Tag Archives: build

An Efficient House

If your goal is to build an efficient house the devil is in the details.

L'il Devil
Darwin Bell / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Not paying close attention to the little things can result in a lot of little inefficiencies. if you expect the lifespan of a house to be in the 200 year range, these little inefficiencies add up to a lot.

The main concern here is energy efficiency, but I also want to touch on construction efficiency and on living efficiency. By living efficiency I mean time, money and effort spent on maintenance as well as everyday cost in time and effort.

One of the factors I have probably mentioned too many times already, is size. It is only common sense that a larger home is going to be less all around efficient than a smaller one built to the same standards. If prestige is the goal, my feeling is that there are far better ways to gain it.

Very careful planning is where efficiency starts. Use care and common sense in evaluating your needs. Think into the future. Are you building space for children that will be gone in a couple of years? Are you considering special needs you may face as you age.

Swain House, Fort Street, Detroit
Not so simplesouthofbloor / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Keep it simple. Complicated designs tend to have higher costs and contribute to both energy and construction inefficiencies.

A simple rectangle is the most efficient design for energy efficiency. It provides the most space with the least exterior surface.

The insulating value of the walls and especially the ceiling is very important if you live in a cold or hot climate. If you are lucky enough to live in area where daily average temperatures stay in the comfortable range then thermal mass is probably more important. The ceiling is easier to insulate to higher R values and has a reasonable payback even to R50 and higher. Most homes have a certain amount of heat layering which increases the temperature differential between inside and out at the ceiling and the tops of walls. More insulation is required at these locations for the same results. Blow in insulation works well. Normal rafter configurations make the area above exterior walls difficult to insulate well. Special rafters with a raised “heel”  solve this. The extra cost may be worth it. How to measure heel height.

Rafters today are usually manufactured trusses which are enable fast and efficient construction. Click here for a truss diagram and a glossary of terms. A n excellent and more detailed explanation of trusses is available here.

When calculating paybacks it is important to remember that fuel and electricity will likely become more expensive in the future. This will be partly because of scarcity and of environmental concerns.

Heat in the attic is not your friend no matter what your climate. Be certain of good insulation and ventilation. Choosing a light-colored or reflective roof covering could be beneficial.

192/365 - Help, I'm Alive, My Heart Keeps Beating Like A Hammer
Helga Weber / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Even the best windows have poor insulating properties. Design with this in mind. Don’t neglect the use of natural light for energy savings.

A two-story house or a basement can add living space  at a lower energy cost. Providing staircases can reduce this benefit considerably. Stairs can be problematic for small children and seniors. There is an element of danger to everyone. My own opinion is that it is best to avoid the risk of falls if possible.

One of the most common housing problems I have encountered over the years, has been wet basements. Providing a full depth basement that is completely waterproof may be more costly than the space is worth. This link is to a commercial site, but they do list a lot of the common basement problems.

An efficient house must be as impervious to air movement through the exterior envelope  as possible. Pay extra attention to sealing around windows and doors. Don’t forget to seal where plumbing and wiring penetrate the building envelope.

Energy efficient lighting is a consideration. Flourescent and LED lighting uses less electricity than incandescent. In a climate like much of Canada it becomes a little more complicated. incandescent bulbs lose efficiency by generating heat. In winter, in Canada, that heat is definitely not wasted. In summer the days are long and little light is needed. Other considerations are how that electricity is generated and what fuel you use for heating. My own guess is that  the extra cost of flourescent or LED bulbs may not be justified in all cases. Our government here is taking the decision out of our hands by prohibiting the sale of incandescent bulbs. Probably an effort to make Canada look better to the rest of the world through climate change action. Follow your own consience.

an efficient house has efficient appliances
Corie Howell / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Choose energy-efficient appliances.  Front loading washers are presumably more efficient than top load. The capital cost, however, appears to be almost double. They do use less water and the cost to heat that water is, of course, lower. There is little reason to heat the water to wash clothes, though, so much of the advantage is lost. I think the jury is still out on this one.

