Building on a Budget
"Our house may look expensive, but the reality is that we only have about $10 a square foot into it. The whole house cost about as much as the average new car. Yet I have seen some million dollar homes that looked like junk. Appearance, like energy efficiency, is more a product of design than of cost. You can take the same materials and arrange them poorly or arrange them well."
"With a combined income averaging $10,000 to $12,000 a year we lived simply and invested everything we could in building materials. Construction proceeded slowly throughout the process, due to our chronic lack of money. We moved into the house after the second summer, with no doors, few windows, and no insulation in the roof. Winter stopped about three feet from the stove. This might all seem a little rough, but I later realized that we saved at least $150,000 in interest payments by eliminating the need for a loan. That is not a bad wage for a couple years of camping out!"
--Thomas J. Elpel, author of
Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
and Green Prosperity: Quit Your Job, Live Your Dreams
The New Era of Self-Sufficiency
Building a Greener Future with Thomas J. Elpel
"With my background in survival skills, I recognized that it was fundamentally the same issue. We are all on one great survival trip, trying to figure out how to meet our needs for shelter, fire, water, and food - preferably without destroying the planet in the process. That really is the bottom line: How can we sustainably meet our needs for shelter, water, fire, and food without consuming all the earth's resources, without altering the climate, and without being enslaved to a meaningless job until we die?
The conventional route of getting a job and paying a mortgage doesn't really work. Conventional houses are way too expensive, and not even very good. Most houses require a furnace and constant inputs of fossil fuels to keep the pipes from freezing and breaking. The bathrooms are virtually guaranteed to rot out halfway through the mortgage. The walls are so flimsy that you can punch a hole through one with a fist. From the floor to the roof, there is an endless parade of ripping out, landfilling, and replacing carpets and cabinetry, furniture, and shingles.
It is any wonder that we struggle with resource depletion and global warming when every person in America is burning up the pavement running back and forth to a job that is generally bad for the environment, just to make a pile of money to throw at their home mortgage, utility bills, and endless repairs? What happens if we hit a recession and don't bounce back? How long can we maintain the illusion of being an affluent nation?
It made sense to me to focus on the basics and build my own house, figuring that if I had a place to live and no mortgage then I would be free to do whatever I wanted in life."
- Thomas J. Elpel,
The New Era of Self-Sufficiency
Keynote Speech - Alaska Bioneers Conference, 2011
Go to: Index of Home-Building Methods
I just wanted to thank you for sending me Living Homes so quickly! I greatly appreciate it. I am excited about using some of the techniques from it. Also, we have the Art of Nothing Videos that Tom has done and they are awesome!!! My husband and I both enjoy them very much. We have recently moved to the mountains of Kentucky to live "Our Dream". Thanks for helping to inspire us!