Brad and Barb Kerns of Canton stand in the kitchen of their new home. An open floor plan includes the kitchen, a dining area and living room. The cabinets were custom made of knotty alder with a natural finish. The fixtures are all satin nickel finish. MELISSA VANDER PLAS/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
Brad and Barb Kerns of Canton stand in the kitchen of their new home. An open floor plan includes the kitchen, a dining area and living room. The cabinets were custom made of knotty alder with a natural finish. The fixtures are all satin nickel finish. MELISSA VANDER PLAS/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP

Brad and Barb Kerns of Canton moved and improved, but never left. 

“I guess that we did improve our home — just on a different foundation,” Barb explained. “We actually have lived here at this location for 18 years, but we just built a new home on our existing three-acre lot, to the east of our old house.”

Barb said she and her husband wanted to replace their more-than-100-year home with an energy efficient new home and one that will continue to be accessible if either of them experiences physical challenges in the future.

“We’ve been planning this mentally for more than 20 years,” said Barb.

She and Brad are now enjoying the result of all that planning and are glad to be living in a new single-story, warm and cool new home, which they moved into without ever leaving town.

Barb explained she and her husband wanted to remain close to their family, but they were tired of shivering in their vintage villa each winter and hoped to also stay a whole lot cooler in the summer if they could just make their rebuilding plans a reality. 

“We wanted to be close to our families because this is a good place to raise a family,” she added. “We have two grown children – our daughter, Cassie, who’s married to Justin Olson, and they live near Mabel and have three children, Alaina, Jackson and Alyvia, and our son, Jordan, who’s married to Katie (Koch), with two daughters, Taelynn and Taylor, who live in Preston.”

Barb described their new home as being “completely new construction on slab with insulated concrete forms.” The floors are dyed concrete, grouted to look like tile, and have in-floor heat. The exterior of the home is steel siding and a steel roof.

 The air-tight construction promises to be far more efficient to heat and to cool than their former home. 

The construction process began with the Kerns deciding to implement an open floor plan and room layout inside, utilizing every bit of space. They then met with their contractors to make their plan a reality. 

Barb explained, “They all got together with us, looked at our preliminary blueprint, made suggestions and brainstormed the project with us to make it all work. Brad ended up being the general contractor, not actually by choice, but he did a good job.  We hired several different contractors; tried to enlist as much local talent as we could.”      

She recalled how excited she was when they broke ground for their new construction, but realizes now, that it was only the beginning of the excitement and joy she would feel through the process.

“Just breaking ground was pretty exciting, but once the walls were up, it made it all real,” Barb reiterated.

Many local men contributed to their new home, including Dean Bergey, who moved dirt, dug footings, spread rock and backfilled; Rick Fossum and Mike McConnell of Midwest ICF did the concrete floors, walls and footings; John and Jamie Tweten of Tweten Constructon were the carpenters; Lucas Bergo, Lifetime Insulation and Ryker did the Kernses’ spray foam ceiling insulation; Bill Richardson and the crew of Canton Heating & Cooling plumbed the house; Pete Marso brought power to the house; Al Torgerson made sure the Kernses could have a good flush with a solid septic tank; cabinets were made by Yutzy’s Custom Kitchens; Steve Bigalk did the final landscaping and additional digging, and Cassie Olson, their daughter, tiled the walk-in shower and kitchen countertops. 

“And, of course, Cathy Newman at First Southeast Bank was wonderful to work with as we made our way through the construction process,” Barb added.

Both Brad and Barb utilized some of their own talents to finish their home. “We did a few things ourselves, like painting the walls and doors and installing doorknobs,” she explained. “We had such a great crew to work with — they communicated with us and each other to keep things moving along as smoothly as possible.”

The construction process began last fall, but then, soon came winter. 

“Mother Nature threw us a big curve — the coldest winter in decades,” Barb noted. “That put the construction on hold until the weather warmed up and we could get auxiliary heat into the building so all our contractors could get back to work in the spring. It was challenging trying to stay warm in our old house and be patient with the weather, something we had no control over.” 

Construction took nearly a year, and if the Kernses could change anything at all, they might have started their home earlier in the year. 

“Including the cold weather break, it took about 11 months, from the time we first met with the contractors to the time we spent our first night in our new home, but actual construction was a lot less,” she said.

The Kernses love their new home and have agreed they would not have designed anything differently. A large, two-car garage will allow their cars to be protected from the elements and a utility room and storm shelter is located just off the garage. It not only contains the elements for their in-floor heat and their electrical box, there is also a bathroom for those working outside or in the nearby workshop so they “don’t have to track dirt through the house,” Brad explained. A landline phone is also located there as cell reception is not the greatest from within the solid concrete walls.

Entering the home, there is a large, open space for the kitchen, dining and living area. There is a master bedroom with bath; a guest room and office as well as a guest bath. A utility room just off the master bedroom provides an efficient laundry set up with a sink, washer and dryer. Closets are located near the entry and a pantry in the kitchen utilize some odd spaces.

“We love it and have said several times there isn’t anything that we would have designed differently,” Barb said. “Our plan was to build a comfortable, energy-efficient home with no outside frills. It will be warm in the winter and cool in the summer.”

She added that the walls of their home are 11 inches thick with five inches of foam insulation and six inches of concrete. 

“We have polished concrete floors, cut and grouted to have the look of ceramic tile with hot water, in-floor heat. Our air conditioning units are also a backup heat source,” Barb explained. “All in all, we have done our best to invest in making our home as efficient as possible.”

In order to provide a safety feature due to having no basement, Barb explained that they chose to insall the saff room off the garage. “At the suggestion of our concrete contractor, Rick, we have an above ground safe room with concrete walls and cap.”

Barb and Brad installed carsiding on the ceilings and wainscoting in the living area. The extra thick walls provide for wide windowsills as well. 

“We still have just a few outside touches,” she said about future plans. “Possibly installing an elevated garden and a few other landscaping ideas.”

Overall, Barb said she and Brad feel very lucky that this project has gone so well for them.

“We have always heard that couples have a tough time getting through the construction process, but we agreed on almost everything,” she admitted. “I suppose it is because we thought about this for so long, and once it was a reality, we had already talked about each decision at one time or another and knew how each of us felt, so the process went pretty smoothly.”

As they prepare for the upcoming winter, the Kernses are happy to be settling into their new home. There is comfort in knowing they will not have to worry about drafty windows or thin walls as the seasons change. 

“We have a climate controlled, comfortable and hopefully maintenance free place to live,” Barb concluded. “It is a good home to grow old in.”