As summer transitioned into fall, the rains continued. I tried to cover the site as best as I could, but plenty of water managed to pour down from the tarps and onto the floor inside. I would need dry weather to begin work on the roof and it didn’t seem as if any was in the cards. Towards the end of August, the rains finally relented and I went to work immediately. Enlisting the help of my friend Sam, we worked to set the eaves, gable ends and fascia. This was an exercise in balance and a test in courage, as we tried to hold heavy boards precariously over our heads, arms aching as one of us tried to put in the first nail. With the base of the roof framed, we were able to start putting up sheets of OSB plywood. One by one, I maneuvered boards up the ladder and into Sam’s arms on the roof above. Like the walls, this task was satisfying in that it progressed quickly and by the end of the afternoon we had one side complete.
It was another couple weeks before we were able to return to the site and finish the other half of the roof. With the second half up, a layer of tar paper followed and sheet metal roofing covering everything from above. The metal roofing was perhaps the easiest part of all of the construction in terms of knowing what to do, thanks to this excellent video on YouTube. If only all instructionals were as clear.
Only the windows and door remained and with their installation, I finally had a dried in shell. What the company had suggested would take 3 days had taken nearly 3 months. In the meantime, I had moved in to Alana’s cabin and it had become obvious that I would not finish by October, perhaps not even this year.
I continued to chip away at different projects. Finding and purchasing an old Blaze King woodstove on CraigsList along with a set of non-insulated and insulated piping. It was difficult having to cut a big hole in the roof after working so hard on it, but with the stove and pipe installed I now had a way to work through the winter if necessary. I began working on the deck of the house, having more gravel delivered to provide a more level foundation. I was simply building another floor and felt great satisfaction in knowing how to do something without doing extensive research.
By mid-October temperatures were regularly below freezing, moving me inside to knock out some interior projects. I insulated the ceiling, covering it with a sheet of visqueen and then nailing cedar tongue and groove planking over the course of 4-5 days. Not knowing completely how and somewhat afraid of doing any electrical work, I procrastinated. As a result, I did some things out of order, next installing the floor. It was looking more and more like a house with the completion of each project, but I would need to do the electrical before anything could be done with the walls. I had an old how to book that gave step by step directions for how to setup a home electrical system. Yet I had some mental block that prevented me from understanding how I would install it and connect it to my off-grid setup of batteries and solar. This mental block as well as plummeting temperatures provided easy excuses to avoid working on the project. November turned to December and then to January without any new progress.
A light finally clicked in February along with a new surge of motivation and I returned to the project once more. I wired nearly a dozen outlets, connected them to a breaker box and that to my inverter. After diagnosing and fixing some faulty connections, I had electricity! Things progressed quickly thereafter. Nearly everyday I made my way over to the house, knocking out projects one by one. I fixed the stairs (I had installed them upside down the first time), drilled out holes for the shower and sink drains and put up insulation in the walls, covering them with a layer of plastic.
In the meantime, Alana and I had also built a separate room for our shower as well as a lofted bed frame. Initially, we had wanted to install tongue and groove boards for the walls but weren’t able to justify it with lumber prices at all-time highs. Choosing the kit was a financial blessing that did not become apparent until later. By having all the materials delivered at once, I was insulated from the massive price increases that resulted from the pandemic. But our fortune only extended so far and we needed material for walls, deciding in the end to use drywall. We went to work putting it up together, figuring out that installing drywall is perhaps the easiest and quickest way for romantic relationships to go sour. I finished the drywall by myself and we began painting the following day.
We had given notice to Alana’s landlord and were planning to move into the house by the first of May. In between transferring some of our stuff to our new place, I continued finishing up things inside. Cleaning each day as well as installing other features like setting up the sink, constructing the shower, finishing the couch, building a kitchen counter and a desk for myself. I moved in April 28th and Alana just a few days after.
Over the summer, we finished little things here and there with the house but were mainly focused on outside projects like setting up our garden and food forest. We were still able to get plenty done, putting the solar panels on the roof, installing the beam and posts over the deck, putting up vents for the space below the roof and building an outhouse among other things. As it stands now, the house is about 95% complete, simply lacking some aspects of final detailing and finishing. Over this coming winter, we will be installing trim within the house, which will effectively end the initial construction period.
This project has been extremely rewarding and an excellent crash course in many things building and constructing. With each step, I would feel frustrated and unsure how to proceed, inevitably breaking through, working through it and encountering the same feeling with the next task. Difficult and challenging at times, yes. But pleasing in the end. Alana and I both really enjoy living in our house, personalized to our needs and serves as our ideal vision of a home. Looking back over the experience, there is not much I would change. And that is a satisfying feeling.
In many ways, the project could not have been completed without the help of others and for that I am grateful. Thank you to my love Alana as well as my step dad Craig and friends Jake, Sam, Shannon, Evan, Sarah, Justin, Claire, Andrew, Cade, Laura, Dave and everyone else who provided support and encouragement during this time.