We’ve all heard the saying that… “we learn the most in this life from our failures”.
And unfortunately… it’s true.
A better way to learn is from observing OTHER people’s mistakes… and successes.
When building something as significant as a house we want we want to avoid painful “life lessons” as much as we can. Few people will share their mistakes with us (it’s often embarrassing and humbling) so we need to make a habit of seeking them out (that’s not hard to do when it comes to something as large as house).
It’s been a lifelong passion of mine is to study houses… to learn from the best and avoid the rest.
In this week’s episode of Handmade House TV I take you to three small houses that I recently came across in the search for land for my next home. Each of these houses was built about the same time… within a few hundred feet of each other… likely for about the same amount of money.
Two of them turned out tragically, while the third… stands proud and true.
What can you learn from them?
These two poorly built homes in this episode ignored the 12 Keys to a Handmade House… if you haven’t watched the free video that I put together revealing the 12 keys make sure and check it out sometime! Here’s the link… The 12 Keys to a Handmade Home
I have received hundreds of phone calls over the years asking me to come repair a “log cabin kit home”. And, I have witnessed some real disasters with these structures just a year or two after they were built.
I have turned them all down.
But, I am embarrassed to admit, that I once built a log cabin kit home, just once. I so regret it. I would never do it again.
That cabin was made by a well-known firm in that genre that “handmade their cabins one at a time”.
By the time I was halfway through the project I regretted ever having played a part in putting something up like this structure. It is today an eyesore on the landscape. Of all things… it won “Log Cabin of the Year” by Log Cabin Living magazine.
And no, I will share a photo of it. I’m not even certain I saved an image of it. To this day I still turn my head when I drive down that road. It’s a good thing that private individuals in this country are not allowed to own grenade launchers. If so, that cabin would be gone.
Isn’t that interesting? That the one log cabin that I most regret building was chosen as the greatest by the trade’s leading publication?
So, why did I do it? Why did I accept the offer to build this home? I did it because I saw that it was inevitable, these clients were going to build this home regardless of whether I took it on, or if it went to someone else. I thought that throughout the building process that perhaps I could steer the project towards something more vernacular… I was wrong.
After that project I would do my best to supply folks with alternatives. I found that I could easily compete with the price of a kit…. which sort of shocked me… That I could create a cabin using their “odd plans” (one had five corners) and old barn logs that I would acquire, and then create something much more attractive and durable.
I only did this three times, but I felt like I had done penance for my sin.
Unfortunately, the chimney appears to be “on the move” (likely do to a combination of an improperly built footer under the chimney and poor drainage around the cabin).
There is a sign near the front door that states that this cabin is the property of the US government which I suppose explains the useless attempt to hold the chimney in place by nailing a few 2×4’s around it.
This chimney could quite possibly be lifted back into place and properly stabilized by professionals.
I thought I would write today the story of the building of my first home.
At the ripe old age of 20 I undertook the hands-on construction of my first house. It’s a great story and it all turned out well, a wonderful place it was.
But, that’s a story for another day.
You see, last night as I was trying to get to sleep I realized that that house was not my first hands-on build, in fact I had built quite a few homes before that.
So, let me lay it out there for the world to hear… my first owner built home was a cardboard box.
There, I said it.
I know what you are thinking, and no, I was not a homeless child. I lived in a fine little brick rancher, provided by loving parents, in Finer Suburbia. We had the good fortune of living two blocks off of Broad Street where strips of businesses and shops were located, one of them being a furniture store.
Out back of Hawkes Furniture, just a quick bicycle ride away from home, was a cage of sorts, built out of chain link fencing where they would toss the large boxes that their newly made chairs and sofas came packaged in.
This cage was built so that any young man could easily climb over into it (after business hours of course). Now it’s not like I was stealing these boxes mind you, I had after all gotten permission to take all the boxes I wanted… it just felt cooler somehow acquiring them under the illusion of a covert operation.
Some time I could get my Dad to haul them home in his car, sometime I dragged and rolled them home myself, and on one occasion I tried dragging one home with my bike… that one didn’t work out very well, but it did earn me some respect in the neighborhood. “Did you see what that Bradley boy did today?”
There were different kinds of boxes to choose from… chair boxes are great, plenty of room for a young bachelor to hang out in, but if you are expecting guests you really need to have a sofa box. I would cut in a door opening making sure to leave one side intact so that it would hinge, and do the same with windows.
I always found boxes lasted longer inside although my mother’s patience with the intrusion into her living space was limited.
It wasn’t long before other kids in the neighborhood starting joining in on the habitat box craze, and so a box shortage loomed. We made the best of limited resources by trying to “one up” each other with features such as crayoned fireplaces and cuckoo clocks on the wall. Maybe even a pitched roof or add-on chimney. My favorite box was when I managed to score a pile of carpet samples that had been tossed out… hey it was the 60’s and wall-to-wall carpet was the thing to have!
Now, looking back over all the years that have since passed, I see those boxes as formative in my life. I enjoyed the challenge, the process, and the finished result. I learned the value of a homeowner playing a role in the construction of their home.
Decades ago it turns out that I was an accidental trend setter, I was building green, I was building small… tiny in fact. And even mobile, although perhaps not best when pulled behind a bike.
So, I encourage you all to get a box and have some fun!
Well alright!!! Our first power tool! Let the noise begin and the sawdust fly! Today we cover the circular saw. Without this single tool no boards can be cut, so no work can be done. The circular saw is a joy to use, but one where caution needs to be exercised. Make sure and get the best one for you. This video will give you some tips in making sure that happens.