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The Home Builder's Experience Building a Wafflemat Home

Ryland:

Hello folks, this is Ryland Reed with Legacy Special Operations Command. We are a boutique investment firm that finds amazing companies like Wafflemat. And those folks are typically looking for growth capital and maybe need some help with digital transformations. And so I'm, I'm proud to be here with, with one of those folks, one of our early investments, Tom Richards with Wafflemat. Thanks for joining us, Tom.

 

Tom:

Thank you, Ryland. Thanks for having us.

 

Ryland:

And we're also excited to be joined by Barry Hensley. Barry you'd have been approached a year or so ago. Give me the backstory. There was a time when Barry wasn't that interested because it wasn't a Texas based company.

 

 Tom:

 Tell him the story.

 

Barry:

Yeah I think this goes back to March, If I'm not mistaken, um, you guys had waffle days or whatever you called it.

 

Tom:

That’s right.

 

Barry:

I didn't get invited to that thank you very much.

 

Tom:

Waffle days was a little three-day, we didn't know you then. It was a little three-day, um, showcase. We set up right outside of our office here in Grapevine and invited builders and architects and engineers. It was the very first experience with the product and we kind of kicked it off. We didn't want to kick it off in January or February when the rains and all the cold weather. And, um, we had three days, we had chicken and waffles and invited a lot of people. And then you heard about it.

 

Barry:

I did, um, so Grady came to your waffle days, if I’m not mistaken.

 

Tom:

Grady Yates is a gentleman we know.

 

Barry:

Okay. So, so Grady came to waffle days, got your marketing collateral. He happens to hang out at a cigar lounge in Frisco, Texas.

 

Tom:

It’s a great story.

 

Barry:

Hangs out at a cigar lounge that my son hangs out at my son came to work for me in 2007.So between my son and myself, we've, I wouldn't say we've embraced new technology, but we're always willing to look at it. You know, we want to say, how can we put a better product on the ground? And so he sit in the cigar lounge, Grady is sitting in the cigar lounge. Grady hands him a piece of your marketing collateral and says here, tell your dad about this. So on his way home, he's driving home from the cigar lounge. He calls me up and he says, you need to hear about this foundation. I said, what is it? And he said, it's called Wafflemat. And I said, I said, I literally said, we've been building waffle slabs for years.

 

Tom:

Sure

 

Barry:

Cause the ones that we build with the beams, 10 foot on center, he turned them upside down and it looked like a waffle, right?

 

Tom:

That’s right.

 

Barry:

Yours looks more like a waffle cause it has more beams. Anyway, he brings me the brochure and I started looking through it and I immediately started doing my research and went on your website and started looking at it. Uh, and of course it's California operation. I don't know if I saw anything about Hawaii, but I saw the California part. So I called you because your numbers in there.

 

Tom:

Right.

 

Barry:

And my first question was, do you have an operation in Texas and  little did I know you had moved your corporate headquarters to Grapevine, Texas.

 

Tom:

Grapevine, Texas that's right.

 

Barry:

Yeah. So to make a long story short, um, the product came to me as a proven product because you guys have been doing this for what is it 20th year?

 

Tom:

We're in our 28th year.

 

Barry:

28th year.

 

Tom:

The first waffles were actually installed after 10 or 15 years of R and D. The first ones were actually installed in 1993.

 

Barry:

That’s amazing.

 

Tom:

So this is our 28th year that we’re in.

 

Barry:

Yeah. And the unbelievable statistic that you haven't had a single foundation failure, just incredible. Um, so again, back to the builders two worst nightmares are foundation problems and water intrusion.

 

Tom:

Right.

 

Barry:

And with this North Texas soils, the way they move the, the design of your foundation, the one thing that is designed for is unstable soil.

 

Tom:

That's correct.

 

Barry:

So I thought, okay, this is something I should look at. And then we started a relationship and looked into it and poured our first slab about a month ago.

 

Ryland:

And you didn't, did you do injections? Anything like that?

 

Tom:

In fact, it was going to be a peer. How deep were the peers? 12 feet?

 

Barry:

They were 12 feet.

