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How to build a house alone [video] (youtube.com)
450 points by tomcam 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 285 comments

Back in the 50s, my great grandfather built the house where my mother and my grandmother grew up in all by himself. It took him 6 years, but he had no help. He started digging into the ground with a shovel. He was a carpenter and bricklayer and used his spare time and skill to do it. This house is still standing and my grandmother still lives in it.

This is him with his wife, my great grandmother: https://i.imgur.com/y7sXvaa.jpg

It was his greatest achievement. But unfortunately he only lived in it for a meager year before passing away.

That's awesome! My grandfather was in construction and built the house my mom grew up in, starting with plans sketched on a napkin. I regret not spending time with him in his shop when we still had him with us, now that I'm doing all sorts of remodeling on my own house. But, to be honest, the PTSD from WW II left me afraid of him. "Don't disturb grandpa when he's sleeping or he might think you're an enemy and kill you." RIP Bob.

Very cool! If you have a picture of the house, I'm sure HN would love to see it!

I currently do not have one by myself, but you can see some of it from Google Maps street view: https://goo.gl/maps/rXx5DKRT4K12

It's this one: https://imgur.com/a/afZgOZ2

Naturally it has been maintained over the years, new roofing, new paint, but all in all it's the same house.

Those large roof overhangs are so wonderful. Why aren't they more common in America?

Not only do they protect your siding and walls (greatly extending the life of your siding) but they also have huge energy benefits in warm areas by keeping the sun off of your walls. Oh, and if you have a basement, they help keep it dry.

Build bigger roof overhangs, America!


Because you often want more sunlight coming in, and just looking at those pictures, it looks like they block a lot of it.

The trend in building is bigger and larger windows for a reason.

Direct sunlight coming in is a little savage - indirect light for me please. Possibly relevant, the UV here in New Zealand will annihilate most things quite quickly, and me after a few minutes.

Basically - they are more expensive to build. My dads friend was a builder in our town, and you can tell all of the houses he built because he was the only one who would refuse to build houses with small eaves, because he knew the problems it would cause down the line for the homeowner.

What problems?

Big eaves are dangerous. They make the roof far more likely to get ripped off in a storm.

The problem for this area was mostly related to rain and keeping moisture aware from the structure(pine barrens). You're right about wind load, but in this area the trees provide a great protection against it.

The high point as far as I’m concerned is the California bungalow that was a thing here in New Zealand from about 1910-1940. Huge eves, low slung, wide decks, great windows, local materials incorporated (eg timber, volcanic rocks, river stones).

I had the misfortune of painting under the eves on one once. The weather couldn’t reach the wood and it had gone so hard that it was like sanding glass.


That is super impressive, and what a beautiful looking countryside.

That is sad. My Grandfather also built their family home, a feat which I'm still in awe of to this day. As one who builds things that live in a computer, but still has a messy visceral requirement of a roof over a head, imagine building a house! What an achievement. If I was born 20 years earlier I imagine I would have become a carpenter and been very happy.

Same with mine, back in 1942. Lived in it until he died recently at 100. Had seven kids in a three room house, and wasn’t until the 60’s he expanded it. Of course the only time the kids were inside was sleeping. Unheard of today.

He also joked that he had a hard time getting a loan. They wanted to see plans, etc. “Why the hell do you need plans for a house?”. He built aircraft; those you needed plans for.

I recently got a copy of "A Field Guide to American Houses", from which I learned the term "vernacular architecture" and that all the house names you hear on TV (Victorian, Cape Cod, Ranch ...) are just one slice of architecture, "polite architecture", and historically not a very big one. The way most of us think of architecture today, an architect designs the building to some (not necessarily well thought out ;-p) philosophy and then you go and build it out of the appropriate materials.

In vernacular architecture, someone woke up one day and decided to build a house. They built it house-shaped, from whatever materials were cheapest and most available in their region at the time, using whatever techniques were common in said time and place. The patterns of vernacular houses in different times and places are fascinating; you're shining a flashlight through the region of a peoples' brains where the archetype "house" is stored and seeing what it looks like.

Yep. His house is in Pensacola, FL. So the interior walls are stained pine board (FL panhandle prized by Spain for pine timber & naval stores). Exterior is clay tile with an air gap to prevent interior moisture build up. Steel roof.

Ha! My mother shared a bedroom with two other sisters up until she was about 15 in the aforementioned house, it was different back then...

Loaning standards were different back then, based on my acquired knowledge from The Big Short.

Yeah, that was a good movie. NINJA loans (No Income No JOB no Assets).

That's impressive.

The good old days. I wish this was still possible today. Unfortunately, with every last screw, bolt and wooden panel dictated by regulation, it seems it's not possible anymore.

people still build houses these days, even by themselves. will you really be so easily defeated by mere regulations? are they so fearful that you cannot even try?

i spent 9 months building homes with habitat for humanity and found the regulations largely reasonable (like steel strapping for earthquake resistance). the lackadaisicalness of the inspectors on the other hand was frustrating. most of the build could have been done by a single person who possessed determination, ingenuity and loads of time.

I helped a friend tear down an old house so he could build a new one himself. He had the odd person lending a hand at times but it was a one man job for the most part. He had no prior experience, read some books and watched YouTube videos. He would get compliments from building inspectors on his work. The house turned out wonderful.

In the suburbs there is a lot of regulation and that’s a good thing, but there are a lot of places in the US where you can build with literally or virtually zero building codes. (Except, usually, for septic).

There are building codes everywhere, but yes, many places that don't inspect. Where I am from in the south, there are literally no restrictions and that includes septic. You can go in a 5 gallon bucket and dump it out the window if you want.

Other responders comment on the sensibility of many regulations. I agree.

What I find less acceptable, is placing them in the hands of and behind the paywall of commercial interests.

In some cases, that does make them quite expensive for the individual.

It also places consumers of building and trade services at a disadvantage. Is your job being done correctly? Well, the building and other code defining a good bit of this, may not be readily accessible to you.

Creating it is and should be a public effort. The public should pay for that, up front. And then we should all have access to it.

Transparency is also essential for good and effective government. And regulation is a part of that.

Yet sadly enough people complain about the multiple trips back to HomeDespot when they forget to pick up said screw, bolts, or wooden panels instead of being told to use them.

Houses aren't being built anymore? No wonder there's a housing shortage.

Cool to see this! Most people will never build their own home these days (even with the cost savings).

My father's hobby is property investment. Well, it's a bit more than a hobby, he owns around 10 houses.

He does as much work as possible himself, or when I was living at home, by getting me to do it for free (well, I get inheritance one day).

The amount of money he's managed to save by doing his own work is staggering. We saved at least $10,000 by building a retaining wall ourselves. We mixed up over 6 tonnes of concrete in a 200 L concrete mixer.

Every fence on his properties he's put up himself, I've helped out with about 5. You're probably saving $5000 per fence (for a timber fence, 6 foot high). He does a lot of his own painting and drywall work as well. He does a lot of his own electrical work as well since he's qualified to do it, which saves boatloads of money.

We even installed the pool at the family house on our own, saving 5 figures (he did pay for a earthmoving company to dig the hole though).

He's probably managed to save several hundred thousand dollars by doing his own work. He basically spends any time that he's not working at his day job working on his properties.

Building your own house from scratch isn't really worth it these days though. It's cheaper to get a frame preassembled, then trucked in and erected. Doing your own concreting isn't really worth it either, same for bricklaying.

