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Building a livable home before winter

 
Posts: 8
Location: Washington
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Hello everyone. I want to start off by saying we are very excite to join this amazing community. We are in the process of purchasing some timbered land in WA. We don't have much left over after purchasing the land so we need to stretch every cent as far as it can go. Good thing that's what we're all about! I am a carpenter and have built/renovated plenty of homes but I have never done it in an off grid setting in the mountains. I know we have water since there is an aspen grove so we are set there. My concern is getting a livable structure that my family of 6 can make it happily through a winter while continuing to complete the interior and add some of the comforts we want in our home. We are on a southern facing slope so I'm hoping that means less snow but I know we will get some. I'm thinking an A-frame because I think I can get the rafters constructed on the ground and stood up by myself without too much of a headache. As of right now we don't have temporary housing that we can put on the property (i.e. camper, RV, etc.) I'm sure I'm kind of all of the place here but I'm extremely excited to start living our dream and I can't wait to get started. I don't want to rush in without a plan and get us in trouble right off the bat. Thanks everyone! I look forward to what ya'll have to say!
 
pollinator
Posts: 406
Location: Victor, Montana; Zone 5b
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I wouldn't rush into building anything so quickly. It is tempting to get the construction going, but I have found it very useful to spend at least a short period "living" with the land to determine the best spot for a house and future projects. Is it possible to instead do a temporary structure or a small outbuilding that could be lived in for the first winter? Possibly find a used yurt or a large wall tent that would keep you cozy the first year?

If not, I would say if you have timber and can access an excavator, then go with Paul's Wofati. https://permies.com/f/75/wofati-earth-berm

Check out the different designs, they build quick and don't cost very much if you can get an excavator rented or borrowed.
 
pollinator
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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I agree to not rush in...

But let's talk options,

How good is your access? Can you get a semi truck to the site? Pickup and trailer? Four wheel drive only?

I am all for building a temp structure--buy a storage shed that you can move if your design changes, or build a shop or garage and add a couple bedrooms for the winter.

 
pollinator
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Since you have your own lumber, you can build an Oehler-style house for little to nothing.  You may not want to live in it permanently, but it would get you through the winter very comfortably and not use up money you need to build your permanent house.  You could build it quite quickly, especially if you have access to someone that can do the digging for you.  If not, add a few weeks for the digging part of it.  Just a thought.
 
gardener
Posts: 3872
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
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Hi Ron; Welcome to Permies!
Congratulations on getting your land!
That is the first step towards being self sufficient!
Wow quite the undertaking this late in the summer!  
I think I would start by figuring out where the rocket mass heater will be sitting and plan my (Shop) around that.
I hear you about being able to build quickly and by yourself but, A frames are hard to heat and not convenient at all space wise. You'll need firewood in WA.
A single pitch roof can be built by hand easier than a conventional roof home.
A family of six needs some floor space.  This late in the season I would get a single story building up and plan on "camping" in the shop this winter.
Next spring after snow melt you will have a clean slate to look at and start your forever home then.


 
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See if straw bales are available locally. Build a base to get the bales off the ground and stack/pin the walls. Cover with mud. A flat roof wouldn't be hard. If anything next year the bales will help the garden. At least you would have some insulation.
 
Ron Kelley
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Location: Washington
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R Scott wrote:I agree to not rush in...

But let's talk options,

How good is your access? Can you get a semi truck to the site? Pickup and trailer? Four wheel drive only?

I am all for building a temp structure--buy a storage shed that you can move if your design changes, or build a shop or garage and add a couple bedrooms for the winter.




Access is good. It's about 200' off of a county maintained road. I would have to cut in a driveway to any building site or shop area but a semi, or truck and trailer could easily make it onto the land. I like the idea of building a shop for the winter. I could still start building our permanent home during the winter I'm already used to the cold coming from the Midwest.
 
Ron Kelley
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Location: Washington
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thomas rubino wrote:Hi Ron; Welcome to Permies!
Congratulations on getting your land!
That is the first step towards being self sufficient!
Wow quite the undertaking this late in the summer!  
I think I would start by figuring out where the rocket mass heater will be sitting and plan my (Shop) around that.
I hear you about being able to build quickly and by yourself but, A frames are hard to heat and not convenient at all space wise. You'll need firewood in WA.
A single pitch roof can be built by hand easier than a conventional roof home.
A family of six needs some floor space.  This late in the season I would get a single story building up and plan on "camping" in the shop this winter.
Next spring after snow melt you will have a clean slate to look at and start your forever home then.




