Greg Saterdalen dreamed of having a rustic lodge-style summer home on the shores of Spirit Lake, Minnesota, but he didn’t want to spend his weekends tackling endless maintenance projects. So the long-time precast professional used his expertise to build a woodsy lakeside cabin out of precast concrete.
“My decision to design the home using precast concrete was for the minimal maintenance required,” says Saterdalen, director of marketing for Molin Concrete. He also saw it as a safer design choice.
Because the house is built on a shoreline, he couldn’t add a basement, which would normally be used as a storm shelter during tornados. “The structural integrity of 12 inch insulated precast walls and the prestressed hollow core ceiling makes for a structural above-ground storm shelter,” he says.
The choice also addressed the limited number of custom home builders in the area who were working on a two-year backlog. “Building the majority of the enclosure with precast products not only solved the resources issue but also offered schedule advantages when the foundation was ready,” he says.
ROI in 10 years
The two-story, three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home features insulated architectural precast concrete walls and a prestressed concrete structural beam that supports the prestressed hollow core upper-level floor. The interior walls are a combination of precast concrete and wood framed walls. The main level ceiling features exposed painted hollow core precast concrete. The cast-in-place concrete slab on grade and the upper level two-inch topping over precast hollow core plank were both cast over rigid insulation and have in-floor radiant heating.
Saterdalen used custom square cut log texture and finishing with the ledgestone dry stack stone for accents to achieve the log cabin appeal. “It was fun to see what could be done to create the textures needed to achieve their vision of a ‘cabin in the woods’,” says Kevin Schrock, regional sales manager for Architectural Polymers, who visited the home. “The wall areas of the home blend right in to the rustic building site.”
The design resulted in a highly durable, energy efficient and fire-resistant home – critical in the highly forested area that saw more than 4300 acres burn in 2015. The structure achieved insulation values of R-24 (walls) and R-42 (roof), both of which exceed local building code requirements.
“With this combination of high insulation factor, radiant heating system, and “thermal mass”, this home will have significantly reduced heating and cooling costs,” Saterdalen says. And while the cost to build the precast home was comparable to bids for traditional stick built designs, he expects the long-term energy and maintenance costs to deliver a return on investment in 10 years.
Once Saterdalen decided to follow a precast concrete design, the project moved forward quickly. He had onsite excavation and footing work completed while his team worked on the shop drawings and production of the 28 hollow core pieces, 23 wall panels, and one prestressed beam. When the pieces were ready, installation of the wall panels and hollow core floor was completed in just five-and-a-half days.
The only real challenge during installation was the occasional bear, he says. This resulted in Molin’s field crew either scrambling to get pictures, or fleeing to seek cover. Saterdalen tried to minimize their impact by cleaning up all food waste and wrappers that attracted bears to the site.
He’s thrilled with the result. “We haven’t had a single visitor - construction background or not - who has realized the exterior of the home is precast concrete,” he says. “In fact in most cases they actually knock their knuckles on the exterior of the walls before they believe us.”