A good friend of mine owns around 50 houses and apartments, and does 95% of the work himself. He is super smart and impressive, however he is his own limiting factor in his growth. He literally can’t keep up with the work and refuses good deals. Learning to lead others effectively is key to growth in real estate investing and it’s a hurdle many unintentionally self limit their growth.

Many people self running a real estate business are interested in a sustainable income, not necessarily growth.

At 50 properties, your friend probably could start leveraging a team and either get more properties and more income or simply get more time for himself and still have enough income. But, a lot of people will have topped out at 10 or so properties, if you're paying other people to do the work there, you may not be making enough income to grow your assets.

This is not just an issue in real-estate investing. This sounds like it is a general principle that can be applied across-the-board. A lot of small business owners/franchisees fail because they don’t know how to create processes and delegate. A good book on this is The E-myth Revisted.

> Learning to lead others effectively is key to growth

My personal pet-peeve: In 99.9% of cases, when people talk about "leading" in the business context, what they really mean is just "managing". Let's not infest our language with corporate newspeak.

Leading is a core part of managing. Or at least managing well.

Leadership is about making people genuinely want to do things. Jesus, Napoleon, Lenin, Steve Jobs - they were leaders. Managing, on the other hand, is about handling employees, who are doing what you tell them to do only because you pay them.

2 of those 3 were happy to use guns and violence to get what they want and that makes a compelling reason to do as instructed too.

Edit: I’ve just realised that your 4th example was Jesus, and you weren’t started with a curse - I’ll leave my error as I like it.

No, they were managers. They just understood that good management is being a leader. Trying to micromanage and compel people to do what you want is inefficient compared to inspiring people to want the same things as you, and helping them coach them so they grow into more effective, productive versions of themselves.

> Trying to micromanage and compel people to do what you want is inefficient compared to inspiring people to want the same things as you,

I generally agree, but I have never ever seen that in a business world. What the business owner wants - maximum profit - is in a direct conflict with employee wants (maximum salary for an easy and/or fullfilling job), so I can't see them ever wanting the same thing.

In general, people are willing to forgo their immediate interest (high pay, interesting tasks) only if they believe they're doing something for a greater good, and that does not happen in companies. Even if you're crunching on some innovative product that will make the world better (which is the claim that is often used to motivate people in startups), the main reason for the crunch is that you're trying to beat X other companies that are also working on the same innovation. So, even in such case, you're mostly killing yourself to make the owners rich, as the world will be a better place regardless of whether it's your company or your competitor that manages to win the race to the market.

The way to achieve that, in my opinion, is to try to align the person's career objectives with the company's objectives. Find out what motivates them, money, recognition, etc and illustrate how they can achieve those goals by achieving the company's goals. Then people motivate themselves.

The other part is being a good coach, which is not about giving advice, it's about helping someone take responsibility for their tasks and helping them learn how to improve.

That's just my opinion, and I'm not a manager so maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about.

>We saved at least $10,000 by building a retaining wall ourselves. We mixed up over 6 tonnes of concrete in a 200 L concrete mixer.

I have done it both ways...

Concrete trucks are about $80-120 / yd. mixing bags of concrete, assuming you have free aggregate and sand, is about $200 / yd

Well, if you're building a wall yourself, you can't use a whole truck load of concrete all at once. You pretty much have to mix it incrementally.

I am trying to understand your post. Is it cheaper per yard to hire a concrete truck than to mix concrete (with free aggregate/sand) yourself?

Presumably, to get the truck pricing you have to buy by the truckload which is too much concrete for some projects. If doing it onsite was cheaper at quantity, you'd never see a concrete truck on the road -- all the big construction sites would be saving money by mixing onsite.

Your father sounds kind of like some of my family. You can rent the equipment to dig the holes if he ever wants to learn how to do that. If you are the general contractor you can save whatever their markup is (at least twenty years ago).

A problem is that you can't get a mortgage to build it yourself. Being cheaper in the end doesn't help you if you don't have the money right now.

You can get a construction loan in some States and in those States you are allowed to build your own house. Now the bank may have some requirements (show them your plans etc...) on you but you can generally act as your own general contractor. Still I think a reputable builder + home inspector + real estate attorney is the better way to go. At least if the contractor is registered with the State you can usually get access to State funds if the GC screws up.

If some places you can structure it such that the bank will give you x amount once y work is complete. Eg they give you 20k, and once foundations are signed off by the council (or whoever) the next install will be handed to you for framing or subfloor. On completion of that another amount can be borrowed. It’s a good way to go.

I have not seen a lender that will give an "owner-builder" a construction loan without being a licensed general contractor. There are various common ways to structure a deal with a general contractor - fixed price, "cost-plus", or construction manager (where you convince them to "use" their license and they check your work).

Several of my family members have gotten such a lot, so as of 15 years ago it was still possible.

Building your own house is a good way to get end up in divorce. It hasn't happened in my family but they tell me that the stress is too high. You have to get that house built quick because the loan terms only give you a few months before you have to refinance.

Or a remodel is a quick way to divorce as well.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are from periods of major DIY home rennovation projects. Remodeling the kitchen, replacing the windows, installing tile and hardwood floors, all sorts of fun and hugely educational experiences.

These were times of pleasure, excitement, and productive collaboration for the entire family.

When I see comments like these it makes me wonder what sort of dysfunctoinal marriages people have got themselves into, and if taking on any sort of project requiring teamwork is simply forcing a realization of an already failed state.

But was it a fun memory for your parents? I remember renovations being exciting too but the reality of looking after children with an unsafe house, no proper kitchen or bathroom etc, gets old really fast.

Good question, and I can't speak on their behalf.

All I can say is it didn't drive them to divorce, and they're still together to this day.

I like to believe living in a home surrounded by the fruits of those past projects has played a positive part in their staying together, especially long after the kids left the nest. But that's nothing more than romantic speculation on my part.

True. The barrier here is then convincing the bank to give you the construction loan. The big construction companies (in some states in the US) move through homes so quickly and have found ways to reduce the amount of material used in certain parts of the build. They don’t necessarily provide a better home than you could build yourself. If you have recourse against them due to poor workmanship then that sounds like a good option. Most people don’t have the desire and/or network to become their own general contractor (it’s definitely not impossible though). What would you be using the real-estate attorney for?

Owner-built homes rarely use banks. My experience has been the way to go is a mortgage broker who can get you private money. It's more expensive than banks, but it works.

Enforcement of the building contract and also what to put in the contract. You will find that despite the written agreement, the builder or sub will usually cut some corners.

As I think about it (not in depth, though), does it matter? If you're building it yourself, you can't go that fast. The amount of building materials you can buy each month with what would amount to a mortgage+taxes+insurance payment each month would be just about what you could use up. So it would probably work out OK.

Land alone is often pretty expensive; can you get a regular mortgage to buy it?

Our land loan had similar interest to a mortgage, but was interest only with a balloon payment after 24 months. The bank's intent was to issue the loan and roll it into a construction loan with similar terms (which is what we did). This was all through a small local bank where the loan officer inspected the house himself prior to each construction draw.

The biggest challenge we had with the loans for land, construction and the eventual end-loan was "Why are you building a 1900 sq-ft house? You really shouldn't be building a house under 3k sq-ft."

I’d have called that a medium to large house with 3k being huge - what is typical? Looking where I live, we are typical for 1960s, and just over half the current average of 205 square metres. Guess my idea of large is actually small.

Of course! And it's even lower risk because you can't really mess up land the way you can a house.

The land loans I've seen are not very advantageous, high interest and short terms; where are you getting them from?