A clothesline is an inexpensive way to use less electricity

A garage may seem like a bit of a luxury. Actually a lot of fuel can be saved by not having to warm or cool your vehicles by idling. An attached garage has at least one less wall for heat loss. There is no reason to heat a garage above 40 degrees fahrenheit. The latent heat of a vehicle just off the road is enough to provide most of the heat needed for a well-built garage. In hot climates, just keeping the sun off your car makes a huge difference.

Design your house for safety and ease of use. Make certain that bathrooms are easily accessible from all areas, Kitchens must be designed to reduce workload. Large closets are good in the master bedroom, but do you really need them in guest rooms? I never could see the logic of two sinks in a bathroom. Do you really want to carry togetherness to that extent.

Minimize hallways. They are largely wasted space. Do not use doors where they are not necessary.

Place windows higher for privacy and to maximize space for furniture.

Do not use more interior walls than you need. An open concept is efficient and pleasant.

Vaulted ceilings add interest and an illusion of space, but are not very energy-efficient and may make your home more difficult to insulate well.

To reduce the environmental cost of building your efficient house, there are a few considerations. Cement and steel are huge greenhouse gas producers so it follows that they should be used carefully. Calculate carefully so as to not waste concrete. Building on a crawl space reduces the need for concrete and reinforcing steel considerably. Both products have a long life and this reduces impact somewhat. Review each material and design choice for its energy use and environmental impact. Environmental cost of building materials.

Source as much of your material as possible locally, to reduce the impact of transportation.

Last House on Holland Island, May 2010
An unsafe locationbaldeaglebluff / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Build strong and build in safe locations. Replacing or repairing homes damaged by flood or storm is not very efficient or environmentally friendly.

Use labor and trades that are nearby if possible. If doing much of the work yourself, see if it is possible for you to live on site during construction. This is a huge time and energy saver.

Choose your water and space heating equipment carefully. Eliminating a chimney saves considerable space and material. consider the space used by the equipment. Using a tankless water heater for both space and water heating eliminates the need for a chimney and much of the space requirements. Follow the following links for more information. Hydronic radiant heatingHeating with a hydronic radiant system.

Finally, the home that has a long practical use is more environmentally friendly, So build well and with forethought. Avoid fads.

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Cost to Build Our House

I think it is time to explore the cost to build our house to date. We are close enough to completion to get a fair estimation of the final cost. About all that is left to buy is gutters, deck material, steps and walks.

Final cost to build can be estimate when completion is near

Close enough to completion to estimate the final cost

Yes, the weather is getting colder, and I am more inclined to work less, and to spend more time on this blog. From now on I should be able to get back to doing a couple of posts or more per week. It is about time, as my mother used to say, when I dragged myself from bed.

We are not quite within our original cost expectations, although we did not completely blow our budget. This, however, is not unusual or unexpected so does not create any major problem. I was prepared for overruns of up to 20%. The importance of planning for the unexpected is emphasized. As I have mentioned before, it is important to have as much as a 20% buffer.

Our original cost to build estimate was 85,000 dollars (Canadian), which included the cost of land.. I am not certain of the accuracy of my accounting, but it appears that our cost to date is just over 90,000 dollars.There is still some cost to go, but our final cost to build will be considerably less than 100,000. This is for a 1008 sq. ft. house, with a 16 ft. by 24 ft. detached garage, on a 100 by 120 ft. lot. For most of the world that is a 93.6 m^2 house, a 4.9 m by 7.3 m garage, and a 30.5 by 35.6 m lot. Approximate conversions of course.

Related posts you may find interesting. – A house for less than 100000 dollars – The footing ,foundation and floor is in progress – Buying wisely, buying for less, buying early – Installing Water and Sewer .

The house is on a crawl space. Adding a full basement would have increased the cost by 10 to 20 thousand, mostly because I am to damn old to pour a concrete floor and would have been forced to hire a contractor. .

Part of the purpose of building  was to prove a point. The goal was to build a good quality home for less than 100,000. As a result, a lot of time was spent bargain hunting. A lot of used tools were purchased, All the appliances were used. As much material was repurposed as possible. Care was taken to purchase only what was necessary, at least until time became more important than cost.

