Category Archives: Construction

3D Printing a House

3D Printing a House

House construction methods haven’t changed significantly for decades if not a century or more. In these modern days, the use of 3D printing houses has become an idea entertained by developers and engineers in solving the rise in demand of constructing homes.

A company called Apis Cor has come up with a 3D printer that is a game changer in the building and construction industry.

The company introduced its 3D printer by building a comfortable house in Russia and this project started in December last year. The house is a 400-square-foot, uniquely designed as expected due to the technology involved.

How the 3D printer looks and works

The machine which has the appearance of a giant crane more so than any 3D printer you have seen before . The printer can be transported to the site under development and with a little tuning, it is ready for use. The company has explained that the 3D printer places layer upon layer of the concrete mixture and after 24 hours the frame of a standard house is ready.

The windows, doors, insulation and the roof are installed by skilled workers. The machine handles all partitioning and outer walls. This has been tried and proven as per the project successfully done in Russia. This method ensures flexibility in terms of design and functionality.

Success in Extreme Weather

Of importance to note was the weather condition in Russia during the period the project was undertaken. The project took place during the coldest period of a Russian winter. The equipment can operate in temperatures as low as -35 degrees C. However, the cement mixture needs to be at 5 degrees C or warmer. This was solved by placing a tent over the work site so the necessary temperature could be maintained. So, in spite of the frigid temperatures at the time, the 3D printer was able to perform flawlessly. This test was intentionally done under those conditions to ensure the machine could operate under extremely harsh conditions.

Cost of building with a 3D printer

Cost is the primary focus for this new concept of the 3D printer. The house constructed had a hall, a living room, bathroom and kitchen fitted with the best and most advanced technology in appliances and fittings. The roof is flat built and can withstand heavy snow fall. The total costs including the modern furnishings and appliances cost about $10,000 which if apportioned is approximately 265 per square meter. This price is way lower than the $1700 used in usual methods of building.

What are the expectations?

Building with a 3D printer is supposed to lower the cost of building by 70% in comparison to the current methods in use.

Not only is the construction affordable but fast with a standard household taking 24 hours to have the walls in place and not much longer to complete.. This will be extremely helpful in rebuilding houses for those affected by natural disasters and calamities.

Home Siding Options

There a variety of options that your siding contractor can recommend to you. It is amazing how siding has changed over time and how many options you now have to give a fresh distinct look to your home.

A Quick Siding History

Originally siding wasn’t siding but part of the structure of the building. It could have been brick or stone or wood. In the case of wood, unless it was a log cabin, there actually was a frame and siding made of wood.

Later, most homes were built with a framework of wood on a cement or concrete block foundation. Then a siding of brick or stone or wood was added but these were for looks and to keep the weather out and not for structural support.

Asbestos, Asphalt & Aluminum

The first siding other than wood was made from a mix of asbestos and concrete. It was not a very good insulator and faded and absorbed water. Then they came out with asphalt shingles which was similar to roofing shingles although often brick or stone patterns were printed on it. It tended to be used on low end homes. When aluminum siding started being produced in the 1950s people quickly moved away from the other two. But aluminum dented which was a problem over time because it couldn’t be easily fixed. Plus the paint on the aluminum had a tendency to turn chalky and not look good over time or it could be scratched and the exposed aluminum would begin to oxidize. Plus aluminum production is energy intensive so when energy prices went up in the 1970s the price of aluminum siding went up as well.


Stay away from this. It is basically particle board made into siding and there have been lots of problems with it absorbing moisture, expanding, growing fungus and other problems. Enough said.

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl was first used in the late 50s and early 60s but had problems with color fading, brittleness over time and expansion and contraction issues. By the 1970s these problems had been worked out and vinyl for the most part has supplanted aluminum. The color goes through the entire sheet so a scratch doesn’t show and the technology has improved so the color doesn’t fade or discolor over time. There is no issue with denting because vinyl bounces back.

Other advantages are that vinyl doesn’t conduct electricity, doesn’t act as a sound magnifier for rain and hail, and doesn’t conduct heat or cold the way aluminum does. It is also great because you can put it over whatever siding is already there without going to the trouble of taking the old siding off. For that reason, it makes the residing job much less expensive and has the benefit of increasing the insulation on the house since you now have two layers of siding.

Styles of Siding

At first, vinyl siding was just straight sheets like the aluminum. Then they started to put some texturing on the plastic to give it a bit of a wood grain look even though it was colored to look like it was painted. However, it didn’t really have the look of painted wood. It looked like plastic with a rough surface.

If you haven’t looked at vinyl siding for a while, you need to look again. Houses that you think have cedar shake siding might actually be vinyl siding. CertainTeed and other manufacturers have really upped their game. Cedar shakes can be put on in different patterns, such as all the same size or alternating larger and smaller and sometimes the shakes are half rounds. The vinyl has matched these patterns and you can even mix square with half round to get patterns on the walls of your house like they did in Victorian times but without the labor costs involved.

There are other versions that look like different types of wood clapboard. There are choices of regular clapboard, dutchlap and beaded.

Then there are a variety of options for trim around the windows which can really spruce up the look of your home. So definitely ask your siding contractor about all the possible options.

Metal Fabrication Methods

We had the pleasure of interviewing Ari of Annapolis Railings & Stairs about his metal fabrication business. He has decades of experience and has developed a loyal following. 