 

Tom:

Yeah and there was, we replaced, I think 39 or 40 peers that were going to be in the foundation. And what happened Ryland, is we got rid of the – the Wafflemat was able to eliminate every single pier and every single interior beam. So those two factors alone, not only a heck of a lot easier got rid of all the trenching, the cutting, the drilling, the accompanying off haul the cycle time of it, but it eliminated the costs of it. So there was, there was some good savings and a whole lot of cycle time, uh, savings and ease of construction. Those are three good things.

 

Ryland:

And how would you rank order those three?

 

Barry:

Uh, cost savings is not at the top of my list, but it's a great influencer.

 

Ryland:

Sure.

 

Barry:

And when, when I told you, you talking to you, uh, cause one of the first things you told me was, Hey, this will save you some money. And I put the brakes on that immediately. And I said, wait a minute, I'm interested in quality. Quality is at the top of my list. Money is an influencer. So cost is an influencer.

 

 

Tom:

You know, but you hear that from custom home builders, production builders, they flip flop.

 

Barry:

That's right. And, and production builders quite frankly, will weigh the risk in building something. And if the risk is 1%, they may be willing to do it if the cost savings is more than 1%. So there's is all economics, I get that. But in a custom home world, you know, I'm putting my name on that product. And so I want a realtor to sell that product 30, 40, 50 years from now and be able to tell the prospective buyer, Hey, this was built by Barry Hensley so you won't have any problems with his home. So I want, I want that reputation. So I put quality at the top and then we started looking at cost and timeframe is not as great an influencer on custom building, either as it is on volume, but in the volume builder world a day is a world. I mean, they, they just, they, they can't lose a day in their production schedule. So I would think this is something that a volume builder would immediately put at the top of their list because of the time savings.

 

Tom:

They got that next crew, the framers are coming behind them.

 

Barry:

Absolutely can't waste a day. And in North Texas, as you know, like I said, we get 36 inches of rain a year. The only months we don't get rain on a consistent basis are July and August. Every other month, we get rained on a fairly routine basis. June, even though it's a summer month is quite rainy. And of course this one was, we had a rainy June. We had a rainy may. And so you put a traditional, um, slab on grade on the ground with beams every 10 feet. And that thing going to get rained on, cause it's going to be exposed for five to seven days before you get it covered up. It's going to get rained on and you're going to have cave ins and you're gonna spend three days big and mud out of the slab and hauling it away. And all the labor that goes into that and the waffle that completely eliminates that.

Tom:

You know, one of the things you, you said, and I've heard this now in the ensuing six weeks, a ton, since we did your foundation, is it a, you made the comment, every plan looks perfect, on paper. You know, those beams are 10 inches. They're perfectly cut. The engineer has those cables in the exact right spot. Uh, and then that just doesn't happen. With the Wafflemat, it's all happens a whole lot closer and a whole lot more. Because again, we're not, when you can eliminate digging in the ground. If I can just say that again and again, I can't say it too much. When you eliminate the digging, you eliminate the problems. I've been with Wafflemat now, 15 years, we've encountered everything from digging up native burial grounds to bones, and when people do that, they have to stop, but with the Wafflemat you don't have to worry about that. There's always the saying “what's in the ground and stays in the ground is okay.” In an old military base. They had built in 1920. They used to throw bullets and lead, paint out the windows and the Island of Hawaii where Ryland served in our United States Military at Hickam Airforce Base.

 

Ryland:

That's correct.

 

Tom:

In the 1920s, there was nobody out there. But as the has the town and the city has grown right up to the base, all of a sudden they found bullets, 20 caliber slugs in the ground. And with the Wafflemat, all of that was just left in the ground. Anytime you dig in the ground, a multitude of problems happen. You mentioned digging in cave-ins, rain, delays. There's a whole lot more problems than, than just that when you contaminated soils, uh, in Chicago, we did a, a Wafflemat for a big hotel. And unfortunately it was right near the Chicago river that in the forties and fifties, they just poured a lot of things. Do you remember in Cleveland, in Chicago, the river actually burned for a while. The water was caught on fire. And so there was a lot of that that seeped into the ground. And the developer said to take out footings, they were going to have a lot of spread footings all throughout the pan. Uh, you know, holding up three stories with elevators and things that the, uh, to get rid, they were going to have to pay $20 a square foot to remove bury the soil, treat it, cap it, just to off haul the soil. How much does it cost Barry, I'm going to put you on the spot here, to bring in a cubic yard of fill, give or take.

