Tucked into the rolling hills of Branson is the foundation for a house that looks like a regular, decades-old log cabin. But don’t let the appearance fool you—those “logs” are made of concrete, and construction started just over a year ago.
Todd and Kim Braden are building the cabin with the intent to sell it in the summer. If it sells, they plan to build four more just like it. Being energy efficient wasn’t the original goal, but when they started building a house that would last, being green became part of the package. “When we started building, we wanted to do it right,” Todd says. “If you’re going to insulate the house this well, you don’t want to cut corners on heating and air conditioning.” The walls start with 6 inches of concrete on the outside, then 4 inches of foam, and 2 inches of concrete for the inside wall. These interior 2 inches will absorb the set temperature of the house and help keep it there, cutting heating and cooling costs. Walls that thick and sturdy also make it possible for the house to withstand an F5 tornado. The roof will be weathering steel, which is usually in structural steel applications such as bridges and outdoor sculptures. Todd says the steel alloys allow the roof to rust and form a protective coating to slow the rate of future corrosion, and the roof can last a minimum of 250 years without any maintenance whatsoever.
Doug Gross, Virgil Gross, Jared Braden, Kim Braden, Todd Braden, Cole Braden, Dane Braden and Tom Anna are helping make this dream cabin a reality.
The Building Process
The Bradens are focused on longevity. “We’re trying to build a house that’s enduring,” Todd says. “It’s going to be here hundreds of years. Everything else is a byproduct of that.” And for the cabin to stand that long, it has to take a long time to build. The Bradens broke ground in the summer of 2014, and they spent the better part of the next year developing the process of how to get the walls up. Instead of hiring someone to pour concrete, they bought their own pump and worked with professionals to get the right mix. The retaining wall at the back of the house was the tester.
Once it was time to start the cabin, the team—including their sons Dane and Luke, their nephew Jared and craftsmen Doug Gross and Virgil Gross—first made sure that the rock foundation was clean of all debris. Then they drilled holes and epoxied rebar into the bedrock, where it runs continuous to the roof. The forms were cut to match the dips in the rock foundation, and extra effort was put into cleaning away debris for complete contact with the concrete. From here, there had to be a lot of planning to make sure conduits for electric and plumbing were in the right place before the concrete was poured. To pour the walls, the Bradens used a pole system that Todd’s father Roger created to make sure everything stays in place while pouring both the outside wall and the inside wall at the same time.
To create the log look, the team hand hewed timbers with a broad axe, sand blasted to get the right relief and then made rubber forms off that to pour the concrete into. The concrete makes it virtually maintenance free, Todd says, and the owners can decide to restain the outside or just let it look weathered. The interior will have rustic wood floors, timber framing and exposed wooden rafters, plus heavy wood shutters on the exterior to get that classic cabin look.
The walls of the Bradens’ cabin include 6 inches of concrete, 4 inches of foam and 2 more inches of concrete. They’re built to withstand a F5 tornado.
The Family Behind the Build
Todd was a cabinet maker for 20 years, and he built his first home in his early 20s. Now, he works with Explosive Contractors, his brother’s company, in Hollister. Kim is a stay-at-home mom, is active in their church and volunteers for Trinity Christian Academy in Hollister. The couple put years of research into their plans, and have relied heavily on the knowledge of Todd’s father. Todd says this project is taking a lot more time and material than he originally planned, but they’re not cutting corners. “This house isn’t built for everyone,” Todd says. “I know that. I’m not interested in building a conventional house. We want to build something that families can leave as an heirloom.”
The owners can enjoy living in a home that can be buttoned up for the winter while on long trips, and if they’re home during tornado season, they’ll be safely protected, Todd says.