Building A Dream Home on a Budget
Sundown in Texas
The Feeling Was Mutual
We called it the Plan of May fourteenth because that was the day everything changed for us. As a newly married couple we discovered that we shared many of the same dreams. One shared hope was to live somewhere in the country away from subdivisions with snoopy neighbors, petty theft and a continuous barrage of Mariachi music.
Understandably, our neighbors didn't appreciate our noisy race car engine when we came home from the track after midnight and drove the car into the garage. We couldn't really blame them. The feeling was mutual. We had no affection for their choice of boom box music or loud thumping bass either. Our solution was to find some acreage and build a house.
The Country Life
Our plan began to solidify after we met some new friends at the Texas Motorplex, who actually built their own house. They invited us out for a barbecue where we shared the amazing Texas sunset over the lake.
As night slowly crept in and darkness transformed the sky into a carpet of glittering stars, we decided this was the life for us. Helping them build their garage gave us the confidence and inspiration to begin work on a place of our own. We immediately started looking for a parcel of land in the area.
Sunrise in Texas
Building the Barn
We spent a few weeks searching before we found a ten acre plot that overlooked the lake. We decided to build a pole barn first and live in that while we constructed the house.
On Saturday mornings we'd head out early to Home Depot and buy as much lumber and materials as we could afford in cash. Then we'd stop and fill up our cooler with ice, sodas and snacks and stop for breakfast at Molly's Barn before our day of labor in the hot sun.
Raising the Barn
Made in the Shade
Having a place to get in the shade was essential in surviving the blistering sun of the Texas summer. We made our own shade using tent poles, a flat bed trailer and a large plastic tarp. Drinking lots of fluids and hosing down with a pressurized garden sprayer filled with water kept us cool.
After a long day of work, we’d make the drive home to our house in the city, put away our tools and talk about the day's progress. We had little trouble falling asleep after a day of manual labor.
Setting the poles for the barn made it clear what a monumental job we were undertaking. We rented a two-man auger and tried to drill three foot deep holes. The sixteen foot four-by-fours needed to be set in concrete to support the structure. I lasted about three holes before we asked our friends for help.
Raising the Roof
The Exterior Shell
It would take a long time to make any progress working only weekends so we decided to hire a contractor to build the house. He agreed to construct the exterior and leave the inside work for us to finish out. Six months later, the basic structure was erected on pier and beams. They also finished out the sub-floor plumbing and septic tank with the field.
Our First Farmall Tractor
Tools are Toys
The project gave my husband reason to buy lots of tools like a drill, a power painter, circular saw, an auger, shovels, ladders, and a sledge hammer we named Thor. Each job seemed to require another tool.
First Floor Framing
The Second Story
Once the shell was constructed, we began to finish out the interior. We still needed to run the electrical wiring, install the above ground plumbing, hang doors and staple insulation and install the sheet rock before we could finish out the walls.
Insulation is Itchy
One of my jobs was to staple insulation between the studs of the interior and exterior walls. Before we could insulate we had to run the electrical wiring. This had to be finished before we could put up the drywall. Every job seemed to require something else before it could be done.
How To Insulate Walls
Our family soon expanded with a stray dog that started hanging around as we worked. It was clear she was a stray. She was obviously malnourished and full of parasites. She would be the first of many who found their way to our front door over the years.
Our Three Dogs
On the Memorial Day holiday three day weekend, we rented a U-Haul truck and began moving out of the city into our unfinished shell of a house. Late in the day on Monday, we made the final trip with the last of our furniture and two very anxious dogs. It was exciting to finally be living in our new house.
Building the Kitchen
On the first day of January we installed the door locks and started on the interior studs for the walls. Extension cords snaked through the house from the temporary power pole to provide electricity until we could run the permanent wiring.
Our priority was to get a working bathroom with a toilet and sink. Inside the house was frigid with no heat or insulation from temperatures in the teens. We could see our own breath as we worked.
The Exterior Shell
We spent our first night on the hide-away couch in the living room, too tired to set up our bed. The next day, it was business as usual, back to work and we made our first commute into the city to our regular eight to five office jobs.
Painting the Exterior
It's hard to pick a color from a small paint chip on the store swatches. We ended up with a bright blue paint that made it look like we lived in Smurf town. It would be fourteen years before we changed the color of the exterior.
That first winter in the house was the hardest. We had a wood burning stove but no central heat. We sealed off the second story with our well-worn tarps and slept in the living room with the three dogs and a couple of space heaters. The dog's water froze into a solid block of ice in the kitchen. We put our groceries in the refrigerator to keep them from freezing.
For the first year, we cooked in a microwave oven, on an electric frying pan and a hot plate before we could buy a new stove. Our used refrigerator lasted for ten years then had to be replaced.
The Wood Burning Stove
Through the years, we've developed new skills, strong muscles and a keen appreciation for the peace and quiet we continue to enjoy in the country. We've lived out here for the past twenty-seven years and remain eternally grateful for our good fortune. It's a dream come true.
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© 2012 Peg Cole
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