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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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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