An unexpected expense was the cost of installing a sewer main extension. Estimated extra cost-7000 dollars.

ICF foundation a sinificant partof the cost to build

ICF foundation

A change from a planned wooden foundation to  an insulated concrete form foundation (ICF) cost, very roughly, about 3000 extra. This type of foundation took less labor and considerably less time. Important, since we were delayed about a month in starting.

I somehow managed to order about 300 dollars worth of unneeded drywall. I can use it on other projects

I paid extra to have drywall and shingles delivered and placed where needed. Worth every penny when you do not have help.

No time was available to bargain hunt for siding, soffits and the like. I do, however, believe the local store gave me a very fair price.

Several hundred dollars worth of extra electrical, plumbing, and gas fitting material was purchased to reduce travel time making up shortages. The time saved was the primary motivation, but travel is a major consideration when much of the material is not easily available locally.

The natural gas installation cost about 600 dollars more than I had guessed.

All the utility suppliers were different from those I had used before and required substantial deposits. This is not an expense, but still requires cash.

I used a standard of construction somewhat higher than normal. This cost a few hundred more. Examples are, heavier than required wall and roof sheathing and higher rated shingles. Weather conditions may be a little more severe in the future, and I wanted a little extra strength.

All these items added up to substantial extra cost, but I was able to save more than half this amount in other areas. For example, I had planned for the cost of hiring a little extra labor for jobs that cannot be done alone. Friends, family, and neighbors were all there when I needed them, and I spent nothing at all on labor.

We did find tremendous savings in many areas which greatly reduced the cost to build.

All our light fixtures were purchased used from yard sales and habitat for humanity. Cost was likely only about 10% of new retail.

Kitchen appliances

Range and dishwasher— total cost $200. microwave—$75.

All our appliances were used and cost a total of 625 dollars. The surprising part is that we ended up with far higher quality units than we would normally buy. The style in favor right now is stainless steel. Good, nearly new, white appliances are easily available, very cheaply. We purchased almost all ours through Kijiji.

Sink and faucett

Sink and faucet—total cost $150

We found a new kitchen sink for 100 dollars. This one retails for over 600. We acquired a new kitchen faucet for 50 that usually costs about 400. Lavatory sinks complete with faucets cost only 50 dollars each from Habitat for Humanity Restore.

My water heater, which retails for as much as 2700, I found for 600. About 200 worth of extras was included.

Similar bargains were found for windows, flooring and cabinets.

Since I had disposed of most of my construction tools at retirement, I had to repurchase many. Almost all were found on Kijiji or at yard sales,for a  very a  low cost. Their cost is included in the cost of the home.

Our old living room suite was getting shabby so my wife, Bobbi, spent a couple of months watching ads for a good used set. She found a set for free. We only had to travel, about 80 km (about 50 miles to my American friends), round trip to pick it up. It is in new condition but a little dated in style. Included was a hide a bed, love seat, swivel rocker and cushions. The colors suit us perfectly. We didn’t care that it is a little out of style since myself and Bobbi are a little past it too. We gave our still usable old set to a family that could use it.

mitre saw

an almost essential tool—cost for saw $40 cost of stand $50

I think I have proven that the cost to build a home can be less than 100,000. Of course I am reasonably adept at all aspects of home building and have had considerable experience. I am good with my hands and familiar with the tools of the trade. My wife and I are adept at bargain hunting and bargaining. Remember, however, that I am nearly 71 years old and not nearly as quick and tough as I once was.

If you do not have at least some of these skills, or feel you can not acquire them, then a project like this could be considerably more difficult for you. You may need a couple of years for planning, and acquiring knowledge and experience.

Total cost includes the purchase of the land. We acquired our site, which included the garage, for 35,000 dollars. This leaves the total cost of the house alone at about 60,000.

It should be noted, though, that our end result is considerably more than just a basic house. We are very happy with it, and feel it suits our needs very well.

We do live in Alberta which has no sales tax. Our national sales tax, the GST, is partially recoverable when building a new house. Taxes could be considerable in other jurisdictions.

