Block by fire-resistant block, Ramonan builds her house
By Karen Brainard
In the hills off Highland Valley Road, a Ramona woman is almost singlehandedly building her house, using a fire-resistant block that is not well-known in the United States for its construction.
“I think it’s going along pretty good,” said Vicky Peters. “I think we can finish the trusses by the end of October.”
Peters hopes to have the house ready for occupancy by the end of 2014.
It has taken Peters nearly two years to construct the walls of her 2,300-square-foot house and 1,000-square-foot garage, and to put up trusses.
Although she has had assistance from Ramonan Jim Goodwin and a contractor poured the foundation, by the time she is finished Peters will be able to say she built about 95 percent of the house by herself.
The material she is using is autoclaved aerated concrete, a lightweight block that was suggested by her first architect, who warned her the area is a high fire risk.
While the walls won’t burn, Peters said the roof could catch fire because of wood underneath, but she added, “There’s not going to be any exposed wood to burn.”
In addition to offering fire resistance, the autoclaved aerated block provides insulation, sound attenuation and resistance to mold, and it won’t attract termites, she said.
Known more throughout Europe, autoclaved aerated concrete is becoming more prevalent in Southern states, because it keeps a home cooler inside when the weather is hot, she said.
Peters doesn’t know anyone in the area with a house built of autoclaved aerated concrete, but she has heard of other projects.
“I’ve met some really great people through this building experience,” she said.
Peters purchased the 10-acre property in March 2007. She had been looking for two years and said when she found it, “I knew right away this is it.”
Unfortunately three other people thought the same, and the highest bidder upped the purchase price to get it, she said. When that bidder later backed out, she grabbed her chance but had to match his price. That, plus grading, consumed most of her budget, she said.
Peters decided to take on the project herself. By occupation, she is a program manager for a San Diego software firm, but she had experience remodeling homes and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity when living in the Bay Area.
She bought a 26-foot used fifth wheel that she moved onto the property in December 2007 and has been living in since. Peters said she is really looking forward to completing the house and getting out of the trailer.
“I love living here,” she said of the location. “Whenever I come home from work and see down in the valley, it feels so good to be home — so relaxing.”
The property boasts pomegranate orchards, a creek and expansive views of the valley that will provide a scenic backdrop when looking out the windows and French doors of her great room. The house will have a large master bedroom, two other bedrooms and 2-1/2 baths.
Peters praised her neighbors who have also assisted her and loaned equipment.
“My neighbors have been fantastic,” she said.
In the summers, her nephew has helped with some of the building.
“Sometimes you just need another set of hands,” she said.
The construction process became more extensive due to new building requirements, she noted.
“It’s taking a lot longer than I thought,” she admitted.
Once she is done with the trusses, she will put up roof sheeting and then a concrete tile roof — flat tiles that look similar to a shake roof, she explained.
After the house is complete, Peters said she would like to get a couple of horses and build a barn.
“I like more of the country and since I was 14 years old I wanted some land and a couple of horses,” she said when explaining why she chose Ramona.
Peters invites anyone with questions about autoclaved aerated concrete to email her at Vhpeters04@yahoo.com.
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