Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Just three months ago, we left our home in the city and started our journey to build an off grid homestead in the Pacific Northwest. With winter on the horizon, we knew that having a shelter for the winter was a top priority. Initially, we thought we’d spend a few months living in our RV while we built a timber frame barn. Long story short, many distractions and other projects kept that barn from coming to fruition. Here’s what we did instead!
Reclaimed Building Materials
Just 6 weeks into our homestead, we found a house and barn that was about to be demolished. Initially, it was just the roofing which was advertised as being up for grabs. We bought the roofing and went to work getting it apart. Seeing our hustle, the contractor gave us the go ahead to take anything we could grab before the deadline when the house would be bulldozed. We took this opportunity to gather an entire trailer full of free materials. How these materials would be used wasn’t obvious, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity!
Winter Was Knocking
After we had the house apart and managed to drag both ourselves and the materials back to our homestead, we finally got the dreaded snow forecast. It was a week away. We needed to do something quick and with this pile of materials we made a decision to frame up and enclose our portable RV garage to keep us warm and above freezing. Looking at the pile of materials, we had more than enough to build a small cabin. Just then, Jesse's sister arrived and her enthusiasm helped us muster the strength to take the cedar poles, cedar decking and large posts we had just reclaimed and put together a cabin. Click here to watch a fun video of us building the off grid cabin, plus see more photos of the inside!
Our barter flyer and persistence meant we had all the other materials we needed.
We posted a flyer with a list of our needs and a short description of our journey around town at the building centers, grocery stores and cafes, hoping to find folks with materials laying around we could collect. Fortunately for us we made two very large acquisitions and this gave us many of the missing pieces such as insulation, a metal storm door and soffits for skirting. Getting these materials at a very low cost, and many for free, made it possible to build for next to nothing.
A few design tweaks and small purchases made it all come together.
We had the foresight to go wood-stove shopping during the first month of our journey and had already acquired a nice barrel stove, but we didn’t have a chimney. A chimney was not something we could find on short notice through bartering, so we had to purchase this new. Once the frame and walls were up, we also noticed that using classic windows would drastically reduce the incoming light and passive solar potential - something we needed to harness being off grid. We made the decision to use clear polycarbonate roofing panels for a couple of siding panels and to fill the entire gable. Again, something that wouldn’t be easy to find on short notice by bartering. The result is a cabin and an RV garage that fills with natural light as soon as the sun rises. We also get a great amount of warmth just from the radiant energy coming in.
It’s all built to be taken apart, so we can reclaim the materials again for later use.
We bought a ton of screws too, and even had to purchase a new drill set as we killed all of our other drills. Though these fasteners were more costly, we deliberately built this cabin to be disassembled. In fact, it was designed to make the least amount of cuts possible so that the materials remain mostly in-tact and can be reused on later projects.
Having the materials, the need and the ability to build what we need is priceless.
We’re excited to have a homestead where we can build projects like this, the skills and tools to do so and having spent time collecting materials at little or no cost made this project as success. What few dollars we did spend is an investment that will serve its purpose for the winter and the materials will transform into something else in their future life.
While we didn’t plan on this project happening, we’re glad it did and look forward to the many other unplanned twists and turns that this off grid homesteading life is sure to throw our way. One thing is certain, we’re going to continue keeping an eye out for reclaimed materials! It’s amazing what you can build when you don’t have to spend a ton of money.
Alyssa Craft moved to Idaho after purchasing 5 acres of land where she will build an off grid homestead from scratch with as little money as possible. She is blogging about the journey from start to finish in hopes of inspiring others that wish to take a similar path. Follow her many DIY projects, including building with reclaimed materials, building an off-grid hot tub and milling lumber with an Alaskan chainsaw mill. Follow Alyssa on her homesteading blog, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. View Alyssa’s other MOTHER EARTH NEWS articles here!
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.