Thank you!
My wife and I have been talking about this for a very long time.
It is quite the undertaking this late in the season I agree. We had a few pieces of land slip away from us and it has caused us to get a much later start than we wanted.
The good that came from that though is that we absolutely love the land we ended up with and think it was meant to be.
Firewood is something we will have plenty of. We have 20 acres and it's mostly treed with plenty to be cleaned up that are ready for this year.
I need a shop either way so this is definitely something that may work.
I'm not very keen on building a temp structure to live in because I feel like it's wasted time and materials unless I see a long term use for it.
I'm very open to doing things a different way so please feel free to share any ideas you may have.
 
Ron Kelley
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Location: Washington
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Daniel Ray wrote:I wouldn't rush into building anything so quickly. It is tempting to get the construction going, but I have found it very useful to spend at least a short period "living" with the land to determine the best spot for a house and future projects. Is it possible to instead do a temporary structure or a small outbuilding that could be lived in for the first winter? Possibly find a used yurt or a large wall tent that would keep you cozy the first year?

If not, I would say if you have timber and can access an excavator, then go with Paul's Wofati. https://permies.com/f/75/wofati-earth-berm

Check out the different designs, they build quick and don't cost very much if you can get an excavator rented or borrowed.



I would like the chance to live on the property and get a chance to know it before building. My concern is keeping my family safe and happy throughout the winter. I don't want it to feel like "survival". I have no experience with wall tents or yurts but would be open to the idea. I'll have to do some more research on both of them and see what I can find. I like this idea as well because I feel it could always be reconstructed again on a different piece of the land for long term guests or if we have a friend or family member that would want to build and would need a temporary structure. Any places you could direct my research would be helpful. Thank you!
 
gardener
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I definitely second the recommendation to build a shop structure and live in it for the winter. It should be easier to decide on a convenient place for your shop than to find the perfect place and orientation for your forever house. Just don't put the shop in the prime spot where you will want your house!
 
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The nice thing about a temporary structure, if you decide to go that route, is that it can become so many other things later.  Guest house, play house, workshop, apothecary, the list goes on and on.  So when you are writing out all of your options and laying out all the pros and cons, consider the long term benefits of any and all possible assets, present and future.
 
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I put up a 16'x24' shed in less than 2 weeks. 2x4 studs 24" on center. built like a house would be, insulation and a stove it would be livable year round, something like that might be good as a start, a couple 10x10 or 12 x12 additions could be kids rooms.
if you go with traditional dimensional lumber or mill it out of trees on your property. I never built anything like any of the experts on here but there are many different options these days that can be very economical using materials from your property and insulation qualities are far superior than traditional stuff with studs and plywood. like you say you need something fairly quick to get your family through upcoming winter. something you might think about is heat for winter if using firewood if you don't have a bunch of dead trees that are not rotten might want to cut a couple trees now so they will be burnable by winter.
 
pollinator
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An insulated shop structure is a good plan. When I was growing up (in the long, long ago) families would build out an oversize garage package, with all services, and raise young families there as they saved for the dream house.

But you're on raw land. The question is, can you get the development and building permits quickly enough to be ready for winter?
 
Posts: 826
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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I definitely agree about living on the property for at least winter and spring to see how the water flows, where the ground gets soaked, how the storm winds blow,  how much heavy rainfall runs downhill, whether it be down a driveway or down onto a foundation.   Also, a septic tank needs to be where it won't get water logged in the winter.

Buying a used trailer with a heater, bathroom, shower and kitchen will really help with the stress of living on unimproved property.  It could become a guest room, or it could be sold if/when you decide you don't want it.  I would recommend a trailer as opposed to a motorhome because I never could keep mice and rats out of the engine of the motorhome.

You aren't mentioning a permitted building to live in, so be careful about sinking too much money into a building that the county then shows up and red-tags.  They could red-tag it because it is illegal, because the fire department can't get to it, because the propane truck can't/won't come to fill a large propane tank (which you would eventually need, because most household appliances need a minimum of 100-gallon propane tank that is filled by a local company.)  Check before buying gas appliances that they will run on a 5 gallon or 10 gallon propane tank.  Most full-sized gas appliances will NOT, so always check for that.

