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Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

The Freedom Blueprints

By John Hoffman

Module #4 part B

Home Freedom
- How To Build Your Own Dream Home -

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

2009 by John Hoffman. All rights reserved. Published by http://www.freedomblueprints.org/. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in an ad database or retrieval system without the prior written permission of John Hoffman. The Author and publisher have used their best efforts in preparing this book and the document contained herein. However, the author and publisher make no warranties of any kind, express or implied, wit regard to the informational content, documentation, or files contained in this book or in any accompanying media files such as CDs or DVD, and specifically disclaim, without limitation, any implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, with respect to program listings in the book, the techniques described in the book, and/or the use of files. In no event shall the author or publisher be responsible or liable for loss of profit, or any commercial damages, including, but not limited to, special incidental, consequential, or any other damages in connection with or arising out of furnishing, performance, or use of this book, program files, instruction, audio or video connected with this information.

Further, the author and publisher have used their best efforts to proof and confirm the content of the files, but you should proof and confirm information such as dates, measurements, and any other content for yourself. The author and publisher make no warranties of any kind, express or implied, with regard to that content or its accuracy.

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home


Sometimes it seems we forget that happiness is most often found hidden in simplicity. We crave for sophisticated settlements that we pay for our entire lives. The effort of building them is huge and the money required is also huge. Most of all, the houses we build are not at all the ones nature would like to have as a neighbors house. They are usually sources of pollution because many of the materials used are pollute. What would you say if someone told you that a house can be build with minimum effort and supplies and that all you need is a fairly large pile of clay-heavy earth, a couple tons of gritty sand, a few nice big stones for the foundations and some willing cobblers?

So this is a recipe to build a perfectly livable building out of soil, sand and some straw. Come to think about it, if you have the land to build on, just start building. Do not worry about the supplies. Why not? Well, the soil that you dig off your sites footprint should be enough to build your walls!

You can produce cob out of mixing together earth, sand and straw with water. Just like pot makers, build by sticking and molding lumps together. Such a house can literary be shaped any way you want it to. All you need to do, afterwards, is to add furniture etc.

Building out of earth may sound eccentric, but there are no laws against it. You need to fit into some resistance standards that the local authorities set. It is best to check the local laws regarding building in order to know how far you can go on this adventure.

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

Talk about hand-made home. Cobs reentered the contemporary settlements main page recently, after more people understood the importance of green and sustainable building. People build cob houses this way for thousands of years, and they inhabit them nowadays to. Such examples can be found in Cornwall, England and thousands of other places in the World.

Over 30% of all homes on our planet made out of earth. Parts of Chinas Great Wall are built of cob and so are some of the oldest surviving arches and vaults in Iran. In Wales you can find 500 years old cob houses. Of course, they were not built at that time by choice. Most probably they belonged to some people that could not afford lumber or stone to build their house. But nowadays things change.

Cob is one of the cheapest building materials and building out of it can be fun. In the US there is a large self-build culture developing on the West Coast. More people experiment alternative ways building in harmony with their surroundings. There is nothing new about this; our ancestors have done it more successfully than we do. And we have to deal with the temptation and challenge of modern life.

Although it is not the most popular way of building, may be even overdue, who said it was primitive? In Yemen, there are buildings 14 stories high that have survived since the 1600s and are built out of cob. Cob building is being used again in Europe and North America and it leaps out of the Third World countries and into our lives.

There are a lot of advantages of using cob. For example, no building is everlasting, but cob buildings have several important advantages over the other earthen buildings. The walls are curved and more stable than straight ones. Architects argued that if they were to fail, they usually fall outward and not inward. The bone of cob is the straw. Funny as it may sound, it has no weak, straight-line mortar joints, so if you build the wall consciously the chances are your house will withstand earthquakes of enormous

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

force. Another good thing about cob is that you can shape it any way you want. Building becomes pottery, sculpting, creating art. A cob house easily blends with the surroundings and it has organic shapes that feel much more homely than the square mechanical ones.

Thermal isolation is one of cob buildings strengths; the buildings are suited to a wide range of climates. Sustainability, thats another word that goes along with cob. All the materials you use are biodegradable or recyclable. The building is as environment-friendly as it gets. Building your home out of cob is spiritually uplifting.

