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Building my first house

 
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Hi, friends. I'm about to begin building my first home (at the young age of 61!) Please, anyone and everyone - pitfalls to avoid, hints to help and make it more affordable, etc. - ? Thoughts in general? I have little support nearby to help with physical activities so I expect it will probably be slow going at first but I would like to make it as earth-friendly as possible. The house will be built in temperate, very moist western Washington state so papercrete and straw bales seem unwise. Am considering earthbag but I'd really like to avoid as much plastic as possible. There are lots and lots of stones just big enough to lift and move without machinery (which I don't have). I'd love to make stone foundations if the county will allow me to. Small house - 400 or 500 sf, chicken coop, raised beds and a small orchard. All thoughts and suggestions are welcome. Thanks in advance, CC
 
pollinator
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Hi Carmen!  I don't have much in the way of useful advice, except start at the town or county clerk's office to find the building code, and have a chat with the building inspector, first.  Saves you a lot of headaches later.

But I am here to offer moral support!  You go, woman!  From the ripe old age of 67, 61 seems quite young, so go for it.  Start the weight training right away, and make sure you know how to lift properly.  This is awesome!
 
pollinator
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Location: Bendigo , Australia
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Good on ya!
Some ideas;
Design small but expandable.
Do sketches and them look at built rooms to see the actual sizes you had written down.
Consider installing some foundations and then the roof structure for the 1st section of the home and use that area
as shelter and storage.
Consider rainfall capture  as the water supply
Think about secondhand materials
Create a shower, toilet and rough cook space early days, even under a lean too or temporary within the first part of the build.
Use power tools as required, building with hand tools is very hard, I have done it once!
Consider a tower within to create air movement though the building, similar to the Middle Eastern wind towers.
If it will work, have a flat plate solar hot water thermosyphon system to a storage tank that can take water from panels and a wood stove.
Mine sits on the ground and moves into my roofspace.
Consider a wetback wood heater
 
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I've seen walls made with stones like that and concrete and rebar. a little at a time footers were dug and forms set up with horizontal sheets of plywood extending the footer height. rebar ponded in ground vertical every foot or so.  and more rebar tied in horizontal every couple of feed. one man operation with a small cement mixer. lay a few inches of concrete then a layer of stones then add more concrete and more stone. wall more than a foot thick seemed like it would have great insulation properties and be solid. there were no building codes or inspections there so have no way of knowing if it would meet code or not.
 
Carmen Rose
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Thanks for the suggestions. It's cool here and cloudy much of the time. I have been thinking of other ways to heat water than the traditional ones - electric or gas. There's a website here in the States called Craig's List. There people offer stuff they want to get rid of for free so I'll be checking it out regularly, hope to get plumbing fixtures, rain barrels, etc. as I go. Here in the States you aren't allowed to live in a new house until it's finished and signed off by the authorities. Not at all. So I'll just be going down on weekends and doing what I can, hire out the electric and plumbing and maybe cement work. We'll see how much I can do myself but I'm not a fancy person, happy with a cement floor for now, simple floor plan. Small but expandable sounds very wise! Thinking a generator might be a wise investment since there's not electricity on the place yet . . .
 
master gardener
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When you say you are building a house, do you mean you are hiring it done or physically doing it yourself?  It sounds like you are planning on doing most, if not all, yourself.

I understand wanting a smallish house.  But do consider storage for pantry, storage for cleaning supplies, and storage for junk.  

As has already been said, watch out for building codes. If there is such a thing where you are, ask for the inspectors assistance.  It is better to have them as a helper rather than a foe.  
 
John C Daley
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Location: Bendigo , Australia
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A couple of technical matters.
The floors are made of concrete, not cement. Cement is an additive to concrete.
If its cold on the ground, insulating the slab may be worthwhile.
Do you have far to travel to the site?
I ask, because if so, it may pay to work quickly on roughing things out so its not bad to stay there on the weekends.
If you dug the post holes, set up roof posts in steel and concrete them so they are stable, you can put up the tin roof and wrap something around the poles to break the wind.
Then when you have more cash, concrete the slab etc.
Then you have basic shelter and somewhere to store things like windows, doors sinks  bath etc if need be.
Think about having a hot water storage tank of any sort in the roof structure finally.
 
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For a little inspiration on what one woman can do! She lives in a very wet climate as well.





(I hope I did the link correctly...)
 
pollinator
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Cheryl Gallagher wrote:For a little inspiration on what one woman can do! She lives in a very wet climate as well.





(I hope I did the link correctly...)



Oh wow, what a wonderful home and an amazing way of living! I find it inspiring! Thank you for posting the video Cheryl!
 
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Location: Fennville MI
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Best wishes for you on your journey ;) At 60 I retired and my wife and I moved onto twenty acres of woods in Southwest Michigan. I was 61 when I started the work of clearing land, gathering and organizing the fallen trees to be the timber frame for our house. Code here won't permit us to build under 1,000 square feet, so we wound up with a design that, including the attached greenhouse, is about 1600 sq. ft  Smaller would be easier to build ;)

We get roughly 33 inches of precipitation a year and much of it comes in the form of snow. When you're designing and building your home, be conscious of snow load if you are in an area where snow falls.

With the situation you describe, I urge you to investigate both "slip stone" and "cordwood masonry" as approaches for your area. I might go for a foundation using the slip stone method and then once removed above grade a few inches, go to the cordwood masonry, which can be done using cob.

Expect everything to take longer than you think it will.. longer ;) Be prepared for lots of work, quite possibly more than you've ever done before. I had an office job most of my life, but kept relatively fit despite the sedentary work. Within a year of being on our own land working on building our house, I was back to what I weighed at 19.  Work at a pace you can manage and sustain. I may weigh what I did at 19, but I can't Do what I could do at 19 ;) We're still working on the house here. In fact, the foundation was poured Aug. 12, 2020.  I felled the trees from the site, moved them out of the way, excavated the foundation, built /installed the forms, did the finishing work on the concrete, myself. Hired a concrete pumper due to our difficult location and ordered in 38 cu. yards of ready-mix. Next it's on to actually doing the joinery and assembling the massive timber frame;)

All that to say that it can be done , even at our age ;)
 
John C Daley
pollinator
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How big are your Foundations Peter, 38 cubic yards is an enormous amount?
 
Peter Ellis
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The footprint is 47'2" x 39'6". The foundation runs 18" wide by 48" deep  for most of that. As it worked out, 38 yards did my foundation plus a 5x5x1 pad for a rain water cistern.
 
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