Friday, June 27, 2008

Have You Ever Built a House?

One time in 9th Grade Shop Class I built a dog house sized house out of balsa wood and glue. Well, I guess I should say that my group and I built the house. I did get to take it home though ... where I'm pretty sure my friends and I smashed it! But, now we are inching ever closer to building our own house. I think if you would have asked Becca and me eight years ago if we would be building and house and starting a farm all at the same time we would have said you were crazy. We have always wanted to live in the country on a quiet road with some animals for fun, but back then something like this wasn't even on the radar.

We have been married for just over seven years now, and during that time we have lived church owned property for just of six of those years (we lived in an apartment for around 10 months). But, judging by the stack of wood and equipment that we saw at our farm on Wednesday night we are going to be living in our own place very soon.

This is pretty exciting stuff because we are carving our farm out of nothing. I often tell people that we are like the original homesteaders coming to Iowa and building their lives on bare piece of ground, because that is just about what we are doing. Except I think that maybe those early Iowa settlers had a little more building (and farming) experience that I have!

So, have you ever built a house ... or even more specifically have you ever built a house out of a pole barn? That is what we are going to be doing for the foreseeable future (with the help of family) and we would love to have any tips or hints that you have!
**A little update on our boar: After talking with our builder yesterday we found out that they were at the farm until a bit after five on Wednesday and he was still in his pen when they left. They did mention that he was panting heavily, but he had plenty of shade and water and even cool mud. We got out to the farm around seven that same evening so he couldn't have been out very long at all. Basically he was able to bend up the cattle panel between the fence posts (spaced 4 feet apart). I think there must have been something medically wrong with him, but we will never know for sure. Still hard to swallow...


Rich said...

I wonder if your boar could have had nitrate poisoning? Some of the symptoms of nitrate poisoning are labored breathing and collapse.

We planted some grain sorghum and I've been reading about possibility of nitrate poisoning when grazing the stubble lately.

More information with a list of typical high nitrate grasses and weeds can be found at:

Nitrate poisoning is usually associated with drought conditions, but cloudy days can also increase the possibility of producing a higher level of nitrates present in forages. It seems like I have heard something before about recently flooded pastures causing problems for livestock, so it is possible that high levels of rainfall and the resulting saturated soils could cause a similar problem.

Nitrate poisoning is usually associated with cattle and sheep, but pigs are less susceptible since they eat less roughage. But, a larger boar that is used to eating larger amounts of forage than a "normal" pig might be as susceptible to nitrate poisoning as cattle simply due to his higher consumption.

As far as I know, there is no way to be absolutely certain that nitrate poisoning was or wasn't the cause of your boar's unexplained death (and it is hard to treat when suspected).

Its one thing to lose an animal, but its even more disturbing when the death can't be explained (and is therefore harder to avoid in the future)

Kwan said...

Your blog is an inspiration, please keep it up. The house building sounds exciting. Im sure you'll come across a few surprises, and hopefully it'd just be enough to make it interesting! The advice I can give is to have a good, detailed plan. For example, don't put in all your upstairs windows before putting in drywall, etc. Also a good square foundation avoids many future problems, and lastly, rent or get laser levels and surveying equipment because string lines and bubble levels aren't so dependable. I also would be careful with those trusses, they can be warped if stacked wrong or pushed around too much.

Good luck!

Rich said...

I've remodeled a couple houses and built a 20x25 building from the ground up. One of the keys to building a comfortable and efficient building is paying extra attention to the insulating process.

The weak points in insulating a house are things like electrical outlets in the exterior walls, plumbing installed in the exterior walls, corners, and windows and doors.

Paying attention to little details while insulating will pay big dividends in the future. When I built the 20x25 building I placed small (4"x5") pieces of rigid foam insulation behind each electrical outlet box to eliminate the cold spots associated with electrical outlets (since the foam would retain a consistent R value throughout the wall). Rigid foam was also used to fill the spaces resulting after building headers, behind the electrical panels, behind plumbing in the wall, spaces in corner posts, etc.

Caulk and/or seal the edges of your vapor barrier (around windows and outlets), caulk the base plate of your exterior walls before installing your vapor barrier, make sure that your ceiling insulation extends past your exterior walls, use rigid foam to "beef up" the areas as I just described, and install a properly installed and sealed house wrap on the exterior of your building (not sure if that will be possible with a pole building).

Just think of any extra time or effort spent building your pole barn as learning the skills needed to build a future house even better and more efficient.

Ethan Book said...

Rich, thanks for the idea on the boar and for the building tips. That is some great information!

Kwan, I'm so glad you are enjoying the blog. Keep up the great comments! As far as the trusses go they are now sitting flat (instead of bowed over the other material) and will hopefully be up by Thursday night!

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