We can draw the line and set these main characteristics of cob house building:

1. Energy Efficiency - The amount of thermal mass provided by such a house is huge, comparing to other structures. The interior will thus be warm in the winter while cool during hot summer days. 2. Inexpensive What is cheaper than dust? The cob house walls consist in clay, straw and sand, natural resources at anyones disposal. 3. Easy to build You build your cob house (they are owner built). It is less labor involved than in the classical structures building process. You can do such a house with only a few workers. You need to know some things about carpentry, plumbing and electricity. 4. Fun Have you ever imagined that building your house could be just like playing in the mud? Cob building is an excellent way to stimulate imagination. There are also some drawbacks for using cob, such as:

1. Difficult to sell It will be difficult to sell your house, since it does not fit the standards, be it esthetics or comfort. 2. Building Permits Local laws are quite strict about cob and you need to do a lot of research and put some effort into fitting some standards that the local administration has. Mud walls do not sound that good for the people at the Mayors Hall. 3. Financing Because they are unique it can be difficult to get a loan in order to build such a house. On the other hand, being as cheap as it can get, there is no real reason to get a loan in order to build a cob home.

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

4. Durability Depending on the way you build it and on the climate cob may be more vulnerable. You need to build a larger roof to keep water from pouring over the walls VI. STRAW BALE BUILDING

Yes, they are made of straw, which is not the same thing as hay, but the cereal harvest leftovers. It is mostly used as bedding for livestock. Straw bale goes a long way back. Sure, they probably used grass huts in the Stone Age, but in the States there are records that show straw bales homes existed in the 1890's. The place the documents attest the straw bale settlement is Nebraska, a place with few trees and roughly isolated at that time.

Straw bales are nowadays used, by more and more people, for house building. The bales used come in different sizes, mostly cubic shaped, and the straws are tied together by some strings. There are a couple of standard bale sizes:

23" x 16" x 42" (80 lbs) 18" x 14" x 36" (55 lbs)

Building using bales is simple. Basically you just use them as bricks and you enforce them with some proper-sized pins. Most commonly the straw bale walls are sealed with stucco cement on the outside and plaster on the interior.

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

What are the advantages of building a straw bale house?

1. Cost A straw bale will cost anywhere from $5 to $100 per square foot. It basically costs just as much as a cordwood home of the same dimensions would cost. 2. Energy Efficiency The straw bale wall provides R-28 values, which is more than excellent! Isolating material put on the inside adds to the thermal mass and will transform the settlement into a very energy efficient house. The only thing you need to do is to be sure that the walls are not wet or do not get wet. Insulate your roof to match the efficiency of your walls and build a large one so the walls do not get wet. 3. Environmentally Friendly - Straw has little if any impact on the environment well being. Making it is far less polluting than making other building materials. 4. Easy to Build - Almost anyone can build a straw bale house. 5. Easy Availability Unlike wood, straw cutting is not an issue. It can be found just about anywhere grass grows. What are the drawbacks of building a straw bale house?

1. Moisture - If the walls get or are wet and they are not sufficiently ventilated, the straw will start to rot. It is best to build such houses in arid places with little rain. There are houses in America that were built 100 years ago and still stand. 2. Difficult to sell It will be difficult to sell your house, since it does not fit the standards, be it esthetics or comfort. 3. Building Permits Local laws are quite strict about cob and you need to do a lot of research and put some effort into fitting some standards that the local administration has. Mud walls do not sound that good for the people at the Mayors Hall. 4. Fire This is an issue only until you apply the plaster and stucco. Once the walls are sealed 18" straw bale walls survive fire penetration for more than two hours. Unfinished walls only survived for 34 minutes.

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home


By now you know the basics for building your own house. Building the garage should be kinds play by now. The easiest way to build the standard garage. These are the things you will need in order to build the:

1. Foundation: a. 8 pieces of 5/8 rebar b. 45 two rod chair holders c. 1 roll 6 inch wire ties d. 1 roll 10x20 6 mill plastic e. 1 roll duct tape f. 4 cubic yards 3000 psi concrete g. 12 inch by 4 foot up rod 2. Walls: a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. i. j.

