For a Debt-Free Home, Take Your Time

Learn how this couple managed to build a two-story, passive solar house with minimal debt and upfront expenses.

  • Outside of the Ficker Household
    To keep costs down, the author, Cheryl Ficker, and her husband built their home slowly, living in the downstairs while working on the upstairs.
    Photo by Cheryl Ficker
  • Kitchen of the Ficker Household
    Big windows on the southwest side of the house help heat the home in winter.
    Photo by Cheryl Ficker
  • Living Room in the Ficker Household
    The Fickers say their home is very comfortable and efficient.
    Photo by Cheryl Ficker

  • Outside of the Ficker Household
  • Kitchen of the Ficker Household
  • Living Room in the Ficker Household

We started our house in 1987 with a loan of $3,000. We had carefully figured the price of building materials, and that amount was enough to build the shell.

Both of us worked full time and still managed to move into the house in early 1989. Before we moved into our new home, we lived in the "little house," previously built by my husband on the property — his only building experience.

The land we built on was already paid for ($8,700 for more than 30 acres). After the initial $3,000 loan was paid off, we obtained a home equity line of credit. We probably had about $5,000 in loans altogether. We have paid for the rest of the house with paychecks and savings as we went along.

Our plan, which worked well for us, was to figure out the minimum number of square feet we required to live in, and then double it. Thus, we lived comfortably in the downstairs while we finished the upstairs at our leisure. 

The house is a little less than1,500 square feet. It is passive solar with big windows on the southwest side and no windows on the north side. It has a solar roof that heats our hot water in summer (a woodstove in the cellar heats our hot water in winter).

We did most of the labor ourselves, including all of the wiring, although we hired out the sheetrock installation and the downstairs plumbing. We also benefited from a couple of work parties our friends organized. As plumbing materials became easier to work with, we took on that job, too, putting in our upstairs bathroom by ourselves.



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters