Snapshot of a Custom John Hill Home

John Hill built a modern Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home for the Collins family in early Summer 2003. Nestled in the woodsy outskirts of Lebanon, both the swampy lot and detailed architectural plans made it a challenge from every angle. Below is a list of those challenges, as well as the creative ways in which John Hill met their budget.

 Top Five Challenges To Building the Collins Home

1. Cantilevers. The cantilevers involved a steel I-Beam in the roof, which is typically never needed in residential construction. The corner windows and large overhangs on the terrace required massive “glue lam” wood beams. Much thought was also required in the sequence of the framing and the connections from one large beam to the next.

2. Building to bring the outdoors inside. This was accomplished in several ways: The textures and ceiling finish colors matched the exterior soffits perfectly. The windows (both at top and in the corners) give an uninterrupted view of the exterior. The stone columns extend from the exterior into the interior of the house to create a seamless unity between outside and inside. The front planter has an exterior and interior element with identical plantings on either side of the windows, further blurring the boundaries of interior to exterior.

3. Corner windows with no corner support. This required structural considerations with the beams as noted above. Steps were also taken to ensure that the custom-made windows (built on site) matched the manufactured windows in every possible detail. Tempered glass was ordered from the same national glass fabricator to ensure no color variations. The windows are also double-insulated like the rest of the house. This required the local fabricator to cut the outer pane of glass longer than the interior pane to create the angle with as little visual interruption as possible. This technique was something they had never done before and had to be “talked” into.

4. No gutters. This basement has the same guaranteed waterproof system that John Hill uses on all of his homes. This is different than the damp-proofing that is much more commonly used. This system, coupled with extra pipe and gravel at the footing level, ensure that ground water will never be a problem. Having no gutters also required a very creative French drain style system for the house. This starts approximately two feet below the visible grade with a plastic membrane followed by a perforated pipe and washed gravel. Both the gravel and pipe slope away and drain out by gravity.

5. Steel I-beam in the roof. The challenge lied in the installation of this beam. From commercial structural steel workers to residential framing carpenters to crane operators to wood I-joist suppliers. It was important that all work together in unison, which isn’t normally required.

Top Five Creative Ways That The Collins Budget Was Met

1. Cultured stone that mimics natural stone. This single change was the most significant price-reducing measure to the entire home. The homeowners traveled to Cleveland to ensure that the selection they made was the most realistic cultured stone available.

2. Conventional floor joist with I-beams. The addition of steel I-beams in the basement allowed the use of a conventional 2 X 10 floor joist.

3. Blending stains to match four different wood species. The patience and creativeness of the painting contractor enabled the use of alternative trim materials that were much more cost-effective. The wood species used in the home are cherry, birch, pine and maple.

4. Creative foundation details and flashing to deliver concrete patios at first-floor heights. An innovative flashing detail was created in order for the terraces to be at the same height as the first floor. This approach delivered the aesthetic look the customer wanted without paying for an extra foot of foundation wall with a notch in it. (That additional concrete would have added several thousands of dollars to the project.)

5. Using local craftsman and inspiring them to bring their “art” to the betterment of the project. This home challenged all the tradespeople in their abilities. All facets of the carpentry trade had unique challenges, including the framer for the wood and steel structures to create the space, the exterior trim to finish out the soffit, the garage doors, and the interior finish work. Creative solutions for the stain work were also implemented by the painters, as were the metal trim work between the windows, the actual construction of the corner windows, the overhangs for the kitchen granite, etc. An inside joke during construction was that “on this job you are not a carpenter… you are an artist.”