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Sunday, May 3, 2009


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Building your own home is an option for people who own land, but lack the funds to have a ready home constructed.

There are MANY MANY plans from many sources on how to build your own home. While recommendations vary on many points, one place where they all agree is that you must know what the building codes are in your area. You will want to know what must be done to the property to make it ready for a residence. Decide on your water source and sewage options and build in such a way that you have the option to make improvements later. In other words, hauling water is fine while you are young, but you will likely appreciate indoor plumbing in your later years. Construct your dwelling with these things in mind.

One of the most intriguing plans I've seen is that of compound building. Rather than build a single building for a dwelling. some homeowners are opting to erect several small storage shed sized buildings. These are often small enough that no building permits are required. They can be positioned much the same as rooms would be in a house, but they each have their own foundation and roof. A wall is erected around the outer perimeter to
secure the compound and sometimes a roof is placed over the interior courtyard with walkways between rooms (buildings).

This plan for a compound home is of one made with hay bale construction.
Illustration courtesy: http://www.balewatch.com/

If you are homesteading, many authors suggest that you live in an old trailer home (or shack) on the property while you are building. During this time, your tools will likely be kept under a tarp or other waterproof container. Your first construction project (building A) will be the building which will later become your storage/garage space. This will help you perfect your skills while gaining experience. Once building A is complete, you live in building A and use the old trailer for storage while you construct building B. As each new section is finished, you move possessions into that and equipment/tools into your finished storage (which you just vacated).

If you more time than money, you can acquire many building materials for the cost of carrying it away. When modern construction methods are used, the excess materials must be cleared from the site. This is an expense to the contractor. If you follow the construction industry and are dependable, you may be able to get materials FREE in exchange for saving the contractor the expense of hiring a disposal service.

This site has a nice table on how materials can be used in construction:

Recycling Construction Materials: An Important Part of the Construction Process.

MaterialHow Is It Recycled?Recycling Markets
ConcreteThe material is crushed, the reinforcement bar is removed, and the material is screened for size.

  • Road base

  • General fill

  • Drainage media

  • Pavement aggregate

Asphalt PavementThe pavement is crushed and recycled back into asphalt, either in-place or at a hot-mix asphalt plant.

  • Aggregate for new asphalt hot mixes

  • Sub-base for paved road

Asphalt ShinglesAfter removal of nails, asphalt shingles are ground and recycled into hot-mix asphalt.

  • Asphalt binder and fine aggregate for hot mix asphalt

WoodClean, untreated wood can be re-milled, chipped or ground.

  • Feed stock for engineered particle board

  • Boiler fuel

  • Recovered lumber re-milled into flooring

  • Mulch and compost

  • Animal bedding

DrywallDrywall is typically ground or broken up, and the paper is removed.

  • Gypsum wallboard

  • Cement manufacture

  • Agriculture (land application)

MetalMelted down and reformed

  • Metal products

CardboardGround and used in new pulp stock

  • Paper products

The house in this video "was built over a period of seven months into the side of a hill. It was constructed almost entirely of salvaged, natural, second hand, or found materials. We wanted to see what could be accomplished with out buying newly manufactured materials..."

(Image courtesy of http://www.strawbaleconference.com/index.html)

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Building a dwelling can be labor intensive
(another reason for building small). You can gain experience in using
your method of choice by volunteering to help with an ongoing project
near your home. Search the internet for 'learning workshops.' If you are willing to travel and camp overnight, you will be rewarded with more learning opportunities.

When you have enough materials assembled, you can host your own workshop (well worth the expense of hiring an experienced facilitator to teach and organize the crews, in my opinion). Well-placed announcements on the internet and the local health food store (or farmer's market) will get the word out. Consider what you would want to have available as a volunteer, and secure those items when you host a work day(s). This would include toilet facilities, drinking water, possibly a camping area, and possibly enough food for a common meal. Your educational facilitator will likely have some ideas about what works well in these settings (and what he/she may require).

Next, we will look at alternative building materials and methods. . . .

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a perpetual student of things I find interesting and (I hope) helpful to others. Feel free to use and apply all information with a healthy dose of common sense. :-)

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