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    My ICF Home In East Texas

    This is just a little story about my personal icf house in East Texas and our motivation for choosing the location and icf.

    What Kind Of House To Build

    When my wife and I moved to Texas from out west, we were looking into different options for building our home. We wanted to build our forever home so we really looked at a lot of different options.

    We considered a metal building with framing on the inside. We considered a traditional frame home with brick exterior. A log home also caught our eye.

    Lastly we looked at an ICF home and that is what we decided on.

    The Driving Force

    We moved to East Texas for our family. We wanted a slower pace of life in a small town. My wife and I were both raised in a large city and really didn’t want that for our kids.

    This was our number one driving decision with everything we did around our house from where we picked to build to the kind of home and layout of the home. Our kids were part of every decision. In fact we let them make some decisions for us.

    We knew we were going to build in East Texas, just didn’t know exactly where. Our Realtor showed us several nice areas, but the last one she took us to the kids fell in love with immediately. This community has a high fence around it and exotic animals running around. We thought it was pretty cool as well and bought our lot on the water.

    It took us a couple years before we actually built the house. We started with a storage building and a tree house for the kids. Kinda went overboard, but they like it.

    Building The Lego ICF House – What We Learned

    During the preparation phase we did a lot of research on icf and tried to incorporate ideas during the build that I thought would be good for my clients as well. Just didn’t want to experiment on their homes. I really wanted to see if subtle details made a big difference or not.

    First thing we did differently was use the icf block inside the footing and continue them into the walls. This gave our slab a complete thermal break on the edge of the slab. Basically insulated the edges of the slab. Since we live in East Texas I didn’t feel there would be much benefit of insulated underneath the slab.

    This presented a few challenges such as bracing the icf in the footings to keep them plumb with the walls above. We actually anticipated this, but didn’t count on it moving as much as it did. Luckily we were able to correctly brace it before the concrete set up so no problems.

    The next issue is one of exposed icf at the door ways. If left we would have icf exposed on the top of the slab where the doors are. Not a good thing! So we cut the icf block down about six inches below the top of slab in the door ways. That broke our thermal barrier on the inside, but were able to keep in on the outside since the door itself will be covering the foam.

    This may sound like a little extreme, but consider this. When you walk by your exterior doors during the winter time barefooted, do you feel the floor colder there than anywhere else in your house? In and icf house that has icf footings continuous to insulate the slab greatly reduces this. I don’t notice a temperature change at my house.

    Now there was an issue arise that I didn’t think of before using icf in the footings. The edge of my slab was now insulated, but at the same time I now had exposed icf foam! Wasn’t a major issue, but one I didn’t anticipate. We were able to solve the issue with painted sheet metal from our local metal building company. They made us metal sheets that cover the foam and are flashed behind the siding on the house.

    The Comparison & Why We Chose ICF

    Well you know that we did go with and icf house, but I haven’t explained why much to this point. I don’t want to sound used car salesish, but there simply wasn’t much of a choice to be made.

    When looking at the data available and using personal experiences from homes we have lived in and talking with people we had built icf homes for, it was clear that an icf home was the way to go.

    First was the actual cost. Now on paper icf looks more expensive, especially if you compare it directly to the framing portion of the same size house. The icf is more expensive than the framing, but you have to consider the overall project cost to be accurate. This is because by using icf, you cost of other materials in the house go down. But overall an icf house will cost about 5% to 10% more than the same house built from wood.

    However, the price of the house is not the cost of the house. What I mean is the price of the house is just part of the equation. To use the house you need electricity, water, insurance etc.

    If you consider your mortgage, electric bill and homeowners insurance together as your actual cost of the home, an icf home wins every time. That’s right, even with a higher mortgage your cost will be lower monthly, annually and quite a bit lower over the life of your home.

    Electric consumption can be up to 50% lower with an icf house and homeowners insurance can be 25% to 35% lower!

    There are many other benefits as well such as storm resistance, quieter, healthier air, more consistent temperatures to name a few. There really is no comparison.

    Our Little House In The Zoo.

    icf house complete

    So we built our little icf house in a community with zebra, deer, antelope and other exotic animals running around. Our little zoo we like to call it. We picked a community based on the kids quality of life and picked our house the same way.

    We’ve lived in it for more than three years now, so if you are interested in any additional information about it, I will be glad to share. Just leave your questions in the comments section below.

    Hope you found this helpful and enjoyable.










    1. Jason Morison

      Hi Tim,

      As someone that is looking to buy or build in the near future I found a lot of useful information that will help my decision making. I am interested to know that if by using the ICF do you notice lower utility costs with electricity or gas? If I go with the build option I want it to be as efficient as possible.


      • Tim

        Hi Jason,

        I’m glad you found the info helpful. I am trying to convey the information in the best way I can. Yes ICF construction will save you money on utilities. It’s very hard to compare one house to another especially with the fact that people live and use their homes differently. Someone may keep their ac at 70 degrees all the time while their neighbor may be at 72 degrees. This is just one example, but you can imagine how many subtle differences there could be.

        I can give you an example of my own experience here in east texas.

        When we moved to Athens, we rented for about 5 years while saving to build. We rented a traditional stick frame home from a family member. It was about 3000 sq ft, 3 bedroom, 2 bath house. My family that rented it to me was willing to let me make improvements to help with energy costs. I replaced the windows, insulation in the attic, added attic venting and a few other things. My average electric bill was still about $300 per month.

        Fast forward to my current icf home. It’s in the same area and about the same size. A couple things that are different are we have a shop that is on the same electric meter and a tree house that has electricity, lights and air conditioning. We also have since adopted a 9 year old, so we have four kids at this house where I only had three at the rental house. Our average monthly electric bill is about $120 with my icf house.

        We also leave our ac at 71 degrees year round. It is very comfortable at this temp for us and since the bills are so low we don’t even turn it up when we leave. Its there all the time.

        Let me know if this helps out. Also have a great guy that draws plans and is used to icf if you need plans.

        Where are you looking to build?


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