Meet two Do-It-Yourself small home builders Joe and “Farmer Jane”. The couple is taking an educational and practical journey of adding a 250 square foot studio in their backyard. They plan to move into it and rent out their main home. Downsizing would greatly reduce their housing costs and give them the opportunity to retire early and comfortably.
The design phase of the project began in June 2012. Drawing inspiration from various smaller house and smaller living resources, Joe and Jane came up with a single-story rectangular wood-frame studio with a bathroom, kitchen, and a sleeping/living area. They were guided by the motto, “The simpler, the better,” as they were planning to do most of the construction themselves.
Joe and Jane needed a consultant for questions on constructability, permitting, utilities, and just overall design and project feedback. They got in touch with and hired New Avenue at the end of June as a general small home consultant. The next few months were spent finding specialty help for utilities. A plumber performed some detective work to figure out how their sewer lines ran from the street to the main house. The important lesson they learned from this is to figure out how to connect your utilities before designing your house. On a broader note, they learned that you should do as much research and planning as you can before spending money. Buy a book or two and read, read, read. Mistakes and last-minute changes eat up time and add to costs. In October, after some back-and-forth coordination with New Avenue, they prepared their plans and forms and submitted them to the local building department for permitting.
Joe and Jane received their permit in November, and, after a holiday break, ground was broken at the end of January 2013. The next month was spent trenching, pouring the foundation, and building and raising framing and walls. In March the walls came up and the roof started to take shape. It took a little over half a year to get from ideas, to designing and planning, to starting construction. It will take a few more months to bring this last phase to completion, but they are committed and are certain that this small house will be a rewarding project and investment.
This project went underground after this blog. The neighbors called the city and tried to stop the work. The owners finished it up, deleted their blog and now they’re living happing ever after in a DIY Outlaw Home. We approve.