Making a Place to Live
Our selected building site was sloped with a drop of about 6 feet from front to back. My
philosophy about trying to minimize the footprints we leave behind and the realization that
nothing made by the hand of man is permanent, put some limits on our approach to the
design of the house.
We settled on a design using posts as a foundation so as not to have to disturb the natural
terrain by digging a foundation. We installed 6 rows of 6 x 6 treated posts to support beams
made up of three 2 x 12 boards laminated together with construction adhesive and bolted
through with 3/8 hot dipped, galvanized bolts. The tops of the posts were cut off level using a
transit to mark a level line on each post before cutting them off with a hand saw. A 4" inch
thick, reinforced concrete "pill" was poured around each post at ground level to prevent the
post from settling more deeply into the ground once the load of the weight of the structure was
The process of planting the posts almost caused me to be hospitalized from the injuries I
received by carrying 12 foot long 6 X 6 treated posts on my shoulder to the holes I had dug.
We learn from our mistakes and I learned I wasn't as young as I used to be from this
experience. My advice: get help to carry heavy stuff or figure out how to move the heavy stuff
without straining your body, (wheels are very useful).
As age increases it becomes necessary to increase the use of the brain to perform tasks
because physical prowess becomes diminished. Brain power wins out over brute force.
If you're going to build a house you'll need a truck of some kind and a trailer to haul
lumber. We paid a $1000 for this old truck and another $600 for an old 6 foot by 18
foot trailer. If you can find a lumber supplier that delivers, you can save the
expense of the trailer.
Once we had secured a mortgage on the land, and used goats and Poppin John to clear away
some of the growth on the higher, well drained portion of the land, the next step was to choose
the site for our power pole, dwelling, septic tank, and well. These are decisions that turned out
to be critical to the livability of our future homestead. Once the well, septic tank, and power
pole are in place moving them is difficult and expensive, so you want to get it right the first time.
County ordinances required that the septic tank and drain field be located at least 100 feet
from the well to avoid contamination of the potable water source. Not just a good idea, it's the
Jan and the dogs in the forest of posts that will eventually support the house. The
area behind her is now a 3000 square foot fish pond.
My buddy John working on the laminated beams that will distribute the weight of
the house on the posts. The beams were 2 X 12 treated boards laminated with
construction adhesive, painted deck screws, and bolted through with 3/8 inch
galvanized bolts. The beams were secured to the tops of the posts with galvanized
Some of the beams were as long as 40 feet so they had to be assembled of shorter
boards joined together. This was done by making "finger" joints placing each joint
on top of a support post as shown above. The triangular point on the center board
was pointing in the opposite direction from the outer boards to make the joint lock
I designed the house with the idea that I would be building it by myself over a period of years.
It didn't turn out that way because friends wanted to help with the project, a fact that we will
always be grateful for. The project would have taken much longer without their help. Since I
didn't know I would have help, I designed the house to be built in sections with each section
capable of being used as a living quarters while the next section was under construction.
The first section was to contain 2 rooms approximately 12' X 12" and a bathroom. This was
small living quarters by American standards but when compared to how the majority of the
world population was living it was adequate or even luxurious.
People asked me how I knew how to build a house when I had never worked as a carpenter,
a plumber, or an electrician. My answer was there were books available about the needed
skills and I was confident I could learn what I needed to know at the library or book store.