Want to build a stone house? It's easier than you might think! Slipform Stone Masonry brings to life the nuts-and-bolts of the slipforming process featured in Tom's book Living Homes.
Slipforming is the process of using forms on both sides of the wall as a guide for the stonework. The forms are filled with stone and concrete, then "slipped" up the walls to form the subsequent levels. Slipforming makes stone work easy even for the novice.
In this unique video, Thomas J. Elpel and Robert Taylor build an insulated workshop out of stone, demonstrating the building process from site excavation right through to putting the roof on and finishing the inside. Working through the month of June in Montana, they brave the rain and snow, gusting winds, searing heat and stunning rainbows to bring this project to fruition.
The video is designed as a companion to Tom's book Living Homes. The principles of design and construction are out-lined in the book, enabling the reader to create dwellings customized to their own unique situations. In this video you will see just one application of those principles, but in vivid detail from start to finish. With both the book and the video you too will be able to design and build in a way that is completely unique to your own Vision. DVD. November 2001. 1 hr. 50 min.
Order Direct from Thomas J. Elpel & HOPS Press, LLC!
Wow! Tom! I saw your slipform video and it was awesome!! Stumbling onto your slipform video was not only timely but life changing. I was in a situation where I didn't know what to do and the video provided the best solution. It was the motivation for excavating under my house and building a retaining wall for an extra room/tornado shelter and also for jacking up a sagging foundation. It took three months but it worked! Seeing your daughter mixing concrete and your son helping to pour it was also very inspiring.
I received my order today. The video is the best how-to video I've ever seen. Keep up the good work!
Hugh & Myra
Hi Jeanne & Tom,
Package arrived safely. Thanks for the swift processing. Tom's DVD played perfectly on a UK DVD player and on my computer. Besides enjoying the DVD immensely may I compliment Tom on how well he presented and particularly how clearly he enunciates the English language. I understood every syllable. Superb value both book and DVD.
A new stone workshop in just one month! Robert arrived here from New York City on June 4th to learn stone masonry. We went to work immediately setting forms to pour the footings and the slab. Exactly one month later--on the 4th of July--we put on the metal roof! Along the way we somehow shot video of the entire process, and still took a couple well-deserved days off. The building is 12 feet wide and 16 feet long, as measured on the inside.
The original idea behind the project was simply to create a storage shed for our camping gear and bicycles. But we couldn't just build any old shed... it had to look good beside our stone house, and that meant building the shed with matching stonework and the same kind of roof. And since we were building with stone, I also wanted to test out some ideas which I had previously proposed, but never actually tried-- that is, framing the entire structure with insulation panels, then slipforming the stonework up the outside. In other words, this would be a pretty elaborate and highly insulated storage shed!
Soon we added cute little windows to the plans for the south wall, with more windows in the doors, plus complete wiring and lighting inside. We started thinking "workshop" or even "studio" more than "shed". Ultimately we may have to build something else to hold our bicycles and camping gear...
Anyway, after pouring the slab, we framed the building out of insulation panels. I planned to order 4' x 8' panels of beadboard insulation with one sheet of oriented strand board (OSB) glued on the inside, marketed as the "R-Control Panels". (For a directory of suppliers, please click here.) But first, I asked about secondhand, damaged, or scrap panels at the local factory. They brought me out back to a growing heap of scrap panels beside the building and let me take all I could for free! Otherwise, the scraps were to be hauled off to the dump, and the company was so busy that they didn't have time to make new panels to sell me anyway. Now, I would have preferred panels with the OSB board on just one side instead of both, but for the price, how could I complain?
Putting the walls together was like assembling a puzzle, working from all different sized pieces, squares, triangles and rectangles. It took a little head-scratching, but two days later we had the walls up and the windows and doors framed in. Choosing the roof pitch was easy, we just used a set of matching triangular panels.
