Why We Built a Hot Tub & Deck Before a House

Jesse and I moved to our off grid property just over one year ago and while we initially thought we would get started on building our house (or barndominium) right away, we realized that jumping into construction likely wouldn’t be the best option for us. Instead, we got to work on other projects, two which were building our own hot tub and hot tub deck.

Ever since we started construction (or even planning) on our hot tub and deck, we’ve been greeted time and time again with the question “Why on EARTH would you build a hot tub and deck before building a house? Aren’t your priorities a little screwed up?”

For us, it was obvious why we shouldn’t jump into building the house but since not everyone has taken on large construction projects, we realized that not everyone understood at first glance why we were doing what we were doing, so in this post we will try to share some of our thoughts behind our ideas!

First off… we don’t have a house but we do have a home.

Since we bought bare land, we don’t have a traditional home that much of America has. We do, however, have a home that we put together and it’s actually quite comfortable, not to mention it meets all of our basic needs. We have a travel trailer enclosed in an RV garage with a cabin addition added to the end. We heat the structure with a wood stove and it gets us by. We have a small set of portable solar panels that takes care of our basic power needs. We even have a pretty legit gravity-fed water system… Really… although this isn’t what we want to live in forever, we are actually comfortable!

rv-garage

Validation

While we had this idea that we wanted to build a home with a combination of trees from our own land and reclaimed or second-hand materials, we had no idea how it would come out in the wash. For Pete’s sake, we hadn’t even tried to mill our own lumber before!

To go straight for the house with skills we’ve never practice (or even knew if they were practical in the slightest) could have been suicide. In building this deck, we were able to practice cutting down trees, moving trees, milling the trees, turning the slabs into usable lumber, building with said lumber, and see an entire concept through to production.

underside-deck

Building with reclaimed materials had challenges of its own. While we were able to successfully use them on our deck, as well as in a number of other scrap wood projects, we do see that building a large structure with them can be time-consuming.

In the end, building these two projects really validated that our ideas weren’t completely crazy, although we did learn a thing or two that we feel will really help us with the big build.

Resourcefulness

The idea we have to keep our barndominium at a reasonable cost is to build with materials available to us or materials we can find at a low cost. Again, this was just an idea we had but had no idea if it was feasible.

In building the deck, we discovered that there were a few components of the deck that we really needed to buy such as treated posts, and treated lumber for where the hot tub would go since we didn’t have access to affordable cedar.

We also discovered that there were a lot of components of the deck that we could build out of our reclaimed materials pile. We were able to put to use bridge ties, leftover staves from the construction of our hot tub, branches from trees that we fell, reclaimed bricks that we stumbled upon last fall, and even reject slabs that we milled but were too thick to use on the deck.

stair-building

In the end, we built both the hot tub and the deck for an extremely affordable price, cheaper than we though was even possible. We feel we can use this knowledge to really build both a quality and cost-effective house.

Learning New Skills

While Jesse has some construction in his background, there were a lot of skills he felt he needed to brush up on before building a home.

I, on the other hand, had zero experience with anything construction-related. Jesse felt that to jump into a long project together could have been suicide for both the project and worse, our relationship. Building a home we hear is extremely stressful so we felt that to give ourselves the best odds at success, it would be wise that we both walked into the project knowing what to expect somewhat.

chainsaw-reclaimed-materials

We know that building a home will be stressful enough with excessive labor, long days, and even strict deadlines, so we felt that it was wise that we both understood our tools and basic tasks.

In building the deck, I personally learned a tremendous amount and Jesse got a lot more confident in his skills as well. We work much better as a team today than we did a year ago and every project we do gets smoother and smoother. Ask us when we’re done building our home… but we feel that taking on small projects prior to a large one is invaluable.

Relaxation & Recovery

When living in a 19′ travel trailer, things can be a bit cramped at times and while basic needs are met, they are basic at best.

