Build My Own House

4:30 AM

So the huge project I alluded to in the sweatshirt post is....


We haven't started digging and I already have a headache.

So.  About a year ago, a week after I gave birth to Izzie to be precise, my husband and I started designing the floor plans.  We went through every nook and cranny as a team and had an architect render it digitally and make it official.
We thought we'd start last summer, but life and finances destroyed that idea.

We moved to our small town, hoping to also maybe find a house we liked.
But unfortunately not many people come and go in tiny towns and other than some trailer homes and an 11 bed rotting nursing home for sale, we didn't have many options.

So building a house.
Something my husband has always wanted to do!  A dream and lifelong goal.
I was 12 when my parents built the house I grew up in and it seemed like a nightmare.
I love the idea of living in a house you built and designed, but the idea of actually going through the process seemed overwhelming.

So we bought a half acre corner lot (land is really cheap if you live in the middle of nowhere) across the street from my mother-in-law.  Yay for Grandma a bike ride away!!
We've been waiting to build the house we plan to live in the rest of our lives this summer.

In our town, you can be your own general contractor.
All your sub-contractors have to have licenses, but being the coordinator and secretary of the project you can do it yourself.
My husband wanted to go this route, saying we'll save money, we're so invested in the house down to every detail and penny (because we're cheap), we'll be over involved anyway whether we pay someone to be in charge or if we just do it ourselves.

But then I pointed out.
My husband works two full time jobs, 112 hours per week.  Some shifts overlap so he's working two jobs at the same time, running between the two all day....but the reality is for our family:
"WE" being the general contractor really means "I" (the mother of 3 tiny kids, who's going back to college, with 3 different church assignments) would be the general contractor.

The idea made me want to throw up.
I am a girl who likes DIY, I use the power tools more than my husband, I even got a table saw for Christmas, but the idea of rough plumbing, footings, etc was overwhelming.

So my husband bought me this book:

Then I met a friend in town who was her general contractor for a house she built last summer and she pumped me full of confidence telling me I can totally do it, it's being organized and management. hiring and trusting your sub-contractors.
She also gave me her whole list of who she hired for her house.

We hope to start digging next month, so I'm in the paper work process right now getting bids, finalizing details, redesigned the roof for attic trusses, etc.

I'm expecting this to be a horrible experience and hope next fall when we move FOR THE LAST TIME IN OUR LIVES, I'll look back and think, "that sucked but it wasn't as bad as I expected".
I'm walking into it planning for a summer of nightmare and stress.  But if building a house is a nightmare, I've decided I'd rather be in charge of and responsible for the nightmare than ticked at a general contractor who doesn't care about the house as much as I will.

But on the fun side:
We will have things we've never enjoyed before, like a laundry room!
And a mud room!
Both with windows and natural light!

Our laundry machines are currently in the kitchen of our rental, were in a hall closet of our Idaho house, and other weird places in all the dumpy rentals before that.

We also realized our plans required engineered trusses, and the price to make them with attic space wasn't that different, so we added an attic area for a toy room and sewing space!!
But to make the budget, I will be finishing it myself most likely, laying the flooring and wall treatment, (no I am not hanging my own sheet-rock, but my idea will be a big project)
Pretty sure we will live up there when it gets finished!

I'm excited about getting to make all the decisions.
We already designed the floor plans with our aesthetic in mind, now it's down to all the fun details.
The house will be a mix of 

which sounds like a horrible mix for decor vomit, but I think in the end will represent us.
Our style just may be decor vomit I guess, but at least it will be different and what we like.

One thing I'm excited about are stained glass windows.
I worked for a stained glass artist the summer after I graduated high school and have never had a reason to make my own.
My mom made her own art glass for the house I grew up in and she's going to mentor me.
So that will be fun!

So look forward to updates in the good and horrible as I build my own house!

If you want a peek at ideas floating in my head for our house, you can check out my pinterest boards for:

AHH!  This is crazy!

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  1. you are so brave! I am way excited to hear about how everything turns out. Our now next door neighbor did this last summer. Not sure how much of a headache it was for him. But his house is gorgeous from the outside!
    Good luck! A brand new house of your very own, how exciting!

  2. I just know you can do it... Your posts show your talent for it all. Just remember to pace yourself and you will all have fun. ('Fun' being a relative term here).

  3. Just keep your chin up .. and move forward as looking back brings only tears and sorrow!

    You can do this- but remember all good things in time... AND one more thing to had to your resume should you ever need to ! LOL

  4. Good for you. Been reading your blog for about a year. I, too, designed our house when we built 20+ years ago. I also bought the book. And I got to meet Carl Heldmann as he was instrumental with the construction loan we had with the credit union.

  5. Oh girl, wow. I can't believe you have 3 church jobs on top of everything else you are doing! Good luck with the house project. The drawing looks beautiful! I hope it all goes smoothly. I hope school is going well for you too, with the house project and everything...oh and the fact that you have 3 little ones too! :) Oh, just thinking about this is stressing me out! Good luck with it all, and keep us posted! :)

    1. I feel stressed out! Luckily one of the three is being Girls Camp Director, which is just planning one 3 day event for the teenage girls, and then it's over. That happens in June so hopefully the house will just be getting going and it won't be too huge...but planning the thing is going to be a pain!

  6. absolutely know that you can do this. and what a wonderful opinion your husband has of you and your many talents!! please keep us informed as you go. perhaps you need the program that would allow you to speak your blog entries into the computer and just have to hit the send..what a wonderful adventure for us to enjoy vicariously. I would imagine RJ will enjoy all of this also. working with your mother on the stained glass art sounds so rewarding also. God Bless you and your project and your family and all those that you will be working with.

