Gathering materials for the tiny sun house

26 Jul

In an effort to minimize my energy consumption and impact on the local landfill, I decided to build this house out of reclaimed materials and items wherever possible. Used lumber requires no trees to be cut down; used appliances require no new plastic, metal, or energy whatsoever. And keeping these items out of landfills is a good thing: I saw a government study that says 41% of our landfill content is construction materials.

I found other benefits I had either not expected or not considered.

First, working with dried lumber is much better than new 2×4’s from Home Depot or the like — when you’re done cutting new commercial grade lumber and you come back the next day to frame it, the boards are all different lengths. The new green lumber is also generally pretty warped. Older wood is also of a higher quality as the growth rings are much more dense. And new pressure-treated lumber gives off all kinds of nasty chemicals, so much so that there are health warnings on most of it, advising you to seal your home to prevent inhaling any of the chemicals. Scary!

Also, used or reclaimed materials are less expensive, or are even free. Check out freecycle.org, craigslist (especially the free subsection under ‘For Sale’), ReUseIt, your local newspaper or Penny Saver, and garage/estate sales.

As I looked around at what was available to use to construct my house, I realized building a little house like this is within reach of a lot of people who never would have thought they could either own a house or build one. Not everyone has $50,000, $10,000 or even $5,000 to build a home.  Even when it comes to free or inexpensive items, many people only get a half hour lunch at work and can’t take time off to go run errands. And many people are single parents who have a narrow window of time to make pickups between getting off work and putting the kids to bed.

I resolved to build my house in a way that serves as an example – and hopefully inspiration and encouragement – to people who have the desire but limited money, time, knowledge, and/or confidence.  I’m going to gather as many free materials as possible on my way to or from work, or on weekends.

If you have a dream of building your own house, be it tiny or large, I hope I can give you the encouragement and assistance to begin. I have no construction experience whatsoever myself, but I know I can do it. I know you can, too.

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