Who's built a house?

I hate my house. It’s old, (not in a good way), it’s a mish-mash of rooms, it’s got serious plumbing and wiring oddities, and it’s starting to fall apart faster than we can (or want to) fix it. Badger and FIF can attest to its stupidity.

So new house it will be, but I’m terrified, and I have a zillion questions. I would appreciate any input from those who’ve BTDT. I’m interested in why you went with what you chose, and any pros/cons, good/bad experiences, things that went well and things that in hindsight you should have done differently.

  • What kind of house?: Stick built, modular, manufactured, log, or ??

  • Plans: Did you design your own, work with an architect, use pre-made plans, or something else?

  • Site layout: again, your decision alone or help from architect/home company rep/builder?

-How did you find & choose your architect/modular company/builder etc?

-Did you do your own contracting? If so, how was the learning curve (assuming you knew nothing about it to begin with), and do you think it saved you anything?

-What am I not seeing here, what am I not thinking about that I should be?
Part of me wants to take the ‘easy’ way out, put down a slab and plop a doublewide on it. But I’m enough of a snob that I’m not sure I’d be happy with that, even if it did get me out of this hovel on the (relatively) cheap.

The other wrinkle in all this is that I need to build a barn as well – not fancy, but again more than the falling-apart-sloped-tractor-shed that my poor beasties have now. I’m toying with the idea of incorporating the barn onto the house as an ell with a mudroom/laundry/dog zone in between, and constructing it in such a way that it could be easily converted to garages and workshop if we sold to non-horse people down the road. Thoughts?

Obviously my first step is going to be to figure out what we can afford, that’s this week’s project… and another minor heart attack for me… gulp.

check about insurance costs. having an attached garage or other building does change the cost of home insurance (i don’t know how much).

it depends on how much of a hurry you are in. if you have a time maybe two years out then you could do a lot of thinking and design features yourself. think of layout and features you want.

extras might also pay off in the long run even if it means more borrowing. super insulation can payback after a number of years in heating and cooling costs. solar domestic hot water preheating (your hot tap water) can payback in maybe five years. site layout is an important part of these things.

i designed my house. hired a general contractor with myself doing different parts of the labor.

As an architect my standard reply to these threads is to ask how strong is your marriage and are and your SO good at making decisions on a timely manner? Building and designing a house will test the best of marriages and I have seen a lot of clients design and build a house and then get divorced. Also be realistic about your budget and then double it. Don’t expect perfection because you won’t get it. Designing and building your own home CAN be fun and exciting but it can also be miserable. Good luck! Feel free to contact me via email (in my profile) or Message me if you have questions or need an architect!

good/extra insulation, pay for better/best doors and windows you can afford…tyvec house wrap really helps with air getting in, you can never have too many elec outlets…stay away from elect heat(you never feel warm)…radient heat in floors is really nice…dont do "built in"kitchen appliances(fridg) if it goes bad you might not find one that fits…I prefer block foundations over poured concrete ones (very hard to fix a cracked concrete one)

Hey, Hakuna, we gotta stop meeting like this…

I’ve built houses.

As a licensed contractor, at this time I’d recommend buying a house as is, or remodeling it yourself. The cost of new construction is so much more than existing houses in most of the US markets today. Seriously. If my best friend asked me to build him a house I wouldn’t, not a good use of money at the moment.

Are you trying to build on your own property that you live on now? Thought about moving a house onto it? Inexpensive alternative.

That being said, you ask too many questions with too many variables and not enough information.

Find out how much money you have. How big? How fancy? What general style?

Give yourself 2 years from initial idea to completion. Don’t contract it yourself unless you can make it a full time job. Contractors get paid for a reason. Don’t hire friends or relatives.

If you have more specific questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

Framing is starting on the second floor. Ask me again in 6 months.

So far, the experience has been good. The area I live in it is cheaper to build new than to buy existing. That isn’t true 10 miles away but the neighborhood I’m does not have “bargains” waiting to be snapped up.

Hey yourself fisha! I actually agree with you about buying vs building right now. We were in the process last year to build a house and ended up buying one instead. The GC we were going to use did a small remodel on the house we bought and he told me afterwards that he couldn’t have built our house for what we were able to buy it for. Buying is cheap now compared to building. In hindsight I am much happier that we chose to buy instead of build

Another general contractor checking in. I second or third many of the points made above–in addition to the houses I’ve built for clients, we’ve built two for ourselves. Even being in the field, very conversant with the problems, friends with all the subs, calling in all the favors, it’s incredibly stressful. Unless you know what you’re doing and can do it more than full time (plan on 70 hour weeks), you’re a fool to GC your own house.

If you choose to build new (and even where I am you’d save a bunch of cash buying an existing house), hire an architect. You will absolutely not save money by doing the plans yourself, unless you really have an aptitude for it. Architects (good ones) can visualize spaces and siting and simply put, most of the rest of us can’t. When we have to build from sketches or inadequate plans, we call it building the full-size scale model. You can quickly go from new construction to remodel as the client realizes the spaces don’t work.

