Last summer there were two major storms near Gallatin, Tenn., where I live. It wasn't the best way to earn our 15 minutes of fame by being spotlighted on the national news after the tornados rampaged through.

After a recent drive through our friendly hill country, it appears that I wasn't the only native who had been flustered by the stormy experience. So I turned to my better half to inquire how the real estate market has reacted to the storm.

Concrete housing is gaining a strong and influential following, says my wife, who owns her own real estate company. She directed me to a local builder with whom she does business. This builder said he's been receiving more questions about different types of concrete construction, including requests for data about the insulating values.

He mentioned that south of Franklin, Tenn., where more estate developments and homes are built on larger parcels of land, more structurally safe housing is catching on. If you drive on state Route 840 between Murfreesboro and Franklin, there's even a concrete castle built into the side of the hill.

I used to think of residential concrete in either decorative terms, or in the sense of slab or foundation construction, depending on the terrain. After driving through the area and seeing the devastation firsthand, I strongly believe concrete housing is becoming a long-term reality rather than a fad.

More and more concrete

More than ever, I am seeing residential areas where whole subdivisions are being built out of concrete, some of which even includes tilt-up construction.

Vertical concrete surfaces open up a whole new world of decorative finishes. One home in our area is constructed out of what appears to be logs. Upon closer inspection of the outside walls, they are actually formed walls in the shape of logs. The finisher had imprinted leaves and other designs in the sidewalk and steps, even going as far as coloring the imprints.

A little further south, Marshall County was another area where there was extensive storm damage. One resident who has lived in the area for about 10 years told me, “If I had a stronger barn, this wouldn't have happened.”

He had lost his entire barn. It reminded me of the big walking horse barn I passed recently when visiting Lexington, Ky. It was just outside of the city and built with tilt-up construction. They even had cast concrete posts for the fencing.

Smart builders, huh? I'll bet the termites had a big surprise, and they didn't have to worry about storms. How long will it be before the precast walls of a home are cast at the plant and delivered to the site? One of these days you may be able to order the walls already colored, or even better, the whole concrete home will come ready to put together.

Even so, driveways always fascinate me. Contractors and finishers are giving the entrances more razzle-dazzle. Custom designs, family crests, and wild imaginative logos are everywhere. An owner of a local Harley Davidson dealership built a home, and as they were pouring the driveway, they imprinted the bar and shield logo in the entranceway with orange and black colors.

Nearby, another home was being built on top of a hill overlooking the city. The shape of the home resembles the shape of corvette flags. The owner is a friend of mine, and he asked about black and white colors for the turnaround. I told him that anything was possible, to just use his imagination and open up his pocketbook.