Home Schooling Community Helps Family Raise Their Roof

The Burggraf family relied on their community to help them raise their home, in the style of an old-fashioned barn raising.

| June/July 2014

Starting Foundation of the Debt-Free Home

The author, Henry Burggraf, and his family built their raised foundation in one year.

Photo by Henry Burggraf

We bought some farmland about 10 years ago in a remote location in east Tennessee. We were looking to get out of a tourist area and get away from the traffic. We had been home schooling our boys (who were about 10 and 12 at the time), which plays into our story.

We had looked into different ways to build debt-free for years. We had been renting for years and praying about building. Our first plan was to build a small cabin and move into it so we could be on the farm. At the time, we lived an hour and half from the farm, which made for a long trip to go work on it.

As physical education for our boys, we had enrolled in a karate class. We met a man named Joe in the class, who also home-schooled. Joe did construction. He heard us talking about building and wanted to know if we would be interested in trading hunting rights on our property for him to frame our house. I jumped on that offer.

Up until that time, we had started putting in the foundation and first floor. We were building the house on stilts, as it was facing the 40-foot-wide creek that used to run through our property. It had taken us one year to get this done.

When Joe made his offer, I came up with the idea of having a home-school house raising, based on old barn raisings of years gone by. We contacted home-schoolers we knew and asked whether they would like a learning project for their family. About six different families helped over time. In the first work session, we raised all the first-floor walls. We were able to get the house under a roof after five work sessions.

It took us about another year to finish the interior and move in. We did all the work ourselves with the help of other home-school families. We did not hire out any work done on the house. For the most part, our county didn’t require building codes or inspections. We did have to have the electric inspected. My brother from Ohio and I did most of the electrical work ourselves. It passed with no problems.

mother earth news fair


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, hands-on workshops, and great food!