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What is Keene Castle?

Keene Castle originally started off as just a dream home to live in.  But along the way it became much more than that.  It became a source of inspiration, not just for achieving one's goals in life but also to teach the world about alternative energy and alternative building. Can a 1 man construction team build a medieval castle? With perseverance, absolutely!

Goals of Keene Castle Project
  • An inspiration to others that you really can achieve your dreams
  • A demonstration of green construction / green energy / Net Zero Building
  • A place where kids can learn that science is fun and interesting
  • A beautiful home for my wife, my little prince & princesses

In February I reworked the drawings to incorporate my new window dimensions and cleaned up the problems in the drawings.
Click on image to enlarge.

2019 Build season progress

For 2019 we spent the whole season getting the first floor deck on. We first added ledger boards to the top of the foundation wall. Then we had to build concrete columns to support carrier beams that would support the floor joists. Then we added the subfloor and waterproofed it. As always, it took 3 times as long as I predicted and cost 3 times as much!

Under the kitchen we built a deck over the granite. This space is huge. My original plan was that it would be for storage but I may make it a guest bedroom.

This room will be my workshop where I keep all of my tools.

This room will be the home theatre. We'll have a projector in the ceiling and will project onto the wall so the whole wall will be our television.

Instead of cutting pockets in the concrete for the carrier beam I just added 2 more concrete columns close to each end.

We started waterproofing the deck. In most construction you try to get the roof on as fast as possible. I don't have that luxury so we have to waterproof everything.

This is the breakfast nook. It will give us great views into Franconia Notch while we are eating breakfast.

Nice to see the deck going on the dining room. The kitchen on the far end is almost done.

Since there are nail guns I had a theory that screw guns existed. I looked on Amazon and sure enough I found one. This thing was a huge time saver. It also saved our backs because you didn't have to bend over.

On this day we got the carrier beam built in the entrance.

I screwed up and didn't leave pockets for the carrier beams in the concrete last year. So I had to buy a concrete cutter with a diamond blade. This is the price one pays for being an amateur builder and not planning ahead. Live and learn. I'll definitely leave pockets for the beams in the top of the first floor walls in the 2020 build season.

Getting the columns poured and the carrier beam built took a lot of time. Nice to see floor joists finally going on.

Finally finished the floor of the home gym.

It took 2 and a half days to get the floor joists on the home gym. This was our first time putting in floor joists so it was a bit of a learning process.

Got the pockets cut, column poured, carrier beam built. Now ready for floor joists.

Here I'm leveling the bearing plate for the carrier beam on top of the concrete column we just poured.

Here I started attaching the ledger boards to the top of the foundation wall. The ledger will support the floor joists.

I had to build up 7 sheets of thin plywood to create a ledger board for the front turrets. That took a lot of glue and a lot of screws.

I leveled all of the ledger boards with my laser transit.

August 2019 Design Walkthrough

In this video I take a look at the the 3D model of the castle I created in my design. I drop a camera in each room to take a look around and explain my vision. I also explain how a person who has zero experience in architectural design or construction can design and build a 7500 sq. ft. medieval castle.

Foundation Pour - October 12, 2018

After 18 years of working on the castle, it was incredible to see the foundation finally poured. After clicking on the arrow, click on the YouTube logo to restart in fullscreen.

May 2018 Update Drone Flyover

Here I'm placing foundation blocks on the footings. This 1 min flyover really highlights the beauty of the location. Everything in the view is the White Mountains National Forest. The 20 acre lot is actually an island of private property completely surrounded by the national forest. This really looks like we are in the middle of nowhere but it's actually on the edge of the huge national forest and civilization is only 20 minutes away with elementary schools, supermarkets, restaurants, shopping and a university.

Progress update 5/6/2018

I started placing the ICF blocks on the footings. It's starting to look like a castle! 

Progress Update 4/2/2018

How we use girl power at keene castle
Pouring the footings October 4, 2017

After spending the whole summer drilling more than 900 holes in the granite to pin the footings to the ledge with rebar and hand building custom forms, I finally had the concrete poured for the footings.

The pump truck was having a hard time on the steep parts so I assisted with the excavator.

03-20171004_130940The concrete came from Campton. They only brought 6 yards at a time because of the steepness of the road and made 3 trips.


What a joy to just sit back and watch other people do the pour instead of me mixing concrete by hand. My back is so happy!

The crew used a laser transit to ensure that the footing is perfectly level. That is the laser detector mounted on the stick.



This guy is using an electric vibrator to get the bubbles out.
Pour1Pouring the footing for the round staircase that will connect the basement family room to the 1st floor living room to the 2nd floor terrace.

Castle Construction Progress June/July 2017
I'm currently working on the footings for the castle. Just a little bit more to go and I can move onto the foundation. That will be infinitely easier than the footings because I can use BuildBlock ICFs (Insulated Concrete Forms).

Marking the height of the footing with my laser transit.

Bending rebar for the footings

This is the form solution I came up with for building a footing on uneven granite. I drill holes to place rebar that holds the forms in place. Wire attaches the plywood to the rebar. The gaps under the plywood are filled with concrete which is left to dry before the footing is poured. Height of the footing is determined by the tape on the center rebar.

This day we poured 98 bags of concrete in about 7 hours.

I keep telling my wife that if she wants to help pour concrete, she really needs to wear appropriate footwear.