My father did as much overtime as he could to save up money when we were building.

A mortgage is not a requirement to building a house, but making that tradeoff will induce a number of constraints and require non-standard ways of living for a while that may be more than you or your family find acceptable. The main ones are being uncomfortable in the short term, and probably living in a rural setting where land is less expensive.

Here is a link to a book that lays out a very good strategy:


(warning: although I read this book and considered it's approach, I used a slightly different strategy towards home ownership without a mortgage that allowed me to purchase existing homes)

You cant get a mortgage for self build in the USA? - its a definite market in the UK and you can save quite a bit.

In the US, I know there is a sort of convertible building loan - you need to present the bank with a plan for something that will in short order be a house that can secure a mortgage. Once the house is complete with a CoO, it turns into a mortgage.

I'm guessing the loan underwriters will be uncomfortable with the risk profile of a decade long project of self improvement, but what do I know?

I'm not from the US :) By "self-build", you mean you actually build it yourself? Doesn't the bank require professionals who can present invoices and such?

In Czech republic they do offer self-build mortgages and you dont need any license (up to 150 sqm). Money are released by achieving milestones and inspection from bank, no invoices required.

Yes they require _someone_ to have a general contractor's license and insurance.

Most actually go a lot further than that. We're in the process of building right now with a large-ish builder + separate lender. We can't even do the painting ourselves, the mortgage company requires that we hire it out.

I'm short on free time anyway so it's not that big of a deal but finding a lender that would let you do everything is probably a bit tricky.

Finding a contractor who will take a few bucks under the table in exchange for putting their name on the paperwork and checking your work prior to code inspections is not usually that hard.

Those are both cheap and easy to get though.

You are in charge of the build typically you do some of the PM your self and hire contractors to do the heavy lifting - if you have the skills some do bits themselves

As I have said in an earlier note. Owner-builders use mortgage brokers who broker private money.

This is a good thing. You want any home you may buy to have been built under the supervision of a licensed general contractor.

$2k gets you a general contractor licence in my area (Canada). The fact someone is licensed means almost nothing at all for general contractors. Its more important they have insurance.

Don't they have to have several years of experience as well?

If the economy is working properly there shouldn't be cost savings by doing it yourself. That's the whole point of division of labor.

Maybe, maybe not. It really depends on many variables that are different for everybody.

If you work (or have worked) in construction you have the experience to do it at less cost. If you have friends who will all share labor to build their own houses, then you quickly get the experience.

If you can't earn more money in your spare time (burn out from working too many hours at your "day job" is very real!) then your labor is worth zero and you save money. Even if you could earn more elsewhere, if you enjoy working in construction once in a while your time is less valuable.

There might be market distortions that mean labor for construction gets paid more then the real value. Thus making you more competitive.

You might have a job that is less valuable than construction, and thus your time building your own things is worth less than the person you might hire.

You might have reasons (valid or invalid) to believe the professionals would do a bad job.

You might be a complete klutz that should never touch a tool. You might hate building things. You might be disabled. You might want to do something else with your time. All of these are valid reasons not do something.

In order to build a house you need to become the contractor. In order for contractors to make money they mark up the price of the building beyond subcontractor fees and materials. Twenty years ago there was a twenty percent mark-up in certain places in the country. When my family built our home we never bought anything at full price. One of my uncles installed all the flooring for free because it was his full-time job normally to install carpet etc. (I’m pretty sure but not positive). The cabinets that went into the finished main kitchen were like 90% off. If you are acting as the contractor and you have the time to wait to purchase certain material (when there are sales) you can potentially get below the costs of what some of the contractors are getting their material at. The cookie-cutter subdivision houses—in some parts of the US—are extremely poorly built with sub-par material (they are trying to make as much profit as possible).

This is irrelevant since he provides labor/services by himself.

You are telling me that if economy is properly working, a mother should not cut the daughter's hair since it should not be cost saving ?

I'm sorry if I misunderstood your point.

He's basically arguing comparative advantage. You're better off spending the hour programming and paying the contractor a (well, maybe) lower rate for them to do the job faster and better.

Which is fine as far as it goes for theoretical economics. But, in practice, as in your example, the mother probably doesn't have a way to get paid for doing some other task rather than cutting the daughter's hair--and would likely take even more time to go to the barber anyway.

It does make sense to pay for some tasks you could do yourself. But in a lot of cases you're not actually saving money especially if you're not earning money by the hour and are maxed out on how much time you're able to spend earning.

You'd be surprised. I've met some general contractors making about 2-3x what a senior developer makes. That's in Vancouver where there's a roaring real estate market, and senior developers earn half what they do in the US.

I return my cans and bottles for the deposit. Every time I do it I think it's completely illogical because I'm losing $50 each time over just spending the time programming. I justify it to myself as getting paid $5 to take a walk. I can't spend every waking hour programming or I'll burn out. I'm not sure I'm not just trying to rationalize irrational behavior though.

Of course I look like a homeless person walking down the street downtown with two big bags of cans, but I don't let that enter into my calculation.

I don't disagree, hence my parenthetical :-) Took me over a year to get a plumber scheduled as part of a rather small bathroom remodel in Massachusetts. The construction trades are still hard work but they seem to pay well enough in areas where they're in demand.

I used to hate dealing with bottle deposits because it felt like throwing money away even if it was a modest amount. Now my town recycling lets you bring in deposit bottles and leave them in a shed for the local animal shelter which works just fine for me.

It sure raises some questions about the typical advice to get a degree. Much more so if you get a degree in something nearly useless like English Literature.

I dropped out of Computer Science at my university, but I've done better than my friends who stayed and graduated with honors. My take away is there's no one best formula in life, rather there are more paths to success (and more ways to define success) than we have imagination to think of.

On the other hand, I know lots of people who have done well for themselves with classic liberal arts degrees (albeit mostly from top schools and they'd probably have done well no matter what they had majored in). But I do suspect that there are a lot of people who would do better going into the trades than dutifully getting a degree that they're generally disinterested in getting.

Well, the economy is not working properly: there's so much overhead with each step of capitalism involved in buying a home.

This is just one aspect: Take for example taxes: 33% is a double whammy. If you build it yourself, it's like making your own bed: you don't pay 1/3 of the labor cost for making your own bed. But, if you pay someone to make a home for you: First your take home pay is cut by 1/3 by your income taxes, and the person your paying or companies, their labor is taxed at another 1/3. In addition to the income taxes, that company has many other taxes to pay as well, not to mention impact fees, environmental fees, etc, etc and the lumber company they buy from has to pay even more taxes,etc.

as another example, look at the difference in cost between what someone charges and what they actually earn. For example: here in the bay area, a plumber will charge 180$ but, after expenses and taxes, he's left with about 20-30$/hr.

Maybe for the better. With current divorce law mess loosing something you have built yourself would ramp up male suicide rate even higher then it already is.

Why all the downvotes? We have serious social issues for not taking male mental health seriously.

It was a rapid cynical contrast to the rest of the discussion.

Male mental health is definitely not a priority in society (it’s off-topic in this thread).

Beautiful photograph.

Thank you!

Impressive! Of course technically he’s building it not by himself but with the help of a lot of technology. ;)

This man is building a house including the tools you need to build that house completely by himself:

Primitive Technology: Tiled Roof Hut


Primitive Technology is an awesome channel, one of the marvels of youtube. To anybody who decides to follow his videos: please do not skip reading the description of the videos. He's not just making some primitive-looking stuff with crap he finds about, he actually often tries to replicate what actual primitive peoples did, and explains the historical period and some other details. There are those other channels that copied the concept, but they are just bad copies, half naked men doing silly things for the views.

