Here is the rebirth of my housebuilding blog, originally published on the now defunct Vox platform. It mainly covers the building process from 2006-2007, with some sporadic posts afterwards. I will present each entry as is from when it was first written and add real-time commentary (in italics) when I just cannot help myself.

A Musical Prelude


Here is a bit of back-story. Actually, it’s more than a bit. It’s a bunch, stretching back to March 2005. And I have told it to so many people in so many ways, that I have decided to set it to music, to make it more interesting. So call to mind the tune of  “The Star Spangled Banner,” and apply the following words:

In March of last year
We heard of some land
Nice acreage on a hill
With southern exposure

It was right in our town
But we did have to fight
Oh the battles we lost
As we struggled for closure

The sale was so hard
Our psyches were scarred
Bluffed and bamboozled
But we pressed on for-ward

Delays and disasters, but our hearts stayed strong
After all we have been through---
What else--could go—wrong.

(note: As I was writing this, the excavator called to inform us that we will have to blast away some ledge to pour our foundation. So the moral of the story is, don’t write smart-alecky songs that tempt fate because fate generally isn’t known for having a healthy sense of humor).

This was a celebratory time after a summer of pure frustration. We expected to start building in April or May, but due to a difficult landowner and her weasel of a real estate agent, the build didn't begin until the end of August. Thus I was roofing in January as opposed to October. At any rate, we spent the summer hitting every salvage yard, antique shop and tag sale we could find and collected a bunch of stuff for the house in the process, so it wasn't a complete waste of time. But man I was fit to be tied all summer long. However, we finally did get started, and the day after the above was posted, the excavator started digging, and the ball finally got rolling.

Our Final House Design

Yeah, this makes sense to someone out there. To me, it looks like a dragon trapped in a box.

After many months of looking at plans, shuffling room sizes, and grappling with square feet, we finally settled on a simple cape-style house, 33 feet long by 24 feet wide. Even better, it is a do-it-yourself house kit. This design is the brainchild of David Howard, founder of First Day Cottage. I won’t go into many details right now about First Day—you can click on their link to find out about how their ideas can revolutionize your homebuilding experience. Don’t worry, plenty more will be said about them as the building actually gets underway. But I will say we are grateful that our paths have crossed with theirs, for without First Day Cottage, this process would have been improbable, if not impossible.

Why Build a House?

Sunday, January 22, 2006
On days like this I definitely was asking myself  'Why am I doing this again?'
This is sure to be a question that we ask ourselves from time to time as this process unfolds. I guess there are some tangible reasons to consider, the main one being cost. Houses in our price range (well under $200,000) fall into either two categories: glorified trailers or complete wrecks. As we saw more and more listings for existing houses, we slowly came to realize that we were not going to find what we were looking for in the current house market. Heck, we couldn't even find anything to settle for. Glorified seasonal cabins, crooked old buildings with ancient wiring, decrepit windows and insufficient framing, and 700 square foot cubicles were becoming all too common.

Begin at the beginning

Saturday, January 21, 2006
A few things became clear to me as we began this process. One was that it was going to be long. Very long. Excruciatingly long. Mind-numbingly, soul-crushingly long. And we haven't even started building yet.
Another thing was that we needed to record all of the events that are going to make up this grand adventure, for there already have been many happenings worth preserving for the history books (even though, may I remind you, we have yet to lift a hammer).
Thus, this blog. In these early stages, posts may be short and infrequent, once we get you up to speed. As time rolls onward, however, look for stories and photos from the hillside. Thanks for visiting.

And this was how the house building blog started. Three entries later it appeared to take a six-month hiatus, but that may have had a lot to do with the fact that we were dealing with a flaky landowner and a slimy real estate agent and as a result, that summer was the summer of our discontent. We had hoped to start building in April, but didn't start until September if that gives you any idea of the frustration that awaited us.

An introduction

My favorite view on a gorgeous day.

My wife Anne and I built our house from September 2006 to November 2007. We used a kit from First Day Cottage, a company in Walpole, NH. But lest you get the idea that it was a bunch of pre-made pieces that we snapped together, this was only a kit in the nominal sense. We had to cut, nail, install, erect (hee hee) and finish every element of the house ourselves. Some tasks we ended up hiring out--the excavation and site prep, the foundation, most of the plumbing, finishing the floors and a few other things. But we did just about everything else, day after day, through all seasons and in all weather. It was a defining moment in our lives and a turning point for me personally. My life was instantly divided into pre-house and post-house periods, and no challenge that arose post-house seemed insurmountable anymore. Given time and some resources, we could achieve anything.