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  • This medieval backyard playhouse is built entirely of concrete, including concrete masonry units for the walls, a suspended concrete slab for the roof, cast-in-place concrete handrails and columns, and a stamped concrete floor slab.
  • The castle under construction. Helm used different concrete block sizes to add more dimension and interest.
  • The stone etchings above the door and windows are reclaimed pieces from an historic Cincinnati building.
  • Helm didn't want the castle walls to look "perfect" and manufactured, so around the windows and door he rubbed out the mortar joints and applied a stucco-like finish. The small gargoyle perched above the door had been in the garden of Helm’s wife for years and is one of his daughter’s favorite statues.
  • The castle floor is a seamless stone texture with control joints tooled on a diagonal.
  • An armored knight guards the secret door to the turret. He is fastened to a pedestal that moves with the door.
  • Much of the formwork for the suspended slab was left in place and stained to give the ceiling a rustic look.
  • The castle’s electric fireplace features a concrete mantel flanked by stone lions.

What little girl hasn’t dreamed of living in a castle, waiting for a handsome prince to arrive and steal her heart? For lucky 4-year-old Kadence Helm, that fairytale castle is a dream come true, made entirely out of concrete as a gift from her father.

Todd Helm of Todd Helm Construction built his daughter’s medieval backyard playhouse using concrete masonry units for the walls and a suspended concrete slab for the roof, which can be accessed by a stairway inside the 11-foot-tall turret. The castle floors are stamped concrete, and the handrails, turret tops, and columns are cast-in-place concrete. But it’s the special details that make this castle so utterly enchanting. The stone etchings over the door and windows are reclaimed pieces from an historic building. Inside, there is an electric fireplace with a concrete mantel flanked by stone lions. Helm also found a small suit of armor that he secured to a secret door that leads to the stairs. Small gargoyles perched above the door and on the roof stand guard against unwelcome intruders.

“The design was a pen-and-paper collaboration between my wife, Kathleen, and myself,” says Helm, whose company specializes in both commercial and residential concrete. “I would draw something, and she would tell me what to change until we settled on a scale and the overall look. We were lucky to have those wonderful architectural stone pieces that were salvaged from on old building in downtown Cincinnati. It sort of built itself once we figured out how to use the pieces we had.”

It took Helm and another employee only 80 hours to build the structure once the planning was complete. “We've never done a project quite like this. I did enjoy the challenge of some of the formwork. It was a refreshing change from the ordinary,” says Helm.

Doing work beyond the ordinary is something Helm likes to do for his customers as well. “I think that residential concrete is becoming more unique and personalized to each family. I enjoy showing customers all the textures and colors available now, and turning them loose with an overhead shot of their property to design their patios and driveways. I tell them not to get too hung up on straight lines or square corners. An interesting shape often adds to the overall look of the project as much as the color and texture. We are not ones to shy away from the ‘quirky’ if that is what it takes for a customer to love their new concrete.”

Castle builder Todd Helm
Todd Helm Construction, Burlington, Ken.

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