From Washington to Maine: Building A House for the First Time
In April 2007 my wife and I, both in our thirties, left our home town of Point Roberts, Washington and moved across country to the small town of Belfast, Maine. With little construction experience (we’d remodeled a condo, our old cottage in Point Roberts, and built a first-rate shed and chicken house, which really ignited our desire to build) we took on the challenge of designing and building our own house. Since we were on a $125,000 budget (we already owned the land) and tend to enjoy a good challenge we did as much of the work as we could safely do ourselves, which we’re delighted to write was most of it.
Knowing that we were moving to a cold climate we took a broad approach to energy efficiency incorporating passive-solar design, spray-foam insulation (Icynene), energy-star rated windows, and energy efficient appliances, including an on demand electric water heater. We also use a mixed-fuel heating system that includes a wood stove that allows us to use wood from our land combined with a forced-air propane back-up. Although tall, the house has a modest but comfortable 24′ x 32′ footprint with an additional 8′ x 16′ lean-to utility room.
Our house continues to be an incredible learning experience and a great deal of fun as we complete the finishing work. A year and a half later we’re nearly done!
Our First House, Built from the Ground Up!
For our newel post we followed a Fine Homebuilding article by Gary Striegler that worked easily and went together handsomely. A little trim and paint and it will be a fait accompli!
This is our kitchen in progress. We wanted to include plenty of windows to allow natural light and thick maple counter tops to add a farmhouse feeling.
This is a second photograph of our kitchen in progress. With the face framing complete we are currently building our cabinet doors.
This is our hearth and chimney, the heart of our Maine house. It was crafted by a local mason out of Searsmont stone from a nearby quarry. The stove was our sole heat source for our first Maine winter and kept us comfortably warm from the basement to the attic. With our spray-foam insulation we used less than three cords of wood!