CFA Awards

Hattersley Residence
Eastown Township, Pennsylvania

In today’s booming housing market, consumers are demanding more than ever in their new home constructions, and housing plans have become increasingly more complex and detailed. The CFA 2006 Basement of the Year competition salutes some of this year’s most challenging home projects and their cast-in-place concrete foundations. The 2006 winner has such a complex foundation design that the crews who worked on it named it “The Dragon House” and “The Spaceship.”

The winning structure is a 5,694-square-foot basement with many garden walls and other features in Eastown Township, Pa. Balmer Brothers Concrete Work, Inc. of Akron, Pa. is the foundation contractor on the project.

While it is not the largest foundation that they completed last year, Jerry Balmer, President, stated that this project was the most complex that they have probably ever completed. With very few right-angled corners, the project kept Balmer Brothers’ crews on their toes. Many corners went from straight to curved walls with a multitude of corners, T-walls and Y-sections coming in at various angles. One of the jumps, from nine-feet to a three-foot wall, occurs in the middle of a curved wall.

“It seemed like every corner we came to brought on a new challenge, especially the Y areas, where we used various sized ties as the two walls turned into one,” says Balmer. “Most of the time crews were transitioning curved into straight walls and sometimes curved to curved.”

Adding to the complexity are stone ledges surrounding the house, which range from one to three feet deep by six inches wide. Much of the ledge is on curved walls, requiring that the ledge be comprised of multiple pieces to allow for flexibility. Balmer credits the success of this project to his experienced crew on the job. “They all know how important a quality wall is to us and it was evident that it was important to them,” Balmer says.

The Hattersley Residence has 995 total linear feet of wall, wall heights ranging from three to nine feet and wall thicknesses of both 12 and 16 inches. Radius measurements range from four feet, two inches to 91 feet, eight and a half inches with many different sizes in between. The project includes 345 yards of concrete in the walls and 27,680 linear feet of No. 4 matt steel at two feet on center. Footers are 12 and 24 inches wide with three to No. 4 continuous rebar with cross bars at two feet on center. Radius walls with ledges are labor intensive and use extra wall ties, which added challenges to this project. Hundreds of vice grips were needed to hold in ledges, spreaders and props. Hinged corners were used to ensure that corners and shapes were correct. Hundreds of fillers were used to create smooth, curved angles and offsets. Forms were double-stacked for height. A roller bender was used to bend rebar to match the radii of the curved walls.

Balmer Brothers is a third-time winner of CFA’s Basement of the Year award. In 2001, the firm received the Basement of the Year for a 29,000-square-foot basement located in Philadelphia, Pa., which was complex as well as mammoth. Balmer Brothers won again in 2005 with the construction of a 34,000-square-foot basement in Gladwyne, Pa. The company was founded in 1973 when two brothers poured sidewalks and curbs in the summer months. Today, Balmer Brothers has four working owners -- Jerry Balmer, Gary Balmer, Dennis Balmer and Jay Balmer -- along with nearly 30 employees including two office personnel and one mechanic.

Winning Contractor

Balmer Brothers Concrete Work, Inc.
Akron, Pennsylvania

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