A newly built 5,700 square foot home in Cedar Hill has a lot going for it in addition to its stunning location.
“Please come in,” said Gary Karnavas, the homeowner who also worked as the general contractor for his home improvement.
He said the view is his favorite thing about their new home, which he and his wife plan to live in for the rest of their retirement.
“This west wall here actually has 300 square feet of windows,” said Gary, explaining how they maximized the great viewing opportunities.
But it’s what you can’t see that gives Gary the greatest comfort in bad weather – a subject Gary knows a lot about.
“I have a degree in meteorology so, funny enough, I’m obsessed with it,” said Gary.
To protect his family from dangerous winds, flying debris and even a tornado, he built his house with ICF, which stands for Insulated Concrete Forms.
Basically, the walls of his house have a 6-inch core made of concrete.
A team from NUDURA Integrated Building Technology, the product Gary used to build his house, held a demonstration to explain what is inside its walls.
In its simplest explanation, the hollow shapes are polystyrene blocks with spacers inside. They snap into place and stay there permanently to act as insulation.
Reinforcing bars characterize the interior of the forms and also connect them to the foundation. Then the center of the form is filled with concrete.
The result is a building that is stronger than a wooden house.
“It’s about nine times stronger than traditional construction,” said NUDURA’s Cameron Ware.
Cameron Ware from NUDURA Integrated Building Technology talks about the 70+ schools in North Texas that she helped build with insulated concrete forms to make schools safer.
He said they sent their specific forms to Texas Tech to have their strength tested against storms.
“This product is pretty easy to build up to 250 mph winds,” said Cameron. That means the walls of Gary’s house can withstand an EF5 tornado. Gary said the windows in his house needed replacing, however.
If security-related concrete walls are not enough, Gary also had a tornado shelter built in his house, which is also made of insulated concrete forms.
“Now this is purely cosmetic,” said Gary as he turned a barn door to reveal the tornado hideout, which doubles as a pantry near his kitchen.
“And then you’re wrapped in concrete, in a house that’s made of concrete,” said Gary, pointing to the door that closes.
Gary came close to needing an animal shelter only once: it was 61 years ago until the day of this interview.
“I saw the Dallas tornado in south Dallas and this is my vividest memory of seeing a tornado,” said Gary.
Now he said he had no worries about this increased space for his growing family.
“So three grandchildren,” said his wife Sherry. “I hope for more.”
And they all have an extra sense of protection thanks to what is hidden in their normal-looking walls.
“It gives me the confidence to know that we have been able to achieve a very safe environment,” said Gary.
No matter how the wind blows, your concrete house is better built to sustain it.
Cameron Ware from NUDURA Integrated Building Technology explains the cost estimate for building a house with insulated concrete forms.
Cameron, with NUDURA, said the cost of building with insulated concrete forms varies greatly by house, but on average it can add an additional 5-10 percent to your total construction price. Additional benefits include improved energy efficiency, fire protection and soundproofing.
Gary said he was already impressed with the energy efficiency of his home. For his 5,700-square-foot home, his most expensive electric bill was $ 200.