My family built our home without a mortgage. To start, we used savings of $15,000 and sold our used car and horse trailer to come up with an additional $2,200. We paid a locally owned steel yard to install the foundation, steel beams, siding, doors and windows. They also put R-11 insulation against the outer walls. After completing the all-steel exterior, we shopped around do-it-yourself businesses and asked managers to compete against other quotes.
We wanted the old-time look inside, with the best wood we could afford. Every Friday, we took our paycheck and headed into town for supplies. On weekends, family and friends came and we installed the new lumber.
I shopped for oak cabinets at a surplus store and found new ones far cheaper than those at retail home centers. I found wonderful antique reproduction light fixtures on clearance for $5 and bought store display items that were available at huge discounts. The gas fireplace insert was priced at $700, but I got it off-season by offering $150. We made another deal for insulation and put it on the inside walls, giving us 9-inch walls with some air space. We etched the easy-to-clean concrete floor so it looks like tiles.
When finished, we had spent $42,000 in six months and had a beautiful new home that appraised at $100,000. We saved on insurance because the house has a low fire risk due to the steel exterior.
We thought we did great, building a 1,736-square-foot home debt free, but that was only the beginning: Last summer our electric bills in the all-electric house were about $80 a month. We’re so well-insulated that we can’t use the fireplace in the winter because the house gets too hot! And the all-steel exterior is carefree and keeps bugs and mice out.
I’m constantly looking for ways to help my suffering planet, and I think building our home in this manner was a wise choice.