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Please bury me with research and info re: inexpensive house building  RSS feed

 
Elly McCrackin
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Long time lurker, first time poster!
My husband and I got married two years ago, and are approaching our mid 40'S.
He's fortunate enough to be able to retire in 5 years, and our dream just became a reality, friends of ours have leased us the back end of their farmstead in northern ontario so we can be their rear guard/farm equipment repair/resident engineers.  Well....he's the engineer, I'm a glass artist that dabbles in other things too.

By the time we're ready to go, we would like to have a move in ready house, but can't get credit for modular or anything prefab.  We'd like to actually pay for it without debt we have to then pay when we're up there. That's not sustainable!

Any ideas for alternative housing that will pass inspection and we can get permits for, and can sort of pay as we go?  We're not spring chickens, but we will put hard work into it.  We live 8 hrs away currently, and will be able to be up there in the summers when vacations allow. 

This will be off the electrical grid by choice and because we just can't access it.
I'm soaking up so much info here its awesome.



 
Travis Johnson
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I am assuming you do not have enough forest products on your host farm for a WOFATI or cordwood home, so I say the following.

I am not sure about permitting as the rules are very lax where I live, but if you check out this thread, you can see how I built a 30 x 48 foot barn for $4450.

webpage

Now granted that is a barn, but if you look at the way it was framed, you can see it uses 1/3 the building material and that is a substantial savings whether you buy it or produce it from a forest as I did. But while that is a barn, I made an insulated lambing shed with the same 4 feet on center framing by placing non-load bearing strapping (1 x 3 boards) vertically so that I could staple 2 foot insulation between the studs.

For good looking, cheap and functional walls, I used cedar shingles. ON THE INSIDE? Yep, and it is very cheap, and here is why. By stapling cheap lathes between the studs, they not only hold in the insulation, on 9 inch centers they allow cedar shingles to be stapled up. Normally shingles are stapled on in 5 inch high rows, but because it is inside and there is no weather to shed, they can be spaced at 9 inches, giving you some serious coverage for very little money.

Now my foundation was concrete because it was animal housing, but you could reduce costs substantially by making a grade beam around your home, making it out of earthcrete instead of concrete, borrowing or renting a cement mixer. You could produce a COB floor in between those grade beams, stone (as I did in my foyer) or any manner of locally available building materials. If you are so inclined the floor could be earthcrete as well using your borrowed, rented or small purchased cement mixer to do any of that.

For a roof you would have to go with steel, but it is VERY cheap, at less than a dollar a square foot, and it allows you to save 1/3 of your building materials as I mentioned before. With a shed roof (ugly I know, but simple), you would save money and have a functional home still.

This is not a complete list of the possibilities, but gives you an idea that a fairly normal house could be built far more inexpensively with no one knowing the difference, nor being an unsafe house to live in. And by the way, here a stick built home can be built more inexpensively than a mobile home or manufactured house can be obtained. Knocking off some of the extras and redundancies of building only lowers the cost.
 
Elly McCrackin
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Thank you for your quick reply!
We will be living on a 145 acre tree/blueberry farm, with 2 acres to build on and access to 'play' everywhere else.   My husband is highly engine and engineer savvy so he and the landowner will be doing all they can to improve everyone's quality of life.  (Windows power, Georgia thermal, etc etc! ) 

I like the idea a of  wofati or cob, but do home inspectors care what it's made from as long as the house is as safe and functions like a traditional house?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Do you even have home inspectors in that area?  I don't remember our house ever being inspected. 
 
Travis Johnson
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Only you can answer that question. Where I live...the answer is no. I can build almost anything and do not have to worry about inspection, but don't be fooled in thinking you can build anything and no one will know. Its your neighbors who will rat on you, and most often, the nicest ones you know.

The house I semi-described would look like a "normal" house, but most importantly be safe to live in which is just as important. I am not suggesting you go with that design per se, just saying that it can be done; a budget house using a little forethought to make the most of materials.
 
Elly McCrackin
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Ok, thanks!  That helps.
This will be a small organized township, and it's visible to a main road. 
If we don't get it inspected, they would ask us to tear it down.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Hello Elly, sounds ,to me, like the first thing to do is talk to the inspectors about alternative buildings to see what they will allow, or to see if they are even aware of alternatives. This will be more of a fishing trip, trying to get information without showing too much of your plan.
You might have to educate the inspector and others who make the rules, to show that your structure is as good or better than traditional housing.
The question to ask is what exactly does an "inspection" entail ? In some places they only want to know that your septic is good.

What types of building materials do you have access to? Logs, rocks, clay, straw, etc.

I would go with a Hogan or several attached Hogan's, (in a hive pattern) with rocket stoves and solar glass walls facing south.
 
Elly McCrackin
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Thank you!

Anyone in ontario who is farther down the road than we are, and can point out potholes they've encountered?
 
Elijah Kim
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Location: Petawawa, ON, Canada Zone 3A
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Elly,

These guys may be able to offer some insight: http://www.naturalbuildingcoalition.ca/ we went on the natural home tour last year, the architect that helped get the building code in Ontario changed for straw bale homes was on the tour.  I have his card at home, but you may be able to just email them and let them know what you are trying to do.  I know that minimal cost is your goal, so natural building may not fit, but they may have some insight on building codes questions etc. or at least be able to point you in the right direction on who/where to ask.
 
Elly McCrackin
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Awesome, thanks!
 
Phil Shenke
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"The $50 and up underground house" book is fascinating. 
 
Elijah Kim
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If you don't mind, what area are you planning on moving to?  We are planning on moving to NWO (21 hr drive away for now) closer to Fort Francis area.
 
Elly McCrackin
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Just past sudbury on hiway 17
 
Elijah Kim
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Location: Petawawa, ON, Canada Zone 3A
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Ok not near us at all   Please keep us updated on how your build is going. We will be building in an unorganized township but it is always good to know of hiccups/issues with builds.
 
Elly McCrackin
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We've decided to fix up the little one room cabin that's on the property.  Its 15x27. Being that we don't intend to be there permanently until 5 years from now, this is the best budget friendly option for us. Banks aren't being helpful, being it's a lease hold...and debt isn't sustainable.

My husband has drawn up a very cute plan that's liveable, and the sooner it gets finished, the sooner we can zip up there eon long weekends without worrying about a trailer to stay in.  By the time we move up there, we think we can twin the cabin and have a nice 830square foot cottage. 

Here's hoping things go smoothly!
 
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