Has anybody here built their own home?

What was the experience like? What knowledge and skills did you have going in? Any recommendations or lessons learned to share?

My father-in-law was a carpenter/cabinetmaker and built his own home. To be exact, he did a lot of the work on his home (not just carpentry, also plastering, concrete work, bricklaying and roofing) but hired out the plumbing, electrical and HVAC. That’s his biggest recommendation – there’s stuff you can do and stuff that you really should get someone who knows more about it to do.

Agreed. I helped build a buddy’s house. What we farmed out? Anything dealing with the basement - Excavating, concrete, the walls/foundation and the floor for the first level of the house. Also, we farmed out the gas/water/sewer and the electrical connection to the fuse box. Lastly, the Furnace/Central AC unit installations. Everything else we did. Tile work, walls, levels, he did the 2 story swinding staircase by himself, and it took a few of us to do the windows and roofing (expecially the huge foyer picture window). It’s fairly easy as long as you prep it right. The piping was easy, the ductwork a pain. Electrical was almost an afterthought until we found that box of outlets. It went together life a giant jigsaw.

If we had to do it all over again, and were crunched for time, we wouldn’t have done all of it. I think a professional would have done a better job on the roof and HVAC. And I never want to install another window again.

Well… I put a two story addition on my house. Moved the mechanical room (pump equipment, pressure tank water heaters) and created a laundry room in the downstairs part of the addition. The upstairs is an extension of our master bedroom. A work out room now. It’s not a full house, but takes into everything from start to finish.
Where to start. Hmmm… Point on point from the OP –

Well it’s a hell of a lot of work. Especially if you are also holding down a full time job. It takes time. Lots of it. The experience of working on, or building your own house is that it is never done. BUT, standing on the deck on the second story when you put it there yourself will bust your buttons. I don’t know when I have ever been so satisfied.

Lots IMHO. I’m a jack of all trades and master of none.

My experience started when I was about 12 years old when our family built a mobile home park -

  • Digging trenches and running gas lines to the mobile home pads
  • Installing central air units to mobile homes. Including the electrical work.
  • Setting and leveling mobile homes.
  • I framed new houses for about a year.
  • Exterior trim for another year
  • Gutted and remodeled two kitchens and 5 bathrooms (family)
  • 4 roofs (family)
  • I have lots of plumbing experience from various jobs.

I got a lot more experience when I moved to the mountains.

  • Rented a D4H CAT bulldozer and completely redid my driveway and culverts. Have since rented a few Case 580 backhoes and small track excavators (they are the bomb). I own my own small loader, but umm…. No. It helped a lot though. I just could not excavate with it.
  • I have lot’s of AutoCad experience. Though none in Architecture. Mostly surveying. My framing background allowed me to do the design, get it submitted for a permit and move forward. Though for this type of thing. It was measure 10 times before getting it in the drawing. I was constantly questioning myself.
    I did not do the concrete work, but helped set forms. I did not do the electrical either. We had to move the meter twice.

This is hard to answer not knowing your experience. I acted as the general contractor on the addition I put on. I did most of the work myself, and subed out the things that made sense.

Lessons learned? Not too many really. If you are doing it yourself, and have a full time job on top of it, plan on it taking a lot longer than you thought. Shit does happen.

I have never built one from scratch without help but I did restore a circa 1760 colonial from knockdown condition back to an an extremely close original condition in the main house to modern conveniences in other parts like the kitchen and living room. It took 7 years. My parents also helped physically build the house that I grew up in.

My main advice is to know your limits and when to ask for help. Anyone can learn to cut wood, paint, or work with drywall to save money but I would leave the structural parts to someone who knows what they are doing. Some stuff like masonry work looks easy but it isn’t and navigating building permits alone will require the help of someone else no matter who knowledgeable you are. Just don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Start with the things you know you can do or can afford to mess it up and branch off from there.

The best thing you can have is a good general contractor that you can pay to help you. They are a rare breed but we eventually found one. Most general contractors are not good people but the great ones are worth their weight in gold. Spend a lot of time picking one based on previous work and be skeptical because that is a notoriously shady profession.

I should add that a good basic architectural plan made especially for you is easily worth it. They can consult with structural engineers for special requirements as well. They aren’t that expensive and you can get a customized plan for a couple of thousand dollars that you and other contractors can follow.

Don’t just jump into this without more research. The downside is way more brutal than the upside and you really have to want to do it. If you just want a roof over your head, there are much easier ways to do it.

Yep. Even if you get or have the right tools. It takes a long time to know how to use them correctly. There are a LOT of tricks to all of the building trades. And as Shagnasty said, a good GC is gold. And not knowing if the OP misterW is thinking about building a house or not, or if this is just a general question.

I’m a programmer as my day job, but could debate for a long time the different types and reasons to use different types of framing hammers. They are all different. And that’s just a hammer.

When I frame, I carry two. A 28 oz Vaughan Rigging axe, and an 18oz straight claw. It’s a good combo for me. The Vaughan with its 17 inch handle makes wall building a cinch. Walls are built while they are laying down. The 28oz head drives nails in 3 or 4 hits. The long handle gives force and reach. For framing walls, you don’t have to lean over as far. The axe instead of a claw gives it better balance for myself, and can be a great tool for remodeling. When something is in the way, it isn’t for long. Using the two hammers in tandem as levers provides tremendous force for prying and removing material in a remodel job. Having the 18oz straight claw is a good utility hammer and works better in tighter spots.

And that’s just picking out the right hammer.:wink:

Note, I’m a programmer. Remodeling and putting on additions is sort of a hobby. It’s something I LIKE to do. It was the way I was raised and I’ve been around it all my life.

But then I go on. I use air when I can now (hey, I hit 50 in a month) Next up… Your friend, the air driven Palm nailer.

The people I know who worked from kits got the job done faster than any non-professional, and kept closer to budget. I live in an old log cabin, and recommend log homes for anyone building. They go up fast. Every DIY I’ve seen or helped with required the most effort in the finishing. Floors, plumbing, heating, doors, molding, etc. Although I prefer wood, I’ve done drywall too. It’s actually pretty easy, and after its done and painted, the flaws will be hard to see. Of course you will see every flaw, even if nobody else notices.

My friend build a fantastic home, slip formed from concrete and local stone. It took him years. His brother built a panelized house next door in about a month.