RAVENNA — The Tami and Kevin Lockhorn family of Ravenna is living in a unique new home.
Its exterior walls are insulated concrete forms that are strong and energy efficient, but the heart of the home is the family living inside.
While the coronavirus idled many junior and senior high school students, the Lockhorn kids — Erica, 14, and Brendan, 11 — stayed active, assisting their dad in building the house.
At 5,000 square feet, it’s a large home, but that didn’t deter Kevin from enlisting his kids to build the place.
“When COVID hit, they stayed very busy,” Kevin said.
Erica developed a skill for cutting the many rods of rebar that reinforced the concrete walls sandwiched between layers of foam.
“My daughter was so good. She cut it precisely,” Kevin said.
His son, Brendan, developed into a skillful equipment operator, which came in handy when it was time to move heavy loads of building materials.
Kevin said he and Tami had been thinking about building a new home for a number of years, but finding land was a holdup. Then, unexpectedly, a tract close to the Ravenna High School and city ballfields became available.
At the time the Lockhorns lived in what Kevin describes as Ravenna’s oldest stick-built house. The family poured a lot of time and energy into updating the place. They resided there until the new house was ready to occupy.
Kevin said he prefers a new build over a major remodel because shuffling furniture and housewares during a remodel adds lots of extra work.
Construction on the new place began as soon as the deed was signed. Basement excavation and land contouring began on Sept. 15, 2019. Soon after that they started the basement floor and walls.
The foam forms stand 9 feet tall — the height that was necessary before the second course of forms for the main floor.
“You have to do a lot of rebar, and it’s fairly heavy,” Kevin said.
In the beginning, Erica and Brendan could carry only a single length of the steel rebar. It is ½-inch thick and 20 feet long. Eventually the kids developed enough strength that they could carry three strands at a time.
After the foam sandwiches are connected and the rebar is in place, the concrete can be poured into the forms, Kevin said. “To do that you rent a concrete pump truck.”
The forms have strips of plastic at 8-inch intervals that allow the builder to fasten siding on the exterior and drywall on the interior.
On Dec. 22, the Lockhorns had finished the basement and also had poured the main floor walls.
Three days later, on Christmas Day 2019, Santa Claus brought Erica and Brendan carpenter tool belts. The kids appreciated the tool belts because they were handy when work shifted into the finishing mode.
The Lockhorn kids weren’t the only ones who got construction experience.
“If the kids’ friends showed up, we put them to work. One day three or four of Brendan’s friends were there, so we had to round up more screw guns,” Kevin said.
Tami became the family’s supervisor/gofer, he said, performing chores that helped keep the others on task.
The Lockhorns signed up lots of professional assistance around the region, including Scott Reynolds Construction of Boelus for basement excavation, Larsen Electric of Ravenna, Axmann Heating and Air of Pleasanton, and drywallers Keith and Zach Rasmussen of Pleasanton.
Teichmeier Concrete of Ravenna was the concrete supplier, and cabinetry, walls and the floor system came from Mead Lumber of Kearney. Custom windows are from Midway Wholesale of Grand Island, and Kearney Winnelson handled plumbing supplies. Weber Lawn Service of Pleasanton finished the grading and seeded the lawn. Ryan Kucera of Ravenna did the rough-in plumbing.
Kevin said Tami wanted an open concept floor plan, along with the master suite and kids’ bedrooms on the main floor. She also wanted all electric appliances and electric heating and air.
The great room has an 18-foot ceiling. The Lockhorns enjoy a panorama view of a creek and farmland on the south side of their home. The south exposure also features a walk-out basement and patio.
“At the old house we never had a fox, deer or turkeys,” Kevin said.
The attached three-car garage has a work area, and the garage floor and basement floor both are heated. The place utilizes what Kevin described as a “water furnace” for heating and cooling. The system appears to be efficient, he said, with A/C bills about $40 per month. The total for all electrical uses — wells, cooking, etc. — is $200 per month.
He said the best decision they made was using the concrete-foam walls. They’re quiet and well-sealed and allowed construction to proceed at a good pace.
He was pleased that contractors always seemed to be available when they were needed.
Some furnishings for the new house came from the Lockhorns’ old house; however, they purchased new bedroom sets for the kids, a 14-foot kitchen table, and some other new furnishings.
Kevin is an electronics engineer by trade, but he and his brother, Brent of Minden, operate a business that reconditions CNC (computerized numerical controller) machines. They plan to add a metal building to house their business next to the new home in Ravenna. Kevin said there is plenty of room on the three-acre lot.
Kevin said summer 2020 was an unusual time because of COVID-19. There was no swimming or baseball, but Erica and Brendan stayed active with the house construction.
Today, the family is enjoying the amenities of the new home, including the family space in the basement. When the lower level is finished it will include a craft room for Tami and Erica.
Kevin said it’s been entertaining to have guests and to share stories about the house project.
“When friends have stopped by we’ve had laughs about so many things,” Kevin said.
Asked if he would have done anything differently, Kevin said, “My friends will really laugh at me, but if I did it again I would actually have a set of blueprints. The electrician and I kind of sketched things on a wall. Also, we need to thank all the friends and family who helped or loaned us equipment. We never would have finished it without them.”