Posts Tagged 'building'

Fantastic Article Link on Building Smaller and Smarter

I’ve been out of the loop here for a while with family coughs and colds and general late winter ickies.  While playing catch-up, I ran across this excellent article about the sudden boom in smaller house plans–no more McMansions! Here’s a little blurb from this piece:

“You can save thousands of dollars” by using simple materials in a well-designed space, says [Sarah] Susanka, author of the best-selling 1998 book The Not So Big House.

For more than a decade, she has urged people to build better, not bigger. Now, as the U.S. economy struggles to climb out of a tailspin and environmental concerns rise, her message has gone mainstream.

New homes, after doubling in size since 1960, are shrinking. Last year, for the first time in at least 10 years, the average square footage of single-family homes under construction fell dramatically, from 2,629 in the second quarter to 2,343 in the fourth quarter, Census data show.

The new motto: living well with less.

susankax

I own Susanka’s Not So Big House books and have admired her ideas for years while collecting my own folder of plans and ideas for the house we hope to build. Even with a large family, it is not necessary to build sprawling mega-houses with bedrooms in every corner. In fact, it’s far better to build smarter, making public areas (kitchen, dining room, living room) the focal point and devoting greater space to those. Bedrooms are really only necessary for sleeping and dressing, and I’ve never seen the sense of having a gargantuan master suite that you hardly spend any time in when you’re awake! We’d much rather have plenty of room to have guests around the table–not to mention places to spread out homeschooling projects, read books together, etc.

I’ll be posting more about our home plans/ideas here in the future, sharing what I’ve gleaned from years of tearing out magazine pages and reading dozens of books. I inherit all of this from my mother, who was designing “green” before it was ever in fashion. Being green may be hip today, but it’s really just going back to older principles of building to last for generations and using materials that don’t have to be replaced every few years. We’ve got high hopes of using reclaimed barn wood, as one of our neighbors is frequently called upon to tear down old barns and sheds and recycles the lumber. We’re looking into passive and active solar options,  structural insulated panels (SIPs), and  talking about tankless water heaters (did you know roughly one-third of your electricity bill is due to keeping a tank of water hot?).

It is a really fun challenge to figure out where you can cut costs without cutting any real corners. Who cares about granite countertops when the extra money you’d spend on those could go to a high-efficiency tankless water heating system? We love to think outside the box. Below are some of my favorite links I’ve bookmarked over the past few years as we plan and dream. If you’ve got favorites, post a comment and share!

Architectural Salvage Yards – Because salvage is now “hot,” it can sometimes be pricier than new, but check locally, because that’s where you find the savings. We have three salvage places within 50 miles of us, and their prices are much lower.

Valuebuild Panel Home Kits – These kits use the SIPs I mentioned above, which have an incredibly high “R” factor when it comes to insulation. Energy bills in SIP houses are typically 60% lower than in stick-built (i.e. “leaky as a sieve”) houses. And if you’re not brave enough to literally put your kit together yourself, a local builder can easily do it for you with far less waste than a stick-built home entails.

The Affordable House – These plans are so much fun to look at — like little storybook cottages. The designer works to put lots of usable space into a small footprint with charming results.

SIPA (Structural Insulated Panel Association) – This site explains how SIPs work and why it is better (and faster!) to build a house with them.

Greenblock Insulated Concrete Forms – Another alternative to stick-built, these pre-molded forms go in quickly and are solid and long-lasting. There are some drawbacks when it comes to certain heating methods, but if you’re in a hotter climate, they’re a really good option.

The Natural Home Building Source – A great place for information on passive solar design, graywater reuse, heat storage tubes, and more.

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Here we go!

So, what would possess a middle-class family to trade comfy suburbia for a double-wide trailer in the sticks? Two words: “Reality Check.” My husband and I finally accepted the fact that our dream of one day building a home on our own land just couldn’t come true if we were holding on to the “American Dream”–i.e. a big mortgage that left little room to save seriously.

When the opportunity came to rent a 4-bedroom house on ten acres for about a third of what we pay each month for our 4-bedroom house near the big city, we jumped. We’d become landlords, turning our suburban home into an asset instead of a liability, and we’d trim down and live in slightly smaller quarters while we saved and worked toward building our own place.

