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T-Mass foundations


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By Shelley in Rogers, MN on 8/12/2005


Hi,

Has anyone had experience with a T-Mass foundation? This is a poured wall foundation with a styrofoam sandwiched in the middle. Just looking for some information on it.

Shelley


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 8/15/2005


Do you have a website or other readily available source of information?
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By Arnold in Colorado Springs, CO on 8/15/2005


Shelley,

I did a little bit of research on the T-Mass walls, and the idea is very sound.  The key disadvantage to existing ICF technology is that there is no "internal" Thermal mass inside the envelope.  Internal thermal mass is extremely efficient because it mitigates any thermal fluctuation from external sources.  This is a reason that some people (me) are putting in concrete floors, to absorb the heat and provide a lot of thermal mass.

Some people view ICF walls as simply a transition to a technology like T-Wall. 

LEt me know if anyone finds out any more info...links are below!

http://www.dow.com/styrofoam/na/concreteliving/
http://www.dow.com/styrofoam/na/concreteliving/whytmass.htm

I've also attached an interesting Final Thesis I found on the net, it translates the benefit of an ICF, Sandwich wall (T-Mass), and other alternative construction.

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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 8/16/2005


I will ask some questions about this:

1) You are in Minnesota, are there any contractors close to you using T-Mass?  If not, are you willing to be a guinea pig and have a contractor learn a new technology while you are paying for it?  Are you willing to ship the material from wherever the closest distributor is?  And what premium are you going to pay for this opportunity?

2) The finished product is concrete on the outside, concrete on the inside, with a layer of styrofoam sandwiched in the middle.  From a thermal mass perspective, this sounds wonderful.  However how thick is the concrete on the inside and outside?  The reason I ask pertains to how big of openings (windows, doors, etc.) or how much wall above it you may be asking the concrete to support?  In a foundation or ICF wall, there is a certain amount of steel reinforcing, usually in the form of #4 (1/2") or larger rebar.  To get this reinforcing steel to properly strengthen the concrete, there needs to be a certain amount of concrete surrounding the rebar, how much is available with the T-mass?  Even a 4" concrete core ICF requires engineering if the openings get very large, and definitely for a foundation.

3) This leaves a concrete interior and concrete exterior finish.  The exterior finish is not such a big deal, as there are some interesting architectural coatings for conrete that would look good as a finished product, but how are you going to finish the interior?  You can't screw sheetrock to this, at least not easily.

4) Where are you going to run your utilities?  While good planning might dictate that you don't run plumbing in exterior walls, and a good house plan designed for T-mass might take care of this, you cannot avoid needing electrical outlets in these walls (the code won't allow it).

5) Do you have a passive solar design?  If so, how much thermal mass is called for in the design, and at what locations?  I would think without adequate design, you cannot take maximum advantage of a product like this.

6) If you are just using this for a foundation, why do this at all?  I genrally don't recommend anyone use ICF unless they are building their whole house out of it, it simply isn't cost effective (and not just accounting for cost of the ICF itself, it is difficult to keep straight thereby increasing your framing costs).  I figure this newer approach will be more costly than ICF, and still unproven.


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By Arnold in Colorado Springs, CO on 8/16/2005


I signed up for marketing schwag from Dow T-Mass...this is what they sent.

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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 8/16/2005


As the light bulb goes on, these are precast - that changes everything.  I thought they were poured on site - completely wrong.  This is panelized building construction, more similar to SIP than to ICF.  Now I understand, this looks like a much more attractive option.

My question about sheetrock still stands though, I don't think I would want a solid concrete interior wall without any covering, and you certainly can't nail or screw in to the concrete, at least not fast enough for the rockers.


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By Shelley in Rogers, MN on 8/17/2005


Hi,

At this time I have not yet gotten a price on this system. I am meeting with a company that manufactures the panels, delivers them and erects them, on Friday to get more information and to see the options available to me. This company is brand new, never done a house yet, although they have been doing commercial buildings like this for some time.

