Building Your Homestead Home
For instance you look at this old home and you think, ‘I’ll just change the siding and it will look good as new’. But you remove the old siding or stucco and find out there is wood rot behind it. You lift off the rotten boards or plywood and find out the studs also have dry rot and while you’re in there you discover that there is hardly any insulation, or that sawdust was used and it has settled in such a way that the top six inches have no insulation. Now you have to take all the plaster off on the inside of the home and replace it with drywall once the insulation and vapor barrier are put up.
Learning from my own experience and economic place in life, I would build a 20×24 shack or something of that size with new materials on a new solid foundation or pillars, and slowly add on as money and time permits without being in debt to mortgage lenders who love to keep us in slavery to them, for the rest of our lives!
I would start out by placing my root cellar under the home for storing my food before or during the time I laid the foundation, where it is easy for an excavator-hoe to dig and then work my way up, building and finishing the various rooms as money permits. Root cellars should not be built under ground in poorly drained areas.
I would also build as much as I could with my own family members. If building seems above your expertise as a homesteader, I would make use of the public library and learn from them or ask your neighbors for help. I would try to avoid paying for labor as this is the most expensive part of building a home.
While we are talking about price, let’s remember than homesteading is about leading and living a simpler life. The bigger the house, the larger the time frame and the larger the debt you will incur to finish the house. So let us ask ourselves a few practical questions before we start.
How much room or space do I really need?
Can my children share the same room?
Can I really afford the cost to heat up the grand living room with all its cathedral ceilings? What about when I get older and/or my income changes?
Do I need a separate dining room or should I make the kitchen just a bit larger?
Can I combine the laundry into a corner of the bathroom or hallway?
Could I use a loft for a bedroom or two instead of full size rooms?
Do I really need mahogany cupboards and cork flooring?
Before you build, sit down and carefully think about all this, draw out a plan, and ask your local building store to give you a ball park figure. You may be quite surprised! At this time you may want to re-evaluate your overall plans because later you will find out the finished price to be about 25% higher than they quoted, and that was just for materials.
Here is what I would do learning from experience:
Start with a three foot crawl space above ground as a foundation. You can dig out a portion for a root cellar if you wish. Pile dirt or gravel up to the top six inches sloping away from the home, but making it easy access with no stairs. If you plan on a cement floor, you could make your walls cement infill using the newer foam blocks. Then place two layers of plastic followed by straw bales, add cement in between bales and three to four inches on top. Yes, pain in the neck but cheaper than foam, and wooden floors in the long run.
Make it about 20 x 24. This size is a starting point. You could add later If You Must!
Use logs for the walls. Logs are still the cheapest way to go. As soon as you build with stick it goes up fast but speed costs every time you go to the hardware store for nails, screws, drywall, primer, paint, trim, plastic, insulation, exterior sheeting, OSB or plywood, siding and trim, or paint, and on and on it goes!
Get the point. Build with logs and all you need is large nails or dowels to join, stain for the outside, and inside if you wish, and your done!! Build your interior walls with logs as well. Just remember to have an electrical plan in place to incorporate into the logs as they go up.
Avoid Log packages unless your rich. Get a load of rough logs, have someone teach you, or do a lot of reading and do it yourself. I was able to do about five logs a day with ease. You could also do post and beam using eight foot logs. Make sure they are 8-10inch tops consistency and for R value.
You can use log purlins spaced every three to four feet for the roof, and then use 8-16 foot 1.5″ tongue and groove boards. On top of that place your plastic followed by parallel truss rafters for insulation. By using this method you only have to stain if you want the wood ceiling that is the tongue and groove boards if your looking up from inside the house.
No drywall, primer, screws, or paint. And you won’t have unsightly cracks that most always show up later at the joints, or if you burn wood, unsightly soot marks on your white drywall.
If you do it this way you will save a ton of money now, and you will save a ton of work later having to refinish and repaint and reside. By using a darker exterior stain you will also extend the time frame you will have to re-stain.
The biggest Homesteading Tip I can pass onto you is this: Going to the Lumber Yard will cost you over and over and over again during the lifetime of your house. Build with logs, keep it simple, and enjoy life.
What can I do if I have shortage of logs in my area?
- Consider trucking them in. It may seem like a lot up front but not when you check out the price of a mortgage on a stick built. Oh, and forget the mortgage. If you get a mortgage, then they demand insurance, and insurance companies don’t like logs. They want expensive fire rated materials. Trust me, insurance is based on fear, and the bank in fear of losing their investment, force you to buy insurance for their sake, not yours. And Banks own insurance companies, so they profit both ways.
- Consider post and beam using cord wood (firewood and cement. Due to log shrinkage it would be best to use wood aged for two years. Split or round. Consider using shorter lengths, nail OSB in between, and add next row.
- You may wish to use the straw-bale method however it turned out to be more work, and more costly than logs from my experience.