Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Thing About Bare Land...

The thing about bare land is that it is ... well ... it is bare, empty, and void of buildings! That is the case with the 40 acres that we are in the process of buying, so we will have to build everything that we are going to need. A house, storage, shelters, and fences will all have to be built because we are starting with a blank slate. On one had that can be a bad thing because of all the work that it will take to get things up and running, but on the other hand it gives us the opportunity to do exactly what we want exactly how we want to do it. I'm going to try and be the optimist and run with the latter of those two options!

Let me start with the easy stuff first ... One of the reasons that I brought up the fencing questions a little while ago on the blog is because I knew this land might be a possibility. You can get an idea of the land we are working with from the image at the top of the post. Initially I think we are going to fence along the road and the along the wooded area. I think with a little work the fence on the West side of the property could be usable, but we may end up putting up fence just inside of that and going with high tensile electric all the way around. Yep, right now I believe we will be going with high tensile electric. I'm not sure how many wires yet, now that I'm looking for it I am beginning to see it around quite a bit. In fact there is a PowerFlex dealer not to far away so I think we are going to check them out pretty soon. Once the boundary fences are established we will use all portable fencing inside and then eventually make a few more permanent fences if needed.

As far as storage buildings or livestock shelters go ... we will probably tackle those this fall or as needed. We may make some basic portable shade for the cows and beef up the chicken pen a little, but other than that the fence and the house are much more important building projects.

Which leads me to the house. This is the thing that is probably going to be the most stressful because we don't have a ton of budget to work with. We knew going in that we were going to have to choose between a larger chunk of land or a nicer house. As a family we decided that we wanted the land because we could always upgrade the house!

Right now we are looking at a 36 x 45 x 12 post frame barn (like the image on the right) that would be roughly 1600 square feet. Then we would build our living area inside that barn ... err ... house in an area around 1200 square feet leaving the rest for storage. Of course it would have a slab concrete floor and we would probably build a very small lean-to off the side with a cellar because we live in Iowa (tornadoes). Our house will have no air-conditioning and we will heat with wood in order to save money. We will install some electric base-board heaters for backup though.

We are still going through the plans and talking to builders about putting up the barn for us. Once it is up we plan on doing all of the interior work ourselves and building a bare bones home that will be full of love ... but not much else! This is were living simply and making sacrifices for what we believe we are supposed to be doing becomes real, and we are excited about the possibilities.

A few more details ... there is no electric, water, or septic on the farm, but the power and rural water lines are on our side of the road so it is not that big of a deal. Also, it is important to realize that right now we are looking at bare bones and no frills. In fact we see this as a temporary house or one that we can "fancy" up as we desire. Hopefully we will live in this barn for a while and then turn it "back" into a barn and a on farm store.

I would like to open up everything for discussion and suggestions though. I would especially appreciate and thoughts, links, or book recommendations that would help in the building of the barn/house. Do you have any great economical ideas on insulating a post frame/pole building? Let the discussion begin! :)


Anonymous said...

My dad is a contractor so I asked him about it. He said that for the insulation there is a foil looking type called Thermo Wrap, he believes. He said that it goes on your frame work and keeps the building from sweating when you heat using wood stoves. He said the people you have do the barn for you should tell you more about that.
If you are using typical 2x6 for the exterior walls he said to use R-19 and if you are using 2x4's then go with R-11. He said for your ceiling it would be cheapest to have rock wool or cellulose blown in for that.
He did recommend you checking into what your state calls for on the R- Factor for the insulation. Each state has it's own I guess. Missouri's is 30 he said. So, he thinks with you all being in Iowa it should be very close to the same. Hope this helps ya out some:) Love the Barn Idea though:)
Good Luck
Bradley Family

Steven said...

Sorry, I don't have a lot of ideas on insulation but there is a local woman near here that designs and sells pre-manufactured homes. Really it is just a kit to build your own house. I was really interested in them until I realized what it would cost to finish out the house after it was "built". I thought about them again because you're looking for "simple" ideas. This is a quote from her website.
Rocio Romero LLC is committed to simplicity in design. We rigorously employ the principles of minimalism to
produce comfortable spaces with balanced proportions, clean lines,
and spaces that promote natural air and light. Through our
commitment to simplicity in design we produce homes whose
construction is straightforward and affordable.
Our firm is deeply rooted in the modern aesthetic."

Beware, theses houses look very "modern" but the square footage and shape is alot like what you're going to build so you could get some ideas from their floor plans.


Rich said...

I’m from central Oklahoma, and have noticed a number of barns like the one you are thinking about building locally. In the last few years, I’ve personally been involved in building a 30x50x10 insulated shop steel building, a 40x60x12 uninsulated steel building, and a conventionally built stick frame 20x25 building. In addition, I’ve also been considering building something similar to what you are proposing.

