The Owner Builder Thought Process

Started by jraabe, January 21, 2005, 09:07:37 PM

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I just added an article to the site that I'd written initially for Countryside magazine about owner builders and "thought experiments".


Interesting article, John.  I do a lot of that myself, but have a hard time getting started sometimes due to spending time during the day rebuilding things in my head.  My son thinks it might be a family trait and may be the reason my great great uncle got ran over by a bus.  I guess the point to this is not to walk around the city while rebuilding things in your head. :)

Another thought process I use is trying to look at things upside down and backwards.  Not literally, but look at them in as many different ways as you can think of, even opposite of, or in a totally different configuration than you originally planned.  This doesn't work well if you are stuck with a set of plans and a government inspector, architect and engineer to deal with and pay for changes  but when you are on your own with no one else to answer to you can get creative.  Another good time for this is before the final plans are drawn or as the case of the Enchilada set of plans or others, it helps you decide which options you are going to exercise.  Working from plans is a good way to get started and gain necessary skills, then after the inspections etc. are done you can get creative from there.  Once you have the thought process worked out, a sketch or drawing of what you have worked out helps to speed things up and keep you on track.

You will also find that nearly all skills you learn will transfer to other fields at one time or another.  Learning to use a square or tape or drill works equally well in carpentry, concrete, or any almost any other trade for an owner builder.  (This may not apply if you are limited by trade union rules- possibly it's OK at home but I'm not sure). ;D


I agree wtih Glen.

Nice article.

Upside down and backwards is good.  That  is the way  I  cut crown molding...

I also hate inspectors....

NO Inspection here!



Looking at the pictures of your cabin and the quality of your work, I don't really think you need an inspector.  Besides we all know that the most direct route to the assessors office is through the building and safety department  ;D

When I was learning to weld, my boss told me "You are your own best inspector.  You know what it is supposed to look like.  Make each weld better than the last and change things until you get it right."  This works best with instruction from someone who knows but for lack of a qualified instructor get the book- study - do -study - do until you can do it well.  I've been welding now for 36 years.  I wonder why I still can't get it right???


Well, thanks for the vote of confidence Glenn.  I think I am doing a pretty good job.  It just seems to be moving a little slow....  Kinda sucks working alone..  I am used to having at least one helper if not a crew....  

But the payroll is better this way.  LOL

Almost done insualting the 20x32 cathedral ceiling.   Installing metal partitions (20 guage) now  to allow for the 2 inch standoff around my Jotul woodstove/chimney assembly.  once past that obstacle it is back to insualting the walls...  

Originally, I did not order enough R-30 C to complete the MBR ceiling so I have to get off of the catwalk for a little while.....( it is on order) :-[


Bob Lawrence

You men and this site are just the best!!! Don't know how I would have ever done it without you!

I just completed my 24 X 46 three car garage. Actually painted it on Dec 31 after 18 months!!! Now working on apartment in one end to live in as I demolish and begin new cabin...figure that will take at least 3 years. And, I did it all myself!!!! Would love to show a picture but, don't know how to add one to this response.

John, the article was so appropriate. I get up every moring and read this forum as I consider exactly what and how I'm going to preform the days task. Not having any experience before I started I saved everything on my computer that seemed I might need to know later on. Bought the books on working alone and how-to on building.

Also, continue to think about how I'm going to build the new house, based on what I've learned so far and keep learning from this and other sites.

To be able to say, I drove every single nail is only over shadowed by how much money I saved and the pride I take when neighbors and friends tell me how great it looks!!!!

Thanks so much for this forum, John and also a huge thanks for everyone that is a part of this forum. I really could not have done it without you!!!


Thanks, Bob. Post a picture of your project if you can. We'd all love to see it.

We do have a very good group of helpful posters on this forum. Experienced people willing to share that experience.

I know I'm always learning new things here.


Hi Bob, sounds like you are enjoying your project.  We all try to help each other out -if one doesn't know usually another has a suggestion or answer.

I owe a lot to my great uncle who started teaching me on a house remodel when I was about 9 years old.  He taught me what it was like to work for food on a homestead house reconstruction, then made his sister (my grandmother feed us all).  He taught me what it was like to get chewed up one side and down the other - we chewed him out right back.  I have learned so much freely from him and others like  him on the net, that I feel I should at least pay back some of the debt by helping others.   Special thanks to John for making this forum available .

About working alone as Jeff stated,  sometimes it is a bit hard but there are  advantages also.

You don't have to find something for the others to do.  Sometimes this takes as long as the time you save.

You don't have to redo anything someone else does wrong- this is the same as doing it three times- 1. do it wrong  2.tear it out  3. do it right

You don't have to argue with someone to get it done the way you want it done- but a minus - you miss the benefit of their suggestions which may be helpful.

I have done a lot of work alone over the years and have had large crews also.  Sometimes it's nice to work alone and use the time to do creative thinking while you work.  I have gone back to small crews - usually one man - or working alone most of the time now.  I find that sometimes a young motivated kid fresh from school who wants to learn and work and get the job done makes the best helper.  Fortunately now I am in an area where there are some good ones available.  It seems that the ones from more isolated areas are more resourceful than the ones from large communities.   I try to eliminate the ones who just want to work to get a check.  With a few little clones of me running around-- how can I go wrong ???

And don't listen to my wife concerning anything she says about the size of my head etc. ;D

Bob Lawrence
Ok John and Glenn, I am attempting to include the link to a picture of my garage and a second pic of the cabin I'll be tearing down soon to replace with a new one.
Again, thanks so much, I couldn't have done it without your help!!!!


BOBS PICS ---Got your pics Bob.  This bulletin board has a problem with MSN due to their Net passport per John so I took the liberty of hosting it at for you and putting them here .   Glenn

Bobs Garage


Bobs Cabin