Preparing for the worst

What do you do to minimize risks when planning and building your home? By preparing for every eventuality that you can imagine.

Well, if financial risk is a major concern to you then one of the best ways to reduce risk is to build your house with out resorting to a mortgage. It means you are unlikely to lose your home if you should lose a large part of your income through ill health, job loss or business failure. Everyone in the western world since 2008 should know that job loss or business failure is a very real possibility.  Preparing to build without resorting to a mortgage means saving all you can or building the maxmum equity in your current home..

A mortgage free home can also be a ready source of large amounts of cash in an emergency. Of course you probably wouldn’t be mortgage free any longer.

Can you accomplish a mortgage free home or at least a low payment home? Well, maybe. If you own a home now your equity may be enough to build your new home. Careful saving, careful planning, and judicious buying may accomplish it. Once again it largely depends on how high you set your sights and how much of the work you can do yourself. For my own part I have managed to own a few homes mortgage free but bad luck or poor judgment usually puts me back in debt so that I have to do it all over again. I hope that most of my readers are a little brighter than me in that regard and a little better at preparing.

Where I live on the Alberta prairies the political risk is very low. It is a stable resource rich country with an economic environment stronger than almost anyplace else in the world. We should not be too afraid of taking on the responsibility of a mortgage. It just feels good not to have one.

There has never been a damaging earthquake nearby, hurricanes don’t happen, floods can be avoided by not building on a floodplain, and there no volcanoes active or otherwise anyplace nearby. Crime is not much of a problem if you stay away from the worst spots in our major cities.

What are our risks then? What should we be preparing for?

The weather can become extremely cold, blizzards can bring transportation to a near standstill, tornadoes can happen if somewhat rare and there is some risk of wildfire. The loss of electrical service during minus 40 degree weather is no joke, especially with a blizzard blowing.

So what do we do to minimize risk? How do we go about preparing for the eventualities?

In our case tornadoes are so rare that most people would do no more than have a plan to follow if one became imminent. We could all run over to Aunt Edna’s with a dozen beer and a deck of cards because she has a good solid basement.

Cold weather? Well, we all have engine block heaters, remote starts or garages for our cars and our houses are super tight and super insulated for the most part.

Blizzards? Almost every family keeps a freezer full of food in case they can’t get to the store for a few days.

In case of the loss of electrical service prudent people keep a source of emergency power and or supplementary heat that doesn’t require electricity.

With wildfire the best defense is probably to have escape routes planned and your insurance paid up.

All these measures can work to a degree in other parts of the world and with different situations. However if you live in tornado alley in Texas you should take extra measures. It is not likely that you can afford to build a house that can stand up to the forces of a major tornado so you should probably spend the money on a shelter. You probably will never have to spend much time in it so it does not need to be elaborate but should be large enough for your whole family as well as quests.

If you live in coastal Florida you might consider the height of possible storm surges when building. You might want to avoid second stories for less exposure to high winds. Strong workable shutters and smaller windows might be advisable. Even with every precaution it could be advisable to get the heck out of there if a hurricane approaches and if you want a house to come back to build it as hurricane proof as possible.

How about preparing for war, terrorism, crime, revolution, earthquake, and volcanoes? Well don’t build from un-reinforced concrete or brick in an earthquake prone area but it might be wise to have concrete walls if flying bullets could be a danger. Choosing a location carefully may help in the other cases. One of the main dangers from volcanoes is mud or poison gas rolling down valleys so try to avoid areas where this could be a risk. Security systems, alarm systems and electronic surveillance has become quite inexpensive and is probably your best bet against crime short of hiring guards. Don’t neglect to install good locks and to use them.

Preparing well for crime

A good security system

Remember though that risk is part of life. Don’t miss out on the good things in life in an effort to protect against all eventualities.

All this said, do not build dangers into your house. At the very least follow the codes and listen to the inspectors. Don’t allow stairs without hand rails or unsafe electrical conditions. Clean up your work sites and work as safely as possible. We have all been tempted to take unsafe shortcuts. It isn’t worth it. I bear a few scars from mistakes. I have had painful wounds from air nailers and I have a flattened finger that was too stupid to avoid my framing hammer. I have been far luckier than some. A construction site can be a dangerous place and more so for the inexperienced. Preparing for the worst may turn out to be the best thing you have ever done.



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