Debt Free Dream Home Build Story – Phase Two

Estate Sale, Off Grid Water System, Site and Material Planning, Buying A Sawmill, Buying A Backhoe, Tool Acquisition, Apprenticeship and Practice

Build Story Overview

The Debt Free Dream Home Build story is one of lofty ideas, impossible odds, tight deadlines, underdogs, not taking no for an answer and a beautiful, simple home built from a strong desire to be self sufficient and debt free. This is a 36×36, 3447 sq ft home with 3 levels built using principles of building science, high efficiency materials like ICF block, SIP wall and roof panels and a timber frame sawn, cut and raised on site in a blizzard. This owner build project started in 2015, broke ground in 2017 and is currently under construction.


Phase Two Overview

PLFL Build - Phase Two

PLFL Build - Phase Two

Phase Two Highlights

“Too Good To Be True” Estate Sale

Totally circumstantial, but some might say “it was meant to be”, we had an encounter with a gentleman who had lived our dream life. In his twilight years and wanting to be closer to his children he was downsizing and liquidating his amazing collection of high quality home building tools and materials. Literally name the tool, he has it.

What are the odds we’d meet this man at this exact moment in our journey? Too good to be true. Fearing the opportunity might slip away we kept in close contact and literally while in the Denver airport got the green light. It felt in many ways like a “passing of the torch” to keep these dreams and ideas alive. Who knew buying tools could be an emotional experience? It’s not the tools, it’s the sweat, tears, sacrifice, hope and memories they represent.

We’d like to think this gentleman would be proud of what we’ve built with these tools and that we too will likely at some point pass the torch.

2000 Gallon Gravity Fed Off Grid Water System

For the first year we carried water in 6 gallon jugs and used them to top up the onboard fresh water tanks on the RV. Fun, but unsustainable. Clearly needing a reliable source of water and wanting to facilitate off grid living we decided to leverage the elevation on our property by building a large, gravity fed water system.

With over 70′ of head available we’d be able to achieve close to 30psi at ground level. The design was influenced by a book we acquired that helps the reader see a water system for all of it’s utilities. This helps us consider system flushing, fire suppression, monitoring and freeze protection.

Consisting of poly direct bury tanks, a 2″ main line with isolation valves, a frost free fire hydrant and artierial plumbing we built a system which could be filled when solar was available or through a generator from any water source. Public water at first and eventually a well.

We challenged convention in the system design in many ways like the poly tanks, frost protection, fire suppression, 2″ poly main line, poly fittings vs brass etc.

Building Rock Separators to Filter Rock and Soil

They weren’t kidding when they said this property used to be a rock quarry! With all the earthwork and excavation projects in progress, and the ones to come, we either had to buy dirt, which seemed a real shame, or find some way to make our soil usable.

With the need, but not the budget, for a proper rock grizzly, we decided to try our hand at building one with materials and tools on hand. The size and quantity of rocks, or lack of soil, really took a huge toll on these gadgets so we had to rebuild the first version a couple times to get the project done.

The water project being nearly complete and potentially heading into a home build we needed to up our rock filter game and get through all the material to wrap up backfilling. A new rock filter 3.0 was built from the ground up. Watch out! Here we come rock and dirt! Our best rock filter yet!

Buying A Sawmill

One of the biggest tools in our arsenal to ‘stick it to the man’ and leverage value add was the acquisition of a sawmill. Knowing a timber frame home was in our future and not really knowing all the other untold ways we’d use a sawmill we knew we’d need one and a good one. Powerful, quality, reliable and versatile.

A visit to a local logging conference to check out the Woodmizer system put us in contact with a really fun and lovable sawyer, Rob. Rob gave us the scoop on the Woodmizer system and even obliged us with some really epic footage of the sawmill cutting and well, you’ll see. Haha, Rob’s a blast!

We discussed our needs with Woodmizer and away we went. The sawmill was on it’s way. To help others enjoy the arrival we set up a workshop to let others get involved in something most dream of, but few ever experience. Unboxing a sawmill? Enjoy!

Practice Sawmill Projects

Believe us, it doesn’t matter what time of year your new sawmill arrives it’s basically Christmas! Knowing we’ve got MAJOR plans ahead and with spring here and lots of projects in progress we’re wanting to work some of the bugs out of the sawmill idea.

Having never owned, or operated, a sawmill before we have a VERY steep learning curve. Since we had tackled numerous chainsaw milling projects before like building our hot tub deck and making lumber we had a clue, but the machinery is new and moving the log to the mill instead of mill to the log is a totally new endeavor with major risks and struggles.

When we say “practice sawmilling” what we mean is learning to become loggers (kidding), move and stage logs, mill and stage beams a lumber. Yea, let’s just say there’s some strips to be earned being a sawmill owner and this is only the beginning!

Backhoe Acquisition

There are simply too many of these ‘coincidences’ on this journey for it all to be simply ‘luck’. At a time we were looking to upgrade our truck to something more powerful and reliable we were also on the hunt for a piece of construction equipment that would help us with the untold number of projects ahead. What was on the market was either overpriced or junk.

Having rented equipment for all of the projects up to this point we were feeling both the financial strain and the scary stress that comes from having a clock running on your equipment usage. We’d also had more breakdowns than we can count on rental equipment jeopardizing more than once the entire project.

Seemingly unbelievable, and just sure it was a scam, the near perfect piece of equipment popped up on a marketplace. It was nearby, in good condition, priced fair and they would deliver. Could this be real? Join us as we acquire our first piece of equipment!

Apprenticeship and practice

Presented with the opportunity to join a work crew doing concrete gave real world experience and exposure to the lingo, the workflow, the tools and of course the problems that can arise doing formed footings, sidewalks, slabs and frost walls.

Knowing this would be incredibly helpful the owners chased the concrete crew to jobs all of the region looking for chances to be involved in form layout and setup, concrete pours, screed boards, floats and power trowels. Their expectation was to tackle the concrete work for the house foundation and this “in the trenches” experience would help them with the “takes no prisoners” world of concrete work.

They are extremely grateful for this opportunity and the wonderful friendships that have come from it.


Building Phases

Overview Debt Free Dream Home Build Story
Debt Free Dream Home Build Phase One
Phase 1 – Septic, Deck, Hot Tub, Solar, Learning, Test Projects, First House Plan, Timber Frame Workshop, Better House Plans
Debt Free Dream Home Phase 2
Phase 2 – Estate Sale, Off Grid Water System, Backhoe & Sawmill Acquisition, Site and Material Planning, Apprenticeship
Debt Free Dream Home Build Phase Three
Phase 3 – Excavation, Foundation, Plumbing, Radiant, Slab, Steel Beam, Hydronic Radiant Subfloor Framing
Debt Free Dream House Phase Four
Phase 4 – Sawmill Timber Frame, Plane & Stage 115 Piece Timber Frame, Timber Frame Workshop, Timber Frame Raising

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