Author Topic: Building Our First House on a $125,000 Budget (Cost Analysis, Part II)  (Read 28261 times)

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Offline sjdehner

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Building Our First House on a $125,000 Budget (Cost Analysis, Part II): What We Asked for Help On...

This is the second part of our cost analysis which will hopefully help others project their own costs. (See part one of the story HERE-1 and the basement framing photos HERE-2). If you'd like further details about any of the costs or are curious about a specific project, please feel free to ask.

We learned a great deal working with others. And we learned that we could have done even more of our own work if we'd had the time to invest. Others may find that they can substantially cut costs by doing more of their own work. If so, we say, Go for it! It's amazing what you can learn!

Even with all the help it has still taken us nearly two years of almost daily work to get it (almost) finished. We of course had to deal with a rather large learning curve that others may have already dealt with on other building sites.

Whatever the situation is for others: Good luck and enjoy every minute of your work - although that's not an easy thing to do - but how about enjoying most of it...if you can do that, you're doing just fine!

Lastly, we think it's a privilege to be able to build; and it's a true gift to be able to learn how to build well. This might read as a bit of a corny adage, or a disguised piece of advice. And we suppose it is. But staying mindful of the good fortune of being able to work together, not only in good health but at our own pace, has kept us (and keeps us) going throughout the building experience.

What We Asked for Help On...

    *Site Work ($31,000): We had our site work done by a local company (Davis Dirt Works) here in Maine. The work was done well and with lightning speed without any major mishaps. The work encompassed one acre of de-stumping, excavating, a 250’ driveway with turnaround and culverts, our 24'x32' concrete foundation, which included perimeter drains, and a complete gravity fed septic system (tank, piping and drain field).

[img width= height=]http://lh3.ggpht.com/_nWHU9agpDB8/R_K6i0Q1xzI/AAAAAAAAC9o/CxOcsgHpYYo/s400/DSCN1208.JPG[/img]
Our driveway goes in!

[img width= height=]http://lh4.ggpht.com/_nWHU9agpDB8/R_K6eEQ1xyI/AAAAAAAAC9g/VTAhrNrRs8M/s400/DSCN1207.JPG[/img]Preparing the Foundation: Not a single boulder and no ledge to be found. This is a rarity in Maine!

[img width= height=]http://lh4.ggpht.com/_nWHU9agpDB8/R_K9kEQ1yfI/AAAAAAAADDw/cXHgZtoskqQ/s400/DSCN1294.JPG[/img]Our foundation is set and ready to go!


     *Well Drilling ($4,000): Our well was bought as a package that includes a 250' (10gpm) well plus pump and storage tank.
Drilling the well took several days (thanks in part to the weather) and two enormous trucks.

Once the drill hit water it was a mess!
   
    *Water Treatment System ($1200): This was an unexpected expense that includes a Berm filter. It requires almost no maintenance - no salts, etc.. After a month of bathing in oxidized, brown water (and showering at the YMCA), we decided it was time to spend the money on this system…and it was well worth the cost. The last thing we wanted to see at the end of a hard day’s work was a tub of rusty water!

Without a filtering system our water oxidized to a rusty hue. Not the most inviting sight at the end of a hard day's work!

    *Roofing ($4000): A standing-seam metal roof keeps our house dry and free of snow. The metal came in rolls, which the installer formed on-site. Back home in Washington standing seam can be bought in panels for easy installation, which we did on a remodel. This is not the case in Maine. Fortunately, the work went swiftly with a 5-person crew knocking off the job in just a few hours’ time.

With a 10:12 pitch and metal roofing, snow sheds quickly.

     *Chimney & Hearth ($6000): The chimney is  perhaps the single most pleasurable (handsome) addition to our house. Our original thinking was to simply install lined chimney pipe since we (incorrectly) thought we could not afford a custom-built chimney in our budget. After receiving a ridiculous quote on the chimney pipe, however, we decided to request a couple of bids from local masons for actual brick work. We were stunned to find out that there was perhaps $1500 difference between a chimney pipe (we needed two) and custom chimney & hearth work. What we got in the end was a more satisfying custom-built chimney, created by local mason using locally quarried Searsmont stone. 

The hearth with a Vermont Castings Encore wood stove (back when we were still living on the plywood subfloor)

Here's a close-up of the external stone work done by local mason A. J. Dutch

    *Electrical Rough-in ($3000): This was a simple rough-in with all the wires left in the receptacles for us to wire ourselves. Time was a factor for us but in the future we’d have a n electrician do the service connection and then wire the house on our own. Even with a rough-in though we had plenty of connections to do before we had lights.