And don't forget to turn on captions, as his commentary is there.

I've learned about this a while ago (also via a comment), but, I've never turned it on; I like just watching it silently and going "Aaaah he's making an <x>!".

I usually watch the video twice, first with no captions and second with them on. I also like trying to figure out what he's doing in each part, but he uses the captions to explain a lot of interesting things that I didn't catch/understand.

Oh crap I didn't know that now I have to watch them all again! Thanks!

This reminds me a little of the surprise it was when I found that xkcd has mouseover comments that can be ridiculously funny.

It seems like some YouTube videos have captions on by default. Maybe he should turn that on.

Curiously I don't see any captions since some time, even though I haven't touched any settings anywhere.

And it's only "primitive" in some sense, his threaded leave baskets have some beautiful symmetry in the threading process. There's nothing crass about how it's done, on the contrary.

There was an interesting article on here last week about trying to replicate primitive carpentry for archaeological purposes. An illustrative example of the why was that in their first attempt they broke all their stone axeheads in the first hour; after they got some practice they were able to estimate the acreage they could clear with their techniques. Reconstructions both tell you what you got wrong and provide new information about the capabilities of our ancestors, as well as providing context on the archaeological remains.

That guy is amazing. I've watched all of his video many times over.

For the new to the channel, he does all commentary via subtitles so if you want explanations of what he's doing and why turn them on!

Some people seem to like watching them without the commentary as it's relaxing, others want to know what and why. I watched 5 videos before I realised there was explanations.

I hope he goes back to his furnaces and metal, I'd like to see some metal tools from nothing!

Him and Mathias Wandel (woodwork shop) have some tangible zen effect on my mind. It may be subjective but crafting with simple material, and mostly your hands* is extremely satisfying to watch and also very tempting to do. Society creates a distortion in which every pleasure sits behind some door but here they do tons of fun stuff outside just like that.

Other channels in that vein:

Wranglerstar - https://www.youtube.com/wranglerstar

Pure Living for Life - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChhBsM9K_Bc9a_YTK7UUlnQ

Paul Sellers - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCc3EpWncNq5QL0QhwUNQb7w

Not quite the same aesthetic but still interesting:

Steve Ramsey - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBB7sYb14uBtk8UqSQYc9-w

Essential Craftsman

Currently in the process of building a spec house out in Oregon; has been filming the entire process so far. Very craftsman-zen, not to mention chock full of good info for anyone building/buying a house.

Mr. Chickadee - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHkYrJ2Fbe7pBjEZvkFzi3A Goes so far as to mill (or hew) his own wood. Makes his own tools.

WJP004 is also good https://www.youtube.com/user/WJP004/videos

Also doing much of the work himself.

Paul Sellers is amazing. He's such a positive, down to earth guy. And great craftsmanship if you're into woodworking.

Thanks I think I knew .. none of them. :)

I totally agree with you and I love Primitive Technology, but let's not lose track on that these videos are edited too. All the failures and retries are left out, what is left is only a clear path from start to finish that looks deceptively easy.

Yeah, but if you have ever tried any wood working or home repair with modern tools I have a hard time you would believe this is easy. For example, when he makes cordage or whatever that is a skill you need to learn and practice for a solid 40-80 hours over probably at least a few weeks to really get the hang of it. He probably had many mini skills like that that are invisible or just explained as some specific technique. The editing is fine I guess, it fits with my attention span, at least. If he included all the un-edited stuff you would end up with hours of footage of those mini-skills being applied. Fast forwarding gives some context without hiding it, but it is still nice to just cut scenes I think.

Well, yeah, the advantage he has is all the accessible knowledge available via the internet. He would have done hours upon hours of research before embarking upon experiments that took humans thousands of years to discover and develop. It's still bloody cool!

Some of the woodworking videos I've seen solve this by speeding up the video during the boring parts after you get the general idea. That way you can see there's no man behind the curtain. The ones that include the sped up audio as well are fun.

Heh good point. It's mentally more pleasuring in timelapse where every steps only takes half a second instead of 10.

He's not trying to make his life harder... he is building it by himself the same way that some contractor would be doing it with perhaps 4-5 guys.

Although primitive, the video that you linked to is also based on previous technology/knowledge...

>Although primitive, the video that you linked to is also based on previous technology/knowledge...

Yet one is possible to do literally by yourself without another human being alive as long as you possess the knowledge.

It is a real difference.

If you have all the knowledge, wouldn't you know both ways? Sure you might need to build a few tools with your knowledge before you start, but then you could build a city.

Some other great youtube series if you are into this:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLRZePj70B4IwyNn1ABhJW... -- Essential Craftsman (a great channel about manly stuff) series on Building a Spec Home, done by a guy with decades of experience.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGNuhyfyF6k&list=PL8eqcjvgrQ... April Wilkerson's series on building a shop, she does it mostly on her own, but with some help when needed. She's got a great channel for woodworking, some metal working, and home repairs.

As someone who has no real building experience but has recently done a kitchen remodel (everything except the countertop, most of the cabinets I ordered, the pantry I'm building), youtube is an amazing way to get educated on the specific tasks. I replaced the subfloor, new oak hardwood floors, plank tiles, drywall, texturing, painting, removed a wall, electrical (including inspections), range hood ducting to outside, plumbing, cabinet installs...

Youtube is like that scene in The Matrix where Neo jacks in and then comes back out "I know Kung Fu!" I've spent many nights jacked in downloading Master Vila's knowledge of pressure treated lumber. (obscure Robotman reference)

My father rebuilt a 16th century house by himself on Saturdays. He used electricity and the house has modern features such as piped water and internet but no modern materials were used (concrete, aluminium, steel, etc.), only "old" granite and wood. It took him almost a decade but he builds houses for a living so it's not exactly a hobby despite the fact that he considered it as such.

Do you think people would like to watch videos about such things? My youngest brother now works for my father and he is tech savvy so it's something doable but would be in Portuguese.

I'm a fan of building, a fan of Portugal and a fan of portuguese literature (I plan to learn european portuguese), so you have one person interested here. I'd appreciate English subs though.

Yes, EN subs is a must have, I'm sure my brother is capable of that.

Good luck with learning Portuguese. Just like French, you'll need some perseverance in the beginning. ;)

Fun (to me, at least) and perhaps tangentially related -

I spent A LOT of time in Vigo, Spain (Well, Vigo, Galicia, as the locals would say) a few years ago - my employer had a major delivery at one of the shipyards, and I volunteered to stay until we had it all sorted. Turned out to take way longer than expected.

I started picking up quite a lot of what I assumed to be Spanish (this being Spain an'all) from being around the locals - and was able to make myself understood, too, after a fashion.

Much to my surprise, I later found when trying out my recently-acquired Spanish skills in Madrid that I was mostly met with blank stares.

In Lisbon, though, my mix of rudimentary Portuguese (picked up in Brazil and Mozambique) and the 'Spanish' I'd picked up in Vigo was well understood.

And thus I found out that Galego was a distinct language, significantly more related to Portuguese than to Spanish.

Quite right; in fact, before independence Portugal was a county (as in, ruled by a count) of the Kingdom of Galicia, which has been a territory since the Roman times (called Gallaecia then).

Of course, the county was just the northern tip of what is Portugal today, before the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconquista

I am actually from Northern Portugal, very close to the Galician border and can confirm that Galego is much closer to Portuguese than to Spanish.

