The Burggraf family relied on their community to help them raise their home, in the style of an old-fashioned barn raising.
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.
One thing we did have to pay to have done was to have the septic put in. We hired a local man that was referred to us to do it.
We paid for everything as we built. We would save up money and then buy materials. When we needed something, we prayed about it and asked the Lord to provide and to give us a deal on it. We could share many stories about how our prayers were answered. The day we moved in, we had built our house debt-free thanks to God’s blessings and the blessings of other home-school families and some friends.
We are now in the process of doubling the size of our house — debt-free again. Our original house was 20 by 26 feet, two stories. We are adding on two more stories that are 16 by 34 feet. We are putting in sheetrock at this time. Once again, we’re saving for the materials and then building with what we can buy. My boys (now 20 and 22, and who still live at home by their choice) have learned some valuable building skills, how to ask for discounts and how to find good deals.
If you want to build debt-free, first determine that is what you are going to do. Things will go wrong, times might get tough, but stick to your decision. For us, it was a time to see how the Lord would work in our lives, what He would supply and how He would do it. Also, it will help you become creative. You will start to think out of the box and come up with ways to do things you had never thought about before.
I would also suggest you look for a place with no building codes or very few codes. Codes will run the cost of your building up with fees and inspections and will add a lot of frustration. Just because there are no codes does not mean you will build a house that will fall in on you.
Our oldest son is already planning to build a debt-free cordwood home on our property in the near future. If anybody wants to help with a house raising, just let us know.
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