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Historical collection of Lilas Miller donated to the Barneveld Public Library May 7, 2008: scrapbook 1980-1984

Historical collection of Lilas Miller donated to the Barneveld Public Library May 7, 2008: scrapbook 1980-1984

By Jim Massey
Chronicle Editor
The foam house near Barne.
veld may be "incredible," as
indicated by a recent national
television  program, but the
structure is also closed to the
public due to a recent mandate ol
a state agency.
The foam house, also known as
the "Habitable Sculpture," has
been ordered closed by the
O Department of Industry, Labor
and Human Relations (DILHR).
The building is in violation of
commercial building codes, ac-
cording to the agency.
"The state has been hassling
us a lot, and it appears that it
would cost us a great deal of
money to stay open," said co-
owner Donna Frusher last week.
"They say that it was built as a
private home and that it doesn't
meet all of the commercial codes,
so we would have to do a lot of
things to bring it up to codes."
Donna's husband Fritz agrees
that it would not be practical for
1them to conform to commercial
codes, and that they will not
re-open for tours when the
spring tourism season rolls
around. "Our attorney says if we
do the things that they are
requiring us to do, the state will
probably find something else
wrong and make us do more,"
Fritz said. "It would be a
never-ending battle. The way it
stands right now, we're probably
not going to contest the thing
. any further."
The Frushers built the home
out of free-form polyurethane
foam in 1972, and opened it to the
public in 1977. The house is one
of a few foam homes in the
United States, and is unique in
that it was built from plans
drawn from the minds of the
Frushers. The couple was in-
trigued by the boundless shapes
possible with foam--shapes limit-
ed only by their imaginations as
they built the structure.
The main section, containing
1800 square feet, was construct.
d by spraying polyurethane
,am onto a polyethylene air
structure. The foam is sprayed
out of a gun as a liquid, and
within five seconds it expands to
30 times its original volume to
form a tact-free, rigid material.
Once the shape was solidified,
the air structure *was removed
and additional foam was applied
to an average thitcknes-s of six to
eight inches.
Sincethe home is literally built
of insulaton, the fuel savings to
*the Frwhers has been tremen-
dous. During a recent severe
Wisconsin winter, their heating
bill was $250. An average 3,000
square foot home heated elec-
I  trically would have used more
I  than $1,700 worth of fuel, studies
The unique home was recently
featured on the network tele-
vision program, "that's Incred-
ible." But even before   the
national exposure, the Frushers
knew the end was near for their
tourist attraction. "We were told
that as of May 1, 1981 we were
not to allow tourists to visit, but
our lawyer obtained postpone-
ments until a final date of
October 15 was ruled on," Fritz
said. "They told us that if we
remained open past that date,
the attorney general would send
the sheriff out to close us down
and prosecute us for defying
their order. But we did stay open
for the remainder of October,
and they didn't send anyone
Frusher noted that the struc-
ture has received national atten-
tion in other publications, such as
"National Geographic," and has
been featured in newspapers and
on television locally and region-
ally over the years. "There's no
telling how  much good   the
"That's Incredible" story would
have done for us, and we
probably won't find out, because
it looks like we won't be open
next year," Frusher said.
Among the code violations
which would need to be rectified
is one which calls for a 15-minute
fire barrier coating to cover the
inside surface. "It is possible, but
it certainly wouldn't be practi-
cal," Fritz said of the new
coating. "If we covered it with a
substance such as plaster, the
plaster would crack as the foam
expanded  with the changing
temperatures. If it could be
done, it would be at a great
expense." He estimated that it
would cost "in the neighborhood
of $30,000 to hire a contractor to
coat the inside." It would also
create a tremendous mess for a
couple of months, he added.
Dan Murray, a DILHR build-
ing inspector chief, said Tuesday
that he was unaware that the
Frushers were "voluntarily
closing" the home to the public.
He said the last he heard on the
subject was that the home al-
ways doses this time of the year,
and something might be done to
rectify the problem before the
usual May opening date.
"We did tell them if a petition
for legal modification was not
received by October 15, that we
would turn it over to the attor-
ney general," Murray said. "We
don't have our own legal staff, so
we don't actually close anybody
down. It's up to the Department
of Justice to do that."
He did say that the interior
covering was the main problem
preventing the home from re-
maining open to the public. "The
foam substance used by the
Frushers is required to have a
15-minute (fire) barrier before
the manufacturer of the (foam)
product will back it up," Murray
said. "They (the manufacturer)
are saying that if it doesn't have
that thermo-barrier, they are
resolving themselves of any re-
sponsibility. Our contention is if
the manufacturer won't back the
product," the state shouldn't
allow the building to remain
"My understanding is that the
interior of the Frusher home is
covered with protective paint,"
Murray continued. "We've asked
for test results on this substance,
but apparently the    material
hasn't been officially approved.
The manufacturer is apparently
contending that it would provide
a 15-minute barrier, but if it has
not gone through the recognized
tests, we're not going to say
'okay, I guess you're right.' "
Written proof is necessary, he
"We don't require any specific
product," Murray added. "A
number of products will provide
the 15-minute thermo-barrier. It
could be a troweled    on or
sprayed on suh ance or what-
ever would worl"
Frusher said that the foam
company "doesn't want to take
on the liability of an experimen-
tal type thing like the house.
They're not going to go through
the expense of getting the mater-
ial tested, because they can sell
all the foam they can produce in
other fields besides housing."
Other state orders include
doors which swing out to replace
sliding glass doors; railings to be
added in various locations; and
spiral stair cases to be eimi-
nated. Donna indicated that they
could petition the state for the
variances, at a cost of $200 per
petition plus between $200 and
$300 of lawyer fees for each
petition. The cost of making the
changes to the house must also
be considered, she said.
"The reason people come to
see our house is that it is not like
every other commercial build-
ing," Fritz said. "The Habitable
Sculpture is an experiment in the
structural and sculptural poten-
tial of sprayed  polyurethane
foam. I am not saying that this is
the final answer -- just that th
is one oithe possible ases of this
space-age building material."
Frusher notes that the foam
home has several advantages
over a conventional model.
Painting of the home's exterior is
never necessary, since rain
washes the surface and snow
tends to slide off. Unlike wood,
the polyurethane foam doesn't
rot, and bugs don't like to eat it.
Air conditioning isn't necessary,
since the lower level never gets
above 75 degrees in the summer.
And, though the house was built
section by section, there is no
added-on look because of the
blending qualities of the foam.
The house, located on Ridge-
view Road about four miles north
of Barneveld, will still be the
home of the Frushers, according
to Fritz and Donna. "They tell us
that it is no problem for us to live
here, just a problem to have the
public view the home commer-
cially," Fritz noted.
The unique structure had been
gaining popularity as a tourist
attraction during recent years,
and Frusher said that the num-
ber of visitors had remained
stable this year after an excep-
tional year in 1980.
Fritz said he would continue
his Free Form Foam business of
insulating flat roofs instead of
making a living operating a
tourist attraction. "It doesn't
make any sense to do something
that isn't going to work," Frush-
er said of the possible changes to
his house. "Just because the
state says to do something, it
doesn't mean I'm going to do it."
The unusual foam house near Barneveld will continue to bethe home of Fritz and Don-
na Frusher, but visitors will no longer be viewing the structure State commercial building
codes are being violated, according to officials.
State Code Violations Close
Barneveld Foam House

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