Moving a House: The Saga of Big Pink

Moving a house can be an inexpensive — but at times very bumpy — road to home ownership.

| September/October 1984

  • moving a house - Big Pink on flatbed truck
    Moving a house turned out to be fraught with complications, but eventually Big Pink reached its new site mostly in one piece.
    Photo by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff

  • moving a house - Big Pink on flatbed truck

According to the census bureau, the average American family can expect to move its entire household several times. Few families, though, actually move an entire house. Yet moving a house is exactly what my husband, Craig, and I found ourselves doing some years ago.

Although the project has been fraught with problems, long delays, and cost overruns, we're glad we did it. Our recycled house fits our needs and provides us with comfortable living space while we continue to remodel it. Best of all, we got the dwelling at a fraction of the median cost of a home in this country, which now stands at $71,900!

Plans Gone Awry

Old-time readers might remember my "Report From" (see A Homesteader's Life in Wisconsin), which told how, in the spring of 1975, we bought a parcel of land in Wisconsin's north woods and moved into a little rented farmhouse three miles from our homestead. At that time, we had high hopes of building a log house on our property, but as many a homesteader can attest, the best-laid plans oft go awry.

All kinds of events kept us from completing that building: another baby, a fight with the electric utility company over herbicide spraying, lack of money, and lack of time. But the blow that stopped us in mid-project was a lawsuit over a log that got away and hurt a friend who was helping to heft it up onto the wall. Needless to say, the accident was upsetting, but when our friend sued us for $15,000, we were shocked! Even though our renters' insurance paid the suit, it took better than a year to resolve the matter. (In retrospect, we were very glad we had paid the small premiums for that policy before the accident, because we could have easily lost much more than our pride.)

The whole business took the wind out of our sails, especially when the insurance company, after paying the settlement, refused to give us any more liability coverage on our log home project. So there we were, seven years after buying our land with half of a log house completed, still crowded into a one bedroom shack with no water or plumbing.

Where There's a Will...

At that point, we were left with limited options. We could sell our property and buy a piece of land with a house on it, we could try for a bank loan to build a conventional home, or we could try to find a suitable structure to move. The first option was one we contemplated with heavy hearts, and the second was financially out of our reach. Obviously, if we wanted to keep our land, we'd have to find a house to move.


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