All of these agencies/companies are connected, and they will alert the county that you are building something.  So don't plan on not being noticed by your neighbors, by the PO if you get a PO Box (they are amazingly nosy), and by people in a small town keeping track of what's going on.

You'll also be able to find out just what kind of driveway you'll need when you are walking/driving/hauling things to the trailer.  Over a couple of seasons you'll get a good idea about the best location.  It almost doesn't matter where you put a house eventually if you can't get to it in the worst part of the winter.  You will not want to have to haul in grcoeries, propane, wood, gasoline, stuff for daily living.

 
Cristo Balete
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Maintaining a dirt-and-gravel driveway is a real commitment of time and money.  It is one of the most important things on improving any piece of land that will be well worth the money you put into it.   Look into first putting down road fabric, then some kind of soil stabilizer (like GeoHex) that is then covered over with 1 1/2" gravel.  The fabric keeps the gravel from sinking into the soil, and the grid stabilizer keep the gravel from shooting out the sides and creating two tracks of bare ground where the wheels go.  

Maybe the first year it can be exciting to be an off-grid warrior, but in bad storms, when it's cold, wet, icy, freezing, windy, you just want to be warm and safe and not end each day feeling like exhausted roadkill.
 
Ron Kelley
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Cristo Balete wrote:Maintaining a dirt-and-gravel driveway is a real commitment of time and money.  It is one of the most important things on improving any piece of land that will be well worth the money you put into it.   Look into first putting down road fabric, then some kind of soil stabilizer (like GeoHex) that is then covered over with 1 1/2" gravel.  The fabric keeps the gravel from sinking into the soil, and the grid stabilizer keep the gravel from shooting out the sides and creating two tracks of bare ground where the wheels go.  

Maybe the first year it can be exciting to be an off-grid warrior, but in bad storms, when it's cold, wet, icy, freezing, windy, you just want to be warm and safe and not end each day feeling like exhausted roadkill.



I recently went to spend a few days taking a look at the piece of land we are purchasing and I thought to look into the road/driveway situation while I was there.  Everyone in the area uses shale for their driveways, as well as any access roads. They use a larger shale base and fill in with a smaller shale over the top. It drains well packs in and doesn't require any fabric or base. I appreciate you bringing this up. I definitely had not put enough thought in to this.
 
Ron Kelley
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Location: Washington
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Cristo Balete wrote:I definitely agree about living on the property for at least winter and spring to see how the water flows, where the ground gets soaked, how the storm winds blow,  how much heavy rainfall runs downhill, whether it be down a driveway or down onto a foundation.   Also, a septic tank needs to be where it won't get water logged in the winter.

Buying a used trailer with a heater, bathroom, shower and kitchen will really help with the stress of living on unimproved property.  It could become a guest room, or it could be sold if/when you decide you don't want it.  I would recommend a trailer as opposed to a motorhome because I never could keep mice and rats out of the engine of the motorhome.

You aren't mentioning a permitted building to live in, so be careful about sinking too much money into a building that the county then shows up and red-tags.  They could red-tag it because it is illegal, because the fire department can't get to it, because the propane truck can't/won't come to fill a large propane tank (which you would eventually need, because most household appliances need a minimum of 100-gallon propane tank that is filled by a local company.)  Check before buying gas appliances that they will run on a 5 gallon or 10 gallon propane tank.  Most full-sized gas appliances will NOT, so always check for that.

All of these agencies/companies are connected, and they will alert the county that you are building something.  So don't plan on not being noticed by your neighbors, by the PO if you get a PO Box (they are amazingly nosy), and by people in a small town keeping track of what's going on.

You'll also be able to find out just what kind of driveway you'll need when you are walking/driving/hauling things to the trailer.  Over a couple of seasons you'll get a good idea about the best location.  It almost doesn't matter where you put a house eventually if you can't get to it in the worst part of the winter.  You will not want to have to haul in grcoeries, propane, wood, gasoline, stuff for daily living.




I didn't mention permitting but I do plan to do it correctly and legally. I just spend a few days on the land scouting possible building sites and just getting introduced to it. We don't plan on building our home until next year but want to pick a few areas where we like the view the most and see how they do throughout the change in seasons.

