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Old 08-08-2010, 12:16 AM   #41
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(snip)Maybe a central vac? They aren't cheap, but they can be convenient. And, the dust-filled effluent gets sent outside your home's conditioned air spaces--good riddance!(snip)
I was given an old Royal upright as a gift years ago. All the central vac system needed for the house I have in mind would be to make one of those fabric sculptures to turn an upright vacuum into a housemaid for it, and leave it parked in the corner plugged in at all times. Unfortunately this version of a central vac doesn't have the advantage of shooting all the dust outside the house.
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Old 08-08-2010, 12:23 AM   #42
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(snip)Husband & I saw this at the Seattle Home Show. This, or something like it, would be worth exploring: www.fabcab.com Note that it is accessable. (If the link give you an OOPS just click on Home again)
I saw the FabCab too. I really liked it, but those big timbers would be more than I could handle. I think it also had too much glass in the facade both for my personal taste (it would be like living in a fishbowl) and for the climate (too much heat loss in the winter). The small and simple floor plan with a shed roof is very much the way I've been thinking though. Did you see the "NW Modern" at the Home show in, IIRC, fall 2008? That's actually a park model RV but it was another nice layout.
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Old 08-08-2010, 12:44 AM   #43
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No baseboards.(snip)
What do you use instead at the joint between flooring and wall finish?
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Old 08-08-2010, 12:52 AM   #44
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Personally I am a big fan of having a large combination laundry room, dressing room, and closet. The idea is that you can take the laundry out and hang it up (or put it in baskets on shelves or in dressers) without having to carry it anywhere.

I nearly have this situation now, with my laundry closet in the hall by the entry of my dressing room where my closets are. It sure makes my daily life easier than in some previous homes.

This idea would almost be an extension of Samclem's idea of "no closet doors" if you just put the rods upon which to hang your clothes, along one wall. You could still see all your clothing when you are dressing.
There was another thread where this came up, about having the laundry near the closet. The laundry area in my townhouse is on the top floor between the bedroom and the bath. That's where almost all the dirty laundry is. It's so much more convenient than carrying everything down to the basement to wash, then back up again as in my previous house.
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Old 08-08-2010, 12:54 AM   #45
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If you are interested in metal siding/roof you might consider a metal building. I know a couple of people who have started with a metal barn and finished it as a house inside.

With regard to handicap accessibility, bear in mind that the space required to really make it ADA compliant (if you choose) is quite a lot. We are building a house and started out wanting to have the master bath and a secondary bath both handicap accessible. It added several thousand dollars of cost to each room mostly because of additional space requirements. The 5 foot turning radius was requiring each bath to be much larger than usual.

We ended up scrapping the idea of accessibility in the secondary bath. We kept it for the master bath although the separate toilet room will be too small to be truly ADA compliant. However, the wall that separates it form the rest of the bathroom can be removed.

For the shower we elected to build one that one not have a raised threshold or door so that someone with a wheelchair could just wheel straight in. To achieve this requires a larger shower than normal since the floor needs to slope to a drain and it can't be too steep.

It did allow us to get rid of the shower door entirely since the shower is now 7 ft long.
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Old 08-08-2010, 01:11 AM   #46
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You might consider some of the more innovative construction ideas out there, especially insulated concrete forms (ICFs) or structural insulated panels.(snip)
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Another excellent suggestion. A home like that went up in our area recently. I would make a point of going slightly out of my way to take the route past it every couple of weeks to see the progress. (snip)
I have heard good things about SIPs but they are not a do-it-yourself method unless you already know how to operate a crane.

I'm planning on using straw bale for the walls, but I keep waffling back and forth between load-bearing and infill. Which I end up using may depend a lot on the permitting authority. Bales have high insulation value and are possibly more forgiving of low construction skills than some other materials, and they can make a safe building even in a high seismic risk area, which western Washington is. Here's a really impressive video of a designed to replace more traditional building materials in Pakistan after the big earthquake there a few years ago. Maybe just watching this video will be enough to convince the inspector.
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Old 08-08-2010, 10:57 AM   #47
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I have heard good things about SIPs but they are not a do-it-yourself method unless you already know how to operate a crane.
But ICFs don't need a crane, but you will have a cement truck come to the sight (something you'll need anyhow for a foundation):

Home Construction - Insulated Concrete Forms
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they are made of expanded polystyrene - similar to the white, insulating foam used for take-out coffee cups. They either stack together like giant interconnecting, toy building blocks or are separate panels connected with plastic ties.

