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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone, my name is Shannon. I'm ready to have a place of my own and I want to build my own house. I've been obsessed with the tiny house movement and green sustainability, which really drive my ambitions. I'm only 23, but I'm ready to make this huge move. I envision building an 800 sq. ft. house and I'm starting to draw up floor plans. I know there are a ton of experienced and intelligent people here that could help me with input! I'd appreciate it. I'm looking to buy a shell of a house, with all the finished work done by people I know. Any bit of advice would be amazing!
 

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First of all is finding out what (if any) building codes and zoning regulations you'll have to deal with. Believe it or not, many areas have a minimum square foot rule, so you need to find out what the smallest house you can legally build will be. No sense getting all excited about designing something that they won't let you build.

Do you have land yet? If so, find out who your local building authority is, and start there. Usually, the big issue with building is MONEY. If you are in an area with lots of rules and regulations, it will cost a lot more to build than if you are in an area where you can just throw up a shack and get away with it.

I'm not trying to discourage you. I'm just finishing up building my own house, from my own design. It's one of the most rewarding (and challenging) things I've ever done. Here in SC, the rules are fairly easy, but it still cost way more than I originally predicted. The codes we are under (IRC 2006) run over 600 pages. And then there is the electrical code, NEC 2008, which is another 700 pages or so. Somehow, one is expected to read and digest all of this, and then apply it. That being said, I've passed all of my inspections so far, and will soon have my finals, so it can be done.

Building a house is a BIG job. It sounds like you are going to act as the General Contractor, which requires a fair amount of knowledge, and a lot of time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Yes, MushCreek, I plan on being the general contractor for my project. I've been looking into land around here and no luck just yet. I live in Mass, but I'm also looking in NH as well. That will be my first step then, looking into building codes!
 

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If you can get any experience you can. Help others with little renovations, build a shed (Much is the same as a house). Plan on it not going smoothly, taking more time, and costing more then you expect. These things will help you keep your sanity.
 

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i think your idea is really fantastic! there's lots of great plans in books for tiny house stuff too. but ya, the first step is to go to municipality website and download the zoning & by-law and read read read. make notes that are relevant to your situation. when you have a good idea of the technical terms and have a rough estimate of your plan, give a call to your city building & development department and explain your situation and ask to setup a meeting to discuss in detail.

what you want from the city is to know that they fully understand your intent. that they can be clear if it is allowable and/or what conditions are necessary. an outline of what they think the process should be.

make your own thread in this forumn when you start your project and keep us posted!
 

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My wife and I live in a log house we built almost entirely by ourselves four years ago. But we are serious DIYers with nearly 40 years of experience. While I laud your ambition, you have no idea at all what you're getting into. For starters, you will almost certainly be unable to get any sort of loan for this project without having a licensed general contractor on board. And at 800 square feet, you're NOT talking about a cute "tiny house" like you see on TV, which most beginners can usually manage to build because they're not really "houses" and building codes and zoning regulations don't apply to them.
 

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true.. good point about 800sqf. that's actually pretty big for a DIY first time build.
 

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There are by far less codes for a tiny home on a trailer than a home on your own land. There are some really sharp looking tiny homes.
 

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I also applaud your ambition but,there is always a but.Being your own GC is mostly scheduling and ordering the material and subs to be there on time and when needed so the flow of the job is correct.Without any experience in this area you will be pulling your hair out .Even on a small house.
the worst mistake you can make is thinking you can do this with no experience at it.
Do you know after the framing which trade need to be in there.after the framer is done do you know who's next?Do you know if the drywall needs to be done before the flooring?When do the electricians and plumbers need to start?
Not trying to discourage you and wish you the best of luck but even a small house can turn to chit if not properly supervised.And then ther's the money thing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I have been looking into scheduling into which steps come when (http://www.byoh.com/stepbystep.htm and other sites). I know this will be a large task and I'm giving myself a year to plan and gather information before I start. I will look into hiring a general contractor because it is such a large task to take on, but I'm hoping with the many skilled tradesmen in my family that they will also be of some help. I've been saving up for this project, but I will most likely get a loan. I have a great credit score and am about to pay off my car, which I bought new last September (2014 Chevy Cruze, I love her). I know 800 sq. ft. is technically classified as a "small house" not a tiny house, which I may make smaller since I have not found anything on a minimum square footage law around here.