    1. It might be fun to do videos of the progress! Or take photos every day from the same spot and put them in a fast video. Maybe I will have to do that!

  7. Awesome!!! I hope you share all the progress on here because I would love to see!!Good luck, all the way from New Zealand :)

  8. So exciting! I would say the dumbest part is picking out all the decore. All the other decision can be a headache. We've been working on our unfinished basement. We had a guy come do the bathroom because we did not want to mess with that, but I've convinced brad to do the rest ourselves. We will be hanging our own Sheetrock however :). You will be great at this and I know you will grow a ton from it! When I convinced brad I told him "it's not going to be fun most of te time, but we can do it and we will appreciate it more. Plus it doesn't hurt that we will be saving money! That last part got him on bored the most I think. Good luck. Can't wait to hear about it!

    1. AAHH! I am so impressed you're doing the sheetrock! That is scary to me. I too don't think I could ever do plumbing, that will be awesome to have a finished basement! We have a basement but we're not finishing it at this point. That will be down the road.

  9. The funest part, not dumbest. Autocorrect

  10. Wow, that is awesome! I can see how you would be a little overwhelmed... being the contractor entails a lot. You can totally do it though! =)

    1. And on the subject of sheetrock... totally not as hard as it seems. =) I learned how to do it as a teenager... hardest part is getting the joints smooth, and even that isn't a big deal if you are doing a heavy texture over it.

    2. Wow that is impressive! Sheetrock in your teens...definitely a step ahead of me!

  11. Jessica-just letting you know that it IS do-able. :-) We had our home built for us-many, many headaches. Later we had to extend (on the same level) to give our daughter and son a bedroom each, and we sub-contracted (like you can) and it worked well for us. My husband worked full time but took some holidays and laboured for the brick layer, to save costs.Our house was finished to lock-up stage(no floors,etc or ceilings) and my husband then gradually laid the floor boards and put in shiplap ceilings that we finished with a limewash paint(look sensational 25 years later). He also put in the skirtings and cornices(all wood)and even made the doors himself (solid wood panelled) as the bricklayer had made slight parallelograms of the doorways(so standard doors didn't fit)!!!! DH went on to build a full wall of cupboards in our bedroom as well as outfitting the study/sewing room.He learned to do woodwork at school and both of us just 'have a go' when it comes to tasks we take on.You seem to be more than competent in that area!! All the best- just keep a close eye on the subbies and you'll be OK!!!

    1. Thanks, that gives me hope! I loved your little story, that is one thing that I think we will love, feeling like we designed and were involved in every step of our home. I think the stress and frustration will seem worth it after the house is done and we appreciate it for all we put into it....or what we watched hired sub-contractors put into it. :)

  12. WOAH! this is pretty amazing/insane, Jess. my parents worked with a builder (general contractor) and built a house when i was in middle school and it seemed like a pretty cool process to get to pick everything just how you want it. Good luck!

    1. insane is how I feel Kristin! I do have a lot of resources to help. My brother in law has built multiple houses literally with his own hands doing everything himself, so I ask him questions and have a few other mentors...but it's definitely out of my comfort zone! I'll be feeling much better once everything is constructed and we have sheetrock and waterproofed doors and windows and just need to finish the interior.

  13. we are living a parallel life - - no joke!!
    we close on our land next week (right by my parents), then aim to break ground. We spent all fall tweaking and designing a house plan and it's fun to see it as "real" plans now. We will be our own general contractor and have been meeting with tons of subs, but once it's roughed in we plan on doing a lot ourselves. I keep telling myself that in a year we'll look back and think phew, it was worth it - but I'm scared of the craziness we're about to embark on... meanwhile our current house just sold and near mid-summer we'll be out of it.... Trevor is trying to convince me that it'll be an "adventure" to live in an RV with 4 kids for a few months - here we go!!

  14. You can do it!! We generaled our own house as well so if you have any questions email me!!!

  15. Good luck! You can do it! Especially if Grandma can help with daycare.
    As an architect who has done just a couple houses but mostly other things, my quick comment (as an architect I have to comment) on the laundry room is make sure you have done the research that you want stacking w/d. Much harder to replace one that fails, can you get load size for a big family. I have 4 kids and made them start doing their own laundry when they started school, just one basket - no sorting - gets clean enough for boys. But they wouldn't be able to reach with stacking....just a thought!

    If you have a great carpenter, you are set. Good sub-contractors make the process not so tough. Other comment, when you finally get there - ask the electrician to nail up all the rough in boxes w/o running wires so you can walk the house to confirm switches/outlets etc are where you really want them. It is different looking on paper and walking the house.

  16. Congrats!!! We built our home too and even though there were times I thought the stress and chaos would never be worth it, here we are 3 years later and I LOVE my house! We're still finishing up the basement, but I wouldn't change a thing!!! Good luck and really know that it will be so worth it!!!

  17. Wow! The ultimate DIY project - good luck and I hope it goes as smoothly as possible.

  18. Wow, how exciting!! Best of luck!

  19. yea! We can't decide what we want to do: build or buy. Preferably buy, but as you said, there isn't always something acceptable for sale. :) I'll be interested to see how your contracting goes!
    Looks like I am going to LOVE your kitchen. ooo, and that brick entry? and those industrial conservatory-type windows? Love them!! :)

  20. I cannot wait to see it all come together! To quote Ray, "I'm surprised Jessica isn't building the entire thing herself-- from the studs on up!"


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