One heavy house

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Auburn couple say they’ve built the city’s first concrete and foam home – with concrete countertops and windowsills, to boot.

AUBURN – Mike Mercier’s new house was inspired by a booth he spied a long time ago at the World of Concrete convention.

It is, no surprise, concrete.

The basement and exterior walls are concrete. So are the floors, windowsills, countertops and end tables.

The beds are not. (He and his wife get asked that a lot.)

In all, they used 85-plus yards of the stuff that’s hardly equated with comfortable living.

“Someone at work asked, Is it like living in a cellar?’ I brought a bunch of girls over from work because they were curious,” Sue Mercier said.

The build was part novelty, part innovation and part doing what you know.

Mike Mercier has run his own concrete business, Sundown Construction Inc., for 30 years. From the outside, their new 2,300-square-foot ranch doesn’t look much different than most.

Inside, windowsills are extra deep. Walls are one-foot thick to accommodate hollow foam blocks that got stacked and angled just so before concrete was pumped down in.

The material blocks a lot of outdoor sound – the dog has a hard time hearing people come up the driveway now – and provide heavy-duty insulation. Foam and concrete homes are supposed to use two-thirds less oil to heat, Mercier said. The couple moved in August; they haven’t had a real winter yet to test that out.

The house went up quickly last summer: There’s no wood framing, no plywood, no vapor barrier; just windows, siding and interior Sheetrock.

Siding is affixed to plastic flanges inside the foam blocks (think of it like the middle bar in the letter H.) Sheetrock for walls is screwed into that flange on the interior side.

A hot knife is used to slice into the foam and lay electrical lines.

The exterior is wood-free up to the roof. Cost is about 10 to 15 percent higher than a traditional stick-built home, Mercier said.

He believes it’s Auburn’s first concrete and foam home. No state agency tracks new home starts by building materials, but Mercier believes he’s at the edge of a trend.

This spring he has put out a half-dozen bids: half from people who want foam and concrete homes, half from people considering it as an option next to stick-built and modular.

The couple lived on Goff Hill before finding a plot of land in Uncle Henry’s in 2001.

Mercier’s company poured most of the parking pads at Irving gas stations around Maine and New Hampshire, and he’s done lots of commercial projects.

He took some cast-off from one project – a giant, corrugated culvert – sliced it up to a two-inch-round ring and used it as a form for the end tables. The tables, and the countertops, are dyed black, with a slick, smooth finish.

“I love the countertops, love them,” Sue said. “The end tables are so cute.”

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