Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Ultimate DIY House

When something really great comes along, you just need to share it.  I feel a little remiss in not having previously  mentioned more about the program we used to get our home built.  Several years ago we read an article in the newspaper about the open house of a group that had finished building their homes through Self-Help Homes (formerly Rurual Housing Development Corporation).  It's a mutual self-help program.  The basic idea is that a group of families works together to build their own homes.  When all homes in the group are completed everyone moves in.  Pretty great, right?  It gets better.  The program is for families that meet certain income guidelines; it's for families that would not otherwise be able to afford a home.  We logged the information away in our brains to bring out again when we felt the time was right.

Fast forward to summer of 2010.  My husband had just graduated from college (hallelujah!) and started a job. Two months later he got a promotion and a raise.  With the raise we figured we would be able to afford the mortgage on a house if we went through a mutual self-help program.  The time was almost right.  We started to go through the application process.  Before meeting with people in the Self-Help Homes office we decided to hold off for a little while.  It was only a few months later that we decided the time really had come and we completed our application.  We were accepted into the program in February of last year.  We were the second family in our group to be approved.  After that it was just waiting for the group to be complete, which took until late March or early April.  We broke ground in May and started building in June.  There was even an article written about the ground breaking in the paper.  They misquoted me a bit, but that's okay.  If you look at the second picture in the box you'll see me giving my little speech.

So how do nine families without any building experience get away with building homes that are safe, attractive, up to code, and actually livable?  Self-Help Homes assigns one of their construction supervisors to work with each group.  It's the supervisor's job to train the families on construction techniques, check for quality, and basically oversee the entire process.  If we did something wrong we had to do it again until it was right.  That's a rule that didn't budge.  We were blessed to have a great supervisor who was not willing to compromise on any quality issues.  It makes one feel so much more confident about how well the house will stand up to being lived in.

Aside from meeting income guidelines there were other rules we had to abide by.  For example, each family is required to work a minimum of 35 hours per week.  To say that's a bit of a stretch for working families is an understatement.  We were allowed to have volunteers take on up to 17.5 of the weekly hours.  Any time missed needed to be made up.  Time missed on Saturday counted double.  There was a lot of sacrifice involved in making our hours.  We were lucky enough to have reliable babysitting that allowed us to work on the house together.  With no volunteers we were able to get around 42 hours a week.  Our group was also very fortunate to have lots of volunteers from United Way and BYU to help out.  It was very much appreciated.  Most of the work is done by the families building the homes, but there were also sub contractors who did part of the work.  We framed the homes, but we did not do the work on insulation, stucco, or dry wall, to name a few.  Those things were left to the professionals.

There really isn't too much to say about this program.  The Hubs and I had other options for less-expensive housing, but we chose Self-Help Homes because of everything involved.  We thought it would be a good thing to have a brand new home, as well as to learn first-hand the skills needed to construct and maintain a home.  The homes are built to the highest standard and are energy star approved.  We also loved the idea of being able to work with our neighbors and get to know them before moving in.  We're so glad we applied when we did.  My husband got another raise at the end of 2011, which was enough to have made us ineligible for the program.  As it turned out, we've been able to build a home, build a community, and build confidence in what we can do.  It's a program I would suggest to anyone.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

This is What "Done" Looks Like

Several months back I decided that I could blog the process of building our home (the original plan) or I could spend the time actually working on the house and do one massive post once everything was complete.  Obviously, I chose the second option.  I suppose I could go back with all the pictures I took and document the entire process.  I think I prefer to just show pictures of the completed house and share the documentation part for making our new house into our new home.  So here are a few pictures of the FINISHED house, courtesy of our building supervisor's Google album:

Kitchen and great room

Great room (living and dining until we finish the basement, dining on the other side of the bar)

Entry and hallway, taken from formal living room


Master bedroom with bathroom and closet

Finished exterior

It's surreal to be finished with this project.  We started coming to the work site on June 18, 2011.  That was the day we came for safety and tool training.  Most of the nine couples in our group were highly unfamiliar with the tools in the trailer.  Palm nailer?  Framing gun?  Hole hawg?  What are those?  Times have certainly changed.  Nail guns and circular saws were once kind of scary sounding to me.  Now I go to tool departments and drool.  I actually asked my husband for a circular saw for Christmas.  He got me makeup brushes instead.  I thought it was pretty funny.

Real work began June 20, 2011 when we started training on basement walls.  That means it was just under seven months from when we started to when all nine home passed inspection on January 17, 2012.  All of us in the group take ownership of our homes on January 26th, immediately after the open house.  Most families are moving in that evening.  We'll be moving the first weekend in February so that we can personalize our wall colors before moving in.  Exciting?  You have no idea!  Unless you've also done it.

I'm so proud of our group.  We've all worked so hard and sacrificed so much to get this done.  Our accomplishment is pretty impressive, especially when one considers our complete lack of prior experience and the very high quality of the end result.  We can thank our supervisor for that.  In the end it was all worth it.  I feel like I can take on any project out there (and I definitely have plans!) with great results.  Nothing is impossible.  Congratulations, Group 33; we've earned it!