> Yes, EN subs is a must have, I'm sure my brother is capable of that.

The Primitive Technology guy, mentioned in other comments, makes completely silent videos.

Thanks! Is there a YT channel or blog etc. where we can follow to be notified if that project becomes real?

I already know italian, and I'm slowly starting to learn french, so I guess that will help w/ portuguese. I can already understand bits and pieces when I read, but listening, I have no chance.

There's nothing done yet. I just saw the videos posted in this thread, it reminded me of my father and I asked if this is something people would like to see. If anything gets done it'll be thanks to my brother since I live and work far away from my parents' hometown.

Nit-picking, but concrete is not modern, it's 2,700 years old. (similarly, indoor plumbing is 6,000 years old, but obviously was a luxury and not common throughout most of history)

You're correct. I meant he rebuilt it using materials as close as possible to the original: granite, oak, quicklime, etc.

I think there is a huge interest in such things. People forget where things come from, just make sure you subtitle the videos and they'll be a hit I'm sure!

I mean, the short answer is, does it matter? If you enjoy making the videos, and you aren't spending much time or money making them (beyond the time and money you're spending on the original activity you are recording, that you'd spend anyway), does it matter much if your audience is 10 weirdos around the world or an adoring mass of thousands?

It's that I never considered the fact that people would appreciate someone like my father explaining his hobby.

As a Portuguese myself, I can assure you I'd watch every single video!

Do they build old-style houses for clients too?

No client ever requested that to my father. Probably because there are so many cheap abandoned old houses (from 14th to 19th century) that it doesn't make much sense to built a brand new one.

Its fascinating how different building Houses is in USA and Germany. The typical US Woodhouse is easy and fast to build. In Germany it can take a Year to build a "Massiv" House:


Timber framed houses are common in Scandinavia. They are also pretty common in the UK, but you wouldn't know it because they often have a non-loadbearing brick or blockwork outer skin which relies on the timber frame for stability, i.e. to resist wind loads. A timber structure will last as long as a masonry structure if the main structural timber frame is kept dry. Timber cladding, like they have in the US and Scandinavia, does need to be kept painted and parts will need to be replaced occasionally.

It evolved from German/Dutch/British building techniques brought over from early settlers. Most houses were built with Timber Frame construction ("Fachwerkhaus" in Germany). Over the years this was adapted to have more ready-made materials available and spend less time on the building site. Saw mills delivered wood posts (studs) and boards, and eventually everything converged to standard sizes and become modular. Lumber is/was available everywhere. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framing_(construction)https://...

Therefore, I am less impressed. As this feels mostly like attaching panels and pulling some wires. Sure, great to see this happening.

I remember helping my father to restore a 100+ year old house. We completely raised the roof to fix the brickwork... after this replaced the roof in segments, addressed each room individually... etc etc... renovating everything, add new waterwork, modernize the electricity in an existing house. It took long... but the result is also there!

Coming from an earthquake prone country, looking at how that house is constructed is making me very nervous.

Structural masonry is a really bad idea in seismically active areas (which evidently Germany is not).

Is this difference mainly caused by weather conditions or is it a cultural or economical consequence?

The US has, for practical purposes, an unlimited supply of cost effective, renewable timber (domestically + Canada). It makes tremendous economic sense.

Also consider the renewable + cost + timber supply factor, when it comes to population. Germany's population has barely increased since 1970. The US population has increased by ~55% in that time, adding over 100 million people. Rarely building new structures for a stagnate population base is a very different consideration vs building for a population that has been quite expansive for over a century. Just on the environmental concerns alone, I don't think you want the US to rebuild all of its housing with concrete.

The median US house is between 50% and 100% larger than the median house in developed Europe, at half the price or less per sq metre. The median US house is generally the first or second largest in the world.

Maintenance is not dramatic for wood structures, assuming they're properly built. Once they're enclosed, if properly maintained, you should have to do relatively little work to the core structure of the building over many decades. As it pertains to heating & cooling, high quality insulation today means there's little concern for external weather, whether you're in New Hampshire or Arizona.

Historically, most people have built as much of their houses out of wood as they could, because it was easier to work with. Where wood was rare, only roofs were made out of it. Where wood was exceptionally rare, even roofs were vaulted.

Wood didn't last long, but until surprisingly recently, houses weren't meant to last. In Northern Europe, for example, even as late as the Iron Age, houses were rebuilt every few decades.

Exception: rich builders, like the church in Europe, and later on (roughly the thirteenth century) rich individuals, built out of stone.

That only answers one half of the question, doesn't it? Germany should also have the same unlimited supply of timber (it has the same percentage of forests of their land area), so why don't Germans build wood houses?

There's actually an extraordinary gap between the two.

Having the same percentage of forests is not the same thing as having the same supply of renewable timber. You're forgetting about population density. The US has vastly more timber supply vs population, than Germany does.

US territory size is something like 26x the size of Germany, with just 4x the population difference.

304 million hectares of forests vs 330 million people in the US. A near 1 ratio for hectares per person.

11 million ha of forests vs 82 million people in Germany. A 0.13 ratio.

Now throw in Canada, which is an almost comical 347 million ha (and their modest domestic needs for 36 million people).

edit: adjusted the US figure to hectares

Stone houses last longer.

Whenever I see a report about a tornado or a hurricane in the US I wonder what the damage would be like if people had stone houses instead of wooden houses that disintegrate during a storm and then in turn damage other houses. It reminds me of the Kessler Syndrome.

Wood structures built to current code will survive most hurricanes just fine.

Most of the damage during a hurricane occurs due to the storm surge, which is a wall of water that is pushed up on land and then drains back out.

Even if the structure remains intact - and storm surges have no problem washing concrete and stone away - the house has to be ripped apart. The flooding ruins sheetrock, furniture, carpet, etc and mold growth is a huge issue.

The wind is usually not that big a deal unless you have a tornado during the hurricane. I have a 100 year old wood framed house that has been though many hurricanes, including Katrina. Generally the worst case wind-wise for most people is that you see some minor roof damage and little else unless a tree falls on the house. Wooden houses certainly do not "disintegrate" during storms.

Depends on whether you're in a flood zone. A lot of Florida isn't in flood zones, so storm surge isn't a cause for most of the damage there, it's trees and wind and debris. However, flood zones around the world are growing.

You don't need to be in a flood zone to be impacted by a storm surge. You just have to live within ~30ft of sea level. The majority of the gulf coast is pretty flat. Flood-zone maps do get redrawn after every major hurricane, but that's not so much a matter of climate change so much as exactly where the storm hits. Places that have never flooded in a hundred years will flood if a hurricane makes land in the right place, simply because it pushes a couple dozen feet of water ahead of it.

Debris doesn't cause a lot of damage, particularly if you've prepped for the hurricane (by boarding up windows, garaging cars, etc.) The biggest factors are definitely trees and storm surge.

The roof in a brick house would still get ripped off, as would the windows and doors. Depending on wind speed the walls might or might not survive but the house would cost just about as much to repair.

I'm not sure if the roof construction is the same in the US and in Germany.

Pitched roofs do well against storms (30° roof slope is best).

Luckily, we don't have deadly hurricanes.

Nearly all house roofs are pitched, at least in the southeast. I have never seen one that wasn't. Very sharp pitches are more common in newer homes, though, in my experience.

In the UK you struggle to get a mortgage on a wooden construction so have to be cash rich, you'd also struggle to get conventional housing insurance cover.