360 8x8x18 masonry blocks 25 8x8x8 masonry blocks 4 bags masonry cement 2 yards masonry sand 1 4-6 door header 1 4-6 window header 1 10-6 garage door header 5 bars 5/8 rebar 10 12 inch by 7 foot 6 inch down rods 65 cavity caps

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

k. 1 37 inch window sill l. 3 yards 4000psi lintel concrete 3. Roof system: a. 6 roof trusses 2 foot on center b. 5 sheets 4 x 8 plywood c. 1 box ply clips d. 1 roll 15 pound felt e. 6 2x4x16 spruce lumber f. 2.5 square of shingles g. 1 roof vent h. 6 pieces drip edge 4. Miscellanies: a. 1 3-0 exterior door with locks b. 1 2-5 single hung window c. 1 8 foot garage door d. 7 gallons exterior paint e. 8 pieces aluminum fascia f. 15 pieces soffit


Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

One basic rule you need to keep in mind if you want to start building a house is to keep the costs in perspective. The average house dimensions are of 1,500 to 2,000 square feet. If you intend to build on a larger surface, ask and answer yourself why. Follow this advice and the following others and, if you do your part of the job right, you may be able to save thousands of dollars on ordinary home improvements and household expenses.

After all of the walls are up you need to get organized. A first step would be to add zones to your home (heating and air condition). There are only a few areas in your home that you and your family use the most. Because there may be rooms you do not use, why should you pay to warm them up? An experienced HVAC provider will be able to help you with the zoning part.

You cannot keep an eye on everything that is going on inside your house. You should not spend too much time doing this, either. There are automatic machines that do this for you. For instance, a programmable thermostat saves the cost of installation because it sets more efficient temperatures while you sleep or you are at work.

Giving such advices may seem funny, since you may have heard them from your wife or parents. Some of them are as true as plausible as they can get: stop running the air conditioning system while it is not hot outside. You can reduce the ambient room temperature by up to 10% the rest of the cooling season if you just use the ceiling fans in every well-used room.

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

There is an old European saying that sounds like this: if you dont let the sun come in through the window, de doctor will come in through the door. The catch is: open the windows, even though it is more convenient to dial the right temperature into the thermostat.

Use a whole house fan that circulates all of the stale, warm right up and out of the house. This way you will lower the temperature and provide some relief from humidity. It also costs a lot less to use a fan.

If you want to have a lawn, have a real one. Do not drug it with chemicals and all sorts of preservatives that are supposed to make the grass look greener and fairer. It is more difficult not to cheat, but it is healthier. This is a thing that you will only start to realize after years and years of gardening.

Use plants that do ok in their environment while greatly reducing the need for maintenance such as watering etc., because low maintenance means low cost. Install awnings, for their looks as well as for their sun ray blocking potential during the hot summer days. This will mean less money for cooling down the place. Also, the blocked rays do not damage or fade the furniture or carpet.

Gutter shields may help you save money if you are systematically paying someone to clean the gutters several times per year. With some upfront work you will save significant money and time on the long run.

Another way to save some money is to use concrete patios instead of the ones made of (carved) rock. Due to nowadays technology the patio elements are stamped and dyed in a way that can fool, at a first look, even the most experienced eye. Also, engineered or laminate wood flooring is what you need to save some cut some bills: they are easier to install and required maintenance work is less.

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

You can give your property the looks of a catalog homestead by properly planting trees around. Research about the size and proper types of trees before you do it. They are good for oxygen, keeping noise out and cooling down your property in the hot summer days, after they are grown.

There is a way to save up money and cool your place and you will definitely enjoy this if you work from home - the window air conditioning unit. Using this you will keep the room you work in or spend most of your time, at the right temperature level and it will save you about $200 per year. Use window shades! Simple, classical, old-fashioned, but hey, they exist for a purpose and by doing what they were built for, if using them properly, you can save electricity money. They are best used during the winter, and when the sun is shining in and warms up the space, helping your heating installation not to consume too much power, gas, wood, or biomass. On the other hand, just reverse the process by keeping them closed during summer time. It is all in the wrist. Do not waste water by taking long showers. Sure, it is your money but using water saving showerheads is not that big of a deal. They are becoming the norm these days. Install motion sensors or timers for your security lighting, when you need have some light for some misc. purpose. Sensors do not cost that much nowadays and using them is the way of the future.

I mean, why bother leaving the lights on if they will lit up when they sense you coming. Since we are at this chapter, another good advice would be to set a timer to your sprinkler system. This way it won't happen to forget it on and use too much water and have large bills. You need to water the lawn or plants several times per day but not all day or all night. By the way, program your sprinklers to work over night so that you do not feel any discomfort because of the water during the day.

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

Check if your house is properly insulated by calling a professional. If it is not properly insulated your heating costs are way higher, especially if your building is drafty. You can also keep heat inside and cold outside, or the other way around (however you like it) by having quality windows. Energy saving and solar blocking technology got better during the years. It is not at its rookie period. If your walls are well insulated but still spend more than you should on heating or cooling the place, check the windows.