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House Building Progress to May 15

Our house building progress has been slow, with no physical evidence of advance. Things have been happening, though.

house building progress means getting the services dug inOur development permit required an agreement with the County, and a deposit, to insure our proper completion of a sewer extension. Of course, I was not aware of this. The papers were mailed to me, but had not arrived by the time I ran out of patience and visited the office. Once I was there, the staff was very helpful. Copies were made, signed, and as soon as I paid my deposit, I received my development permit.

Circumstances including the need for a sewer extension, staff vacations, and slow mail, made the the process over two months long. Part of the delay was my own. Snow had made it difficult locate the manhole ending the sewer line, and to take the necessary measurements. Since the situation was slightly unusual, the necessary steps for the issuing of a permit were not very clear to me. By the time we worked everything out, the delay was considerable.

Once the development permit was in hand, I could apply for the other necessary permits. I spent the weekend reviewing my drawings and filling out the application forms. It is a requirement here, to provide two sets of drawings. They must include floor plans, a cross section, drawings of all elevations, details of floor joists and supports, framing details, a description of heating and ventilation to be used and a drawing of electrical. This could vary in other jurisdictions.

A load too far
michaelhallca / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Yesterday I applied in person to IJD Inspections Ltd.. The staff was very courteous and helpful. I was able to personally meet the Building Safety Codes Officer. He was very helpful in answering questions, and addressing some concerns that I had. I left with electrical, plumbing and gas permits in hand. Building plans are reviewed before the building permit is issued, so it will take a few days before I will receive that. I left with a very good feeling.

The cost for the permits was less than I anticipated, being 1147.74 in total.

I am going to stress again, the importance of acquiring all necessary permits before beginning construction. They are for your own safety, and inspections can catch possibly dangerous errors. Inspectors are usually very helpful, and available to answer questions. Don’t be a pest, though. Do your homework. Inspectors are helpful, but they are not your teachers.

You will be required to follow national, state or provincial, and municipal building codes. These can vary considerably by jurisdiction to address local conditions. There is a lot of difference between building a house in Southern Arizona and building in Northern Alberta.

Codes change continually in an attempt to keep abreast of conditions and technology. Often they add to the cost of construction and sometimes their justification escapes me. In most cases, though, the changes add to the safety and comfort of a building.

It is nice to have copies of the code books but they are usually quite costly. Changes are usually posted on the internet but sometimes are difficult to understand out of context. Ask your inspector or other professional if there are changes you should know about. Only a portion of the codes will apply to a simple single family residence. Often, books are available, at low cost, that explain codes and practices applicable to building a house.

There may be additional permits needed, in some situations, and some subdivisions may have covenants that need to be respected. Again, do your homework and legwork.

Back to our own situation. Delays have put me about three weeks behind on my start. Not too serious, if I don’t experience other significant problems.

First meet with Cherry blossom this year!
autan / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

We have been able to use the time productively. We have found more bargains on materials and tools, and have been working on landscaping the part of the lot that won’t be disturbed during construction. We planted our first tree. An Evans cherry, which should provide us with many pies in the future.

One change has been made to our plans. I had thought to use a PWF ( preserved wood foundation) on a concrete footing. I was informed that this option would require an engineers seal on my plans, and an on site inspection by an engineer. Available engineers are apparently very busy. Since our project is in a rural community, I anticipated costs to be high and delays possible. I made an on the spot decision to use a ICF (insulated concrete form) foundation instead. Although a little more costly it takes less time and labor. It was an option I had been seriously considering anyway. The requirement for an engineer for the PWF narrowed the cost differential considerably. ICF is an easy, do it yourself method, that is being used more and more commonly. It does mean I will have to review my material list, before soliciting quotes.

I should be able to send a list for quotes to possible suppliers by tomorrow.

If my ditching and excavation contractor shows up soon, we should still be able to move in by first snowfall. If I don’t make it by then we may have to spend the winter in Arizona. Bummer!

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A house for less than 100000 dollars


Can you build a house for less than 100000 dollars? Yes, it is possible. In fact, you may be able to build for much less than that.

There are many designs available, or you can use your own design, that can be built very inexpensively. Here is how.

I am going to use a hypothetical location typical of a small town in central Alberta. You may be able to do much better.

a house for less than 100000The first requirement is land.