During construction, the forms are filled with concrete, becoming a permanent part of the wall assembly as well as adding a two-inch thick layer of foam insulation to each side of the wall. Reinforcing bars can be added for earthquake safety.
DIY a house (even a small one) is a huge undertaking. I think I'd welcome any opportunity to 'outsource' most of the labor of constructing walls to a cement pour operation.

Plenty of other benefits also:
Quote:
Boasting an R-value of 21 and up, foam block walls are so well insulated that manufacturers predict a home's monthly heating and cooling costs can be reduced up to 75 percent. As a result of the added insulation, the size of the home's heating and cooling system could be reduced by as much as 50 percent. The walls are fire, earth quake and termite resistant, and the layers of foam insulation provide excellent soundproofing as well as backing for drywall on the inside and stucco, lap siding or brick on the outside.
Good luck, whatever choice you make! I know that the pace I tackle remodeling projects, or even maintenance projects around here as I get older, I couldn't even think about building a small house, or even a garage for that matter. It would never get finished.

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Old 08-08-2010, 11:02 AM   #48
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What does everyone think about running coaxial, phone, and T1 into every room of the house? I think that would help with resale value. Also, I know a lot of people that wire for surround sound as well. I don't know if it fits "universal design" but I think its best to keep your house as flexible as possible.
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Old 08-08-2010, 11:10 AM   #49
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What does everyone think about running coaxial, phone, and T1 into every room of the house? I think that would help with resale value. Also, I know a lot of people that wire for surround sound as well. I don't know if it fits "universal design" but I think its best to keep your house as flexible as possible.
A couple of years ago I would have said "absolutely", but it appears wireless is the wave of the future. Not much need for phone or T1 wiring in all rooms today...
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Old 08-08-2010, 11:21 AM   #50
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If you truly mean you want to build the house "by yourself," I'd suggest you fully evaluate that position. Even lifting and positioning those straw bales is more than 50% easier with two people. Unskilled labor can be hired cheaply in most places. On the other hand, having someone present who has experience in whatever method of construction you are doing is worth a lot.

Every environment has it's building challenges. In the PNW it is liquid water and water vapor control. Strawbales can work there, but it's not the first location that comes to mind if a long-term durable house free of mold issues is desired.
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Old 08-08-2010, 11:58 AM   #51
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Re: pre-wiring a house: when we did a full gut and renew on our home we ran multi-pair phone lines, network cable to three locations, and tv coax to something like a dozen locations including the garage. Ten years down the line we use two network prewires and ran new wire to another location. We can plug in phones about anywhere but mostly use multiple cordless phones and a base station. The painstaking tv prewire with amplifier and resistors every so many boxes is unused - satellite tv has it's own co-ax cable of a higher grade than the stuff I used. One good thing I did was to run an empty plastic electric conduit from the house to the garage as well as a couple empty conduits into the breaker panel for future electrical add-ons. Also stubbed gas lines to potential barbecue as well as to dryer, stove, and fireplace locations.

Innovative/interesting/unconventional construction/materials cost time and money. Lack skills? Build what every other builder in your area is building. That way you can get help from them or Home Depot at a reasonable cost. The more custom you get the more cussing you will do. It was amazing to me how much easier building a new garage (even with board and batten barn board siding and old windows and a church door) was compared to rebuilding our home with very little square or of common modern dimensions.
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Old 08-08-2010, 12:32 PM   #52
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One thing I learned when we built 16 years ago is that the data wiring ALWAYS changes, what was state of the art then is inadequate today. Install the data wiring in conduit large enough to replace the wires. Watch the contractor like a hawk, they will often do what is convenient (cheap) for them and say "sorry, too late now".
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Old 08-08-2010, 03:17 PM   #53
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Yes, definitely at least put empty conduit in many places throughout the house, run it up the wall to the attic or down the wall to the basement/crawlspace. Just put a J-Box and a blank plate the wall. It might come in handy later and you'll feel like a genius when it happens.