Now, as a little background here, I’ve always looked upon trailer living with a jaundiced eye. Not that I’m a snob, but I just couldn’t picture a mobile home as anything other than tornado bait on wheels–and definitely cramped. So I was very pleasantly surprised when we took our first walk-through of our future abode. Four bedrooms (yes, they’re on the small side, but thank goodness for bunk beds!) give us room for everyone plus a home office. A huge family room/dining room provides plenty of space for comfort and even having people over. A good-sized kitchen leaves room for a work table in the center, and a sunroom off to the side provides extra space for projects. A big bonus is a nice laundry room with space for our second fridge, plus a giant walk-in closet that we plan to use as our “universal closet,” where all the children’s clothes can be organized by size–yippee!

I did know right off the bat that I wanted to paint the rooms and redo several things to make the house more user-friendly–particularly for twenty feet tracking in and out every day. Thankfully, our landlords are also good friends and are open to letting us decorate any way we like. So I’ll be sharing home dec adventures and do-it-yourself projects on this blog–showing you how you can do beautiful things on the cheap, whether you live in a trailer, an apartment, or a conventional home.

So let me give you a first peek into Trailer World. Here is the living room as it appeared before I started painting:The Living Room

Here you see the typical vinyl “wallpaper” with laminate beadboard around the lower third. I saw potential, because I love beadboard, and I knew it had to be possible to paint over the vinyl wallcovering. Sure enough, I found a fantastic resource with a few clicks through Google: HammerZone. Here I learned that I definitely needed primer, but also that I needed to clean the walls prior to any painting. While Hammerzone recommends Zinsser’s B-I-N primer, a short talk with the paint desk man at Lowe’s convinced me that I could go with a less expensive option that would work just as well and would clean up with soap and water. So I purchased a five-gallon bucket of Zinsser’s 1-2-3 primer (and found an added bonus–no awful fumes to leave the house reeking of paint!).

Let me give you a glimpse into the kitchen as well:

The Kitchen

The cabinets are all laminate over particleboard, so I wondered if I’d be able to redo them with paint. First I went back to HammerZone to see what they had to say about refacing laminate cabinets. Looked fairly simple, but I worried about regular paint not being able to stand up to our kind of wear and tear! Once again, Google’s search came through for me, and I found this fantastic resource: Cabinet Rescue! Wait until we get to our do-it-yourself, cheaper-than-dirt kitchen makeover post! You aren’t going to believe how beautifully this stuff works. I’m really excited to share it with you. And you’re going to love how we’re re-doing the white linoleum floor (White floors with eight kids? No way!)….

I’ve been working off and on in the trailer for about three months now, so I have lots to post, including pictures and fantastic links that are going to help you with your own home projects without spending thousands of dollars. If you’re anything like me, you love those before and after pictures in magazines like Country Living and Southern Living, but you’re not prepared to sink tons of money into what should be simple cosmetic fixes. Well, we’re going to walk through real-life, do-able remodels and home dec projects on this blog, and I look forward to seeing your comments. I hope you’ll share your own fantastic links and fun projects as we move along!


About the Queen…

Amanda Livenwell is the pen name of a stay-at-home mom who shares the adventure of living large on one income in, yes, a double-wide trailer! Join our family as we say goodbye to suburbia, trim down, and start saving to build our own home. We're going to talk about doing it yourself, living beautifully on less, making do or doing without, and counting it all joy in the process. We'll cover prep-work and painting, refacing kitchen cabinets, flooring on the cheap, tiling over laminate, upholstering furniture, and just rolling up our sleeves in general. If you love home improvement, this is the place for you. Let's get cracking!

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What Inspires Me Most!

"She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands. She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms. She perceives that her merchandise is good, and her lamp does not go out by night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hand holds the spindle. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness." ~ Proverbs 31:13, 17-19, 27

"Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings;he will not stand before unknown men." ~ Proverbs 22:29

"The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich." ~ Proverbs 13:4

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