One of the things we felt would be wise to have was a place to soak our bodies after a long, hard day of work. Sitting in warm water can probably do more for the body than doctors or pills could ever do, and we aren’t keen on doctors or pills unless we really need them for some reason!

fi4

While we have a long list of tools we use on the homestead, our bodies are our #1 most-important tools, so we don’t mind making a small investment in time and money to take care of them properly. If our bodies go south, so does this project, so if we can build a place to soak to make our home build more enjoyable in the long run, why not do it?

Something to Share

Even though we are busy and live a fast-paced life, we do prioritize relationships and our community. We feel that a lot of folks have helped us since we moved here and having an enjoyable, relaxing deck is something we can share in return. Instead of standing around in our driveway talking, we look forward to having BBQs and beverages on the deck which is a much better atmosphere for relaxing and enjoying company.

So when will we start building our house?

Here is why one couple decided to build their own hot tub before a house... great for any futuire homebuilder, homesteader, or anyone who thinks they want to live off the grid!Building a house is a marathon, not a sprint, so we will start building when the timing is right. It is our current goal (and has been all calendar year) to get loose ends tied up on both the property and in our personal lives so that we can focus 100% (okay… maybe 90% haha) on the home build.

A more concrete answer: We hope to start construction in Spring. We actually have started on the plans and are in the process of having them finalized by an engineering firm.

It’s challenging at times to be patient but we know that we’re slowly (or quickly in all honesty) positioning ourselves to take on some pretty large projects and we look forward to sharing how those unfold with those that follow our journey. Every journey is unique, and this is ours!

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I am an aspiring homesteader on a journey to become self-sustainable and free. In my past, I've worked corporate jobs to make ends meet and get ahead a little; it didn't make me happy or confident in my future. Since taking the leap to self-employment and living a more simple life, my happiness levels have increased greatly and I've never felt more alive. I finally understand what I want in life and how to get there, and that is what this blog is all about.

Comments

  1. Sue Davis says

    I have been following your adventure since you moved your RV onto your property. Watching and reading as you have made decisions and worked on your projects has been a learning experience for me as well. At 73 I know that I will never be involved in a project like this but I greatly admire your dream and applaud your hard work ethic. Your logic and learning curve experiences are proceeding in a manner that is working for both of you. When all is said and done only the two of you need to agree on the order and degree of difficulty
    of the projects you tackle. If anyone has ever enjoyed the benefits that a hot tub brings to a tired and achey body they can understand and agree that you made an excellent first choice. After all, you do have a roof over your heads, a bed to sleep in, heat, water and good food to eat. What is the big hurry for anything else? Enjoy your tub and just keep on learning and sharing with the rest of us.

  2. peewee henson says

    ALYSSA AND JESSE, WATCHING YOUR PROGRESS AND READING YOUR WORDS ARE INSPIRING. I’M CURIOUS (OK CALL IT NOSEY), . WE HAVE YET TO DECIDE ON A PARTICULAR BUILDING TYPE; STRAW BALE VS STEAL BUILDING VS REPURPOSED SHIPPING CONTAINER VS MODULAR (I.E. PREFAB) VS LOG VS YURT. CAN WE COMPARE NOTES AND IDEAS? AGAIN, LOOKS LIKE YOUR DOING GOOD, SMART WORK. JUST A UNRELATED QUESTION HERE. DO EITHER FISH AND HUNT?. STAY SAFE PEEWEE HENSON RENO, NV

  3. Mike Springer says

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your videos and especially watching all the progress you both have made. I too will be looking forward to your home building project. Can’t wait to see how that all plays out. First though Ole Man winter is right around the corner, but you seem to be fully prepared for that. Even though I have not started my project yet, I am learning too from all you are doing. So….
    good luck on all that you do and can’t wait till you break ground for the house next spring. I would say you are blessed greatly because you are living the dream….you’re dream!

  4. says

    Well said guys.
    I, as a builder and former homesteader, ache for you to build that home,
    and have scratched my head in wonder as to why you haven’t started.
    But you are clearly young, smart, hard working… and you have a plan!
    Don’t let the scope nor duration of a building a home intimidate you.
    No builder wakes in the morning thinking he has a home to build,
    but rather we focus on what needs to be done that day.
    We enjoy the process as much as the finished result.

