The Joys of Building a Home Together

An Alabama family built this beautiful, affordable green home by hand using salvaged wood and other reclaimed materials.


| December 2011/January 2012



homemade-details-11

Guy and Kay Baker, together with their three sons, built this beautiful Alabama home almost entirely from reclaimed materials.


MICHAEL SHOPENN

In Wedowee, Ala., Guy and Kay Baker live in a cozy cabin they built with their three sons using almost entirely reclaimed materials. Under the guidance of Guy, a professional builder, the family spent about five years on the project, lovingly and painstakingly building a sustainable home using centuries-old materials. The family so loves their hand-built home — initially planned as a vacation cottage — that they ended up moving in full time. Every day, Kay and Guy enjoy the personal connection they have with every detail of the 1,100-square-foot space.

In 2001, Guy was feeling overwhelmed at work, and Kay was working on her bachelor’s degree in psychology. The couple’s three young sons were becoming increasingly busy with school and their personal lives. When Guy’s mother unexpectedly fell ill and passed away, Guy became acutely aware of the sensation that life was passing him by. For years, Kay and Guy had owned land on which they planned to build — a piece of property formerly owned by Guy’s grandfather — but they’d never gotten around to starting the project. After his mother’s death, Guy felt driven to make good on a longtime dream of building a getaway in the woods for himself and his family. “We just needed some peace and serenity,” he says.

Building With Reclaimed Materials

Guy had long had a fascination with the antique building materials he saw while working on tear-down buildings in the area. He was impressed with the materials’ quality and durability. He saw the antiques he’d collected as heirlooms of a bygone era that valued craftsmanship over speed.

“It amazed me that I could work on houses that were 150 years old, and the damages to these homes were minute be­cause of the materials and the quality of the studs and the lumber,” he says. “A year later, you work on a home that’s only 20 years old, and you see all this termite and water damage.”

For years, Guy had been collecting items — bits of the region’s architectural history — gathered from projects in the area. Though he hadn’t been sure at the time what he would do with them, he knew they were too wonderful to throw away. When it came time to start construc­tion on his family cabin, Guy realized he had collected nearly enough reclaimed materials to build the whole cabin.

Having spent 20 years building in Randolph County, Ala., Guy had a vast knowledge of the area’s best sources of re­claimed and antique building materials. “All these materials were readily available. They were everywhere,” he says. People in the area who were tearing down old structures often didn’t have another des­tination for them, so Guy took them off their hands. “Being in the construction in­dustry, I saw it everywhere — say we were tearing down an old barn with great old wood. If you ask them if you can have it, nine out of 10 people say, ‘Sure!’”

karen
12/23/2013 5:46:35 PM

Thanks for sharing your story. I love the house, especially since I live only about 45 minutes from you. I am in chambers county. Would love to build one of these on our farmland.


karen
12/23/2013 5:46:34 PM

Thanks for sharing your story. I love the house, especially since I live only about 45 minutes from you. I am in chambers county. Would love to build one of these on our farmland.


craig moorhouse
11/11/2011 11:24:00 PM

amazing - I would really love to see a magazine devoted to small, affordable, owner built homes such as this - I can just imagine that there is a large population out there that would like to build an affordable - beautiful home such as this but are finding it hard because of the economic times.


roger poulin
11/11/2011 11:05:54 PM

PEOPLE LIKE YOU ARE RARE.I DID MUCH THE SAME WITH A LOG HOUSE, USING SALVAGE STUFF, LOT OF HARD WORK, & VERY SATISFYING. DAY WE MOVED IN, HAD TO SHOVEL SAWDUST OFF THE FLOOR. LOOKS LIKE A JOB WELL DONE. WALK TALL. MY 3 SONS, I KNOW ARE WELL ROUNDED, ABLE TO TAKE ON WHATEVER COMES DOWN THE PIKE.






mother earth news fair

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

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

LEARN MORE