Nope thats not it. Many houses built in the UK now have a timber structure with a (mostly) non load bearing brick or blockwork skin on the outside. Most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a new build house that is timber or masonry structure, once it has been sheeted out inside. Timber cladding externally is less common.

I believe exterior timber was banned in London after the fire of 1666, and in many other towns not so long after that. A brick skin just gives you much more time to stop a fire from spreading. Even when the exterior walls are load-bearing brick, a lot of internal structure may still be in wood.

That's not strictly true, the rules [0] on what fire tests a cladding material must conform to are quite complicated and depend on how close adjoining buildings are and whether there are any windows in them.

[0] http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Built-Environment/Building/Buildi...

Right, I'm sure the modern rules are very detailed. But at some rough level of walking around & looking at buildings, there's a step change right after the great fire.

Wood houses are slowly coming to Germany too, but there seems to be a cultural refusal to them. Maybe it's because of WW2 and the bombing of the cities? Maybe a solid concrete house is feeling more safe in german heads?

It goes back a quite a lot longer, actually. Over the years, many cities have outlawed wooden buildings due to fire risk. It wasn't uncommon for an entire city to burn down to the ground. It may be possible to build fire-proof buildings nowadays, but the safety of stone is now a part of the culture.

Germany has less than 5% of Canada's land area and more than double the population. You could pretty much drop the entire country into a Canadian forest.

US building standards are pretty good for our wood frame houses these days. These houses can withstand pretty much anything but tornado or earthquake. Proper maintenance of the external facing structures of the house (roof, paint, siding, windows) mean it can last a very long time (100 years). We also insulate houses more or less depending on where they are. New homes are quite energy efficient.

I grew up in Germany and 100 years does not sound like a long time for a house to last. Maybe that’s they main difference: expectation of longevity. Which is surprising because while my hometown Cologne is in fact more than 2000 years old, many of its buildings were destroyed in various wars. I’m not sure where the cultural expectation that houses should last forever originates.

That was just an example. I think they can last pretty much indefinitely with maintenance. I know we have wood frame houses built in the 1700s and 1800s that still stand in New England and other places.

Americans think 100 years is a long time; and Europeans think 100 kilometers is a long distance.

(As an Australian - we completely fall on the American side of that remark)

"I’m not sure where the cultural expectation that houses should last forever originates."

Probably partly from ownership of buildings transitioning form wealthy capitalists to middle class. For the capitalist the house is an investment since they get rent from it, but for the middle class family who own their house the house constitutes a huge portion of their wealth. Banks are the main winners, as they profit from loaning money to middle class to purchase the house.

The second factor is the rise of cities. As more people come closer together, the value of land naturally rises. Hence, the "natural" portion of the houses price does not come from the structure itself, but from the value of the land, and the market forces demand for the building.

If the building becomes... defunct, a huge portion of the middle class familys wealth disappears (sans the land - but, often the land is rented from someone).

Hence it's nice to imagine buildings last forever, while paying back your 50 year loan on the house.

Wooden framed houses tend to survive earthquakes better than any other construction technology, as wooden frames are flexible, especially as they're constructed with nails, which lend the frame a lot of give.

Wooden houses can (from experience) survive magnitude 6-7 earthquakes.

This is highly dependent on the design and the size. The larger a wooden building is, the more likely a lower floor will soften and pancake during an earthquake, and structural elements need to be added to stiffen it against lateral movement.

Japanese pagodas have very interesting designs that keep them from toppling. My favorite is the Horyu-ji pagoda. Each floor is not connected to the one above it - they're just stacked, loosely. The floors shift independently during an earthquake. A gigantic central beam in the middle acts as a tuned mass damper, preventing them from sliding off entirely. One person can make the central beam sway. https://gizmodo.com/5846501/how-japans-oldest-wooden-buildin...

Tō-ji pagoda's design: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uG37gQSvrf4

Design really is everything.

It doesn't scale in terms of efficiency, though. There are much more suitable climate specific building types for e.g. Arizona and New Hampshire, of which most don't need any/much lumber.

What are you thinking of for New Hampshire? I'm assuming adobe or similar for Arizona.

The price of timber in Europe is way higher. I'm always amazed when watching US woodworking channels on Youtube how cheaply they get their materials, especially two-by-fours. This is causing another interesting difference, in Europe most of the simpler furniture is made of laminated particle boards (IKEA style), while my impression is that in US plywood is more common. In Europe plywood is fairly expensive, which made particle boards and mdf way more popular.

I've yet to find proper wood in e.g. DIY stores over here, is that the reason? I should probably look for a proper wood store though.

I'm not sure where "over here" refers to but here in the UK "wood yards" are fairly common, especially in more rural areas and are typically much cheaper than DIY places. Often they'll even cut it to size and deliver as well!

Proper high quality wood is a bit nich area my first job had its own stock of hardwoods used for building hydrodynamic models - which where works of art in there own right.

Yes look for hardwood lumber stores. Some of them are chains, we have a small sawmill near us that has or can get just about anything i would want.

You'll still need the DIY shops for hardware/tools/etc.

The large hardware store chains only stock standard softwoods and some board materials, all in subpar quality. This mostly caters to the "jigsaw and woodscrews" faction.

Dick Proenneke's Alone in the Wilderness is a wonderful TV show to watch if you're into this sort of DIY building joy. He starts with only a few tools and builds himself a little cabin in Alaska, narrating and filming the whole thing. Quite peaceful and inspiring.


Richard Proenneke built a home in the middle of no where Alaska in the 50's, using only hand tools, check out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Proenneke

Alone in the Wilderness - YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYJKd0rkKss

I have so many fond memories of watching Alone in the Wilderness with my father and little brother. My mom would send us to bed, only for him to wake us up so we could watch it together late at night.

Great book too. Or at least it was when my old man gave it to me when i was 12. Fired up the imagination.

The home I spent the majority of my childhood in until the age of 15 was built by a combination of friends/family and subcontractors. We were very poor and my parents had a hard time receiving loans to finance the build. The plan was to build a ranch-style 3400 sqft home. Due to the financial constraints, we finished the walk-out basement portion with a “mother-in-law” style suite (fully functioning kitchen etc.) We lived in this portion of the house and sealed the top portion until it was finished. Ultimately the home took 5 years to build IIRC. My father’s cousin was a contractor so my father worked a bit for him to learn the correct steps and the order to perform them in. It was a high-quality build with high-quality material due to the influence from my father’s cousin. Growing up around it was fun in the sense that it was such a unique experience. My parents got lucky as they sold it right before the downturn in the housing market. There will always be naysayers and those that believe things are impossible or are “strange”. This house and the equity accumulated in it allowed my parents just enough of an edge (among other factors) to currently be in a much better financial situation than most/all of our extended family. It’s awesome to see posts like this. Most people will never build their own home.

For those considering something like this, I would recommend the book Working Alone by John Carroll. He describes how to use clamps, ad-hoc frames and jigs to deal with sheets of plywood, roof beams, etc. without the benefit of a second pair of hands. Using his techniques I built a stand alone 10x12 storage structure (biggest that does not require a permit) that is the driest building on my property to this day.


As a developer, I'm so glad I didn't try to build my own house (even a tiny house) alone. Having just one extra person is worth so much. Building a house is a great project and one I hope to do again with my wife and kids some day.

My brother and I built my 390ft (+ loft) fully equipped, 16' tall tiny house: http://tinyhousemansion.com/

It's beautiful. How does it handle strong winds? That'd be my only concern with a design like that.

