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Step-By-Step Construction for Owner-Built Small Homes

| 10/1/2015 11:12:00 AM


There are a number of appropriate and affordable structural choices to consider in the design for your small home, based on locally available materials, the features of your site, and the regional weather: post and beam, log, or slab foundation; stick-frame, pole-frame, SIP (structural insulated panels), timber-frame, cordwood, straw-bale, or masonry walls; metal, shake, shingle, tile, or living green roofs.

Regardless of the construction style, an owner-builder’s labor is the most precious resource. The happy owner-builder knows her/his timeline and avoids re-work. Visualizing your small home construction in these 10 milestone steps will provide you with a preliminary plan that will get you started, stay on track, and finish within budget:

1. Obtain your property, complete the preliminary design, and get quotes. Even before you own property, you can sketch your house design and determine what you’ll do with it and how you might build it. After you obtain your property you begin evaluating the house site: the direction of views, sunrise, sunset, and prevailing wind; access for your vehicle; locations for the drainage field, well, solar panels, wind turbine, and garden; and proximity to the neighbors.  Submit your house drawings to building suppliers to get quotes on materials. Determine if your time and money budget is sufficient and if you are ready to pick a building start date.

2. Site clearing, plotting and grading. Determine which obstacles like trees and boulders to remove. Clearing the obstacles is best done by hand if possible because bulldozers often tear up more of the existing vegetation than intended. After you’ve cleared the site, then use stakes and strings to outline the footprint of your house location. Now spend lots of time, AM through PM, inside and outside the house outline to determine if this is the best location and adjust it as you see fit. Grade the access road; level the house footprint down to undisturbed soil.

3. Material delivery. Plan a location for the building materials that is level and close to the house.  Sometimes large construction vehicles cannot navigate small, narrow roads, so discuss this in advance with the building supply company. Depending on the foundation type, it may be better to have materials delivered after the foundation is set, because a cement truck laying a concrete pad or a crane installing poles or timbers needs a fairly large access.

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