Likewise, if you have a driveway, lay 2 or 3 empty conduits under it before the pour. You know you'll eventually want to run water, electricity, a data line, or some other thing to the other side.

I'd even argue for a second (empty) sewer line to the street while the excavation is open. Tree roots, backhoes, pipe failures, etc can render one inop, and digging it up can cost a lot. Another 4" PVC pipe laid under the primary and also tied into the main line but dead-headed next to your slab might cost an extra couple hundred bucks but save you many thousands (and a few trees and a week of nonflushable toilets) down the road.

Almost any open ditch is an invitation to add a few options for later at very small cost. And during the fill-in, be sure the contractor buries plenty of caution tape and tracing wires to reduce the chances for expensive and dangerous accidents later.
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Old 08-08-2010, 03:41 PM   #54
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A couple of years ago I would have said "absolutely", but it appears wireless is the wave of the future. Not much need for phone or T1 wiring in all rooms today...
I agree on the phone lines, but I would (and did) run coax and Cat6 to most rooms, especially anywhere you might someday have a TV or a computer. Wireless is fine, but for the foreseeable future high def, 3D, etc will need a wider pipe. Whatever the network version of Moore's Law is, I suspect the appetite for bandwidth will continue to outstrip wireless's ability to farm it out. It's not very expensive, it's not very hard, and I think it's worth it.

Of course if you are going to be in the house alone with no shared networking, wireless will probably do you just fine.
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Old 08-08-2010, 05:44 PM   #55
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All this talk about houses really tires me out. Been thinking I might be happy in a small class C motorhome, which I can roll off a cliff when it gets old, and just get another.
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Old 08-08-2010, 05:55 PM   #56
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All this talk about houses really tires me out. Been thinking I might be happy in a small class C motorhome, which I can roll off a cliff when it gets old, and just get another.
Roll it off a cliff? Naahh. Just put it up on blocks in the driveway and rent it out. Extra income.
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Old 08-08-2010, 06:54 PM   #57
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What do you think about these ideas?
Sustainable Shipping Container Homes
One of the other lists I read has a plan for using bales to insulate a shipping container. The original building was used for seed storage, not living in. I've always found it a fascinating idea but don't have the metal working skills it would take to make a container into a living unit. You need to be able to cut holes for windows and so on and that's completely outside my knowledge. But I might do it for one of my outbuildings or some thing like that, just to see if it would work in the NW climate. The original bale-wrapped container is in San Diego.

good looking but mighty pricey.

I still haven't decided on what kind of foundation. I want to avoid concrete as much as possible, but if I do end up needing a full perimeter foundation, surface bonded concrete block is about the only way I can think of I'd be able to build it myself. The only thing is, I don't know how a block foundation could be made wide enough for a bale wall, which is at least 18" thick even using the smaller size bales stacked on edge. The same question arises with ICFs, which I've also looked at for making foundations.

I think the drain pipe house is an interesting idea. I don't know how I'd like living in a below-grade house. I had a basement apartment once, which wasn't bad. The floor inside was about 4' below grade, so it had windows on three sides, and a drainpipe house could probably do so as well. I find other sorts of houses more appealing, though.
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Old 08-08-2010, 07:05 PM   #58
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Floors and flooring:
Concrete slabs are pretty darn maintenance free IF they don't crack and if you don't have a water pipe break underneath them. You can avoid the first problem by hiring a really good contractor to do your slab, and ensuring he preps the lot correctly, uses high quality concrete, and uses appropriate steel reinforcement.
Sounds like two mighty big "ifs" to me. Concrete has such high embodied energy too. I probably won't be able to avoid it completely but I probably won't do a full slab.