There are different size metal fabricators and Mark’s company could be considered a small to medium sized. He does a lot of work for large construction and metal fabrication companies that do large projects. They will sub some of the work out to companies of his size. The solo operators are too small to work with these large companies even for subcontracting work that Mark does.

There work is always varied and interesting. It may be making replacement parts for machinery, or structural components for building something. Or it could be work for an architect or landscape company.

They have made metal railings, metal stairs, fire escapes, enclosed ladders for industrial and commercial sites. (Regulations require that if a ladder that is bolted in place and is more than a certain height it must have a cage around it to reduce the risk of falls.

Then there have been beautiful, artistic gates and fences around properties and as pool enclosures.

Iron Gate
Ladder & Cage

You can see from the picture an example of an ornate gate and also a picture of a ladder with a cage. The angle is a bit odd because the ladder is lying on the ground and you are looking at the top platform and then along the steps of the ladder going away horizontally.

Mark had worked for many years at a large metal fabrication company in Baltimore but wasn’t satisfied and decided to split off on his own. His new company not only does work around the Bel Air area but all over Baltimore as well.

Some of the jobs are done for homeowners. This can range from simple railings and other jobs on smaller houses to extensive work on mansions in the area. That could be elaborate railings and stairs, fences, gates, and pergolas among other things. Then there are the commercial and industrial jobs. It might be fencing at an industrial site, the caged ladders, machinery parts and an assorted list of other potential jobs too long to mention. Life is never dull and there is always a new deadline to meet and problem to solve in doing the best job possible.

The jobs could involve steel, cast iron, aluminum, bronze and other metals. There might be glass, wood, or plastics incorporated in some way. Then there is TIG, MIG, arc welding and more. It all depends on the material and what use the materials are going to be put to.

Roof Trusses vs. Stick Built

This blog post only applies to houses that are being built. If the house is already there, you aren’t going to change it. Most houses are called stick built, meaning everything is done right there. All the materials are delivered and put together on site.


There is a growing industry of prefab houses. This does not mean double wides and trailer park homes. These are whole houses that are made in a factory and shipped to the site. The walls and other parts come in sections and then they are attached together on site. That will be the subject of another blog post.

Pre Made Roof Trusses

There are other possibilities between stick built and prefab. In this case we are talking roof trusses. These are the structures on top of the house that support the roof. In stick built the joists and rafters are all assembled on site. They always depend on the exterior walls for support and may also depend on interior walls.

Trusses are prebuilt off-site and delivered to the construction site, ready for installation. They are designed and engineered for the needs of the house but also to withstand the typical weather where the house is being built. That may include a lot of snow, or lots of wind and rain.

Controlled Manufacture

They are built indoors so they are not affected by weather and moisture conditions when they are put together and they are cut by computer controlled saws so the fit is better than with stick built. They are labeled and bundled and shipped to the site to be installed. They will fit perfectly every time even though they are custom for each job. Unless of course, you are building a development with just a few models of homes. That can help reduce the price a bit as well.

They are environmentally friendly because they use 2x4s to a large extent rather than larger boards which means you don’t need to cut down larger old growth trees to make them.

Design Flexibility

Because they are designed to rest on the exterior walls, this means that you can move interior walls around at a later date without having to worry about whether they are a supporting wall or not.

Another major benefit of a truss versus stick built is that you can do interesting designs for about the same price. Instead of a simple flat ceiling, you can put in vaults and arches or other features and make the house look like a much more expensive house.

Cost Savings

There are several places where you will save money. Because they are prebuilt, there is little if any waste so you don’t have to worry about cleanup and dumpster costs. Also, they install much more quickly than if it was stick built, so there is time savings which means cost savings. This leads to savings in borrowing as well since construction loans tend to be at a higher interest rate and you won’t need the loan as long.

Bending Concrete into a Dome

A group from the Vienna University of Technology has come up with a way of creating a domed concrete structure much cheaper and faster than current methods. Normally concrete domes are not built often because of the expense. Up until now to build a concrete dome, it was necessary to build a wooden structure to hold it in place. while the concrete hardened.

First you lay down a plastic bladder that can be inflated. Then you set out rebar on top of it and tie the rebar together. The rebar is laid out in pie shaped wedges. At this point, concrete is poured in and allowed to harden while it is all flat on the ground. Then the sections are all fastened together and cables attached.

There is an oval in the center which acts as the roof. Then around that but connected are the wedge shapes which have an empty channel between them.

Now, they start to slowly inflate the bladder to raise it into a dome structure. The concrete cracks some but supposedly is still structurally sound. Supposedly because the sections support each other, a bit like ice blocks in an igloo. Of course the rebar has to help as well. It must bend some as the the bladder is inflated. We also wonder if the concrete is raised before it is entirely hardened, but the article about the process didn’t say. They say the cracks are only small cracks.

As the bladder is being inflated, the cables are tightened. This apparently ensures that all the sections rise at the same rate. The article was less than clear as to why this was the case. After fully inflating the dome, the bladder is deflated and removed.

Then a layer of plaster can be coated over to help strengthen and to cover up the cracks. Seems odd unless the plaster is added to the inside. It seems like most of the cracks would be on the outside. But it doesn’t seem like plaster would hold up well exposed to the elements. The article could have been a bit more specific.

They built a test dome 10 feet high and the lead professor thinks they can create domes with a diameter of 160 feet or so without any problems. They think it will cut the cost of a building like this in half and also reduce time and material. Interesting idea but we would like to know a bit more about it before we trusted the process.