    *Plumbing Rough-in ($2000): Again, this was another rough-in job. But it is work we feel that we could have done, and had planned to do, but again, time was a factor in our decision to hire out this work. Having said that, we had a lot of plumbing to do anyway. My wife patiently washed dishes out of a five-gallon bucket for several months until we finally got the water up-and-running properly.

Our house is plumbed with PEX lines, an inexpensive alternative to copper that can withstand freezing. Some we did ourselves with a "crimping" tool. This is an extremely easy method of installing water lines. If you've done any copper lines, you'll find PEX to be a snap.

    *Insulation ($10500): Icynene is a great product. It’s an open-cell foam that creates an air-tight building, something we think is important in a harsh climate like Maine. In addition, Icynene, unlike many of the other foams we looked into, is water-based and chemically inert after only a couple of weeks. While still petroleum derived, we feel that it’s a good, long-term end product. Our local installer, FOAM PRO, to our surprise, provided the lowest bid for the most insulating: basement, two floors and the attic. Icynene is a stellar insulation choice (in our opinion) and far and away one of the best investments we made along the way. To give you an idea of how well this insulation works we heat our basement, two floors and attic space on less than three-cords of wood during our first Maine winter when our neighbors were paying $1100/month for oil. Although it's petroleum-based, it seems a reasonable long-term end-use for an extracted resource. There are also soy-based foams on the market now (although the vast amounts of petrochemicals and fossil fuels used in the production of the soy beans may realistically offset any potential "greening" of the product over, say, something like Icynene...worth looking into if this is something you think about too).

Icynene is a water-based foam that expands within seconds of being applied. Contrary to many of the closed-cell foams we've encountered, such as the oft-promoted, fish-scented Corbond, Icynene has no smell. It is VOC-free after about 30 days and is easy to remove if necessary (i.e. it's soft). Corbond is not a chemically inert product and it's as hard as a brick once cured.


*Heating & Air Exchange ($7000):

We use a propane forced-air system with an air exchange connected to the intake. The heating system is quite inexpensive to run at about $30 per week and keeps the house at around 70 degrees for this amount.

When we’re home we use two Vermont Casting’s wood stoves for our main heat. On the main floor we have an Encore that is abele to heat the entire house (excluding the basement). For the basement, where we have been building from, we use a tiny Aspen that is really only needed after, say, a -20 night.

Our propane heating system works very well. While not as robust as the wood stove it can heat all levels of our house for about $30/week during the winter.

*Siding ($15000):

Neither of us are big fans of vinyl and it was definitely not our first choice when it came to siding. That said, it turned out to be a first-rate choice given the size of the house and the intense Maine weather that wreaks havoc on wood siding. It was also within our price range. Siding was a job that we wanted to do ourselves but agreed it best to hire-out once the house was standing. The work was done in a couple of weeks by a company of two brothers. And they did really handsome work, the vinyl “clapboard” has a  realistic appearance that is unexpectedly convincing.

A crew of two brothers completed this job in a little over three weeks

Please leave a comment if you'd like any further details.








« Last Edit: March 23, 2009, 08:44:02 AM by sjdehner »
“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do" -Wendell Berry

Offline HomeschoolMom

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Thanks for sharing such great info!  I know I really appreciate it and I am sure others will too! ;D
Michelle
Homeschooling Mom to Two Boys
Married to Jason, Self Employed

Wanting an earth bermed hybrid timberframe...just need some inheritance  ;)  Will never have another mortgage again!

Offline John Raabe

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Great posting on a fine project. [cool] - (See part one of the story HERE-1 and the basement framing photos HERE-2).
Thanks for reporting on your choices, the costs and the pictures that make it all come alive.

I'd love to hear more about the air exchanger you used and how you get fresh air to the wood stoves. High levels of air tightness (Icynene is great for this!) when combined with a wood stove can sometimes lead to back drafting.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2009, 11:42:22 AM by John Raabe »
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Offline sjdehner

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Hello HomeschoolMom:

Thanks for reading, we are enjoying posting our house. It's been a long time in the making! We're glad you found the information useful. We are benefited greatly by this website.

