Building a Small, Low-Cost House

Learn how three homesteaders built their own small, low-cost, dome houses.

| September/October 1972

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    Jay Hawes built his own eight-sided log cabin almost entirely on his own.
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    A magnificent, geodesic dome house was built by one couple over just a few months.
  • maine dome
    This small, wooden dome house was built in only three weeks.

  • maine house
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  • maine dome

The Great State Of Maine (as they say at the political conventions) certainly ain't no slouch these days when it comes to build-yer-own, maximum value for minimum money, alternative ideas in housing. There's probably even folks up that way who'll argue that a small area—not more than six or seven miles across—around Skowhegan, in the Pine Tree State, bids fair to lead the nation in low-cost, eye-popping, do-it-yourself domiciles.

For instance, there's a feller up in that neck of the forest (Norridgewock Woods, to be exact) named Jay Hawes who lives in an eight-sided log cabin that he built almost entirely by himself.

"I was toying around with the idea of living space," Jay says. "Everything I'd ever lived in was square—square rooms, square buildings—and I thought I might feel a noticeably different psychological effect from living in a differently shaped structure. The more I read Frank Lloyd Wright's ideas on organic architecture, the more I thought that a building should fit in and contribute to its environment . . . and the more ideas I had about the kind of house I wanted to construct.

"Some of those visionary concepts were a little impractical," Hawes admits, "and I had to modify or abandon them. For example, I once had the idea that this cabin's roof should soar up to a single point like a big tree . . . but I finally discarded that notion along with the round and diamond-shaped windows I'd originally planned."

An Eight-Sided Log Cabin

As it stands, Hawes' lodge is definitely an imaginative cut above your typical log cabin. The eight-sided building is topped by a more or less A-frame roof and it's a sure bet that not another structure of the same design nestles anywhere on the face of the earth.

Jay worked nine hours a day, six days a week for two and a half months to build his new home. The walls of the lodge are constructed of 105 logs which Hawes axe-felled and notched by hand. "I really feel that I wouldn't have enjoyed raising the house nearly as much if I'd used a chainsaw to cut those pine and tamarack trees," Jay says.

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