The next step was slipforming up the outside with stonework. Since a large part of the walls were underground anyway, we "cheated" and poured concrete walls wherever it wouldn't show, then added stonework on top of that. Bringing in a truck and pouring the concrete cost a bit more, but really sped up the process. Unfortunately, in this fast-paced project, I failed to properly secure the forms, so the concrete "blew out" the side and made quite a mess... all of which is thankfully underground and out of sight.
After that embarrassment, we turned to the slower and more relaxing process of setting stones and mixing our own mortar. The slipforms serve as guides for the stonework, so you can just set the rocks in against the wood face and then pour concrete and rebar in behind it. It makes the difficult art of stone masonry so easy that anyone can do it.
The weather flip-flopped from freezing cold to boiling hot to gusty winds, to rain and rainbows. It snowed the day before Robert arrived, then snowed again on the 14th, dumping six inches on our little town. We took that day off from work.
Before we finished building the stone walls, we stopped and built roof trusses, then cut notches in the insulation panels and set the trusses in place. We resumed our slipform work and went right up between the trusses, permanently anchoring them into the concrete and stonework. Working near the top of the walls was easy, since the building is set back into the hill, none of the walls were too high off the ground. And the stones were free from the local mountains. We just had to drive up the road to get them. However, the "trimless" style I used around the windows and doors required more specialized squarish stones than the rocks we used for regular slipform work. We made a lot of extra trips up into the mountains, looking for just the right rocks.
Although the workshop absorbed most of our time, I still had to run the business and process book orders each day. Somewhere along the way, I took time off and drove the 3 1/2 hours to Missoula for a business errand and a 6 a.m. television interview on Montana Today about my book, Living Homes. That was a fast trip there and back.
Now, if I had purchased beadboard panels in 4' x 8' sheets for the roof, then I would have used a few log purlins for support and otherwise spanned the opening without the need for trusses. However, since we were using odd-shaped scrap panels, we had to build the trusses to hold them up. That added to the cost of the "free" insulation panels. We also screwed down a layer of 7/16" OSB board across the trusses to further support the scrap insulation panels.
But first we acquired a bunch of white paint free from the thrift store (they didn't want it in the first place), mixed it all together, and painted what would become the ceiling-side of the OSB board. That was during a wind and dust storm, of course. Since the storm was also spitting rain at us, we threw the freshly painted panels up on the trusses, flipped them paint-side down, and screwed them in place wet paint and all. That actually worked remarkably well!
Insulating the roof was another puzzle of insulation panels. We set the pieces in place, then screwed them on from inside the shop. Expanding foam sealant filled the gaps between the panels. While waiting for the roofing to come in, we installed the windows and doors and rough-wired the inside. Then we grouted the stonework, using a mix of sand and masonry cement to give the stonework a very finished look.
In the picture shown here, the shop is virtually complete. The remaining work slowed almost to a standstill when Robert left, since I was behind in the business and hadn't spent much time with the family for a whole month. Then I worked on the inside, finishing the walls. Because the walls consist of so many puzzle pieces, and not all of them are completely flush, I decided to put a plastic mesh over the entire surface and "plaster" it with ready-mix joint compound. That worked remarkably well, and seemed to be not too much more expensive or labor intensive than sheetrock would have been. Then I painted it, and finished the wiring. I also recycled a couple of old slipforms into a workbench along the south side where the windows are.
Each night after work I loaded the video on the computer and chopped it down to a few good minutes of material. Later I went back and narrated the video, using the iMovie program on our new iMac. There are more than 1,100 audio and visual files carefully melded together in this movie. With that much material, it took as long to make the video as it did to build the workshop!
Note that the video is not a replacement for the slipforming material in my book Living Homes. The book covers the all important "how-to" of the process, while the video covers in detail "what we did". Basically, every project is completely unique and different, so the techniques shown in the video are different from any I've used in the past, or will use in the future. Likewise, there is obviously tons of material covered in the video that can not be covered in the book, so I recommend the video as a companion to the book.