Take care,

Jamie & Shawn
“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do" -Wendell Berry

Offline sjdehner

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John,

While potential back-drafting was a concern to us when considering an air-tight insulation, it has not proved to be an issue. If it had become an issue then I suppose we would have connected an air-pipe to feed the stove fresh air from the outside.

The heat-recovery unit (air-exchanger) has never proven powerful enough to overcome the draft inside the chimney. And as air-tight as this house is, it's large enough that air still leaks in through the doors, plates, et al.

On the level though, I think it would be extremely difficult to get a house of this size, especially standing as it is in such a cold climate like New England, to suffer from a mechanical back draft. I suppose that a smaller air-tight house could develop a back-drafting problem if the mechanical system could overcome the chimney draft (although this seems unlikely to me). That said, I too have read about others with back-drafting problems. I wonder if they are using the bestos-pipes or have short chimney stacks?

Our chimney stands a staggering 40' into the sky so the possibility of a negative pressure problem developing was there, especially for the basement wood stove. But this has not proven to be the case either. The basement stove and the main living room stove both appear to benefit from any stack effect taking place. And this might be attributed to the fact that the house sits on a hillside near the sea with plenty of wind. I'm not sure.

I can say that the combination of a wood-stove inside an "air-tight" house works wonders during the winter months, and that we're so glad we went the route that we did. When the mercury bottoms out at -24 (as it did in January) our house stays warm! 8)

I hope this answers the question. If not, send it back my way!

Shawn
« Last Edit: March 22, 2009, 08:16:42 AM by sjdehner »
“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do" -Wendell Berry

Offline ScottA

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This looks like a very nice house. I think you can be proud of all the work you have done and at a very reasonable cost.

Offline Charcoals

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That's very helpful to see all the detail and photos you provide.

As to the chimney, did you have to pour a footing and use a vertical support beam (in the basement) to withstand the extra weight?  It sounds as though you had not planned to do the chimney from the get-go, so I'm wondering if you had to do any retrofitting for the extra weight (assuming the weight was considerable).

Thanks again!

Charcoals

Offline sjdehner

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Oh good. We're pleased the photographs helped.

You're correct in that our original plan was not to have the chimney where it now stands. We incorrectly thought the stove pipe would be substantially less expensive, which it was not. Once we decided on the chimney we wanted it near the center of the house.

Since we did not have the footing poured during the setting of the foundation we had to pour one before the brick work began on the stack. The footing is 28"x22" and is 7" tall. This holds a 40' tall chimney. We also put in a clean-out in the basement which is handy. And of course there's the extra thimble for the little Aspen stove.

If you'd like a photograph please let us know.

Cheers,

Shawn (and Jamie)
“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do" -Wendell Berry

Offline sjdehner

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Scott: Thanks for the kind words! Shawn
“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do" -Wendell Berry

Offline John Raabe

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To follow up on the potential for back drafting I will tell my own story.

We live in the Solar Saltbox which has been added onto and now totals about 2000sf on two floors over a sealed and insulated crawlspace. The home was built in the 1980's to then higher than normal insulation levels. It has tighter than normal construction with a poly air/vapor barrier but no air to air heat exchanger.

Western WA is a mild cool climate and we have heated most of these years with a small wood stove supplemented in various corners with electric resistance heaters.

We have a masonry chimney topping out at perhaps 25' above ground. A metal chimney cap keeps sparks under control and rain out of the masonry flue.

We can back draft the wood stove (get smoke pulled back down the chimney and into the room through the air intake of the stove) under the following conditions:
• the fire is just started and the chimney is cold (draft not yet established)
• the clothes dryer and/or the range vent hood is on pushing air out of the house.
• the day is mild so there is not a great temperature differential between indoor and outdoor air
• often the weather is blustery with wind currents roiling over the roof top and chimney area

While this doesn't happen often (maybe once a year) it is disconcerting. I do not think that fresh air piped directly into the firebox would help. I have heard from others with a similar problem who have done this and it made little difference.

One of the main things I suspect is causing this is the location and height of the chimney. Shawn's chimney, like classic colonial houses, has the chimney at the center of the house and peak of the roof. In my house the chimney exits halfway up the roof slope and while it meets code and is 2' above the peak I think air turbulence coming over the roof peak (the chimney is on the leeward side of the ridge) can push air downward into the chimney. I do not think I would have this problem if the chimney were on the other side of the ridge as our storm winds come from the South SW and the chimney in on the North side of the ridge.