I am told by one company, that is a poured in place system,  that it usually costs about $2.00 a square foot more than a standard poured system. They also were very confident that the wall would be square and plumb. They recreate my drawing on their computer system and in doing this they are making sure that all measurements are accurate and that the walls will close.

It is available in both the poured in place and as panels. On commercial sites they also have a tilt up wall that is basically using the floor of the building for a form and then tilt the wall up when ready.

As far as the question as to why do foundation only, I guess the main reason is for a dryer basement. Then it goes into the fact that I need to insulate one side of the wall for final inspection anyway, whether it be the inside or out. Insulalting the outside makes sense to me, other than the fact that the exposed insulation from grade up has to be dealt with and it is known to break down over time. The other option would be to put an energy wall on the inside, which to me is the least desirable right now.

As far a running your electrical lines, if you do the pre-cast forms, they place all of the electrical outlets with channels to run your line. Also, they can put what they call nailers in the form so that you can sheetrock over the concrete, they call them pucks for the obvious reason that they look like hockey pucks. I am told that the walls are so smooth that you would not need to sheetrock if you did not want to. You tape up the channels, mud them, just like sheetrock, and paint away, just as you do with sheetrock. I, myself, have a hard time with the thought of cement walls.

Also, on the pre-cast walls, they can also place brick right into the form so that your brick work is done once the walls are erected. I beleive they said that the brick is a thin brick, not a full brick, but I am not sure anyone would know the difference.

I learned of this product from a geo therm company that is involved in building an Energy House in a town close to me. They used the poured in place T-mass foundation and are going to use SIPs for the remaining part of the house. The construction company that is building the house is very impressed with the foundation at this point, although the walls have not been erected yet, so the square and plumb thing still remains to be seen.

I will let you know what I learn on Friday. Thanks for all of the information and thoughts. They are greatly appreciated.

Shelley


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By Shelley in Rogers, MN on 8/19/2005


Hi again,

I have just gotten back from my meeting with the company who constructs T-Mass houses. He is going to do a take off on my plans for me and will not be able to give me a dollar amount for about 2 weeks.

I learned that when a T-Mass wall is pre-cast, the inside mass of the cement will be 4" and the outside will be 2". In between the concrete I can have a 2" or 3" rigid insulation. The 2" would give me an R18 and the 3" would give me an R28. These thicknesses are different for a tilt up and for a poured in place wall. I believe that the poured in place wall is a 3" mass on the inside and outside with the insulation in between.

The three parts are held together with a composite stake that will not conduct the heat or cold to the inside wall. These stakes are coned at one end so they can not come loose from the cement.

The electrical boxes are pre-positioned and held in place magnetically so that they are in place and straight when the wall is poured. Conduit is run vertically for the wiring. This conduit is positioned in the middle of the 4" layer. I believe that this is different than what I originally quoted here. If electricity was needed at a later date on these walls it would need to be done externally, meaning on the wall itself, or on an interior wall.

The exterior of the house can be shot with a stucco type finish and then spray painted any color of my choice. The stucco product can be applied right onto the cement and seemed very durable. Another option would be that the wall can be firred out when the walls are pre-cast. This would allow me to use a siding of my choice. Obviously the first option would be more economical and very maintenance free. The other thing that can be done, as mentioned previously, is that brick can be pre-cast into the wall. The options of brick are limited though. I can also just add brick to the outside of the walls once they are in place. Really, it seemed to me that there are a lot of options here for me.

Every wall, on each floor, on my plan would be able to be set in one panel. The corners are mitered. They place a seal between them, then caulk the joint. The panels are welded together on the top and then they are welded to the foundation to a bar that would need to be placed as the foundation was being done. The panels between the floors would also have a seal and caulk as well as welded together.

All in all it was interesting to me and it is something that I am going to continue to research. Currently there are no houses built in my area in this manner. I am told that there are two on the schedule for this fall. It will be interesting to follow the construction of these.

Thats all for know folks. Talk to you soon!

Shelley


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