Can a city boy build his dream homestead on a mountain, by himself and with no mortgage?

and for my next trick…

I’ve been spending so much time up on my mountain that I think I’m out-growing the tiny cabin.

My goal of transitioning into full-time rural living is feeling quite attainable lately. I’m eager to put in some additional infrastructure (water tank, septic, garage), but I didn’t want to spend the money until I was ready to build the main house.

Knowing how long it takes to actually “build” a house, I thought I should get started sooner rather than later. I’ve been locked in my room playing around with SketchUp lately and I’ve finally settled on a design…

It’s a simple set of 3 small connected “pods”, built in the same style as my existing tiny cabin, bedroom pod, main room pod (living/dining/kitchen) and bathroom pod. Overall size so far is bedroom 12’x12′, main pod 16’x22′ and bathroom at 9’x12′ for a total of 604 sq ft.

By designing them as separate segments, I can use the lessons learned from building my small cabin and simply expand on them for the larger version…

-Single slope roof for ease of construction and lower material cost,

-Segmented design for building in stages,

-Built on piers for flood avoidance and easy utility access,

-Inter-connected rooms to make the interior seem more spacious (I love to roam from room to room in my LA condo),

-Use the same interior layouts from some of my favorite familiar spaces so I’ll know what each room will feel like before it’s built.

One of my favorite pre-fab homes is the FabCab, a timber-framed unit built using a pre-cut frame and SIPs. FabCab sells a gorgeous 550 sq ft model that is about what I need, the only problem for me is it costs $143,000 not including site work. Regrettably I do not have that kind of cash sitting around and I am not willing to borrow it.

FabCab’s lines are beautiful and very similar to what I’ve already built. By lowering the roof pitch, overall height and sidewalls a bit, I can get a more energy efficient interior by not having to heat and cool such a cavernous 14′ high space. By building in 3 segments, I can avoid a post and beam type timber frame and use less expensive stick-build methods (quality local labor is an issue in my remote area).

I can also have the exact floorplan I want to maximize my view and location, including an indoor/outdoor shower in my bathroom (a dream of mine, to be sure!) and a washer/dryer closet.

Since I will pay as I go and build it myself (with an experienced local carpenter or two), the interior and finish work can proceed at my own pace.

For the overall process I’ll go as far as I can in SketchUp then hire someone to do the blueprints, construction plans and engineering. Admittedly my grand scheme is only in the beginning stages but if I recall correctly, the last time I went down this road, within a year I had a cabin built (and got published in a magazine)!

Details are being considered, advice is being sought, money is being prayed for, the Gods of Art, Design, and Providence are being beseeched, and I’m feelin’ a fire down in me gut.

I hope to God it’s not the Lamb Vindaloo I had for dinner last night.


7 responses

  1. paul

    I am sooooo jealous! That has been a 35 y.o. dream of mine. Wife, 3 kids, crippling injury and then grandkids got in the way. I wanted to build a dome, but now I think the SIP structure is about the most efficient.

    I can dream and I am glad that you are able to do it.

    February 12, 2012 at 8:23 pm

  2. Tony

    Ha ha, I think I’ve eaten at that restaurant. Good luck, I’ll be looking forward to your posts!

    February 12, 2012 at 9:16 pm

  3. RiverRats

    Very nice-like the looks-but not tiny-i still like even smaller size better

    February 13, 2012 at 7:39 am

  4. Flores in L A

    I really love to read your postings. I am so glad that I will get to see you built your “mansion” from the start and read your postings. I wish you the best and have fun.

    February 14, 2012 at 10:26 pm

  5. If you have the house facing North, you can use the slope of the roofs to take advantage of full sun coverage for solar panels. Also considering the amount of glass, even in the winter, a small house can get mighty hot if the full brunt of sunshine hits the interior.

    Building with smaller 6-8ft sections will let you raise most of the walls by yourself or with only one other helper. Nailing sheathing after the frame goes up will also reduce weight for the lift. Plus you won’t have to worry about your wall sailing off if a strong gust of wind blows by.

    Considering the increased weight, you may want to use something like this deck foundation (with shorter posts) rather than the piers :

    I would probably use 6x posts instead of 4x shown and notch 3 inches in (as you know 2x isn’t exactly 2x :P) to seat the cross members before bolting them in. This gives a lot of stability with increased load and wind.

    “Single slope roof for ease of construction and lower material cost”

    See, this is one lesson that I don’t see used that often in new construction. It just doesn’t make economic sense to have a half dozen roof surfaces on a small home. It doesn’t even make aesthetic sense either in most cases, since a lot of those complicated roofs are gaudy on a small frame. They might have worked in the 1800 – 1900, but not today.

    February 16, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    • Forgot to mention. Notching 3 inches means you can use double 2x boards on one side.

      February 16, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    • Amen to that and thanks for the links Eksith!

      February 16, 2012 at 6:53 pm

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