. Property values are quite low in many areas. For this discussion, we will include a value for the land, which may or may not be applicable to your area or situation. In my area, you can buy a single lot of 5000-6000 sq. ft. (465-557 sq. meters). for 25,000 or less. Sometimes much less. Two serviced lots, near where I live, were recently sold by closed tender, for under 5000 each. In some cases it just takes a little luck. I will start with a land cost of 20,000.

To keep keep cost down, services need to be along your property boundaries. In many subdivisions, water and sewer are located under the street in front of your property. Material. labor and equipment cost, to bring it to the house, should be less than 3,000. I will use 2,000.

There are several ways to build a house for less than 100000

By Dwight Burdette (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Natural gas, electricity, and telephone are usually available from the alley. Bringing them to the house should cost less than 1,500. I will use 1,500. I am going to assume that the property does not need undue shaping, or leveling, before you are able to build. Twenty four hours with a skid steer at 75 dollars should do the leveling, excavation, and back filling. Total cost, 1,800.

Hey, we haven’t even started, and we have already spent over 25000, you are thinking.

Land cost, services and preparation is a significant portion of the cost of a house, and one over which you have little control, other than the choice of location. There are a few areas where you can effect savings. Perhaps you could rent equipment and do your own excavating and site prep. Maybe a plumber friend could help you run the water and sewer services.

Now you need your permits. Cost for these can vary enormously, depending on many factors, but permits have cost me less than 1,500 on my last couple of house builds. It might be a little optimistic but I am going to use 1,500.

you can build a house for less than 100000 using locally sourced material

Using locally sourced material

It is time to build. We know that to build a house cheaply, we must use simple and efficient design. The house will be rectangular with a gable roof. Patios, decks and landscaping will be left for when we have a little more cash available. We will look for the best for the least, but will try to build so that future operating costs are as low as possible.

In many areas, building on a concrete slab will have the lowest foundation cost. In others, a preserved wood stem wall will be the least costly. In my area there is not a lot of difference in cost, but PWF might win if you are doing your own labor.

We want a comfortably sized house, so I have settled on a two bedroom ranch style of about 1000 sq. ft. (93 sq.meters) for this example.  Many people would be happy with less than this.

We will try to plan the house for ease of future expansion. This means planning the house with the extra additions included, and then removing them. Possible additions would include an attached garage, bedrooms and bathroom.

Although this could vary, depending on location, my recent experience is that material costs for this type of house will be about 50 dollars per sq. ft.. Our 1000 sq. ft. house will have a material cost of about 50,000 including all plumbing, electrical and mechanical. This should allow for upgraded shingles, colored vinyl siding, extra insulation and perhaps an extra bathroom. Cabinets will not be the cheapest but will be in the lower range. Windows and doors will have to be in the mid to low cost range. There should be room in this for a few frills, such as shutters, for appearance. It should allow for a high efficiency furnace and water heater. If your main goal is economy, you can probably lower this cost considerably.

To build a house for less than 100000 it is necessary to do considerable work yourself

Working on your house

I am, of course, assuming that you will be doing almost all the work yourself, without resorting to trades people. I am also going to assume that you will need to hire some help, just to stay on a schedule. Although it is more than I usually require, I will allow for 2 laborers for 12 weeks at 40 hrs. per week and pay them 20 dollars per hour. Remember, this is Alberta. Our labor costs are quite high. There goes another 19000.

There are a few more costs, which would include insurance, interest on interim financing, property taxes while building, deposits on services, and material for a driveway and walk (Just gravel for now). The 4000 we have left from our 100,000 should cover that nicely.

This little exercise has left us with a house that has a cost of about our target of a house for less than 100000.

Could we build for even less? The answer is an emphatic, yes.

We have included the cost of the land, which is not really part of your house building costs. It does, however, contribute to what money you have available. You may already have the land, or you may find a less expensive location. We have assumed an easily serviced property, but the costs could be more, or less. Perhaps you will be replacing a mobile home, or something similar, and the required services will already be there and usable. These scenarios could lower the cost by as much as 25,000.

Wise buying choices.

