Thursday, December 30, 2010

Building a Small House - Part I

The plan had been for us to work and save money for another year before moving to our new home.,  We were very excited and started planning.  Since we always intended to live off-grid, we started researching solar energy and passive solar building.  Our house designs changed almost daily, with all our new ideas being incorporated.

By spring, we'd reached a decision.  We just couldn't stand to wait another year; we were making our move now.  Suddenly, our house designs changed again.  They became more and more simple as the reality of building and of cost started to sink in.  Finally, we had worked out the plan that we actually used to build our house, one that excluded all the skylights, sloped walls, and other fancy ideas we'd comje up with.

Our house is a cube, 20'x20' and 2 stories tall.  It has a full basement (dirt-floored), a one-room main floor, and a half-story with two tiny bedrooms above.  We made double 2"x4" walls, 10" thick, to allow the R40 insulation.  The south wall has five full-length double-paned windows (made using patio-dorr glass), so it's basically a wall of glass, and there is one small window in each of the other walls.  It's intended to be easy to heat, since the floor area is small and the heat can rise.

If we had a chance to do it over again, I would only change a few things.  It's just a bit too small, and we should have a separate, private washing area inside.  Given the amount of money we had available, we couldn't have done a lot more than we did, but it probably would have been possible for us to increase the square footage on the main floor just slightly, say, to 20'x24'.

However, we are living proof that a couple can live comfortably and happily in a really small space.  Over the years, we've filled that house with the paraphenalia of all sorts of crafts, hobbies, and activities.  We've hosted dinner parties and wine-tastings, had overnight guests, danced, raised orphan animals--an amazing number of things have gone on in this little house.