I found what I believe to be an undeveloped spring. So that is something I'll need to pay attention to when there's some water or drainage that starts to flow towards that area. I don't plan on building near there anyway though.

We had a small construction company before we decided to fully commit to the homestead lifestyle so we have a very good idea of the building process, although it's in a residential/neighborhood setting. I appreciate the things the brought up. Some of them pertain to us and some don't but they are all good things to think about while planning the future layout of our land.

We have decided to build a shop structure to live in for a temporary home while we scout for a building spot and build our home. While we are working on the shop/loft space we will be staying in a camper van that I bartered for with a neighbor while I was there.

Everything seems to be falling into place. My main concern right now is not putting the shop in the wrong location since I only want to build it once. I am thinking closer to the road for any deliveries that may need to be made as well as any potential clients stopping by in the future wouldn't need to be close to my house or family.  Any insight you may have into this would be great. Thanks.
 
Ron Kelley
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Here's a few pictures of what I'll have on hand to be working with. Plenty of available wood for building!
20200802_184059.jpg
Aspen grove (Possible Spring)
Aspen grove (Possible Spring)
20200802_192513.jpg
Possible building site
Possible building site
20200802_183529.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20200802_183529.jpg]
 
Cristo Balete
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Ron, about the timing of building a house, it is important to spend months living on/finding out about the property, but prepare yourself for the housebuilding process to possibly take a few years, so maybe the planning stages should start now.  You can get the County Building Code online.   Depending on your location see whether you'll need

- a well dug with a minimum requirement of gallons per minute, at a depth that brings up clean water (not ground water)
-  a casing- lined well may be required, it's expensive, but it is less likely to collapse in the future and you lose your expensive submersible pump
- a well pump that runs on electricity 24/7  (expensive)
- water tanks to hold enough water for household use and fire protection
- a driveway wide enough for fire trucks to pass each other and have a 75-foot turnaround if there is a dead-end.
- an inside sprinkler system for fire,
- a septic tank location put in with soil tests,
- soil engineering reports so the foundation is on base rock (they spiral down and take core samples and find out how deep base rock is, so the foundation piers go down to that base rock.),
- how much the power company is going to charge you to bring in poles or underground power, which also will reflect on how long you want the driveway.   A long driveway may be needed to where you want the house, but will the power company bring power back that far, or will you have another big expense.

- a foundation type that works with the type of soil they find in the soil engineering report
- Any creek crossing will need an engineered bridge that can support fire trucks, propane trucks, trucks with supplies for building
-  Any earthquake requirements for buildings and wells.
- some counties require at least a carport or a garage.  Haven't seen one yet that doesn't require that, unless it's very remote.


Be prepared for some requirements that just seem unbelievable.  Building codes these days go all the way down to requiring LED light bulbs.

Be prepared for a higher property tax bill connected to the square footage of the house you plan.  So while your dream house may be a few thousand square feet, (any decking adds square footage to the house) do you really want your tax bill, which will never go down, will only go up, to be as big as a mortgage payment?


But on the upside, all legal improvements you make to the property will increase its value and make it saleable in the future.  Legally improved property can get full-term bank loans, whereas illegal improvements will discourage a bank from lending.  A construction loan is approx. 18 months, at which time it will have to be changed over to a standard house loan.
 
Cristo Balete
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Another important thing to find out is why is the seller selling?  Stay skeptical about their answer, in case they aren't admitting to something.  Check with neighbors in case they know anything, and if they know about any major construction planned in the area that could be commercial, like a logging company, a rock quarry that will make grinding sounds all night....
 
