A Fast to Build Do-It-Yourself Home Using Recycled Materials

Ellen Kesinger Tietjen provides a do-it-yourself home guide to construct a small ten-sided house built from mostly recycled materials that can be constructed quickly.

| July/August 1975

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    The house is based on a "wagon wheel" framework, with specially braced top plates.
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    The Tiejens' home nestles in a sheltered site near a spring.
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    Another view of the do-it-yourself home the Tiejens' built.

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Are you like us: the type that can't work until your back is to the wall? Do you face — as John and I did last fall — the prospect of either building a sound shelter by snow time or digging up the bread to rent a place for the winter? Well, take heart. We started the foundation of our ten–sided house around Labor Day — in northern New York State! and were snugly settled inside by November. You can do the same, given two prerequisites: a plan and some building materials.

Do-It-Yourself Home Building Plans

If winter's breathing down your neck and you have to have shelter right now, your plan should be quite simple: "Think small". The Tudor mansion of your dreams can wait until next year. Do, however, allow for future expansion. Our ten-sided design gives us just that many directions for additions. Remember your goal a comfortable, pleasant-looking shelter in as short a time as possible. Keep in mind, too, the golden rule of us procrastinators — "What you don't get done now can be done later" — and stick to do-it-yourself home building essentials.

In case the word "plan" intimidates you, please note that I'm not necessarily talking about a blueprint: We started one of those once. John carefully constructed a rectangle on a large sheet of drafting paper, and then asked, "OK, where do you want the door?" End of blueprint.

As it happened, our ten sided "circular" design never found its way onto paper at all. It just sort of came to us after we'd had several encounters with dome freaks, but we took from them only the idea of many sides, since we wanted straight walls as a setting for our conventionally shaped furniture and didn't care to tackle the complex mathematics of dome–building. Our simpler scheme required the use of only a small amount of geometry for working out the angles of the floor and the roof.

We soon learned that the plan of a house is inseparable from its location. Once we had picked the most convenient site — right beside our spring and protected from winter winds and summer sun by trees and a cliff — the "where shall we put the door" question answered itself: "We can't have it here because of the big cherry tree. The handiest place would be facing the spring, and let's place another on the opposite wall, so we'll have two fire exits." The question of window placement was handled similarly: "Go for the light and the prettiest views, and avoid the prevailing winds."

Above all, be different. A conventional rectangular house put up in two months for $250 might have tended to look like a shack, but the quaintness of our house's ten sides and coolie–hat roof dares anyone to be so disparaging.


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