I currently have it strapped down to anchors in cement blocks. However, it did fine for a couple years without anything.

It looks like the entire thing is made of chipboard and planks of wood? Is it a temporary building? How long does that last?

A house like that will easily last over a century if you take care of it and do routine maintenance. Obviously that's assuming it's not destroyed in a direct hit by a tornado or a once in a century nearby massive earthquake (such a risk applies to a super tiny fraction of all US housing).

A friend of mine purchased a hundred plus year old wood house. The standards back then were non-existent, boards placed wherever, seemingly constructed stupidly in every possible regard, and it managed over a century regardless through routine maintenance. Keeping in mind that's starting from ~1900. Starting from the standards today, you should easily get over a century. Use a metal roof, replace it every 40-60 years depending, and just take care of it.

The thing old houses like that have in their favor is that the timber they are built out of is usually better quality than anything you could possibly buy today. Consequently a lot of things could be significantly overbuilt in a way you can't do today.

My house is 1880s vintage, and it's sorta post-and-beam, with 10x10 beams making up the frame, and double layers of 12" to 30" wide pine floorboards. You can't even begin to find lumber like that today, unless you've got a stand of high quality timber that's been saved out and not cut already, and a sawmill to do custom sawing.

And conversely, the thing that today's houses have in their favor is that there's a ton more engineering knowledge and testing applied to the materials and construction. They will last a very long time, and they will do better at resisting leaks, staying level, and operating efficiently.

Of course, at any time there are many poorly-built houses being made - it's not fair to compare only the old houses that have survived with the cheapest of current homes. And there are probably some "miracle materials" today that will be found to have big problems in practice, from lower-than-expected lifetimes to significant safety risks (c.f. polybutylene pipes, asbestos, lead paint).

Personally I enjoy living in a 125yo home. It's balloon-framed, and the joist spacing is inconsistent, and if you replicated this structure with modern lumber it would probably be dangerous. With 1890s-era lumber, it's just a little off-kilter. :)

I live in about a 200 year old house that's kinda sorta post and beam but nothing like 10x10s. And some really wide floor boards. When I had to do a major renovation I got some wider floor boards but they're still a lot thinner than some of the ones already in the house.

Well, you could probably find it. You definitely had more of the really large trees in North America as far as I know, historically anyway.

Today, building something with massive sturdy timber would likely not be much cheaper (if at all) than just building a concrete box.

Yeah, there's plenty of big trees left too. Stuff just gets cut smaller because no one wants to pay for extra size.

There's really no reason to use huge beams for house style construction. Decent wood is incredibly strong.

Not all wood frame homes are created equally.

This house seems to be employing OSB everywhere anything wider than a 2x4 is needed. I assume most of the criticism being voiced is in response to the OSB, not of the wood frame.

Something as common as a burst water pipe (there's snow on the ground in the video) is likely to cause severe structural damage to this home due to the liberal use of OSB, particularly in the joists.

OSB is a relatively modern invention, none of the history you mention is relevant to its application.

Timber frame houses will last a long time if properly maintained. The main source of decay is water or condensation getting into the structure and causing rot/mold - if you make sure that doesn't happen, the houses last for 100+ years

Don't forget about Termites! Whenever I fly into LA with friends from Europe, I have to explain what all the striped "circus tents" are.

And perhaps you can add another zero to that if you're careful:


This is how Americans build houses. And they sell them more expensively than the massive houses we build in Europe.

The timber parts of houses built in the UK look pretty much the same as this - eg engineered joists and OSB sheathing. I'd be surprised if these kinds of products (lighter and cheaper for the same strength) aren't used in at least some other parts of Europe.

What's being done in the video appears to be on the extreme low end of the budget spectrum. The use of OSB joists is not what I would consider the national norm today. Joists I believe are typically built from dimensional lumber of the Douglas Fir variety.

OSB is usually used in the sheathing alone, which can easily be replaced when needed (OSB can't get wet). On higher quality builds, plywood is used for the sheathing.

I've never seen a home with OSB joists, but most of the homes I've seen under the skirt of were built between the 1950s-80s.

Over time the average build quality has certainly diminished. OSB usage continues to increase despite its obvious problems. It's another casualty of population growth. Consumer goods are made of plastic, and your homes are increasingly made from glued together woodchips.

I’ve asked myself the same question. It seems to come down to cheaper, earthquakes, faster and easier to build and modify.

Engineered joists aren't "chipboard"; they're stronger and more expensive than dimensional lumber of the same size, and you can run utilities through them without compromising strength to the same degree. They're typically used because they can lessen the need for supports, allowing larger rooms and fewer columns. See here for more information: https://www.thisoldhouse.com/ideas/lesson-modern-framing-mat...

Chipboard is made from sawdust and is completely different in load-bearing ability.

> Engineered joists aren't "chipboard"

Not the joists. The flat panels he's making the floors and walls from - they're chipboard, or OSB https://www.quora.com/What-is-a-chipboard.

There doesn't seem to be anything solid in the house at all - no brick or stone.

The concrete foundation seems pretty solid to me.

Why does there need to be brick or stone? An all wooden building does better in earthquakes than a masonry building, as one example benefit. Another is that it's cheaper.

> Why does there need to be brick or stone?

I guess there must be no need at all, since Americans are happily building and living in these houses.

It's just so odd to people in countries where you are used to all four walls in every internal room being a foot of solid brick to think you would build houses out of what looks like sticks and not-much-more-than-cardboard. It seems so temporary.

What did the three little pigs teach us?

But as I say this seems to work fine for the Americans so it must be great in practice.

The OP video is from a Canadian FYI, so it's not just Americans.

Why would all four walls in every internal room need to be a foot of solid brick? That's so wasteful, and a nightmare for retrofitting with additional utility services. I get that you are used to it, but custom isn't a valid reason for things to be done a certain way. We need to go back to first principles. What's the best way to build a house? Well, in North America, wood is widely available, cheap, and builds a strong house that's resistant to earthquakes. Why would you use anything else? Also keep in mind that farmed wood is carbon neutral, while concrete and bricks are not.

And it's not temporary. Wooden houses will easily last centuries. Given how quickly technology is changing anyway, how long do you really need a house to last? Even one century is probably more than enough. Also consider that the average length of home ownership is 13 years; why does it matter what happens seven owners down the line after you're already dead?

Also, the moral of the three little pigs fairy tale is that hard work and dedication pay off, not that literally brick is the best construction material (it's not).

> Even one century is probably more than enough.

Well there you go - they're designed to be temporary - a fifth of houses in the UK are a century old or more, so from experience in this country we don't see a century as being 'more than enough' for a building to last and we use brick to achieve that.

Most mass builds are built like this

Pardon my ignorance but what are "mass builds?"

No, it's just how houses are build in the US.

Many new builds in the UK too, sadly.

At least there’s less chance of a hurricane there, though I wonder how they protect the wooden structure from the year-round damp climate.

Skipping ahead to the end, that architect is a disgrace. The walls bumping in and out, the front door hiding behind the garage, two halves of the house on different levels for no discernible reason, the false transverse roof, the hilarious 3rd-floor bumpout as if for a 13th-century princess's loo, this house is dense with really bad ideas. Some of them might be partially blamed on the goofy pie-wedges-around-a-pond subdivision lot, but better work could have been done even in this location. Also that lower floor is going to be dank. Hopefully they put real support studs in under the floor beams before they start installing appliances.

There's also Pure Living For Life channel on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChhBsM9K_Bc9a_YTK7UUlnQ where a couple builds timber frame house by themselves. They also made all the timbers from logs.

