get one snow and that is just a few flakes. Memphis is hot and humid.

After I sent you the email last night, Dave said that the AAC-4 we are using has an r-value or e-equivalent of 24. The numbers I sent you are for AAC-2.

Q: Are you finishing interior walls with a certain plaster/other?

A: We plan to use the AAC based stucco for the first coat on the exterior (because it has a different moisture content than typical stucco) and then the two final coats of just normal cement based stucco. No metal lath, just applied directly to the block. We plan to attach drywall directly to the interior block walls with the special drywall nails for AAC that can be ordered through Demand products. The plaster interior would be nice, but we will probably use drywall.

Q: For people who are chemically sensitive can you tell if the mortar has strong fumes/smell after it’s been applied and dried?

A: The chemical sensitivity is hard for me to say? I am not very chemically sensitive so I would be afraid to judge this. In my opinion I have not smelled any chemical odors in the block or the mortar. There is a dust when they cut them but no smell that I have sensed. Again I might not be the best judge. I’ll try to consider this when I visit the site and I’ll let you know.

Don Perkins was very helpful to us and we received our block quickly without delays. Charles Smith was easy for us to call also. I can find cell numbers for you next week.

Q: Just curious if you had any window installment issues? We’re thinking of triple pane fiberglass, maybe from Fibertec (for energy efficiency). What did you end up going with?

A: I can try to enlarge some plan images to send to you soon and I’ll elaborate more on our windows and include a window detail. We are using wood clad with metal casement windows by Kolbe & Kolbe.

Tue, 29 May 2007
Q: I’m wondering if you think it’s critical to use an engineer who has AAC experience or not? We have someone who has worked with straw bale, but should we look around more? What were the key issues you feel like the engineer faced?

A: The engineering was a point where we had to pause and analyze. Our house got double engineered which opened up a few questions, not problems, but a discussion.

I work closely with a structural engineer at work so I asked him to review our drawings. He was familiar with straw bale and AAC. I think he had done two AAC structures in Nashville before. This was helpful because he knew the material. But really any good structural engineer who is familiar with residential construction and masonry construction will not find the AAC a problem. There are engineering codes for AAC. We knew that we needed the house engineered for the size of the anchor bolts (they attach the floor trusses to the AAC wall), foundation details, etc. and the AAC walls became part of the engineering package. I really needed the input of the structural engineer early on to ask questions and reassure me I was on the right track. It was part of my process with the design.

Later when we were nearing time to order our block, I sent the drawings to Contec for shop drawings and to have their engineer review them. In my opinion they were actually over engineered; more reinforcing than what our engineer had recommended. I am sure what they recommended is wonderful and will create a super sturdy house, but it was just a bit more than what we, our contractor, and our local engineer saw as necessary. I spent several sleepless nights during the reinforcing debate. Our house is very solid and is definitely reinforced, but in the end we found a happy medium on where to reinforce and what to leave out without causing any structural issues. I’m making a long story short on this. We have vertical reinforcing at all the corners, specific places along the wall and at all sides of window and door openings. We are using reinforced u-blocks with rebar and concrete at all lintels and two courses of u-block bond beams at the second floor connection and at the roof. Both our engineer and Contec’s sized the rebar and most of it came in the same. Since this was my first time dealing with AAC and because I did not know how detailed the shop drawings would be I felt that it was necessary to have our own engineer from the start of the project. If you are on a slope this will probably also make sense for you.

Also Contec’s engineer is in Mexico and ours is here in Tennessee so it made calling to ask questions much easier to have our own engineer. I am not sure about the engineering process with Aercon which is who we eventually ordered our block from.

Advice: Also we received a cd of pdf files with details and a notebook of information form Contec. This was extremely helpful! After researching, they had the most information that was the easiest to access. Most of their information can also be downloaded from their website. Aercon’s website does not have as much information. My first choice was Contec to order our block from because of the ease in getting and receiving information from them. The only reason we ended up using Aercon was that their shipping costs were slightly lower. I told their sales rep to update their website to make it more user friendly.
Thu, 07 Jun 2007

Q: Did you use ICFs for your foundation? We’re debating pouring cement for the walk out basement, or using ICFs perhaps.

A: We actually considered ICF for the whole house and researched this option. We decided on AAC because it just made more sense to us and seemed easier to work with. I have heard that ICF is great for basements (check the livemodern website there are several ICF houses being blogged). I think that AAC can be used for foundations and basements but it must be well protected from water. Our foundation is several courses of CMU then a slab on top of that – very basic. This is the typical method for this area since we have such mild winters, flat land, and excavation is very expensive for us. All of the older homes have basements and we are sad to loose this feature.

Look at our blog and think you will see the transition from CMU to AAC. We will have an expansion joint at this area that you will see in the stucco just to help prevent cracking between the two materials.

Our project was on hold the last week due to ordering some materials and a sub locating a window opening incorrectly- not happy with that! and it got moved today. We should have more blog posts soon as construction has resumed.

Thu, 07 Jun 2007
Q: I guess you’re using the AAC stucco – curious if subs find it the same to work with as regular stucco when you get to that point. Apparently there is a stucco from CA that doesn’t crack and acts as it’s own drainage plane. Not sure we’re “allowed” to use anything other than what AAC recommends though!

A: Our understanding with the stucco is that you need the AAC specific stucco for the first course because it has a different consistency than regular stucco. The following layers (typically stucco is three layers so the following two) would be whatever type stucco you want to use. Again our understanding, check with the manufacturer and the stucco installer.

Q: We’ve run into a problem with how to support the main floor bump outs now that if they are made out of AAC.
Do we need to extend the basement walls to support the upstairs bump outs, or is there another way? Do you know if it’s possible to do the bump outs in wood frame? (We’re still waiting for an engineer to have time to look at the plans).

A: I’m not sure about those “bump outs”? I would call them cantilevered bay windows. The easy solution to me seems to carry the pump out to the floor below to support it. With the help of a structural engineer they may have a solution for creating the cantilever structure and the AAC is really a skin. I kept feeling conflicted about mixing wood with AAC but it is not strange at all.

The block can be cut to form most shapes. The architect should be thinking of the material as CMU that is easier to work with. The AAC people may also be able to help you and the architect figure out the design.

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First Floor Exterior Walls

Comments   3   Date Arrow  May 26, 2007 at 9:25am   User  by Christina

Bond beam lintel with rebar above doors at covered terrace.

Eastern Wall with chimney.


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Vertical walls

Comments   2   Date Arrow  May 23, 2007 at 8:12pm   User  by Christina

Tuesday May 22, 2007- A sales rep was onsite during the morning from Aercon to give some guidance as the masons began laying the block.

First course



Isokern firebox begins. Notice the hole for the door to the ash bit toward to front of the box.


This is a bolt embedded in the slab of the terrace to tie things to. Photo taken before block, but I thought I would include it.

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