Thoughts on Building a New House, Part One

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Our family lived in a large fifties “ranchburger” style house (see photo on right) ; It was a nice place to live and raise a family, in a lovely neighborhood, with large oak trees arcing over the roof.  Problem was, after ten years, I had had enough.  The lovely trees and yard could only be seen thru small divided lite windows and the ceilings were low.  There was little connection to the outdoors.  I was claustrophobic.  Something had to go.  Likely it was Middle Age catching up with me but I felt I needed light and air.  I needed something.

In our established 1920’s era neighborhood were perhaps three lots that were clear and unbuilt.  The most beautiful of these—by far—was on Sulphur Draw.  It had a small creek running thru with trees lining the water’s edge.  Old timers told stories of exploring this area in the thirties.  Neighborhood kids had installed a rope swing in the deeper pool.  It had the feel of being in the country.  It was also considered unbuildable due to being in the flood plain. 

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Here is a photo of the site, pre-house, from Google Earth My wife and I had talked for years about moving out of the ranchburger, so she was on board.  As an artist, she needed light and air also. We had been looking for years to find a different house in the same neighborhood—with no luck.

We made a list of For and Against the move to build a new house:


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1. Being an architect reduced architectural fees considerably

2. Having engineers donate their services for “a good cause” helped the budget.

3. Having good relationships with subcontractors allowed us to get some really good pricing

4. Having good relationships with local contractors allowed us to accept certain valuable materials that would otherwise have been discarded in the landfill (ie: select fill from ditches).  We needed a LOT of this to raise the house out of the flood plain.

5. Most importantly, we had/have a father in law who was/is a master builder…and who volunteered his time to build the house.  He is retired which allowed him the freedom to really spend time at the construction site.  Needless to say, this was invaluable and something that was crucial if we were to proceed.  Neither my wife nor I had the time to babysit a construction site.

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1. Lack of funds.

2. Wanting to do something that would really connect to the outdoors and the site required something we didn’t have: funds

3. Not enough money.

“For” won.  In the end, no list was going to make the decision.  What was money?  This was emotional.  My wife called the number on the For Sale sign of the flood plain lot and worked the owner down to $25,000.  We were committed.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 3:13PM