Ron Kelley
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I appreciate all of things you've mentioned. I should have mentioned earlier than I'm a General Contractor by trade and am very aware of all of the codes, inspections, etc. that go into building a home. We are very rural so there's much less in the way of building codes near me. No sprinklers needed, fire can already reach my land, there's no creek crossings, being hooked up to the power grid isn't necessary and we plan on using a solar power set up with a back up generator. Average well depth in my direct area is between 50-80ft. We have spring that can provide water as well. I've already checked to see if there are any restrictions, easements, special requirements where I'm at and there aren't any except having to be 300' away from the creek at the low spot of our land which is fine because we don't plan on building on steep slope anyway. The land is surrounded by state land that's leased from the owner of the land I am buying and that backs up to national forest so we are protected from any commercial building or logging. I made sure of that before I ever stepped foot on the land to look at it. Taxes are not very high where we are and I have already talked to a gentleman that has almost a 5,000 sq/ft cabin about a mile away from me and his taxes are less  than half of what I pay for rent right now so I'm going to be ok. We are minimalists and don't plan on having anything very big. We will have more outdoor spaces than indoor. There's good bedrock around us, there's a lot of granite on our land both above and below ground. There are no earthquake requirements for well or buildings. These are all good things to think about though and although I am experienced with the process our company did mainly suburban residential work and that can be very different than undeveloped land in the mountains in a part of the country I've never go through the process in before. I've tried to be very thorough and make sure we are going into a good situation. As far as the seller selling he own a very large free range ranch and has decided to piece out the land a little to downsize. He's keeping the best grazing areas and selling the rest off. Although it is free range around there so it's my responsibility to keep the cattle off of my land which was something I found out after looking into things. For now they will keep my grasses down and lower my fire risk so I'm ok with them. As soon a we start to develop the land though I will be fencing off areas to keep them out and relying on my 2 Mastiffs and our Pitbull to keep them out of our general area until then. They are known to rub on cars, campers houses etc and do damage. This is the one things I've found so far that I haven't ever had to deal with before coming from dairy land not beef cattle country. Thanks for taking the time give me such detailed answers to think about.  
 
pollinator
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I am interested to follow your story.
 
Cristo Balete
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Ron, sounds like you are pretty well prepared to take on the project.  

I imagine you know about mountain lions, bobcats, foxes, snakes, bears and all of that.  Pit bulls are tough, (been there, done that) but the wild animals are very canny and can be very dangerous to pets and people.   Pens and cages need roofs over them to be able to support the weight of possibly three  150-pound mountain lions in case a mother brings two teenage cubs along with her, and bears will just as soon shove you out of the way as go around.

It looks like a beautiful place, and I hope it goes well.   You'll have some dicey times, but you know what they say, whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger :-)
 
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The suggestions to not rush are valid, to split the difference consider making whatever you choose, something that can be added on to, or an eventual secondary, outbuilding. No need to spend time and any amount of money on something that ultimately only serves one, short-term purpose.

With that said, a yurt might make sense, and you could have it up in a weekend. Then invest your money in a great stove/cookstove, the one you're likely to use in your home, solar and or well/water catchment.

You can likely find a used yurt, and it can be resold once you're done.
 
pollinator
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i think i would go with the easy way with this - get a good used mobile/trailer. sometimes you can find them incredibly cheap/free for the pick up. even buying them a few thousand should be able to get you something.
then i would build the shop, and see if it could be at least mostly up and covered for winter, because a fam of 6 is a lot of folks, so by then you would be wanting a mobile and another space to spread out.


then in spring - re evalate and see whats what with a house.
 
                                    
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Please wait until late spring to start building your forever home. I've lived in the PNW for the past 26 years, and have spent the past 11 working in construction. Lately, a lot of contractors from outside the region have been starting projects late fall/dead of winter, not realizing what the rain will do at a warm enough temperature. A project was shut down by OSHA because the mold was producing toxic particulates at five times the legal limit. Workers wearing respirators were limited to an hour of work a day during mitigation because PPE can only provide a certain amount of protection. If you don't protect your structure from mold from the beginning, you'll spend the rest of your life trying to deal with it.

Also, a co-worker happily lives in a steel framed shop on a cement pad. Absolutely recommended while you get familiar with your property.
 
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Check out the YouTube Channel "Red Poppy Ranch" for good suggestions on solar setups, buildings, etc. He has just finished building an off grid home in IA that is fully run on solar. His research is impeccable and his ideas and suggestions are great.
Good Luck!
 
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Just flipping it on it's head for a moment.

You're a tradesman with marketable skills, 20 acres of timbered land, a wife and kids.

As this is in the roundwood and timber framing section, I presume something log built is in your future?

I think your best course of action would be don't rush in to something that might not get built before the snow flies.

Get somewhere in town for this fall and winter, because you'll want to fell your building trees in the winter, to get them with less sap etc.

That also means that you can plan your build, your site, and apply for permits etc, without having the snow deadline breathing down your neck.

Don't forget to allow for snow loads on any roof you plan to build too.
 
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I'm totally excited for you and your family!