Barry:

Well, the hauling charge is about $7 a yard. But then, well, select fill costs way more than that.

 

Tom:

So what would you say?

 

Barry:

Well, if I need to build a pad up, say eight inches. -well, let's get real- Let's say that my engineer says that I need to take three feet of soil off my slab and bring three feet of select fill back in what moisture condition and layer it in. That's going to cost me about 10 or $12,000. So if I'm building a 4,000 square foot house, I just added 3, 3.50 a square foot to the house.

Tom:

How would you like to add in $20 a square foot for taking contaminates? So again, when you dig in the soil on multitude of problems happen and you eliminate, uh, 85% of that with the Wafflemat. Not only the cost, the ease of use and the problems associated with construction, um, plumbers, the Wafflemat day one form boards go up day two plumber comes in. Day three you have to fix what the plumber messed up. But that plumber, you have a nice pad before that plumber gets there. The plumber from an engineering perspective creates soft spots. The Wafflemat bridges, those soft spots much better than you creating more beams in the ground. So again, constantly the eliminating problems from an engineering perspective, with digging from a construction cycle time perspective of digging from a cost perspective at digging overages of concrete, less and less. There's just a multitude of problems. They go away. If you eliminate the digging and that's what the Wafflemat does.

 

Ryland:

To be fair, though, there are potential problems that are created, not problems, but, there is a learning curve, right?  So when the inspector came out and saw these waffle boxes, did the inspector know what to do with it versus seeing the in ground rib version?

 

Barry:

So I got a call from, uh, I got a call from Jenny Queen, She was the inspector for the city of Frisco. I got a call from Jenny Queen and she said, uh, where's your foundation plan? And I said, ah, it's on site. She said, it doesn't match what's, uh, what's on the ground. And I said, I said, well, I uploaded with COVID. Frisco's going to virtual everything's virtual. So I had uploaded cause originally designed this with a traditional slab with beams, 10 foot on center and piers. And then we, we switched to the Waffle Box design. And so I had uploaded the Waffle Box design Wafflemat, sorry, Wafflemat design to the city of Frisco, but she hadn't -because of the way they changed everything with uploading-  she hadn't seen it. She didn't know it was there. Got it. So I said, look, I'm 20 minutes away. I'll be there in 20 minutes. Little did I know she had also called Mike Crane, who was the chief building official. And she had called another one of the inspectors to come look at this, Hey, there's this weird slap, you know, come look at this thing. Uh, so when I showed up, the three of them were there and I've known Mike for years. So we get along great. So Mike says, what are you doing here? And I had had the plans with me and I said, this, I uploaded this. And his, his eyebrows went up. And he said, yeah, now we're having problems with the upload thing. We don't really get notified when we upload. So they took it and they looked at it and they, all of them kind of smile and said, that's pretty cool. And so I went through extra explaining to them how we'd set it up and all that. And without going past the front form board, you know, we stood right there and looked at it without going any further than that. They said, has engineers sign off on it? And I said, yes, here's the letter from the engineer. And Jenny reached her back pocket and grabbed the green tag and wrote it out and handed it to me and said, let us know how it goes.

 

Ryland:

So by the way, for everyone that's listening, Tom, the look he gave me what I said that he thought he was going to punch me in the face. So it ended up not being a huge problem.

Barry:

It wasn't a big deal. No, it wasn't a problem at all, actually. And if anybody who's built in the city of Frisco knows that for my permitting perspective, they're one of the toughest, even from an inspection perspective, they're one of the toughest cities in metroplex to build in. They literally enforce the letter of the code. Not that any other city shouldn't do that, but there are cities where they just let things slide and Frisco's really good. Their inspectors are trained. They go to school every year. They put them on a rotating basis so that you don't get used to the same inspector all the time. And to have the city of Frisco sign off on the Wafflemat slab. The first time after looking at it for 20 minutes is really a flag in the cap of Wafflemat, because it's so clean. You know, there's, there's, there's no guesswork with Wafflemat, it’s like an erector set.

