Well, we’re officially on the path to starting construction on our new house in the spring. I’ve talking about it here and there, but I’ve been getting some questions about the process, so I’m going to try to get us up to date on our process for the three of you who care.
If you remember, we are planning to do the vast majority of the work ourselves.
And as we are going through this process, we’re learning that not many people actually build their own houses anymore. Lots of people are general contractor, but few people do the majority of the work themselves. (Check out my friend Mandy at Sugar Bee Crafts to follow along on her own build-your-own-house journey.)
We are dealing with a lot of conflicting emotions – mostly we are excited and anxious to get started. But there are also some nerves and fear. (I’m the one with these feelings, by the way. Ryan is mostly just anxious, I think.)
There are a few reasons why we plan to do the bulk of the work ourselves.
We can do it.
Do you ever want to do something just because you can?
I think that’s a small part of it.
Ryan has learned a lot in the past seven years of renovating and can truly do almost any project. It may take a little longer, because he’s working full time and we have a two-year-old.
The other advantage we have is that we live in a rural area and qualify for an agricultural building exemption. Because we live on over ten acres, very few building permits will be necessary. (Note: building permits were required for the well and septic.) We will still be required to stick to code, but the lack of permits means we can cut out some of the red tape.
We can save money doing it.
I written about this a little bit before, but the goal is to build this house without going into debt.
There aren’t really conventional lending options for building your own house anyhow. (And this is especially the case after the economic downturn.) Banks want you to work with a builder (which is a whole other opinion piece from me for a different day).
But, the bottom line is a mortgage isn’t part of this equation. So it was key for us to sell our last house before building.
The proceeds from our last house (remember – we purchased the house as a foreclosure and paid for the renovations in cash) will go toward the build.
But even with cash on hand and savings, we’ll need to be watching costs to make sure we can afford it and we don’t drain our savings or become “house poor.”
So building ourselves was a logical way to save money.
There are some things we cannot or will not do ourselves. Things like digging and pouring the foundation take machinery that would be cost-prohibitive for us to do. We’re also planning to install geothermal, so we’ll be using a geothermal company for that.
There are also several investments we already finished in 2014 – paid in cash and done with the help of experts.
- Digging the well.
- Running the system.
- Installing the LP tank.
The fact that much of these big-ticket items are complete gives us a little financial wiggle room this year.
We can be a bit nostalgic.
Both of us come from a bit of a tradition of house-building.
Both of our parents’ have built their own houses. Some was done with builders and much was completed on their own.
And both of our grandparents built their own houses after World War II – with their own hands. (Ryan’s grandpa below.)
By the way, all of those houses are still going strong.
So that’s a little bit of the thinking going into our build.
And for right now, we are spending our time on those first huge steps of the build, and most of those mean outside help, ironically:
A big step in building is finding the right partners.
We have been working with four local lumberyards to get estimates for building materials. If you haven’t done this before, the lumberyards basically take our house plans and give us an estimate of what it would cost to build.
The tricky part – none of the estimates are apples to apples. Different places have different quality of wood and different window and door brands. Some of them include (small) allowances for fixtures. And none of them include things like plumbing, heating/cooling, etc.
Right now, we think we have our lumberyard chosen (great quality and very affordable prices). We’re still quoting windows and doors.
The digging and pouring of the foundation is obviously a key component of building.
There are only a few places locally who do this work, so we’ve been getting estimates and are pretty sure which we’ll be going with.
We would like to get started in the spring as early as possible. But because we are in a rural area, there are restrictions on large trucks in the spring when the roads are too soft. So, we’ll be at the liberty of the weather and schedules.
After some extensive research (including the expert advice from Nate of Decor and the Dog fame), we decided to go with geothermal heating and cooling.
The investment can be a lot more expensive up front, but the efficiency is high and there are a great number of rebates.
Once you factor in the rebates, it’s nearly neck-in-neck with a high efficiency forced air system.
And the efficiency over time will pay dividends since we intend to stay in this house as long as possible.