  5. Don Tooley says

    Yea!! Nice response to all those doubters . When you do decide on which type house to build. I have been doing some research for my own project, if I ever do get started, ha-ha. Take a look at some cob houses. Sounds crazy with all the rocks in the mountains, but, under all the rock are earth and clay. Well, just take a look at some website videos. You might like it I know I’m going that way for my project in the South Dakota Black Hills. Good Luck.. Chin up. and most of all…SMILE. You folks are doing GREAT!! Don (aka. Ferret4)

  6. says

    Hello!
    *waving from my place, WAY across the ocean*
    I have been following you guise for a while now, and this is the moment I felt I needed to salute you and your pioneering way of life. You have chosen a path that many would love to – but are afraid to do. You are brave (not mad!), yet I know there must have been countless times that people do not want to understand your life’s journey.
    You may have gotten all sorts of questions, quite much like the “million dollar question” of WHY aren’t you under a house roof yet?
    Take your time.
    Chose your priorities.
    Try to rely on your own ideas, and fulfill your own dream.
    That said, I’ll add: try to avoid the “voices” of those who are “caring” too much and thus asking so many questions.
    I will not ask about how can you live without a latte, or about bears, foxes and what-not OR about what must have gotten wrong with your lives that made you move away into wilderness.
    No.
    I admire your choice.
    (and you’ve made a heck of a LARGE batch of plum goods) :)

    Keep up the wonderful work.
    Marija

  7. Derek Wilkins says

    All I know is that if you’re using fresh cut trees to create your new home, it’s better to mill the lumber, and let it cure for a year before using it to build with. Gives timber a time to cure, and lose some of the moisture.

    Good for the two of you, thinking ahead, that’s the only way to do this on a budget!

  8. Crystal says

    You guys are doing amazing! Plus the fact that you are sharing so much real information with everyone on how things actually turn out complete with your monthly budgets, gives us a wonderfull blueprint. You have learned more and shared more than most can in a couple of years. Plus nothing you do is just thrown together. We started two years ago and started with animals and gardens for our first focus. The first year was a horrible drought with extreme high temps. Everything was lost. Then this spring our area of our mountain was turned into a waist deep half mile river. Waiting to find out what happens where on your land is smart! Couple that with all of your learning projects that left you with real items you can admire and use your doing phenomenal.

  9. Don Tooley says

    Good job not listening to the nonbelievers in your Hot Tub project. You have done a great job. Keep it up. Don’t give up. SMILE. When you decide on your house design, please consider a “Cob” house. I’ve been doing some research for my own project. In South Dakota we also have a lot of rock in the Black Hills. Under the rock is great soil that just might work. Give it a consideration. Thanx for your time. Keep the videos coming, I’ve learned a lot from you folks. Thank you.. Don

  10. john and jane says

    YOU ABSOLUTELY DID THE RIGHT THING IN BUILDING YOUR HOTTUB. IT WAS BRILLIANT, REALLY, IT INCLUDED NEARLY EVERYTHING IN MINIATURE OF WHAT A HOUSE WOULD INCLUDE!……
    WHEN WE HAD OUR FIRST HOME BUILTIN NEW ENGLAND, IT ONLY TOOK THREE MEN 8 WEEKS TO BUILD IT. IT WAS A SIMPLE CEDAR ROOF SHINGLED GAMBREL STYLE HOUSE.

    IT HAD REAL BARN BEAMS, A BEAUTIFUL LIVING ROOM FIREPLACE, A FORMAL DINING ROOM A GALLEY KITCHEN/DINING AREA. 2 BEDROOMS AND A FULL WALKOUT CELLAR.

    LATER WE ADDED ON 2 BEDROOMS ANOTHER BATH, A FOYER THAT JOINED THE TWO SECTIONS OF OUR HOUSE AND UNDER WAS A 2 CAR GARAGE.

    THE TAXES BECAME MORE COSTLY THAN OUR MORTGAGE!

    THE ORIGINAL WAS 24X38.

    LOOKING BACK, SHOULD HAVE BUILT 3 BD/2 BA AT THE START….SO….

