Today, I’m excited to give an update on our house-in-progress. All along, we (meaning Brian, with occasional under-skilled help from me) have been steadily building, working on a sub-floor here, framing there, planning and purchasing as we go. In the back of our minds, a vague deadline looms, and motivates us to finish before cold weather arrives and makes camping with two small children unreasonable.
This house will be tiny – just under 200 square feet for 4 people. While I am definitely a fan of a small footprint, it will be interesting to see how we will all fit comfortably in such a small space. But as we laid out deadlines and timelines for building, we were faced with a tough decision: Do we take longer (years?) to build the timber framed strawbale house that we ultimately want to live in, while paying rent to live somewhere for the winters, or do we build something small and quick – a guest cottage, really – and live in that for a few years while we slowly acquire the funds and materials to build the strawbale home? We opted for the latter.
A roof, some White Oak posts and beams, and floor joists. The floor plan for the house is really quite simple – three-quarters of it will be our living space, and the other quarter will be an insulated mudroom (seen here on the front left)
Brian used some Osage Orange, an exceptionally rot-resistant wood, to create foundational posts for the mudroom entry way.
It’s a construction site! It’s a playground! It’s a Dining Room! It’s a Living Room!
Seriously though, we are essentially living in our construction area, because it is one of the few shady spots on our land. We sited the house according to passive solar principles, and it is exciting to realize that even though the house is directly south-facing, it still remains cool and shaded in the summertime, thanks to the roof overhang.
On the west side of the house, a little bit of trenching and earth-moving to create a flat “patio” and to drain water away from the foundation. Brian collected some free “urbanite” from a local company, and used it to build up a sloped area between the house and the outdoor kitchen.
One of our questions was how to protect the floor insulation from critters. Living on the edge of the forest, we have already experienced mice, bats, wasps, and two kinds of birds nesting in our house. Brian first laid down some Wonderboard before laying down rigid foam insulation.
One of the challenges of building, in my mind, is balancing cost, environmental impact, and ease and speed of building. We have made choices that were not our ideal choices in terms of material choice, for the sake of speed and efficiency. For the floors, we opted to go with rigid foam insulation. For the ceilings and walls, we’ll work with blown cellulose, which is considered a more “green” option.
One of my special tasks: screwing in the sub-floor! I have gotten pretty good with the impact driver, but still manage to sink half of the screws too deeply. Still, it’s nice to participate in the building of our home, in whatever way I can!
I love this photo! You can see how we’re truly living right in the midst of the construction, and how our children are intimately involved with every aspect of building our homestead. It’s simultaneously exhausting, and completely inspiring.
Party on the sub-floor! Yesterday, we finished the sub-floor in the mudroom, with the kids helping. Everett passed me screws, one at a time, and Ella handed Brian nails. They truly want to be involved with every task, and when we can take the time to include them in a patient and meaningful way, we all win.
So there we are! Kitchen and mudroom sub-floors are in, kitchen is framed, and the mudroom will be framed today. We have a pile of doors and windows that Brian purchased at a building supplies clearinghouse. There are gorgeous high quality windows that were mis-purchased or over-purchased, and thus are sold for a fraction of their original price.
Oh, I should also mention the wood that we’re using. While we have purchased some plywood for the floors, all of the wood used for framing is local wood, mostly oak, with local cottonwood used for the mudroom sub-floor, that was milled locally by the Amish. The exterior siding will be reclaimed lumber from a barn tear-down, a beautiful old homestead that has outbuildings that date back to the 1860’s.
As always, please do feel free to ask any questions in the comments below!