Housing Tips

Homesteading Tips – Housing

Designing or purchasing your first homestead home on suitable land can be as simple or as complex as you wish. Every homestead will soon require a house to live in to protect you from the elements and give you a sense of security.

A few homesteading tips are: 1) stay within your budget, 2) and your capabilities.

If you are fortunate enough to purchase a small homestead with adequate immediate housing at an affordable price then you did well.

There are a number of homesteaders who prefer to do their own thing. I have never been interested in buying someone’s else’s home or in favor of paying for someone else’s labor or over-inflated real estate ventures. There is just something uniquely wonderful and satisfying in building my own home.

Homesteading Tips: Build Small

Build your first original home small. There are a number of good practical reasons for doing so.

Building costs have gone through the roof for materials and the labor is usually triple the cost of materials if one had to hire a contractor.

It will be more manageable to build within a short time frame.

It will cost less to heat and cool.

Homesteading Tips: Build In Unorganized Areas

Building your home free of building inspectors puts you in a position to build as you like. Building inspectors go by the National Building Code and the problems with that in rural areas are simply that it is extremely unlikely you will regain your costs from building according to the book!

It also places you in a position whereby you are free to try new things such as straw bale homes, cord wood homes, cob homes or the traditional log home. All of these homes are frowned upon by insurance agencies, lenders, and home inspectors because lenders who insure homes want to sell insurance on homes that are built primarily of fire resistant materials. A.K.A – chemicals!

Insurance companies are in the business of selling insurance — not paying out on claims! Interestingly enough, all the alternative homes mentioned exceed or meet the fire codes but they are different from the norm and these people who control the industry do not like change.

Homesteading Tips: Build Naturally

Building with natural materials may be the most cost-effective way to do things but will usually be more labor intensive than modern construction.

The goal is to stay away from the building stores. Manufactured goods are very pricey and may need to be replaced down the road. Insulation settles and gets wet. Shingles wear out. Tin roofing gets dented, the rubber on the screws deteriorate. Plastics melt and break. Drywall needs a lot of finish and paints, and will break especially if someone is being rough, kicks or punches the wall in anger.

All homes attract mice and insects due to its warmth and so the choice of materials makes no difference.

From personal experience I vote for logs, straw bale, and cord wood construction in that order. Logs require a lot of work, take time to shrink and settle but will last many years over quick build box housing if one takes time to preserve the logs. Straw homes are beautiful when finished and will also last many years with no need to replace insulation from settling. Cord wood is also very beautiful but requires two years drying of the wood before you build to eliminate shrinking and/or refilling the cracks. (This can be overcome by cutting deadwood or buying seasoned firewood)

Homesteading Tips: Build Square

Having built a straw bale round house I encourage everyone to build square or rectangle. Why?

That is what people are used to and what they expect if reselling.

It will cost approximately 33% more to build round due to waste from cutoffs on plywood, shingles, and irregular style trusses.

It will take less time to build. If building with standard construction it is based on 4×8 sheets. So build eight foot high walls by four-foot increments lengthwise and have no waste.

Homesteading Tips: Build Two Story

Unless you are crippled it makes sense to build two-story housing. Roofs are expensive and the one place where a lot of heat escapes in the winter or gets trapped in the summer causing over heating and the need for air conditioning.

One can also live downstairs while giving time to complete the upstairs. Once again — build it only as large as needed. The bedrooms are only for sleeping — so how big do they really need to be? The larger the home, the more heat or cooling required to keep it comfortable.

Homesteading Tips: Build Above Ground Level

If you want a basement or a root cellar it is still advisable to build above ground level and bank soil around the basement to help keep it cool. This will prevent flooding and the need for submersible pumps.

My best choice would be to build the home into a hill, and using a small roof area, and membrane, back filling with straw or peat moss, followed by a small amount of dirt, and seed with wild grasses and wild flowers. That way I have a living roof with no shingles to replace, and it is cool in summer and warm in winter due to the slow transfer of heat.

Homesteading Tips: Build Solar Passive

Unless you live in the tropics you want to make use of the sun for light and heat into your home. By making most of the windows on the south side you can have both.

In my round straw bale home I get the sun all day in the winter, and in the summer when the sun is high I get the light without the heat. One could also use shade trees if living in warmer climates. When winter comes and the leaves are off the trees you get the sun and the warmth it gives.