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Anyone Ever Build Their Own House?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by iamlowsound, Aug 26, 2012.

  1. As a lot of you know, I am a hard core DIYer. I like to design and build things and I worked as a carpenter for years. My wife and I have decided to take on the ultimate DIY job, we are going to build a house. At the moment, we are just in the design and planning stage, but I hope to be turning ground by spring 2014.

    Right now we are looking at building a 1500 sqft bungalow, or ranch for those of your South of the border. I plan on using ARXX (http://www.arxx.com/) for the structure of the house and I will be doing in floor heating on both the main level and in the basement. My plan is to have a very energy efficient house by the end of it (LEED certifiable, doubt I'll get the actual certification though). I am going to be doing as much work with concrete as possible, because I am an engineer and I love the stuff, it is also a very green building material.

    If anyone has any tips, or advice, please feel free to give it.

  2. colcifer

    colcifer Esteemed Nitpicker Supporting Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    A Galaxy Far, Far Away
    Concrete's good. You could also use adobe or strait up dirt if you wanted to. Post lots of pics.

    I've never designed a building but if it were me, I'd be thinking a lot about future-proofing. Anything that could become outdated or just plain go wrong should be easy to access and the structure should lend itself to retrofitting. But you're an engineer; you knew that already. Looking forward to following your progress!
  3. Thanks! My wife and I plan on making a website to document the entire thing, it will probably get launched once we buy a property. I will also keep this thread active with lots of pictures. Right now I am looking at doing large spans and not having any load bearing walls on the main floor, that way you can always move a wall or something if you want to down the road. I think that we are only going to finish the main floor at first, then finish the basement as times allows.

  4. hover


    Oct 4, 2008
    Do it man!

    I helped build a cabin, 400 miles north in Maine (right near the border of Canada, actually)...with my Brother in law.

    He bought a 17 acre parcel of land and was undecided on what to build (initially it started as a cabin)...was thinking drop a trailer, then stick build, then prefab, as we spent 3 summers of weekends clearing the lot.

    I made the mention "why don't you build the walls in sections, and trailer them up?"

    In hindsight, I should have let him drop a trailer. :p For what started as a 20"x20" "cabin" truned into a 20" x 32" house. I got the surprise when the foundation was done, and we had to build a "few extra walls"...One level high, but challenging. Only thing we didn't do was the foundation and the ceiling joists, those were craned and installed.

    I will post pics of it later. It's almost done, and for my trouble I get a set of keys.... very rewarding, great learning experince for when I set out to do it someday.

    Best of luck!
  5. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    Not myself, but I know 2 people who have done it themselves. I am in the middle (ran out of cash, but will be resuming work in the next month) of a complete gut&rebuild on a rental home that the wife and I are customizing to suit our needs... optimizing space and such.

    Here is a gallery of the work so far...

    Tips and advice: be ready to do a LOT of work yourself or prepare to pay people to help. I found out quickly that most friends offer to help, even volunteer themselves when the topic hasn't come up... but RARELY ever actually show up :rolleyes:

    I've completely stopped planning days (buying extra beers, ordering food, etc) that they say they are coming.
  6. Thanks for the tips! I know a lot of the people in the industry, and quite a few of them have said that they will lend a hand. I figure some of them will show up, but I do plan on doing as much as possible by myself. I want to build the entire thing for 75% of what the final value is.

    There are several things that I will need to hire someone to do, such as the ARXX, as you have to be licensed to do it; and the taping/mudding, I could do it myself, but for what it costs and how long it will take me, it is worth it to pay someone else to do it.

    I have seen some of the pictures of your reno, but I will check out the website.

  7. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    I've been able (so far) to keep the total cost of the project to just about 10% over cost of materials... with the bonus of being able to complain about doing it all myself :smug:

    tapping/mudding is a pain, but I don't mind it too much. About the only thing I'm hiring a 'pro' for is the natural gas line from the meter to my furnace and after I'm moved in, the roof needs to be ripped and replaced (bought the house with 3 layers! already in place!!!). Never mind that I really do not want to deal with the removal of it all AND putting the new one on, I'm planning on adding solar panels after it's replaced... so I need to know I haven't screwed it up :)

    I was just clicking through and realized the last couple sets of pictures I took, aren't uploaded. I've got the subflooring, kids room (pet room actually), and the wife's office all mostly finished with new electric, new walls, built in cabinets, new doorways, etc. I'll need to upload the rest later.
  8. I don't mind taping/mudding, but for the amount of time that it will take me to do 1500sqft, I might as well pay someone else the $2000 to get it done in a week.