The 30x50 shop building was built with a steel frame, insulated with a form of roll fiberglass insulation, and has an older outdated HVAC unit in the corner that makes it reasonably comfortable year round (although I wouldn’t want to sleep out there). It has four double pane windows, but they seem to “sweat” around the metal frame of the barn when it is either cold or humid. If I was going to convert it to living space, I would want to insulate it with something like a spray foam insulation product, and I would want to address the window condensation issues. If I were building a new building to convert to living space I would probably use a “barn” with a wood frame instead of a steel frame in an attempt to solve some of the condensation issues.

The 20x25 building has 2x6 stud walls, was built as tight as possible, has high quality windows, and was insulated in the best way possible. This building can be heated with a candle in the winter and has a small window A/C unit that easily cools it in the summer.

I acted as the builder for both buildings, so I don’t know what it would cost to have either building built by another builder, but my feeling is that after addressing the issues with converting a barn to living space it might cost the same as building a conventional building. Regardless, I think there ARE advantages to converting a barn, such as a barn could probably be built quicker than a stick built building, building codes might be more “flexible” when converting a barn to living space, property taxes might be lower, etc.

I still haven’t decided what is the best way to build, just make sure you consider every potential problem. Of course, one option is a home kit from Australia that addresses some of the issues, and seems to be affordable.


You might get some valuable ideas from this site even if you don’t order one of their kits.

Ethan Book said...

Thanks for the input everyone! One of the things that we have been thinking about (because someone mentioned it) is turning the 2x6's (that run along the outside of the posts) flat and putting them between the posts. That would give us a place to attach interior walls and something to support insulation. We need to do some more research on it, but it is what one builder said they do when the build for post buildings for homes.

Any thoughts on how that would work?

Rich said...

Turning the 2x6's in the way you describe is similar to the way the steel buildings I built were constructed. 3x3 metal posts were placed 10' apart, 1.5"x3" steel purlins were welded between the posts, then the sheet metal was screwed to the 1.5" on the outside (and to the interior if desired.

I would want to make sure the 2x6 was solidly attached to the posts, but it would give you more room for insulation. If you are concerned about the structural integrity when building this way, don't forget that the ribs in your sheet metal form a part of your structure. The ribs act as "mini-studs", and stiffen your structure as you build it.

Building a barn is similar to building a boat. It starts out so flimsy you start to believe that it will fall down before you can finish it, but as each piece is adder it gets stronger and stronger until it seems like it will stand forever. Of course, a boat can sink, so its not EXACTLY the same as building a barn.

Yeoman said...

Ethan & family:

#1. Congratulations on the land!

#2. I'll confess I'm a little jealous.

#3. On your building, hereabout a lot of folks will temporarily put up some sort of trailer to live in. Is that an option?

Ethan Book said...

Yeoman, we have thought about putting a trailer on the land, but just started leaning towards the post frame building so we could easily add on or update as the money becomes available. We are planning on going BARE BONES to the extreme. Not many cabinets, not duct work, and cheap flooring.

If that isn't going to work out a trailer will land on the place most likely.

Thanks again everyone!

Yeoman said...

I don't blame you at all. I don't care much for trailers myself, except for the kind you drag along with you on trail, and that's a bit different.

nt moore said...

Congratulations on the land.

Regarding a house, have you looked at shelter-kit?


Its similar to a timber-framed structure, but it comes pre-cut, which would cut a lot of time out of the chiseling stage.

Out of curiosity, how far out of town did you have to look? Locally, we have to looke 20+ miles for values to drop into the affordability range.

Ethan Book said...

nt moore - If you check out today's post you will see I talk a little bit about why we picked that place. But, more specifically we were prepared to look out about 10 miles and maybe a little more. With my work in town at all different hours (youth ministry) it is about all we felt possible. We we would have been willing to go out about 20 miles we could have bought 40 acres with a double wide and a huge pole building for $120,000 (maybe less because it has been listed for a long time). But, only 15 acres of that land could have been used as pasture and it would have flooded easily because it has a creek running through it. The rest of the land is a steep wooded hill. But, yep it would have been a lot cheaper!

On the other hand there is land comparable to ours that is 20 to 60 miles away and it is only slightly less to quite a bit more!

Kramer said...

I think it is very smart to go with a metal building as your home for now. For two reasons:

1. Property taxes. A metal building is not taxed the same as a residential home. Even though the inside is like a normal house, due to the outside, it is considered a barn so it counts as unimproved land. Many people in Texas are doing this now. Getting a basic metal building put up and turning the insides into nice houses.

2. Multi use. Like you said, live in it for some years till you can get funds to build a new house then turn it into a full fledge barn/store.

Powerflex is a great company. Every time you call you will get a person to talk to and they are very good on their shipping and prices. I pretty much buy everything but my wire from them. Their wire is cheaper than anywhere else but the freight is a killer.

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