Saturday, September 7, 2013

Making Home

I have been fully enjoying my time building a home for my family. Danielle and I worked out the design for quite a while. "Version 1" came while we were visiting Stony Creek Farm in Walton, NY last November, and was clearly inspired by Dan and Kate's 900-square-foot cabin (thanks for the inspiration!). Over 6 months, our original idea was constantly tweaked and improved to fit our needs. I love designing spaces, and to spend time designing my own space was a treat that I have looked forward to since first learning how to build.

We bought our land in March, and began dreaming all over it. We had a driveway cut into it - and a house site cleared while the big excavator was around. Having trees cleared for out home felt selfish and I remember feeling physically disgusting when I first pulled up and the contractor had already started swinging his huge boom around, knocking trees down and ripping them up out of the earth. One of the considerations for our house was a desire to damage ecology as little as possible. Thankfully, all of the trees that ended up coming out were less than 10 years old (most of the land had been logged 8 years back). 

Once the site was clear, the builder in me wanted to take over the reigns from the designer. After a couple more big design changes, I submitted the plans for a permit, and started groundbreaking within a week of receiving it.

Mostly, I've been working alone. I've had Mike's help on Saturdays, which has been great. I had a fun painting session with my father, danielle, and Leo one day. And our friends Gray and Ben have both been out to help a couple times. Thanks to all! Here is what has happened:

There are big concrete "footings" below ground level that I dug the holes for, and then had a concrete truck come to pour. What you see in the photo are the piers that I then poured on top of the footing, in these home-made forms.

The piers will hold the house up off the ground, and the footings below them will spread the weight of the house out across the subsoil. I kept spraying the concrete for a first day to prevent it from curing too quickly in the heat.

I find great beauty in a well-stacked pile of lumber. This is some rough-cut pine that I had sawn at the local sawmill down the road. It will be our house's siding some day.

I started to construct the floor system one piece at a time, leveling each part as I went.

The piers are all the same size, and the ground slopes, so I used wooden "stilts" of varying lengths to level everything out.

You can see here how each stilt is notched to allow the beam to sit on it.

Getting somewhere....

All the floor joists are in! Time for the subfloor.

Half of wall #1! Some of the walls are very tall, because they extend into the second story. I built them all lying flat on the subfloor, and then lifted them up as whole units, so in some places I had to do half the wall at a time in order to be able to lift them up alone.

It was very exciting to start putting up the second floor joists. I'm looking forward to having a two-story house. I like the idea of looking onto the pond and garden from high windows.

I really delighted in designing and building the stairs! It was just the right amount of challenge, without getting too frustrating. These are just the basic skeleton for the steps, and nearer to the end of the project I will put the finished treads on and trim them out.

The house starting feeling really tall once we got these posts up and braced and it was time to lift the big triple-2x12 ridge beam up!

The bathtub will be where the little ladder is. The view from the tub will be down to the pond. I imagine taking a hot bath in the winter and watching Leo ice skating on the frozen pond.

I was out there today starting to get some roof decking up. After decking is tar paper, then purlins, then the metal roofing!

Here's the view of the house from down in the garden/pond area.

Getting the roof on is the big push right now (hopefully by the end of next week). Then I can rest easier once I know the rain is not sitting on the floor every time it rains. After roof, the rest of the walls need to be framed out, and then it's time for running the wiring and beginning to install the straw-bales. I need to begin contacting local farmers to find a source of good, tight, dry strawbales.


  1. Looks great, "Uncle" Greg!!! Keep posting progress. And, work safe.

  2. Beautyful!!!Have you make this alone with your Frinds / Family? My dream is make my own House, thank you for the posting :)

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