Finishing the Barndominium: Out of the Trailer and Into the House

Reader Contribution by Jim Christie
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As stated in a previous blogs, we had nearly 10 very enjoyable years in Australia. Now that I’ve been back in the U.S. for a few weeks, I’ve fully gotten over the jet lag and am pushing very hard to get the house livable as Julie will be arriving in a few weeks.

With the walls completed, including texturing and primer, much work is being done on multiple fronts — both interior and exterior. Part of the exterior work was to get the water supply in better shape.  Lesson learned — if you dig a well, make sure it has continual use or it tends to get very cloudy and difficult. We dug the well about two years ago and it has had sporadic use for the past two years — heavy use during the few weeks we’re here and very occasional use when we’re not. Also, we’ve had a nasty drought at the same time. The well is cloudy, has a distinct sulfide odor and is nearly unusable — although a quick check of the basic hardness and minerals says “it isn’t bad.” We quickly installed a 2,500-gallon cistern to settle the water, aerated it going into the cistern to eliminate or drastically reduce the sulfides, and installed a softener and 5 micron filter. Once the cistern settles down, I suspect we’ll have pretty good water. 

We had lots of tiling to do so I negotiated a good price with a local tile distributor and found a local tile worker to do the labor. A few days later and we had some very nice floors as can be seen in the next couple of pictures. Also, getting a shower done (while seemingly small in the grand scheme of things) was a major accomplishment as it got me out of the crowded and small shower in the trailer and gave me my first clean water, nice and hot shower in a few weeks. It’s amazing how small things like a good shower can improve your spirits.

Outside was enhanced with a good BBQ (where I did much of my cooking for the first couple of months) and a nice set of overhead fans and lights which will come in very handy during the summer nights.

Another big deal was getting the laundry room functional. I had been borrowing laundry facilities from family which meant carting dirty clothes to their house, doing the washing and drying and returning. While I enjoyed the visits, the hours it took doing laundry could be better used doing things in the house so it was a real blessing to have the new laundry facilities (bought via Craig’s List at about a third of the price of new).

As another major milestone, the cabinets we had specified were delivered by the cabinets for the kitchen and laundry room. Now we have our work cut out for us as the entire “big room” is full of cabinets that need to be hung, painted and finished.

We’re now about 7 weeks into the final portion of the build. I wanted to have the house livable by now and, honestly, we’re pretty close to being able to move in. However, the furniture is arriving very soon and I need to take time to move the camper from the garage up to its permanent home. This means getting a large trench dug for the electricity and wiring — about 200 feet of trench — and then connecting everything. This will take 2 to 3 days out of the schedule. I do have a pretty good crew doing a lot of the trim work and they’ve done some good work on the vaulted ceiling and wainscoting so that we can hang the cabinets. Also, they’re busy building a large pantry off the kitchen so that we’ll have a place to store all of the canned food products we’ll be developing in our gardens the next few years.

On the subject of gardens, because we’ve been so busy just getting the house livable, I’ve had no time to put in the gardens, even though I have quite a bit of treated material for raised beds. Probably after Julie gets here, we’ll take some time to use the existing large planters around the large porch to plant our initial first summer garden. Even though the planters are “wrong” (north side of the house, not enough sun, etc.). I’m sure we’ll have plenty of fresh vegetables.

Now — with the camper trailer on its new and permanent home, and with the garage full of household goods instead of the trailer — I’m ready to get back to the trim work, painting and other finishing work that will enable me to start moving furniture and household goods into the house and finally move out of the trailer after two months. 

The trailer has provided me an excellent home — complete with kitchen, very good bed and bathroom, but sharing it with two cats plus the confined quarters is getting a bit old, so I’m eager and motivated to get the house usable and I probably have about three weeks before Julie arrives, so I’d better get busy.