Tom:

I call it Legos. If you can put together Legos, you can put together Wafflemat.

Barry:

It’s like putting together a model airplane. So same concept. And when you look at it, there's no confusion. There is this in the right places? It it's just, it's perfectly laid out. And again, you have no interior beams, so there's no, cave-ins just, and that's the number one thing. Every, every green tag I've ever gotten on a slab always has a note on the back that says clean out cave-ins before pouring. Every one of them because there's always a cave-in.

Tom:

You know, there's a part two to that, uh, to Ryland. And that was the inspector side. The second is the concrete. Um, the people actually installed it. This happened to be proficient concrete. They've never done a Wafflemat, right? Uh, I'll never forget. I got, uh, on there, the crew came over and I said, okay, let's start in this corner. We put a string line down and I looked at the clock. It was 9:17 in the morning. And at 9:35, the crew looked at me and said, thank you, you can go, we got this, we got it. And by 3:25 that afternoon, they were done. First time ever. Next day, they came in and put the reinforcing cables in and off they went, but in virtually 20 minutes, they said, we got it. Because there is only one way it can go in one way, you can put it in.

Ryland:

Now, how did you retrain the plumber?

Tom:

The plumber was there first.

Ryland:

But as I understand, you had to rethink the way you came in…

 

Barry:

Yeah, so this became a little bit of a key and the, the plumber measured off the top of the forms when he set his plumbing. Okay. Now that was going to be finished grade, but the plumber didn’t know we have Waffle Boxes. So that was on me on the builder. I wasn't there to educate him because the plumber really should use the bottom of the forms or the grade, the ground level. It shouldn't use that to judge where the pipes go, because the plumber wants all the pipes to be, or the builder wants all the pipes to be below grade. In a normal slab you can have a pipe above grade crossing through beams, and it's not a big deal. That's the way their poured. Um, so we had two places where we had a horizontal pipe that was above grade. We had to leave out a few waffle boxes, again, not a big deal. So we just dealt with it. Um, but for those builders that are listening to this, make sure you tell your plumber to get all the horizontal pipes completely below grade. And that way they're all covered up. And you start putting the waffle boxes in, you just run in and gun, and there's nothing standing vertical stacks going up.

 

Ryland:

Is that additional expense for a builder?

 

Tom:

No.

 

Barry:

No, It just means establishing where your sewer line comes in. Just establishing it six or eight inches lower than you normally would.

Tom:

Little easier too, because you're not worrying about having pipes run through 28 inch, 24 inch in ground beams, every eight, 10, 12, 15 feet.

Barry:

That's correct. And it's a cost to the plumber. If they run through a beam, they have to wrap that. Cause you can't have concrete in contact with a PVC piping. So you have to wrap it there. There was, there was one thing you didn't say that I want to make sure that we've mentioned in this. Um, and it's something that impressed me about your product because with the expansive soils in North Texas, you know, uh, this, this lot actually was in pretty good shape at about 1.2. Right? Um, but the PVR, most places that we build on has it has four, four and a half. And post-tension Institute says that you can't put a post-tension slab on grade. If the PVR is above four and a half, right? Well, the builder gives us a geo-tech the developer, I'm sorry. It gives us a geotechnical report. When we start buying lots of induced subdivision and magically, the geotechnical report says that the PVR is 4.5. Uh, you know, so you build a $1.5 million custom home. We're going to drill a hole and take our own tests. You know, we're going to find out exactly what's there. Uh, cause we want to make sure. But when you said that a Wafflemat slab, um, and let's, let's rewind back to the days when we used to do, um, void cartons. So we still current form slab. We'd still have a beam every 10 feet and we'd have a curtain below the beam, the beam is still in the ground. You have a cardboard of the beam, you get it rain on it. Some of the cartons collapsed, some of them deteriorate. So that has its own problems. What you've done is you've moved everything up above grade so that the waffle box creates the void. And 80% of the soil is no longer in contact with the foundation. That's the upheaval that we avoid. And so from a builder perspective, I'm looking at that and I'm saying, I don't care what that's, what that soil does from here on out. That foundation is not going to move. And that's really what sold me on it was the fact that you, you create 80% void underneath that soil.