That said, we’re currently building a 36’ x 48’ barn with living space above for a client. It’s a pretty cool design, and maybe something like that would work for you.

Thanks everyone, this is all very helpful.

Additional info in no particular order:

We own 13 acres, and we’d be building a new house on the property on a different site from the current house (its placement is one of the problems.) I’m afraid I’m stuck with some sort of a new structure because fixing this one really isn’t worth what it would cost, and I’m not sure if it would ever sell at any kind of price to allow us to buy something else comparable. While this house is the pits, the property is ok and, more importantly, its location can’t be beat for my husband’s work. I’ve looked at RE in our area, and there really isn’t all that much selling right now, surprisingly. At least not where/how we want to live. I’m still going to look because you never know what may turn up, but I think it’s time to branch out to other plans.

Frankly, if I had my 'druthers I’d be out of E. TN altogether. But since I’m not the one with the income and my husband likes his job and hates the thought of moving (again), I think building is the way to go. I wish I could fix this one up, but it really and truly is not worth the $$ it would cost. It doesn’t even have good ‘bones’. I could elaborate, but I’d bore you all to tears (even more than you already are!)

fisha, when you say ‘move a house’ are you talking manufactured type house (aka doublewide), or a “real” house picked up and moved? I love the idea of plonking a house on a ready-made site, plugging it in as it were, and being good to go. (And yes, I do know it’s more complicated than that, but a girl can dream, right?)

Actually, either one may be a challenge as my driveway is an easement with a bitch of an entry off a narrow road. I can barely get my 26ft gooseneck and F-250 in it, a semi will never make it as it is. Figuring out access is going to be high on the to-do list, it may dictate which direction we go.

I have a pretty good idea of what we want in terms of sq. footage (not more than 2k), general style and layout and basic location. I just have to figure out what we can afford, take 20% or so of that and set it aside for screw-ups, and then take another look.

I guess what I’m asking here is just to get a feel for other people’s experiences, I’m not looking for a “House Building For Dummies” covering everything A-Z. I guess I really want to know if there’s any advantage to regular frame building vs panelized vs modular. I want as simple as I can get (knowing that nothing about this is going to be simple or easy), and the self-contracting idea is my husband’s (for me to do) I have NO desire to do it. So very glad I’m right in that at least.

Thanks everyone, I really do appreciate it! There may be more brain-picking to come…

Back when I was first married I thought about building my own house. I met a customer who had done so, so I told her of my idea. The conversation went like this:
Her: Are you divorced?
Me: No
Her: You will be if you build your own house.

We didn’t build a house. But we did have to do some serious refurb to a rental property rather well ruined by some crackheads.

If your wife is the kind even remotely prone to telling you how you are doing things wrong when she has no idea of WTF she is talking about or gets upset when things aren’t done in the order or timetable she thinks they should be I wouldnt touch that project on with a 100 foot pole.

My shit storm project was about 7 years ago and I am still pissed about. That funfest is pretty much the reason home improvement projects often don’t get done or finished around here. I’ll start on something and if I hear a peep about how I ain’t doing it right I just walk away from it for months and sometimes years.

I’ve always heard the opposite, i.e. block foundations are inferior to poured concrete ones.

My cousins and another friend recently replaced homes with modular construction, and both were very pleased with their outcomes. In the cousins’ case, they liked their location, and the land was paid for, but the existing house was just too old/small/awkward; and the friends lived in a starter (mobile) home until they could afford to upgrade. I’ve been in both of their new homes, and they seem well-constructed, and are very attractive and don’t look like trailers. As for time lines, these homes were ready to move in within weeks rather than months. Perhaps you could look into that option? (And as for access, modulars are trucked in sections, so it wouldn’t be as big a challenge as bringing in a whole house.) Until we found our current home, hubby and I seriously looked at buying land and building a modular, but I don’t really have first-hand experience other than the shopping process.

Look up house movers in TN-usually they have house inventory they sell for cheap. I’d have one come out to the property, make sure it’s doable before you bought anything. I’d have it inspected, maybe have your subs take a look at it, too.

Before you get all excited that you can have a 2,000SF rambler for $10,000, remember that you need a basement/slab, all mechanicals, some minor cosmetic stuff-that will add up. You also are not limited to small ramblers.

Yes, that’s on ice…

Most vo-tech and some high schools that have carpentry programs build a house on campus every year, then they are sold and moved.

Modular homes are becoming more popular and better built-I hate to say it, but it may be a better product than field built-more controlled environment. I’m not that familiar with manufacturer’s, but I know there are many options more interesting than a rambler cut in half. I would assume it would be cheaper, but don’t quote me on it.

hey, Hakuna, why didn’t I meet you when I was out in Seattle this summer?

yea sorry I was out of town. I saw you were coming to town but wasn’t able to go. Sounds like you all had a good time. Maybe next time!