Your heating systems efficiency is subdued by dirt if you do not clean the filters once in a while. Twice a year should do the trick, but do not forget. Also, try paint before you jump to conclusion and remodel. Use vinyl flooring and not expensive natural materials which are excessively pricey

Water is one of the utilities most used and mostly wasted. We do not value it because we have plenty of it. But we need to discipline our water spending habits. You can save a lot of money by using water heaters that do not have a water tank. Such devices only heat water as it is used. Such heaters also occupy less space and if you buy or make one that is of the proper size for your building, then you will not have any headaches with it.

If you have a tank water heater though, be sure you do not loose heat by leaving it with no insulation. By loosing heat, the water gets cold and you need to consume more energy and money to reheat it. Moreover, do not stop at insulating the tank. Continue with the pipes. Heat is lost through the pipes also. Do not expect to feel all these savings in your wallet immediately. It takes time but all the effort will pay up in the end.

Bottled water became an industry several decades ago. People tend not to use tap water anymore. They say bottled is cleaner. Well, good news for you guys! Tap water can get just as clean with ne new,

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

modern water filters you apply to your system. Technology advanced and with a filtration system you actually will have better quality water than the one in the can.


It is best you know for the start that building your homestead is not like making an instant noodlesoup. It takes time to find the ideal homestead. There is one very important thing you need to do at the beginning: a list of what elements are essential as to where you want to live. There are a lot of issues you need to consider. Here is a list:

Environment Accessibility Agriculture Personal/Miscellaneous Issues

A. Environment

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

Climate Where do you go from and where do you go? Compare the two. How many seasons are you used to? Do you like the change of seasons? It will be a good idea to visit the place in more than one period of the year (try all four seasons if possible). This way you can find out how the climate differs the place you come from and what other issues seasons bring on your future homestead. Advice: visit a doctor and find out if you have any allergies to the plants that grow near your land. Make sure that you can physically tolerate the weather. Be sure you can emotionally tolerate the seasons, also. Research what sorts of vegetables you will be able to grow on your farm. Are you willing, and will you be able to eat the new food?

Natural Disaster Potential Are you exposed to any floods, earthquakes, blizzards etc.? Urban Messes Ask local authorities and neighbors; do a little research yourself to find out if there are any waste dumps near your place. Advice: Realtors should give away such information, but you are planning to stay there your entire life, or as long as possible, so you must take no chances: ask as many realtors as possible. Such incidents are quite common.

Farm Businesses Find out if there are any large farms or farm businesses near your property. Intense livestock activity, fruit or vegetable farming pollutes a lot and spreads of disease. Advice: the local government agricultural center should be able provide you with the information you need regarding the local policies and laws regarding huge farm practices.

Alternative energy sources Will you have enough sunny days, consistent winds, a river close to you so you can provide hydropower? Renewable energy will save you money, eventually, so you should consider it when you choose the place you want to build your homestead. You will also help the environment if you increase self-sufficiency.

B. Accessibility

Utilities Are you linked or at least close to an electricity, water, and gas or phone system? How close are you? How far down do you have to drill to reach for water in the ground and when you reach the source will you reach quality, drinkable water? Will you need a septic system above or below ground?

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

Necessities - We all dream of becoming very independent, but the reality is that there are needs that must be considered. How far is it to a local hospital, veterinarian, gas station, home center or food store? What about utilities such as electricity, gas, water and phone? If your land comes too cheap, ask why. Usually, price is related to such necessities and you need to find out as much as you can. Vehicles How many ways are there to access your land in case of a disaster or road construction? Family and Friends Even if you leave the city in search for a more quiet and healthy life, no not get isolated. Try to keep as close as possible to your relatives. How far away are you from them? This is a question you should answer before taking a decision. Of course, sometimes you may want the distance, but it is best you know where you stand in all this. Employment Investigate local job markets and see if you have any opportunities. You need to provide for you and your family and get a job until you become self-sufficient and establish the homestead. Of course, if you have enough money sustain you and the ones you care on a long period of time you might not have to worry about a job.

