When you’re just starting out, you might think a home of your own is part of a future that’s far away. That’s not the case, though, if you’re willing to do enough of the work to make up the difference between the cost of a kit and the cost of a finished home. The self-build home kit offers this option: Your sweat becomes your equity.
Kits offer flexibility in style, construction and the level of finish -– how much work you want to do yourself. They come as domes, log homes, timber-framed homes and panelized homes. You can pick a home that best fits your landscape based on the kit’s design, shape and construction materials. Or you can go the other way so your ultramodern, steel-and-glass design provides a counterpoint to the lush wooded area in which you’ve chosen to build. Kits allow you a greater degree of freedom in design. You can tell the package maker that you want to include feature X or room Y from design Z in the kit-maker's catalog. The manufacturer will make the necessary changes to your design -- for an added cost, of course.
Wood and Logs
Timber frame or post-and-beam homes use horizontal beams or square timbers that are secured atop support posts to form the perimeter of the house. The roof’s rafters are attached to the beams to “dry in” the structure. Interior panels are then erected inside the weatherproof structure. These kits come as a ready-to-assemble shell, with limited interior features. Log homes are a more modern version of the traditional log cabin. Like old-fashioned log cabins, the pre-cut logs are stacked on top of one another, kept in place by the notches at the ends of the logs. In modern log-kit homes, though, holes drilled vertically along the length of the logs fit over long steel bolts that rise vertically from the foundation. These bolts prevent cracks from opening between logs to help ensure that the home remains weather-tight.
Fuller's Geodesic Dome
Based on a design by architect Buckminster Fuller, geodesic domes are triangles of wood, steel or aluminum that are attached to each other. Fuller designed the dome to be a simple-to-assemble, low-cost home for the future. The frames can be covered with any waterproof construction material and, like the timber-frame home, you can finish the interior after you’ve kept the elements out.
Steel and Panels
Panelized homes use a steel frame that you can assemble. After you put the frame together, you bolt the exterior wall panels in place to enclose the home’s interior. You then bolt the interior wall panels in place and finish the interior according to your tastes.
All kit homes require construction skills. When the kit arrives on the back of a flatbed truck, you have to unload it, assemble the support system and attach the walls and roof. If you're lucky, you'll have neighbors or friends who are willing to be part of an old-fashioned “barn raising," and you'll have access to heavy equipment, such as a crane, to set the rafters in place for every kind of home except the geodesic dome. If your local government requires that electrical and plumbing work be done by licensed professionals, you’ll have to cough up the cash for those services.
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