Planning for savings

You might have the time, and the inclination, to do practically all the work yourself. Savings could be up to the 20,000 allowed for labor.

You could go the cheapest possible on material and equipment and save 20% or more. There is another 10,000.

You could build smaller and realize a proportionate saving on material.

It is theoretically possible that you could end up with a livable house for as little as 40,000, if you already have the land. Even less, if you are fanatical about it.

It may seem crazy to try to build a house for under 100000

Not so crazy ideas

About now you are probably thinking, “this guy is a total loony.” Well, you don’t have to be crazy to build a house on your own, but it helps. It takes a tremendous amount of hard work, and perseverance, and I am not putting any monetary value on that. If you have a career paying a couple of hundred thousand per year, you would be a damn fool to take time off to build your house. It is for someone like me, who would not be doing anything else of value, or would be building for someone else anyway. The advantage is, I do not have to pay any taxes on the money saved building my own house.There are other little perks as well but they are a good subject for another article.

As an example, I built my current house in 2006, and the cost was less than 100000. This was just under 1,800 sq. ft. including the attached garage. It included two full baths and the garage is fully heated. The high efficiency furnace and demand water heater were considerably more costly than they are today (the water heater alone was 2,500 with out fittings or vent). I used shingles rated for 30 years which were more costly at the time. The windows were all awning or casement for less leakage. My backyard fence was included. A jet tub and a one piece 4 ft. shower was installed instead of cheap tubs. All the appliances including a freezer and central vacuum were paid for. I used 2 helpers for two months at 15.00 per hour. The cost of land was included but, I had purchased the lot for only 5,000. Cabinets were purchased ready to assemble, inexpensive, but not the cheapest available. My actual material cost was about 65,000. The only things left to do when I quit counting was the driveway, walks, deck and landscaping. I even managed to pay myself a modest 1,500 dollars per month for the 5 months it took me to complete the project.

We moved in 3 months after I did the excavation.

There is no doubt about my accounting since 100,000 was all I had, and I did not borrow any money.

From what I can tell, the costs today, are not substantially different. In some areas, they may in fact be lower. Alberta is not known for low construction costs. I expect my current build to cost about 85,000, including land.

I have now nearly completed my new house. For a look at costs follow this link

To build a house for less than 100000 rquires bargain hunting

Bargain hunting

Of course, I have had a lot more time to shop for bargains.

I hope this makes you a little less hesitant about starting on your own project.

One thing to remember, everything depends on careful preparation and diligent planning. If you take enough time to do this well, the rest will be easy.

Take the time to explore this site.There are many money saving ideas and alternate solutions to some costs.

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Build your house, buy an existing home or rent?

The dilemma. Should you build your house, buy existing, buy new, or rent.

This site is about building your house but I think it is time to to discuss the options.  I have already discussed other ways to acquire a home in a different vein in another article. Is building a home is the best way for you to go right now.

Renting may not be appealing to a lot of people but there can be compelling reasons to resort to just that.

build your house or rent
MarcelGermain / Travel Photos / CC BY-NC-ND

Building your own house can be much less expensive but  there is not a great deal of difference between the cost of renting and purchasing ready built. When you add in mortgage interest, taxes, insurance and maintenance then renting becomes a little more palatable. For most people owning a house is sort of an enforced savings plan. By making payments they slowly build an equity in their home.

Well maybe. The recent financial crisis in the U.S. reduced many peoples equity to nothing or worse. Many even had their credit ratings spoiled through foreclosure. It’s true that this only happened to people that had made recent purchases or had used the equity in their homes for other purposes. Still homeowners in many areas saw their large cushions in home equity reduced drastically. Certainly many other investments were no better but it serves to illustrate that home ownership is no guarantee of security.

Security or damage deposits for renting are usually much lower than the down payment required to buy a house.

Thirty days notice may be all that is required to move from a rental house. (If you didn’t sign a lease.) To sell a house may take several months and in some markets much longer.