What should I look into for a good general contractor?
 

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Be sure he has a license first of all then be sure he has all of the insurances, be sure to get everything you want in writing, take nothing for granted even down to what color and brand paint. Any thing left out will be at the GC's discretion, and if you don't like what he did you have no recourse without it being in writing.

Check his references and do a check online about him, learn as much as you can about his business practices.

Have a very detailed plan from the dirt work all the way down to him handing you the key. Leave nothing off, this can not be emphasized enough. You must specify everything from floor covering to type and color roofing. Example, if you don't like the roofing stapled, specify nails, floor covering and everything else, be VERY specific on all details.

If you have questions about what to specify at a certain point, just ask here, we will be glad to help.
 

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Have you talked to a loan officer about construction loans and the possibility of your qualifying for one ?

Construction loans are harder to get than house loans as the bank is lending money for something that doesn't exist yet. They often have conditions that make them difficult for DIY. If for example, you have one year to complete the project, can you do it ? Or, the bank may insist that a builder completes the work vs your current plan to finish everything after the shell.

I would get a preliminary handle on your financing before proceeding with other tasks.

You mentioned buying land. Is this going to be a developed house lot or bare land ? The costs of your power, sewer, and water can be quite substantial in addition to bare land costs.

Have you worked up a total budget yet ?
 

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Make sure you have some good subs and don't reley on beer drinking buddies to help you unless they are in the trade because it can drag out far to long and shottie craftsmanship
 

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I also applaud your ambition but,there is always a but.Being your own GC is mostly scheduling and ordering the material and subs to be there on time and when needed so the flow of the job is correct.Without any experience in this area you will be pulling your hair out .Even on a small house.
We didn't have that problem. My wife was the GC and I and a couple of the kids were all the subs (that's her version anyway).
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
You mentioned buying land. Is this going to be a developed house lot or bare land ? The costs of your power, sewer, and water can be quite substantial in addition to bare land costs.
I would try to find a developed house lot, I've been searching on the internet and putting the word out to friends and family but it's very preliminary right now. I am searching for about an acre, or a little less. I know I want a large yard to garden in and have a chicken coop.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Make sure you have some good subs and don't reley on beer drinking buddies to help you unless they are in the trade because it can drag out far to long and shottie craftsmanship
Well, I went to a trade school so I have a friend who is in the carpentry union, a friend who is going for his electrician's license, I was in plumbing (but I will only trust myself on small jobs, haha) but my teacher's may be willing to help, if not my boyfriend's scout master is a master plumber. My uncle has been working with glass and windows for years, another uncle does flooring, and another uncle has his own business in energy efficiency in new and existing home (http://www.horizon-res.com/about-us/). I'm hoping this will help with costs! But I know working with family can be a pain in the butt...
 

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If you're not under time constraints you could ask the city for more than usual number of inspections so they can monitor your diy project and let u know if you made a big mistake bore you get too far in. Having a guys surveyor is handy too to make sure all your markers are square, at correct level and walls are true.

Two of neighbour my neighbours put additions on themselves getting help only for concrete work wall assembly and roof truss. Took over a year to finish.

You can always get extensions on complete dates so long as you can prove you are generally trying hard.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I really don't think I'm under any time constraints as of right now. It does seem that I will be in a better advantage point if I talk to city officials about everything, appeal to their expertise and use them as a resource. They should be willing to help if I make mistakes, instead of shutting down my entire project if I'm nice and inquisitive, right?
 

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I really don't think I'm under any time constraints as of right now. It does seem that I will be in a better advantage point if I talk to city officials about everything, appeal to their expertise and use them as a resource. They should be willing to help if I make mistakes, instead of shutting down my entire project if I'm nice and inquisitive, right?
The sad part is some city officials don't know the answers. I called the city code office to check a code and the main man said he didn't know, I would have to ask one of the inspectors. :eek:
 

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Also, there are tons of books about the small house movement. Check out Amazon. We (a family of three) live in 800 square feet. You have to be strategic, but it works for us!
 
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