Many times when someone says, “we built our house”, what they actually mean is “we hired an architect who listened to all of our dreamy ideas, put them into drawings, revised the drawings a few times until we had a shared vision, and then facilitated finding a contractor to build the house.” When I say, “I built a house”, I mean I (with the help of my partner and my dad) settled on a town, found a suitable building lot, paid for it with my own money, made presentations to the City for variance and conditional use requests that suited my building desires, scribbled down floor plan ideas, fine tuned floor plan ideas and external appearance, rented a Bobcat and started leveling the ground, had water and sewer connected from the street, used a transit to make the ground level and laid out the building, coordinated with an engineer on key structural components, dug footers and poured slabs, began framing, sheeting, cutting spiral staircase, making adjustments to floor plan on the fly, roofing, siding, sheetrock, cabinets, doors, tile, carpeting, and more”. What I mean is, I built a house – my ideas, my mistakes, my success.
Building a house, really building a house, is not for everyone. This project was the most intense 9 months of work of my life (yes, house was finished beginning to end in 9 months). It takes marathon-like energy sometimes to keep pressing on, but almost more importantly, it takes a stay-with-it’ness that is as much mental as physical. Building a house, with little residential building experience, is mostly a challenge of formulating questions, and then finding answers to those questions (thank you Internet!). The challenge of this gets compounded when one wears the carpenter, project manager, architect, financial planner, and laborer hats – all at the same time.
Before I built my house, I got some of my first experience building a small studio. 90% of the materials I collected for free from various sources like Craigslist, construction site dumpsters, and neighbors. The next time you pass a construction site, peek your head into the dumpster and see how much usable material gets wasted. Anyway, this was a nice small project to start with. I gathered the materials first, then designed the structure based on what I had available. Even though this was a very small project, I built it by myself and it gave me good insights that I applied to the much larger house build.