    DESIGN AND FUNCTIONALITY ARE EVERYTHING.

    A COMFORTABLE FAMILY EAT IN KITCHEN, A LARGE LIVING ROOM FAMILY ROOM/OPEN DINING AREA IS BEST FOR FAMILY OR FRIEND GATHERINGS. SMALLER BEDROOMS FOR THE KIDS, AND A WRAP AROUND DECK OR PORCH IS WHAT MATTERS…2 BATHS A MUST.
    OUR MOST RECENT HOME IS 24X48 2/2 AND A LARGE LIVING ROOM AND A N OPEN KITCHEN THAT CAN ACCOMODATE 12 -15 BUFFET STYLE, AND OVERFLO INTO THE LIBRARY OFF THE LIVING ROOM

    WE WISH YOU BOTH THE BEST…THINK IT THRU LONG AND HARD AND KEEP IT SIMPLE
    YOU WILL BE GLAD YOU DID. GOD BLESS YOU!

  11. Mindy Hanisco says

    Love the new video! Plus your humor on this one. Been following y’all since August 2016. Stumbled on your website via searching for something I don’t even remember. My husband & I having been planning on doing something similar to your journey for our retirement. Y’all have given us a wealth of knowledge. Thank you

  12. Elizabeth says

    I completely agree with and echo what @Sue Davis said in her comment. I’m 63, female, and now single again. Your project is not something that I’m capable of taking on, but I do love to follow your journey and along the way, I discover some things that I might be able to use in smaller projects.

    Having a hot tub is a great priority as it definitely will bring your body and psyche a ton of relief. I believe you made the right choice. All of the projects you’ve taken on so far are going to prove invaluable when you are working on your big project.

    The very best of luck to you both and I will continue to observe. Stay strong and healthy and most of all happy!

    Elizabeth

  13. Gail C says

    I agree with Sue David 150%. Hot tubs are a great way to relax and focus on the next project. Take your time and do what’s right for you. Enjoy the process.

  14. says

    This is the decision you ever made. My wife, one of her friends (another homesteader in Sweden) and I talked about it today. The importance of taking a rest and taking small steps at a time.

    Never pay attention to all the criticism. It’s you home, you decide what to do and what to not do as one of our neighbours put it.

    Well, except when I nag about motör saw safety. :-)

  15. says

    Neighbours two cabins away from us have a wood-fired hot tub. They built a cedar log float, decked it in, and built an open-sided shed for the hot tub (we live in a really rainy part of the world). We live in an area with floating cabins, hence the floating hot tub. Why not use the lake you ask? Except from late June to September the water is so cold it numbs you to the bone! – Margy

  16. Connie says

    I think it’s great that you built a hot tub. You need to relax you’re muscles after doing physical work.
    I’m 64 years old and I bought 5 acres in March of this year. I just moved onto my land Sept. 1st. I’m going to build a small cob house but I’m practicing by building a 8 x 10 storage first. I figured I’d learn a lot and make my mistakes on something that didn’t matter.

  17. Andrés says

    Hi Jesse and Alyssa, thanks for taking the time to share your experience’!

    I’m curious over a detail. I’m still kinda green with a chainsaw and have had to sharpen and replace chainsaw teeth often. As watched your adventures I wondered how you’ handled something like that?

    Also…who gets the musical credit for the piano jazz piece that covered Jesse’s chimney montage?

  18. Andrés says

    Hi Jesse and Alyssa, thanks for taking the time to share your experience’!

    I’m curious over a detail. I’m still kinda green with a chainsaw and have had to sharpen and replace chainsaw teeth often. After watching your adventures I wondered how you’ handled something like that?

    Also…who gets the musical credit for the piano jazz piece that covered Jesse’s chimney montage?

    • says

      Hey Andrés! You’re welcome! We haven’t had to replace any teeth but we do sharpen frequently when the chainsaw is in use. We have a handy chainsaw tool kit that we keep handy so that sharpening is a breeze. We get most of our music off AudioBlocks… we paid for a year-long subscription for royalty-free music. Lots of options on the site, and it seems we can always find the perfect piece of music!

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