So am I right in saying the current plan is to:

Design a quality multi-use shop (or farm structure) which will also provide temporary shelter to make it through winter, for a family of 6 in Washington state.

My vote is for researching Mike Oehler's $50 and Up, Underground House book, using the PSP method.  With your skill level, I bet you will make something beautiful, regardless of construction method.

What questions can the permie community specifically help with next?

Have you decided on a "Zone 0" for your shop site?
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Posts: 18
Location: PNWish
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Our family is in a similar situation except that we got onto our land (Northern Idaho) in mid June.  I can tell you that in this short amount of time being here, we have changed our minds at least 6 times as to what and where to build.  We have come full circle at this point with winter looming, and we are going to finish closing in and insulating a wing of a large pole barn that is here.  Our neighbor has been invaluable as a former contractor.  He is helping us organize the project and has given tons of advice.  

Take the time to get to know your land.  Make sure your kiddos get plenty of fun time dotted in too.  We have three small boys and it is hard for them to understand how much "work" needs to be done.  The play and discovery portion is just as valuable.

Good luck!  Get to know your neighbors...we all need each other right now.
 
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Hey Ron, we're in a similar situation as you, although we're a family of 5, and we're not very remote. [Northern Ontario, Canada, near International Falls, MN]
We acquired our property in 2018, moved in with my parents who are nearby, and started building a shop in October of 2018. I'm a structural engineer/land surveyor, worked construction for years, lots of GCs in the extended family, and my wife is also a very capable carpenter. So sounds like we're working from similar set of skill resources.

I'll give you the run-down of our plans just for options to consider: We built a 1000sqft shop with a small loft area. 16x24 vehicle bay, 16x30 wood-shop bay with two separate mezzanines above as loft, and a 6x30 "hall" between. That hall has a crawlspace beneath it, an entrance, washroom, and laundry/utility room on the main level, and a full 2nd floor above as access to the mezzanines. We went with a permanent wood foundation on a crush rock base; backfilled footing walls, radiant slab-on-grade in the bays, and crawlspace between as mentioned above. It was cheap, we could do everything ourselves (we had help with the slab pours), it still took us about 8 months to build it (we had concrete poured first week of November which was almost too late, then framed through the winter), but I was also working full-time. The vehicle bay is the kids' bedroom space, the wood-shop bay is our kitchen/living room. We sleep in one of the loft areas (ships ladder access) and the kids play space is the other.

We've been comfortably living in our shop now for just over a year. It's giving us a chance to save money to build our house, and giving us a chance to observe our property over a few seasons. It also gave us a chance to take a Permaculture Design Course (Rob and Michelle Avis of Verge Permaculture out of Calgary, AB, Canada offered their PDC online this year, it was life-changing) which has really given us the tools and perspective to be able to design our property development plans from a permaculture perspective... the mantra that keeps repeating in my head whenever I look at anyone's property now is "water, access, structures".

Honestly, we sometimes think that we could just stay in the shop forever, and not build the house at all... but as our kids get older I do think we'll outgrow the space, and we do really look forward to the wood-shop... although this spring we started thinking that it might have to accommodate indoor growing space too. So, it may be worth putting significant thought into your design, give yourself time/space so that you're not rushed out sooner than you're ready for.

Good luck!
 
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Are you aware of https://www.lhba.com/ and their method of building log homes out of green logs "nailed" together with rebar spikes?
You can quickly build a structure 20x20 or 30x30 etc from your available timber. These homes sell for good money so you can make a living building them.
You would need to pay for their (now online) course but from all accounts it is worth the money many times over if you end up building this way.
 
Posts: 75
Location: Rockwall, TX
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Has anyone mentioned shipping containers? They come in two or three sizes and are sorta easy to relocate if you need to (just drag into place). Since they are made of steel they are fire "proof" except for the floor which are usually treated hardwood (I think). They are popular with the tiny house movement. You could also mound up dirt on the sides and top for "insulation". I had one for a shop/storage use about 10 years ago.
 
Posts: 38
Location: Ontario / Nova Scotia, Canada
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Very exciting, Ron!

We're also building a house (cordwood) in a wooded area. Our problem, besides limited $, is that for the present time we're in a different province from where our land is, so we've had to rethink the 'temporary' shelter idea. I'll tell you what we're doing, and maybe some part of it could be useful for you.