Tom:

You know, I, I rarely tell the story, but it's it's in all my years, it is the best, the best, the single best story that I've ever experienced with the Wafflemat, uh, Ryland has heard this once, but there was a gentleman, uh, just three or four years ago who called me and was interested in a Wafflemat foundation. And he, he seemed to know a lot about it. And that's always kind of scary, you know, when people call you and, and I said, well, you know, how did you learn about it? He goes, I looked at your website. And, um, he wanted to build a huge rec center in the Philippines. And he was taking off a sabbatical from Apple to do this and, uh, to make a long story, much shorter, but it really is a great story. Uh, his name is Pat Tang and Pat is the inventor of the structural back of the iPad. And he worked for Amazon before that for the Kindle. And he always said this, that Apple gave him $10 million to run regression testing and finite element analysis on the strongest structures available because they wanted the case for the Apple never to break. And if you were somehow to Jimmy open the back of an iPad, you would see a tight-ribbed system. This is a true story. And when he said, when he wanted to build this center in the Philippines, he said, I wanted the strongest foundation possible because where I was building this, the construction standards are not very high and I want it last forever. And he said that, uh, when I saw that the Wafflemat was a tight ribbed system, I knew from my doctorate work. He has a PhD at Cambridge, uh, in mechanical and structural engineering, as well as a, uh, all the work that he did for Apple. And he had, he said, I virtually had unlimited resources at Apple to run these engineering analysis. Uh, crate computer is one of the top computing, you know, powerful machines in the world. And Apple gave him X amount of cycle times on crate computers, which are tough to get crazier are used by the defense department, by NASA. They're the very tough. And he ran for this time, the modeling of the structure system of the back of the iPad. And he said, as soon as I saw the Wafflemat, as soon as I saw that it was ribbed less contact area, like you said, with the soil yet tight rib system, he goes, the only other place that I've seen build structures like that, that he saw were semiconductor plants. And he said, did you know that the tolerances and the variations, the seventies can't have any movement? Did you know that, I didn't know this, that the equipment in the summit conductor plant is much more is the biggest expense? And it can't move at all because you're talking chips that have microns of movement that they're no good. And he said, as soon as I saw this and put it together with a Wafflemat, I knew that it was the system. But Barry, you said something to me when we were out in, in Frisco. And again, I don't want to make this a shameless plug because you said this so well, when you saw not only the rip system, but you said, you know, when I looked at the amount of concrete and cable in there, it was like, it was a 12 inch uniform thickness slab you weren't skimping on anything.

 

Barry:

No. So if you think about what gives a foundation, its strength comes from concrete and steel and we put a, we put a, a four feet, four foot drop beam on this one, which is a little bit, cut it, cut off a little bit overkill, um, on this one. And we did that out of an abundance of caution, but in most cases we're only going to have to put up about a 24 inch beam on. So the con the concrete will be slightly less, but the number of cables in this particular slab, the number of cables in the yards of concrete were virtually identical to what the previous design was, where the beans were 10 foot on center. So from a strength perspective, we're not cutting corners at all. That's right, but we're eliminating 80% of the pressure from the ground upheaval on the slab. So that that's a winning combination. When you have a slab little withstand, more upheaval, but you have the same strength. And I saw no downside to it at all. Absolutely not.

 

Ryland:

Well on that note, I'll say thank you for your time. You've been very, very generous with your time and glad to help out very much appreciate it. And we look forward to building, some more hundred-year foundations with you.

 

Barry:

Sounds good.

 

Ryland:

To make sure that your legacy will be proud of.

 

Barry:

Awesome. Thank you.

 

Tom:

Thank you.

 

 

Disclaimer:

The views information and or opinions expressed during this recording are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of Smartsense Structural Systems and its assigns.