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Basements: I like my basement, but if I were building from scratch I don't know if I'd have one. The conventional argument is that (in much of the country) you have to dig down at least 3 feet to get below the frost line, so you might as well dig farther down and get another level for "free." In truth, it's far from free (moving dirt costs a lot of money, and you still have to build walls, just like you would above grade). And what do you get at the end of the process? Some living area that is dark and possibly prone to flooding/condensation of the walls, etc. There are "new" methods to build directly on a slab with a thickened edge and have no problems with frost heave even in very cold areas. It's done by insulating the ground outward from the home using buried "wings" of rigid insulation. The natural heat from the ground warms the ground under the house and keeps it from freezing. The technique has been used in Scandinavia for many, many decades and it works great. It also saves money during construction. If you want the added square feet offered by a basement, it is cheaper to build it above grade. For more info, see the oikos site for a start. Based on what you've said, I think you'll like a lot of the ideas at that site.
Frost-protected shallow foundations are also on the list of possibilities. Actually, the ground rarely freezes very deeply here. About the most I've ever seen was around a foot deep, and winters are even milder when you get closer to the coast.

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Flooring: The acid-dyed concrete floors look great to my eye, but they do require re-sealing every few years. You might like cork. It's natural and renewable (though most of the flooring does contain artificial binders/glue), it feels really good underfoot, and it is fairly durable. I know vinyl has a bad reputation, but I like very much the high-quality sheet vinyl floor in my kitchen and bathrooms. No grout to clean, wipes up easily, doesn't break my dishes when I drop them, and it wears well. I think you are smart to avoid wall-to-wall carpet. I like our real hardwood floors. A few throw-rugs (pick them small enough to wash at home and you'll do it more often) for the spots where your bare feet demand it.
Cork is one possibility. Real hardwood, bamboo, or (real) linoleum are other possibilities. All of those materials are available in click-together floating-floor format. I think linoleum is also available in self-sticking tiles or full sheets (although I don't know if the latter is available for DIY). Or there's always poured adobe. I doubt that meets the "low maintenance" requirement though.
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Old 08-08-2010, 07:24 PM   #59
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Not true, at least the few minutes part. It takes quite while to scrub the fingerprints out.If you just rub it with a sponge and get the fingerprints out you end up with splotches that look worse than the fingerprints. If you use the stainless polish stuff you have to be careful not to leave too much on or your fingerprints will be worse the next time. We have stainless on our fridge and dishwasher, and it's truly a pain to keep looking new. If you don't care, not a problem. But I would recommend white. Chips are really seldom a problem, and a little enamel paint fixes them right up.

Aso, just fyi, the composite deck material needs to be pressure washed pretty much every year, unless you live in a very dry climate. They get mildew spots fairly easily, but clean up nicely with a light pressure washing. Still lower maintenance that wood, but not no maintenance. (snip)
Duly noted
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Lastly, don't make yourself miserable with to small a home, just to decrease housework. You'll end up unhappy when it's easy enough to just clean up as you go to keep things neat.(snip)
It may be easy enough, but that doesn't mean I would do it. The amount of cleaning that I have proven willing to do is not enough to keep a 1000 square foot house presentable. I can either design a house that's small enough to stay presentable with the amount of cleaning that I am actually likely to do, or one that I know from the outset will require a significant change of habits on my part if it is to do so. To me, that sounds uncomfortably like setting myself up for failure, which I've done often enough before that I don't want to do it again. And it's easier to add on to a house that's too small, than to delete space from one that's too big. If the house turns out to be too cramped, I'll add a room or an outbuilding.
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Old 08-08-2010, 07:35 PM   #60
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Have at least one very wide doorway so large things can come and go easily.
You may even want to consider all doors being wide. I think 36 inch is what you would need, you check to be sure though.
A friend of mine built what he considered to be his last retirement home (He & DW still live there today) and designed the whole house for the possibility of being in a wheel chair. I thought that was a great idea because it is cheaper and better to do this as you build rather than to try a remodel later when the chips go down and you need it quickly. Rest rooms always seem to have very narrow doors for example, not good.
Just a thought that popped in my mind from many years back as I read this thread.
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