C. Agriculture

Soil Quality Not all types of soil are ideal for agriculture. But most of them can be used to grow different sorts of plants. You need to know whether the soil on your land is rich and loamy or full of rocks and clay. Advice: Find out what your neighbors or the farmers in the area are growing; this should be enough to draw a conclusion. However, to be certain, research a bit about soil. Read

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

the Food Freedom Module (Module 3) of the Freedom Blueprints for best descriptions about soil mixtures, types. Look at the crops farmers in the area have. This should be a great indicator of the soil composition and quality. Hay would mean that you will have fewer options. Vegetable gardens, on the other hand suggest fertile lands. Small vegetable gardens can be built on virtually any type of soil, so look at the size of the crops in the area. You may not be able to produce a lot.

Restrictions - Certain places have laws against growing certain crops or animals in your farm, so you should find out if this is your case. Even if there are no restrictions, there still may be different taxes applied, according to the type of farm you have. Do not launch yourself into a dead-end. Find out all you can about the place. Livestock You cannot raise as many animals as you can, wherever you want. You need a certain amount of land for a determined number of animals. The land can provide limited food for your livestock, depending on the vegetation in the area. Consult the local farmers and see how many head can be supported per acre. Find out which breeds are the most cost effective. Examine the market: there may be livestock no one else breeds in the area so you may just hit the jackpot. Form a good insight and find out why certain breeds are not present where you want to move.

Demand This brings us to the last point regarding restrictions. What you may plan to raise may be scarce, and this may bring you profit. Is there a demand on what you are planning to grow or raise?

D. Personal / Miscellaneous Issues

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

Comfort - Do everything you need to do to be certain this place feels ok for you and your family. Write down all the advantages and disadvantages of moving to this place and compare them. Is it worth it? How is the view? Is there enough wildlife? How close is it to the road is it far enough? Is this a quiet place? Money Do not get out of your lead. You need to save money, not spend money. Well, sometimes spending a lot may worth it, but be sure you have done the entire math before paying. Keep in mind that there is nothing worse that worrying about mortgage. Inform yourself about the taxes in the area and keep payments low. If you have cash, use cash. Talk to experts: will this place have larger taxes in the future period? How about the next 10-20 years? Land You must not buy more land than you can work. Will you use all the land? Should you buy the entire area you plan to buy? Think ahead: how will you use the land? How much time will you spend in working the land? Is this going to be your main activity or will you have a job. Will farming fit into your schedule? How much space will you need for raising vegetables or animals?

A typical adult human skeleton commonly consists of 206 bones. A typical house commonly consists in 3,000 different parts. Just like bones, all these components are put together with skill and have a purpose. Just like ours, the house parts get old and need adjustments, repairing, and maintenance. Routine is easy to manage. You know something only lasts for 10 years, and that other things need to be cleaned once per month. But here are some advices for those moments not in your schedule.

Whenever a problem arises, identify its nature, write it down and send a mail to the builder (most of them require written complaints or informs in order to take action). Such a letter should have:

1. Name, address 2. Home and work telephone numbers. 3. Type the letter if possible. Handwriting leaves room for misunderstanding. If you do not have a printer, write so that your handwriting is readable. If not, use printing or handwriting that is easy to read. 4. Be reasonable and state precisely what you want done and how soon. Keep the letter brief and to the point. Include all relevant details. 5. Include copies of all the relevant documents regarding the problem. DO NOT send the originals, and keep a copy of the letter. Familiarize yourself with your warranty papers, how much the mortgage covers etc before you send your letter. Usually, on the written warranty there is written a thorough procedure for making claims. While some builders handle the warranty repairs themselves, others may have contracted with a home warranty company to handle all warranty claims.

Module 4 Home Freedom: How To Build Your Own Dream Home

No matter how upset you may be with a problem, try solving it amiably before handing it over to lawyers, government agencies, home builders' associations or any other third parties. It is just being reasonable. They should fix the problem as soon as possible. If not, well, just go where you wanted to, in the first place. Understand that you are dealing with other human beings and that you may be wrong about their fault in the problem. Do not be sarcastic or threatening because this could do more harm than good. They have lawyers too, you know. And all the rights you have, they have.

Ask around and find out if, by any chance, you live in a state that have enacted notice and opportunity to repair laws that require you to follow certain statutory procedures before any other legal action. Sometimes being reasonable is stated by law and you may have to hand over a written notice of the problem to the builder, give them a chance to inspect and solve the problem. These laws have been passed to avoid unnecessary lawsuits. Remember, lawsuits are expensive.

Check if your builder is a member of the local builders association and find out if it can solve the problem without going to court. Remember that such associations do not have the authority to compel either side in a dispute to do anything, and that basically it only moderates the problem.

By doing the things you have read above you should be able to resolve most of the problems that appear after finishing your house. Good Luck!