« Last Edit: March 22, 2009, 04:42:55 PM by John Raabe »
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Offline sjdehner

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Re: Building Our First House on a $125,000 Budget (Cost Analysis, Part II)
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2009, 04:33:00 AM »
I took a look at your solar saltbox, John, and I think I understand one of your back drafting theories: when the winds come up the coast, they race over the peak of the house and down the chimney, pushing smoke right back down the flue and into the living area.

Following this possibility, my first question is: Do you think installing more pipe at the top of the stack in order to extend the height of the flue further above the peak of the house might have a positive effect?

(Also: Since your stack seems to be nearer an outside wall than ours, I'm curious whether the chase is insulated all the way around the stack.)

Lastly, do you think an air-exchange system designed to compensate for mechanical air-exhausting (as opposed to simply making fresh-air exchanges) might halt the back drafting you experience when, say, the kitchen vent is exhausting? 

Shawn

P.S. We installed a Broan HRV unit that runs 24/7 (except on severely cold nights when we turn it off). The HRV fresh air intake is attached to the cold air return of the forced air heating system, so that when the heater is blowing, fresh air is moving rapidly throughout the house. And when the heater is off (or not blowing), fresh air continues to circulate (at a slower pace) by gently moving up the duct work, entering the house at the floor vents.








« Last Edit: March 23, 2009, 06:07:35 AM by sjdehner »
“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do" -Wendell Berry

Offline Bishopknight

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Re: Building Our First House on a $125,000 Budget (Cost Analysis, Part II)
« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2009, 08:36:21 AM »
Shawn,

Thank you for posting this cost analysis. Its very informative and well laid out. We love the pics too!  ;D

Offline John Raabe

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Re: Building Our First House on a $125,000 Budget (Cost Analysis, Part II)
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2009, 04:39:09 PM »
Shawn:

RE a taller flue - I think going more than 2' above the peak is a good idea when you are on the roof slope. If you are at the peak I think 2' is probably fine. And, if my theory is correct, you can do just about anything if your flue is on the windward side of the roof. Problems arise on the leeward side (or when the wind shifts  >:().

I have a 12" square tile flue liner with an 4" brick surround. It is not insulated. I have heard from some masons that this flue is oversized for the wood stove (could be 8" square and if so it may warm up quicker).

To get ahead of back drafting you can have an air exchange system that is not balanced but has the house under slight positive pressure. This forces interior air out any small gaps and cuts down on drafts. This has a small energy penalty, of course.

Also, in very code climates, positive pressure can push moist interior air out through the lockset and freeze up access when you come back and try to unlock the door!
None of us are as smart as all of us.

Offline sjdehner

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Re: Building Our First House on a $125,000 Budget (Cost Analysis, Part II)
« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2009, 05:13:35 PM »
John,

You know, I never even thought about flue size. Ours is also 12" with an 8" thimble. The Encore we use is a fairly large stove and we typically burn for hours (morning and evenings) at 500-700F. I'm unsure of how large a stove your using. However, we did not install as alrge of one in our previous house in Whatcom county where it is milder throughout the winter.

I'd also agree with you on locating a chimney centrally or on the windward side of the peak just based on experience (and from what I've read).

Lining the 12" flue with an 8" metal pipe might do the trick in your case. But then that seems like a big hassle for such an infrequent event.

In any case, I can certainly understand back drafting, however infrequent, causing some concern (and irritation), and I hope you can solve the problem. If so, I'll be curious to know the solution!

Shawn
“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do" -Wendell Berry

Offline MountainDon

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Re: Building Our First House on a $125,000 Budget (Cost Analysis, Part II)
« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2009, 05:25:44 PM »
Also, in very code climates, positive pressure can push moist interior air out through the lockset and freeze up access when you come back and try to unlock the door!



I always carried this in the winter when we lived in Canada. This a Canadian Tire product; must be others around. I preferred this type over the little aerodol tubes. Too much likelihood of the aerosol pooping out just when you needed it. Also this is refillable with straight alcohol.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

If you didn't have the time or money to do it right in the first place, when will you get the time and money to fix it?

Offline sjdehner

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Re: Building Our First House on a $125,000 Budget (Cost Analysis, Part II)
« Reply #15 on: March 23, 2009, 06:50:31 PM »
Our previous home was just outside Vancouver, BC - we're quite familiar with Canadian Tire! Thanks for the handy tip. And the smile.

Shawn.
“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do" -Wendell Berry