They are complete novices and make a lot of mistakes (and are honest about those), so don't take it as an educational channel. :)

Building your own house seems like a pretty common thing from where I come from (Eastern Europe). Nonetheless, the timelapses he does look really cool.

Exactly. My father built one himself, like his father did and he never even considered this something extraordinary...

I can remember being a kid when he did it; too bad I would never be able to this myself. He's kinda proud that his kid won't have do physical labour anymore, but it makes me sad nevertheless.

In my hometown it was very common for people to build their own house twenty years ago, ignoring all kind of permits. A lot of people worked in construction or were plumbers, painters... they worked patiently in the weekends and with a little help from friends, only sprinting at the moment of the concrete injection.

Even if the houses were illegal (there's an interesting background on why people takes that risk) the quality of the build and regulations compliance were OK, since the process is the same and done by the same people that builds legal houses.

Now there is a political nightmare around this question, but that's another story.

Haha, same in croatia (and other ex-yu countries), and there's plenty of infrastructure problems as a result. Just look at these 'favelas' in my town.


Or this guy in Bosnia that built a two-story house on top of a residential building.


Ah, it's the Balkans after all.

I see you're Spanish, but it was the same in Croatia. People built houses over a few weeks. In the 70s it was fairly normal to get some friends, call in some favors and build a summer house - illegally of course.

The old generation of houses has been legalized so the government got a fast influx of money, but a lot of them are ecological disasters and still stand.

That sounds so familiar. Except houses built weren't summer houses but primary homes and it was happening very recently, maybe it's still happening?

Legalization in our case is still a hot topic. There is a local party for people with illegal houses.

> there's an interesting background on why people takes that risk

At least in some cases, the reason was that paying the fine was quicker and maybe even cheaper than going through the municipal bureaucracy. People would even denounce themselves once the construction was finished.

Any time frame is quicker than waiting forever. More a problem of infrastructure than one of bureaucracy.

The town had plenty of land available. Data here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiclana_de_la_Frontera

But unless you owned 1 ha, regulations required an urbanization project. There weren't enough of them to cover a population that doubled in fifty years.

I see your house and raise you a castle https://www.youtube.com/user/JMEMantzel

There is another youtuber who is building a house[1] - it's not on his own but he is documenting every step and it is interesting to see what goes into it. At this stage the lot has retaining walls up, and basic plans for the structure itself have been drafted.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGCC-_Cuhhw&list=PLRZePj70B4...

This guy is building a cathedral on his own:


In India, we mostly build using 100% concrete no woods -- I don't know why this difference.

Cost of wood and weather. But probably mostly cost of wood.

Might be heat. 100% concrete is the norm in Florida too.

In my small town in India some miscreants burn down a big old wooden house at a popular tourist place and now that place is in ruins.

Labor costs and cultural differences

maybe bigger durability in rain seasons each year plus in earthquakes

Could it just be availability?

Watching self-build/contractor videos on YouTube is how I relax at night. Here is another guy who is building his own house bit by bit:


He isn't even wearing a hard hat. That's an OSHA violation.

I watch the video about him installing the stairs, and I cringed half the time. The guy is very close to injuring or killing himself.

He’s Canadian, so OSHA doesn’t apply. Even if he were in the US, it seems he’s an independent contractor and not an employer, so he would be exempt.

I don't know about Canada/US, but I think the equivalent OSHA / H&S stuff only applies to employees typically over here, what you get up to as a self employed person is your own lookout.

OSHA is ridiculous, nobody actually does everything it stipulates. It's a CYA set of regulations. Under perfect circumstances, with money and manpower and equipment, and time enough, you could follow all that garbage. But most of the time, you don't have any of that, and shit needs to get done, so you do what you can, as safely as you can, and accept a little risk.

I like that there is an attempt to provide construction workers with more safety. The only problem would be insufficient enforcement allowing some contractors to underbid for projects causing a shortage of money and manpower. The other alternative is a race to the bottom where desperate people choose between taking unnecessary risks to put food on the table or not work. This would only seem to benefit the wealthy.

Is getting shit done worth the life or life quality (injuries) of your workers worthwhile? No, OSHA is not ridiculous, its about making an occupations safe for people. The people that share your attitude often have never worked in a place where your negligence can lead to anothers death. This isn't about the big bad government making your life hard, or CYA. Its about making sure your work mates get home to see their families every day.

One problem is people underestimate risk. Not wearing a hardhat is often viewed as a minor risk at best - your chances of being hit by falling debris when you're working alone is nearly zero. But a single blow to the temple can kill you, or worse, debilitate you for the rest of your life.

You can't get shit done when you can't remember how to work.

I have built 3 houses acting as my own contractor. I highly recommend that approach. Managing about 17 subcontracts, ordering supplies, finances, and dealing with problems is a lot of work. I once estimated that building one myself would take me about 10 years. As my own contractor it took about a year. If you are serious about being your own contractor, find an adult education course on the owner-built home and take the course repeatedly until you are done.

Only watched the first couple of videos - but they don't sell ladders in Canada?

The tightwire act with one arm and his head run through the wall frame and a full story drop on either side was especially entertaining. Please don't die!

Does anyone know what are the exact materials used? I'm so used to concrete/bricks/blocks around the area where I live, that this makes me wonder whether it will bear against a stronger winter (while I know the video was filmed in the winter) or wind. Can someone share their experiences with this type of a house? Also, are all houses in the states built like this?

It is called Stick Frame construction https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framing_(construction) and is the default construction method in the US in areas without much seismic activity and fewer termites. It is a modular system where you can buy all the materials needed ready-made at big box stores like HomeDepot, Lowes or Menards. Professional builders get better prices at their lumber yard. It is very DIY friendly, and if you want to change something (build an addition, change the floor plan, etc.), it is easy to do without getting the sledgehammer out to destroy brick/concrete walls. The standard wall size has enough space to put insulation in the cavities, although it is not much. Building codes require at least R13 in colder areas, but that depends on the areas the house is build. You can build with more cavity space and have superinsulated outer walls that are good enough to qualify for an energy efficient rating like "Passivhouse".

Source: Moved to the US a couple of years ago and researched a lot of building techniques to be able to work on my own house.

Yes, most houses in the US and Canada are built using these types of materials. Specifically they are:

- A poured concrete foundation. (Sometimes blocks are used.)

- Dimensional lumber - spruce/pine/fir cut to standard dimensions for structural members (rafters, studs, joists, posts, beams).

- Engineered lumber - structural lumber that looks like plywood, strandboard, or combinations thereof but is designed to bear significant load in horizontal or vertical structural applications. This stuff lets you build stronger structure in less space than simple dimensional lumber, and there's a huge range of products for different applications.

- Panels - OSB or plywood manufactured panels (typically in 4x8ft sizes) are typically used for roof decks and wall sheathing.

- Housewrap and siding - to seal the exterior against water and air leaks, and provide a nice-looking exterior covering.

- Insulation - because there are nice big cavities inside of a wood-framed wall, that's a natural place to put insulation. Fiberglass is the most common, but foam, cellulose, and rock-wool products are also frequently used.

This is in Canada, a country that is not exactly known for mild winters. I grew up in a place that sometimes hit -20 to -40 degrees C with huge amounts of snow in similar houses. It comes down to insulation and waterproofing.

Ha! He's trying to hide the location so OHS stays off his back, but he's maybe giving too much away (Footage of the neighborhood, -30C, etc). Hope he doesn't get in trouble.


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