Everyone kept telling us to 'get a trailer', but trailers are not actually that cheap. Plus they're rotten to live in. Elongated rectangles are the least efficient space to utilise. Instead, and to avoid the whole permit problem for our temporary dwelling, we're making it a skiddable structure. We're creating quick and cheap 4'x8' panels, complete with outside sheathing, basic insulation, and inside sheathing. It's all made to be as light as possible. Ditto for the roof and floor. All 4'x8' panels. This was a suggestion made by a theatre rigger friend. So we can make them right where we are. They're easy to stack and transport (relatively), and super quick to assemble. We're keeping it small to avoid permitting requirements, and because it doesn't need to be big. It's temporary, right?

People have got into the habit of thinking bigger is better. We've been living on a 33' sailboat for the past eight years. Trust me, the space you think you need is massively excessive. Think nautical. Every cubic inch is useable, so use it. Save your time and money for the permanent home. We're planning on a 12'x 16' temp structure, and compared to what we've been living with, it'll be positively roomy. But every inch (or centimetre for the metric folks) will be used. And it's easier to come across free / unwanted materials in the quantity suitable for a tiny home than for larger structures. We've also got space in our little skiddable for a pebble-style RMH, so free abundant heat that'll be relatively quick to assemble (and disassemble). I'm not remotely concerned about our cheap low R-value walls with that thing pumping out the heat in that small space.

At the end, we can still use it as a guest house/ brew shed/ workshop. I guess the moral here is, build small and cheap. You have far more useable space than you think.

As for water, think about rain catchment. Build your roof to suit. Get a couple of those 1,000L totes, and you're set. Search on Lonny Grafman, 'To Catch the Rain'. He has a free pdf which shows how people have done it in many different climates. Oh, and our little skiddable shed will have room for 3,000L water storage inside. And we'll still have room to do yoga. What more could one want ; ) ?

 
Posts: 39
Location: Cheney, WA
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Hey Ron! We're also in Washington, but in west plains (Cheney).  The "cabin" we have came with the property, but it was only a half finished deal with a loft.  My understanding is that the previous owner put it together from an online shed kit though!  It's 10 X 20, so the foot print is 200 square feet but once we finish the loft into a second floor it will be double that.  Oldest is getting a bunk bed and the two youngest will be sharing a daybed with pull-out trundle, and grown ups get a bed upstairs.  We all have room to spare, even.  I think it's very do-able to covert a shed kit into a tiny home/cabin and very quick if you can bribe some help with some beers!
 
gardener
Posts: 1197
Location: Longbranch, WA
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This Chanel has a lot about living is shed conversions. this one is about getting the shed foam insulated before delivery.
 
pollinator
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I’m going to add a vote for the practicality of a yurt, even though I don’t particularly like them. Quick to erect, most effective use of space for square footage needed, easier to heat- with a woodstove in the middle radiating in all directions, feels roomier than it really is (helping you all to not kill each other in darkest winter), generally very easy to re-sell (as well as relocate on the property for a future guest house/air b&b/older kids new home). The cons would be- harder to insulate well, harder to create privacy for everyone, and they tend to have less airflow which can lead to mold/mildew problems.
Second choice would be to build a barn, or shop, since you’re going to need one anyway. The biggest hurdle there is deciding on location. But it’s still fairly quick to frame up and dry in, and then you can work on the rest regardless of weather.
I think mobile homes are possibly the worst choice. Yeah, it’s quick and maybe cheap, but even the best ones are poorly constructed with lesser quality plumbing and electrical. As someone else mentioned, the shape is inefficient to heat, and they lose value quickly; something you don’t need to worry about with a yurt or shop.
I hope you’ll keep posting here with updates! This is an exciting challenge in several ways, and what looks like a nice property for homesteading/permaculture.
 
pollinator
Posts: 391
Location: OK High Plains Prairie, 23" rain avg
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I heard of a guy in Arkansas who got homeless with a family on short notice. He planted poles in the ground and wrapped them with thick plastic and built a roof on it. That got them through the winter cheaply.
 
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I've been looking over some utube videos of a guy called Outsider from Canada who has some great options for cabins, one is a toss it up in a hurry cabin. It might be a good encouragement to you to see what he has demonstrated. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChehL6PYmucEHUS6g2LVFGA.
 
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