A cautionary tale:
There once was a young man who read Mother Earth News
and got inspired that he could build anything he wanted on his own. His father had left him some heavily timbered property, high on a mountain ridge. Disappointed with people
, being a wage slave with a grid-locked daily commute, he forsake society to live there out of his van, and then a trailer. I think
we can all relate to this!
He built a little cabin
from timber on his property, which he took to a sawmill. It fell down.
He built a little house from timber on his property, which he milled himself with a sawmill he purchased. It burned down.
He set out to build himself a proper home with still more trees
from his property, all of which he milled himself. It was a nice house; a house built for two, because after 25 years he realized forsaking society also meant forsaking company and he thought maybe a house could convince someone to join him, as he was lonely.
He thought he was being very smart, drawing plans
that accommodated and anticipated all his (and her) needs. He modeled it on Sketchup. It was a really nice house! He got triple duty out of his design by building half of the house at a time, elevating the floor high above the ground to store his building materials and putting the roof on before the walls were even sheathed to protect everything through the winter.. He got so excited by his construction progress that he worked furiously on completing the half a house before laying the foundation for the whole house.
Actually, he had no foundation. He'd not modeled a foundation on Sketchup, only his house. Because of his clever idea his house was built on stilts, resting on home-made concrete
pier blocks. The half a house abutted a steep slope, upon which he intended to tie the entire house with a couple buried tires. No post caps, only a center tongue with one bolt. No post bases, only a hook of rebar
on one side. No shear panels, only some occasional cross bracing. No foundations below the frost line. Temporary shoring and a rope tied to a tree trunk. But still he kept building, until the whole half a house was fully framed and sheathed. Thousands of pounds of lumber, precariously balancing on matchsticks that were essentially hinges. Under which was the trailer where he slept. Sleeps.
Near his house is a picnic table that collapsed under the weight of the mountain snow loads. Even without snow, I am afraid to walk under his house. Even though I won't be that female companion for him, every night I pray his house doesn't collapse on him, even though I'm not religious.
I love the idea that every person can build their own home if they want to. But pride and the DIY ethic and eagerness should
not discount the wisdom of seeking professional consultation. Good design does not mean just beautiful. Good design means no re-work. Good design means safe. Good design saves trees. And lives. "A house is only as good as its foundation" is much more than just an expression. It is my wish/hope/prayer that everyone who can not run gravity load calculations or account for lateral seizmic loads and without a good understanding of strength of materials at least take their designs to structural engineers. Even architects with general knowledge of all those things run their designs past structural engineers, and not just because the building departments says to. It's because we only have one life.
Thank you for listening. Maybe I can sleep a little better tonight if I have influenced any of you.