A freshly poured footing.

Footings after taking the plywood forms off.

The big room will be my workshop and the small one is a closet. The round turret on the right will be part of a huge closet.

Starting on the next section of footings: the round turret for the home gym.

I marked the footing for the corner of the kitchen onto the granite.

This project takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Some days, more blood than others. Cut myself on a sharp knife while sharpening a pencil.

Marking the footing with masking tape for the round stairwell.

The stairwell footing is now marked.

Just placed the rebar for the dining room wall.

Here you can see how far down we had to blast last year to get the stairwell footing where it needed to be.

I got the round turret for the family room marked on the granite.

The dump truck went into a ditch and I had to pull it out with the excavator.

Looking toward the dining room footing. I designed the castle around that glacial rock because I really like it. It's a piece of history.

Here the footing forms for the home gym are almost done.

The 2 round turrets on the left straddle the front door.
Excavator Accident April 2017
May 1, 2017

I went over the cliff in the excavator last week. I contracted Rusty's Towing to pull my excavator back up on the cliff. They did a great job!

April 24, 2017

The 2017 build season started off with a bang! I was working a bit too close to the cliff, the excavator slid and went over with me in it. Almost killed me. I was stopped by a few thin trees right before going over a 200 ft. cliff. But I'm not deterred, I will persevere. I'll pull the excavator back up this week and be back to work as soon as possible.

See The 2 Most recent blasts
Castle Construction Progress in 2016

This is what I accomplished in the 2016 building season:

Finished filling the two terraces
Brought in more fill in front of castle
Castle design mostly done
Septic design done
Got permits
All brush & dirt removed from ledge where footings are going
Footing lines marked on ledge
Blasting on cliff for staircase
Footings finished for round entrance turrets & staircase turret
More brush removed from parking area to prepare for blasting in 2017

Click on pictures to enlarge:

This is the 20 acre lot plan showing the road I built from the town road.

Satellite pic of the 1100' road I built. I learned a valuable lesson: don't tell road contractors you are building a castle or they will think you are some sort of nut case. After 5 of them blew me off I got so pissed off I bought a full size excavator and did it myself! Best decision I ever made because it saved me about $150K, was loads of fun and now I have an excavator which is a really handy tool to have in a project like this.

I bought a Phantom III Drone to take shots of the cliff.
In 2015 I moved the cabin to a different cliff because it was sitting right where the castle livingroom turret needs to be built.

I blasted in July '16 to make space for a stairwell on the lower level. See the blast video above.

My design of how the castle will look on the cliff. I used Home Designer Pro to do this. It was a good package for prototyping but it can't the detailed work like the crenellated parapets.
The small terrace took 4 years to build. It went painfully slow working on it on weekends driving up from Massachusetts. I had to be strapped into a climbing harness to do that one which actually saved my life once when I slipped on wet mortar and went over the cliff. The grand terrace took 5 years. When we moved to the area in 2008, the project really took off and I finished 3/4 of the grand terrace in only 2 years.

The stairwell turret in this picture has actually been lowered to account for out height restriction in Thornton. We are limited by the size of our largest fire truck.

Footings and foundation design from my structural engineer.

I hired a professional architect in to take the drawings I did in Home Designer Pro and turn them into real Autocad drawings with full detail. This is the first floor plan.

Second floor plan.

Family room / recreation room under the living room.

AutoCAD rendering of the side view showing the split level.

I am modeling the entrance after Le Château de Vigny in France. I used Photoshop to remove one of the stories to accommodate our height restriction. See the original.

Design of the front of the castle.

Here you can see the lines I panted on the ledge to mark the positions of the footings.

This drone shot shows the plan to scale with the actual build site. You can see the footing lines marked on the cliff.

It took we a lot of trial and error to come up with a system of forms that would work for a round turret being built on a granite slope with the goal of reusing some of the form plywood.

Rebar placed for the stairwell turret footing. This is an early shot and I was misreading my structural engineer's drawing. I was using 1/2" rebar epoxied 16" deep into the granite. The plan calls for 1" rebar so I had to go back and add more bar.

The left entrance turret footing

The right entrance turret footing.

Finished the '16 build season with 3 round turret footings done. These are the hardest of the footings.

My architect took my drawings and did a rendering of the inside of the living room. The view through the windows is the actual view.
Progress in 2015: Back Filled the Two Terraces

Over Columbus Day weekend I finally backfilled the lower terrace. There was just no good way to do this so I resorted to sheer brute force and determination.  The only solution I could come up with was to fill the wheelbarrow with my excavator and fill the terrace one wheelbarrow load at a time!

Lance Keene
This is my John Deere 190. My wife refers to it as "the other woman."

Lance Keene

Lance Keene
Finally finished after 3 days of back breaking work. Every muscle in my body was sore. Thank God for Ibuprofen!

Castle Design
Keene Castle
Castle Photo History
Lance Keene

See progress photos 1998 to now.

Stay hungry, Stay foolish

"The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them."
-Henry David Thoreau

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition… Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
-Steve Jobs, Stanford University, 2005

Dream no small dreams for these have no power to move the hearts of men.

Think big, don't cut corners and plan for the long term.  The processes we put into place this year will pay dividends for the rest of your life. The future is bright! Seize the moment! -Lance Keene
Lance Keene
Keene Systems, Inc.