  9. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    True! I've been using 'mud days' as a break between major projects and my place is about about 60% the size you are planning. Plus, a lot of mine is not quite normal mud work... like this bit:
  10. colcifer

    colcifer Esteemed Nitpicker Supporting Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    A Galaxy Far, Far Away
    No load bearing walls is an interesting idea. What materials are you planning on using for the interior walls?
  11. Regular 2x4 studs. No load bearing walls is easy to do on the main floor; if you use trusses, rather than rafters. The basement will have 9 foot ceilings, so I can hide all beams and HVAC without bulkheads.

  12. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    $2000 to tape and finish a 1500 square foot house? Without knowing more specifics, that is potentially good money for a finisher. I'd drive up there and do it for you for that price. :)

    I've built many houses over the years. Remember that the corners you cut today may come back to bite you later. Be careful where you decide to save a dollar or three.

    In floor heating over concrete is a nice idea, but that will impact your options for flooring material and then you also want to account for how you will keep too much of that heat from going down into the concrete instead of up into the room.

    Check out your options for solar power. We will probably be building a house around the same time, and solar is a major part of our project. Your website sounds like a cool idea. I'll be way too busy to be documenting ours that way.

    Why are you not confident about obtaining a LEEDS cert?

  13. Very cool! Keep us up to date with pics once you get started.
  14. hover


    Oct 4, 2008
    This was after we got done installing the kitchen, we did the siding before last winter... fun.
  15. I've built many, but none of my own back in the late 70's, 80's, and 90's. Also a roofer, rocker, and siding applicator.
    I love drawing up plans with Acad, but I can't afford any. :(

    I hope it all goes well, and you don't have to screw around with too many building inspectors ... you know how that usually goes. :mad:
  16. I was just ball parking a number for the mudding, I hope it is less than that. I plan on staining and sealing the concrete, no other flooring over it. You can do so much with it. As for the heating, it is an extremely popular method of heating around here and IMO and IME is the the most efficient and nicest feeling heating source. You do a 1" foam board under it to keep the heat going up, not down. You can also put almost any flooring over it that you want.

    As for solar, I have looked into it, but I don't really want to put the money into it. Although I have thought of doing a wind turbine. I don't think that LEED certification will really get me anything in the long run, so I might just not bother. Of it turns out that I can get some grant money, I'll jump all over it.

  17. Looking good!

  18. hover


    Oct 4, 2008
    Thanks Bro, but remember...this was supposed to be a "cabin in the woods", lol...(my B-i-L is not too big on 'subtle', or 'thinking small')

    I'm like "dude. there's probably 4 other houses in a 10+ mile radius. you're starting a gentrification with your 'cabin' (the rest are essentially shantys)...there'll be a strip mall up here now, within the year". :D
  19. nortonrider


    Nov 20, 2007
    Since you're still in the design stage,

    Consider making all hallways wide (5 ft.) and all interior doors 3'0.
    No steps, and extra square footage in the bathroom.

    Why? We're all getting older,
    design the home for an older (handicapped?) person to live in now and it
    will appeal to more people later.

    Our population is getting older and getting around a house with a walker / wheelchair
    is a valid concern for a growing number of people.
    Wide hallways and doorways are easy when building a house, much tougher to retrofit
    later on.
    A big bathroom is much easier to make handicapped accessible than a small one.

    Single level instead of steps.
    It could be pretty hard on grandma carrying the groceries up the steps into the kitchen
    Or the laundry up the stairs from the washer and dryer in the basement.

    Even if you are never planning on selling - stuff happens, plans change. And if you do live there for the rest of your days, well then, the place will work for you.

    Make the house easy to live in now (and in the future). The design stage is a good time to be thinking about it.
  20. The house has no hallways and all the doors are 32", with about half being pocket doors. There will steps to the basement, but that is it and the bathrooms are large. The laundry will be in the basement, but the mud room is plenty large enough to put a stack washer/dryer if need be.

    I have been wanting to build my own house since I was 12 years old and I have been taking notes on design elements almost as long. That is half of my life. It isn't uncommon for me to walk into someone's house, see something I like, pop out my phone and start snapping photos and taking notes on how I think I can build it.


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