There are inducements to renting. In Edmonton today there is practically a zero vacancy rate but I remember the time landlords were offering a trip to Hawaii if you signed a lease. Perhaps you would prefer to live close to downtown or work in an area where real estate is very expensive. If you don’t drive it might be necessary to have easy access to public transportation and single family accommodation is scarce. If your job requires that you move often, home ownership might be more hassle than it is worth. Clearly renting makes sense if you are not too certain what tomorrow may bring.

build your house or rentThere are downsides to renting. Well maintained and attractive single family homes are often very hard to find in the rental market. Apartments are often cramped and lack adequate parking. There are beautiful apartments available but they are often expensive. There is always the risk of rent increases or abusive landlords. You may not have the same sense of community that you can gain through home ownership.

If you feel like no one knows you are alive, just skip your rent payments for a couple months.

There is a certain pride to ownership and this alone can be a powerful inducement to owning your own home. This is is even more true if you build your house.

You will feel just a little better when you can check that homeowner box on a credit card application. I know I feel really good when somebody comments on how well maintained my home is or on how beautiful the yard and garden is. It is much better than a compliment on my new car. I have more of myself in my home. Owning your own home means you have the freedom to make changes and to personalize your home. Within limits of course.

Purchasing a previously owned home can give you more choice of location. There will be a wider price range which can make it easier to fit you budget. There may be more sizes and styles available than you will find in new homes choices.

You will be able to move in much earlier than you can if you  build your house. Financing will be easier for an existing home.

I went through debt consolidation–now I have just one bill I can’t pay.

Maintaining, renovating or adding to an existing home will give you valuable experience towards building your house in the future

Buying a ready built new home is similar except for the following. It will likely be lacking in anything more than rudimentary landscaping. You will have to supply your own sheds, window coverings, fencing, etc, after purchase. The area may still be under development with resulting dust and noise. Parks and playgrounds might have immature landscaping and be less pleasant to use.

The demographics of the area will not be established. You will have to live with whatever develops.

To build your house has many rewards but requires commitment, knowledge, organization and a lot of your time.

Build your house as you like it
Luxury suite|| UggBoy♥UggGirl || PHOTO || WORLD || TRAVEL || / People Photos / CC BY

There is a long time span from start to move in. Final costs are uncertain. Many skills are required and you may not be able to hire all you need. Planning and study are are essential and can be very time consuming. If you do not have some related experience you should not attempt a project of this magnitude. A good idea is to start with simpler projects such as an addition, a shed, a garage or a cabin to gain experience and some insight.

Or alternately you can just pick a plan that you like, choose the location and hire a general contractor to do all the rest. The advantage is getting what you want in an area of your choosing. Saves a lot of headache but is just as costly as buying ready built.

This blog is about building your own but I am not suggesting that you pound every nail, saw every board yourself. Pick and choose what you feel you can do competently. The more you can do yourself the less the project should cost but don’t overreach yourself. It could cost more in the end.

To find the time to do a large part of the construction youself you should probably be able to take a sabbatical from work or be retired.

On my first build for myself I had planned to wait a couple more years for retirement when pensions would provide a steady income. I was working as a small independent contractor and had just completed a new home project when my sister approached me with an idea. She proposed that she would provide interest free interim financing if I wanted to build immediately and build one for her the next year. The market was good, I had enough equity in my existing house, and I had the skills to build. I couldn’t  turn it down.

I had another stroke of luck when puchasers appeared for my existing house who were willing to a wait 90 days for possession.

I was able to pay myself a modest salary while building and to hire two experienced laborers. I knew I would end up without a mortgage at the end. The situation couldn’t have been much better. We moved in 3 months later but it took me another couple of months to completely finish.

One final caution—to build your house can cause a lot of tension and marital strife. Be sure your relationship can withstand it. Divorce is not a cost you wish to add.

Is It Better to Buy or Rent?   New York Times – U.S.

Rent or buy? Our calculators help you decide  The Globe and mail –  Canada

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Why build your home yourself?

The reasons you may decide to build your home yourself can be extremely varied.

I am not going to attempt to list them all here. Rather I will set out my own reasons and a few others that I imagine may motivate another person.

