Not A Straightforward Way to Build a House

The house project is getting real now. The “tiny house” cottage in which my family will live during the 1810 house restoration is closer to “ready” each day. Today we were installing the last of the outlets and trimming windows and doors. The only large item that remains inside is the kitchen installation. Mike C has already done the prep work for the small utilities addition which will house the bathroom and washer and dryer. We should be making good progress on that tomorrow.

We are as of this writing less than three weeks away from moving in and I’m just starting to feel a bit nervous about it. It’s not that we’re behind schedule, but we are facing at least a year (maybe two) of living completely uprooted. There are so many moving parts that need to come together, and even though I am a man of faith, I can’t help but wonder how it will all come to be.

The reason we are moving into this cottage is because the ideal house site is where our current double-wide manufactured house sits. No, this is not a straightforward way to build your own house. We realize this. When Julia and I decided to buy this property, we had already spent years planning to buy a wooded lot and clear a house site, have a long driveway put in, dig a well, put in septic… the whole nine yards. It was a serious prospect both in terms of time and money. Then one day, we dropped by an acquaintance’s house which I had never visited and as we drove up the driveway, I was enamored with the property. White pines swaying in the breeze, a large pond below the house, woods, fields, a stream at the back. It had everything we dreamed of… even a site up at the road for a workshop. On the way out, I joked to Julia, “If they ever sell this place, we should buy it!” A little while later they mentioned that they were moving back to the Midwest where they had come from. We pounced and closed as soon as we could.

The only thing this property didn’t have was our dream home. Instead, it had a double-wide trailer. Though solidly constructed and in great shape, it was not somewhere I wanted to spend the rest of my life. We weighed our options and ultimately decided that buying this place was a less expensive long-term option than paying rent for years while we cleared and built on a wooded lot from the ground up. (Especially with the driveway, well, septic and electric ready to go.) We’ve taken good care of the double-wide over the last ten years and found a buyer for a good return on our investment. The double-wide gets hauled away in four weeks. At that point, there’s no turning back.

I can’t say that the way we’re doing this is the universally best way, but Julia and I have striven to exercise wisdom in our given circumstances. This extra trailer/cottage/house juggle will be, we believe, less overall headache than trying to build on a site that we aren’t living at. Even a ten-minute drive to the jobsite adds up when tools go missing, or homeschooling needs demand extra parental support.

We have long been work-from-home folks. Now we are work-on-home folks. Everyone’s getting excited about the cottage. The boys are dreaming of how they will set up their bedrooms, Julia’s working out storage solutions and the interaction of kitchen, dining, and leisure spaces. It will be a lovely place to live for a year or two. It will be tight – “cozy” – but we are looking forward to what unique opportunities it brings us.

Once the 1810 cape is fully resurrected and restored and we move into it, the cottage will function as Julia’s piano studio. She’s been teaching piano for years and always dreamed of having her own studio. So, the cottage will go to serve a noble purpose for many years to come.

Like I said, this is not a straightforward way to build a house. But it suits us.



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