T Nation

House building

Ok T-folk, how many of you have actually gone out and built your house (or know of those who have)? I don’t mean buying some land, hiring an architect and general contractor and turning them loose, I mean doing it yourself! Or at least as much as possible. What was the experience like? I’m looking into doing just this since I’ll be able to take some time off work in a year or two (depending on when my wife & I wind up expecting). Building a house a having a low or nonexistant mortgage is a very tempting goal.

Plus it’s a good workout :slight_smile: If you want a subversive read, try Rob Roy’s “Mortgage-free: Radical Strategies for Homebuying”.

Also try Tracy Kidder’s, The House.

Back in the summer of 1980, my father had just retired and I did not have a summer job, so he decided, what the hell, let’s build a house. We already had the land, and pretty much started from scratch. Let me tell you, this is not a trivial undertaking, even if you have the skills and access to the proper equipment. My father was an electrician, and had worked as a plumber, carpenter, and mason, knew how to drive a bulldozer and backhoe, knew how to mix and finish concrete, and I had done roofing and aluminum and vinyl siding. These are among the skills you need to do this job. You also need to be able to get (rent, borrow) things like backhoes. This said, it’s still a do-able thing, provided you plan adequately and do the appropriate research. In addition to numerous books about home building, you need to check local building codes for all the regulations (there are an unbelievable number of regulations inthe building industry). The advantage of hiring some sort of general contractor is that they already know all this stuff, and you presumably need to learn it all. Ideally, you either build a “practice” house first, in which you make all the beginner mistakes and then sell, or you find a general contractor that will consult for a smallish fee so that you don’t miss anything. Then do all the stuff that you can reliably do yourself, and find subs to do the things you can’t do. There’s a problem with subing as well, in that you have one house to do - a short job. Finding someone to do a short job on your house (say, plumbing, or finishing the drywall) can be hard when a developer will hire them to do 20 houses. So you may end up paying some of these guys cash to come in on the weekend and help you out. Developing these types of relationships takes time and a certain type of personality. My father already knew these people, and had no problem getting skilled people to come out for a small job. I know other people that have trouble getting reliable skilled help. Don’t take this as discouraging, because in general building your own house is a great experience, you learn a lot and can save considerable money, but it’s a huge amount of work, especially if you’re trying to save and can’t just throw money at the inevitable problems that arise. Good luck.

Not a small undertaking, as I’m sure you already understand. My family has built two houses (my parents are in one of them still) and one church (with lots of help). My dad was the carpenter type (good skill with wood and an intrinsic understanding of structural building), my mom was the electrician type. We hired out the plumbing. What I remember of it was that it took ALL our time. As a kid, I spent most of my time helping out with the building and not playing around with other kids. Lots of family strain. Especially if your wife is pregnant, make sure you’re not living “on site.”

Building my own house is one of the things that I want to do before I die. SLM what sort of house are you thinking of a single story/ double story, wood/brick/concrete. Do you remember that scene from Fight Club where Tyler and Jack are driving with two space monkeys in the back. Tyler: What do you wish you had done before you died? Space Monkey 1: Paint a self-portrait. Space Monket 2: Build a house. On the topic of movies I think Kevin Klien? mad a movie About a house? where he and his son built a house from scratch.

It was a great experience. We did have a general, a friend. Bad stuff that happened: Worked my ass off for 6 months. Would work a full time job than go out to the house and work till late at nite. Went from 250lbs to 205. No time for lifting. Ate on the run. If you think you got everything covered, you don’t. Cost over runs-wife. Didn’t see my kids much. They were at my in-laws.House finished. Wife wants divorce. Marries General (friend).
I lose kids, house. I walked out with a quarter and a bag of cloths.
Good Stuff that happened: Worked just about everyday with my dad. We got extremely close and have been that way for the last ten years. We had a great time together and have since rehabed the house I’m in now. Found a better wife too.