Teremok in Talashkino
A modest homeМинеева Ю. (Julmin) / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

One of my motivations has always been to accept a challenge and test my own limits. There is great satisfaction in a job well done. To build your home is a relatively safe way to indulge since you can always call on professionals to guide you or correct your errors. Permitting and inspections can keep you from erecting a dangerous building and inspectors are an invaluable resource for information and advice. You must however be very careful to avoid unsafe practices during construction. Injuries to yourself or your help will take all the fun out of the project and could prove very expensive.

Another important consideration is of course cost.  If you build your home yoursef you can reduce the cost of a new home by 50% or more depending on how much you do yourself and on how astute a buyer you may be. You may be able to use recycled material in some cases and friends and relatives may be willing to give a hand occasionally for the cost of BBQ and beer. If you require a mortgage every dollar you save could be doubled over time. The last home I built for myself was completely paid for by the equity in my old home. At the same time it is important to make any estimate high for the sake of safety. Raising money to complete an over budget project can be very difficult.

The desire to build your home to higher standards might lead you to do it yourself. Contractors often in the name of profits will take shortcuts that can reduce the soundness of the home as well as contribute to higher future operating costs and some times even create possible dangers. Often they will just neglect items that could increase a homes efficiency or safety. I have seen many examples of floors and walls not well secured to the foundation and roofs not well secured to walls. I have seen high efficiency furnaces installed as indirect vent when direct vent would have been simple and would increase safety and efficiency. I have even seen sheathing blown loose from framing because of insufficient nailing. I could give many more examples of error both by contractors and do it yourself people but that is good for an entire article in itself. Some errors are hilarious.

Innovative and unusual design items incorporated for comfort, utility, environmental or other reasons may well be very costly when done by contractors because of unfamiliarity. They may also require fine tuning that could be beyond the scope of contractors. Only yourself as the designer may be qualified to do this well.

This article would not be complete without pointing out some things you should consider before embarking on such a major project as building your home yourself..

Do you have any experience at all with the many trades involved?

Each one takes considerable study and in some cases practice. Even if you hire sub-contractors you will have to supervise and do quality control. Mistakes can be costly if rarely extremely so. I have made some big ones that were caught by inspectors and in some cases cost me several hours and dollars. Some happened simply because I was unfamiliar with the building codes or did not interpret them correctly. Perhaps you have friends or relatives in the trades willing to give help or advice. Be a little careful here as some tradesmen may have no experience in residential work. In our area many electricians do nothing but oilfield and industrial work and are not familiar with house wiring. An option is to hire professionals for the more difficult parts and do yourself what you are comfortable with. An example would be to have an electrician do the service entrance or a plumber to do the waste water rough ins.

Do you have the time?

Nothing is more tiring than spending practically every weekend and evening for a year or more trying to get your house to the move in stage. It is possible (depending on size and complexity) to build your house in 4 months or less with a couple of experienced helpers but doing it in your spare time could take 2 or 3 years. It is difficult to hire help to work only when you are available. Financing is also much more difficult the longer the project takes.

Can you arrange the financing?

The Breakers Newport
A little too ambitious for your first tryUpstateNYer / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

It is much easier to finance the purchase of an existing house than to find a lender willing to take a risk on your ability to build your house. A fixer upper that you can live in while renovating is easier to finance and is a good way to gain valuable experience before you take that big step. This link will take you to a good site for renovation and maintenance advice. You could also gain experience by helping friends build or renovate in return for help when you build your home.

Finally, what level of involvement do you wish to take?

This can range from doing the general contracting from off the shelf plans and material lists to hands on for everything from initial planning to landscaping.

The route you choose will depend on the time you have available, your skills and your budget. In spite of the increased complexity of today’s housing it is actually much easier to build your home than it once was. This is because of the internet as a source of information, a place to purchase and compare prices and even courses on many aspects of construction. The much wider availability of rental equipment and the proliferation of businesses geared to the do it yourself crowd is also of considerable help.

In future articles I will deal with most of the aspects of building your home including updates on the progress of my own current build. This will be my 4th complete house build and is a downsize so should go fairly well but there are times I can screw up the simplest things, some stories of which I will relate to you in the future.

I also intend to stray from the subject occasionally if for nothing else than to combat boredom.

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