How to build[edit | edit source]
If you find an "abandoned farm" on which the buildings are worth more than the whole price asked, as frequently happens, you are all right. Even if the buildings are somewhat dilapidated, you can fix them up for a few dollars. But in buying small plots of ground,larger farms have to be broken up. If you buy from the resident owner, he may sell you five acres off his larger tract, and keep his house to live in. Certain it is that if a farm of 100 acres is subdivided into twenty five-acre farms, at least nineteen new houses must be built, although sometimes an old barn can be made into a fair residence.
If you can do no better, it is possible to start by tenting. An outfit large enough for a family of six would be about as follows:
1 wall tent with fly, 10 X 14, for sleeping 1 wall tent with fly, 10 X 14, for dining
1 old cook stove (to be erected outdoors), 2 floors, 10 X 14, at $5 each
Brown tents, at least for the sleeping rooms, are best; they last longer, are cooler, and do not attract the flies; though indeed we need not have house flies if we keep the horse manure covered up--they are all bred in that. If the tents are in the shade, the cost of the cover or fly can be saved in the dining tent; but it is necessary in the living tent, because wet canvas will leak when touched on the inside. To make the tent warm for the winter, we must bank up to the edges of the platform with earth and cover the whole with another tent of the same shape, but a foot larger in every dimension. These are commonly used in Montana.
It is to be presumed that no one would attempt moving in without household utensils, which may be as simple or elaborate as you please. If there is a sawmill in the vicinity, a temporary shack for winter, say 22 X 30 feet, could be built for from $400 to $600,depending on the interior finish. Partitions can be made very cheap by erecting panels covered with canvas, burlap, old carpet, etc.
Such a building does not need to be plastered, but can be made warm enough by an inside covering of burlap, heavy builders' paper, or composition board. Tar paper laid over solid sheeting makes a roof that will last for two or three years. For such a shack draw the plans yourself. All you really need is a living room, bedroom, and kitchen.
A cheap and effective water supply can be gotten from a driven well,which in most places costs about one dollar per foot. Have it where the kitchen is to be, so that the water can be pumped into a barrel or other tank over the stove. With a good range you can have as good a supply of hot and cold water as you had in the city.
If so fortunate as to find a piece of land with a good spring on it,you can lay pipes and draw the water from that. If you can get twelve or fifteen feet fall from the spring to the kitchen, you don't need a pump at all.
For a toilet closet, build a shed four feet wide, six feet long, and eight feet high. Use a movable pail or box. Lime slaked or unslaked or dry dust or ashes must be scattered every time the closet is used. Always clean before it shows signs of becoming offensive: keep it covered fly tight and mix the contents with earth or litter, and scatter on the garden.
A shack can be built of logs which will do for comfort and will look dignified.
Horace L. Pike, in_ Country Life in America, _says: "The lot on which we meant to build our log house stood thirty-five feet above the lake. The problem was how to build a cabin roomy, picturesque,inexpensive, and all on the ground.
"The ground dimensions are thirty-two by thirty feet outside. This gives a living room sixteen by fourteen; bedrooms twelve by twelve,twelve by ten, and nine by seven; kitchen eleven by nine; a five-by four-foot corner for a pantry and refrigerator; closet four by six,front porch sixteen by six feet six inches, and rear porch five by five--705 square feet of inside floor space and 130 square feet of porch.
"A dozen pine trees stand on the lot, and maneuvering was required to set a cottage among them without the crime of cutting one. The front received the salutes of a leaning oak, the life of which was saved by the sacrifice of six inches from the porch eaves, the trunk forming a newel post for the step railing.
"We closed the contract immediately for 120 Norway or red pine logs,thirty feet long and eight by ten inches diameter at butts. The price was low--one or two dollars their like should have brought. We used, however, only eighty-one logs; forty thirty-foot, fourteen eighteen-foot, thirteen sixteen-foot, and fourteen fourteen-foot.
"Work was begun on April 22. Two days sufficed for the owner and one man to clear and level the ground, dig post holes, set posts, and square the foundation. The soil was light sand with a clay hardpan three feet down.
"Twenty-seven days each were put in by two men from start to finish,with assistance rendered by the owner. There were seven days by the mason, eight by carpenters, and four teen and one half by other labor. On June 4 the cabin was ready for occupancy, and the family moved in. The prices, as in most cases cited, are higher to-day.
Cheaper transportation or lower tariff may reduce them again.
"Making allowances for increased cost of logs and differences in any of the material cost, this cabin can be duplicated for less than $700 by any one who has the ground, a few tools, and some building ability. It is compact, convenient, and more roomy than a superficial glance reveals, and it can be occupied (slight care is required) from April to November with only the kitchen stove and the fireplace supplying the heat. The same plan can be used for an all-frame structure, perhaps at less cost. It could be sheathed and slab covered in a locality where slabs, edged to six or eight inches wide, could be had; or slabs could be used perpendicularly in the gable ends and on the outside of the rear extension."
We must not overlook the differences in cost of lumber and labor in different places, sometimes more than doubling nor the fact that different contractors will vary often twenty-five per cent in their bids.
A mere cabin, like a wooden tent, 12 X 10 with a platform adjoining,will accommodate one or even two persons and can be built by a contractor even at war prices for about fifty to one hundred dollars. This will serve for tool house or storeroom when a more convenient residence can be afforded. A number of such can be seen at "Free Acres," New Jersey, an hour from New York City on the D. L.
& W. Railroad.
Thoughtful provision and planning will go far to reduce costs. A stove pipe which should run up inside the house, not outside, so as to conserve heat and fuel, serves as chimney and fireplace. A Franklin stove, practically an open fireplace set out entirely inside the house, is a practical device, though it costs from $18 to $30. It gives a cheerful open fire to burn wood or coal and has a flat top to keep things hot, a clutch oven of sheet iron, and a bob can be attached to the front of the grate.
But remember that though you may have trees or fallen wood for the cutting it takes a lot of time to cut it. A cylindrical self-feeding coal burner is most economical for heating and a lined sheet iron cooking stove for the kitchen.
A fireless cooker, which retains the heat all day by means of soapstone or insulation and slowly cooks the food without losing the juices, is an economical device. It can be made at home by copying what you see in the stores or by getting directions from the U. S.
Department of Agriculture.
Don't forget double windows at least toward the north; and on all windows have heavy holland shades which make an air space between the cold windowpanes and the atmosphere of the room.
Portable houses sound attractive, but they do not pay unless you will need to move them. Manifestly it costs more to make a house like a trunk than like a shed. The houses shipped ready made of the "Aladdin" type, with all the parts ready marked to be nailed together by unskilled labor are a much better investment and are not shaky.
It is true that living is expensive in the train suburbs, when almost all that is eaten comes from the city, with freight and monopoly rates added. But one can raise most of what the family eats, and save besides in car fares and doctor's bills.
The rent, perhaps a quarter of the income, that was paid for a place so small that the cat had to jump on a chair when the baby sat down,will be a clear gain.
Mrs. Warrington's cottage at Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, forms a very interesting subject, and is built from designs of well-known architects of Philadelphia, who have taken up building small,inexpensive modern houses in a practical manner. The house is built with a stone foundation and a wooden superstructure with exterior walls covered with metal lath and cement stucco which is stained a cream color. The trimmings are stained a soft brown and the sashes are painted white. The roof is covered with shingles, and is left to weather finish. The front porch, from which a vestibule leads into the house, has a hooded cover formed by the main roof sweeping down sufficiently to form a protect tion. The vestibule forms an entrance to both the living room and the kitchen; the kitchen is at the front of the house, allowing the main rooms and a private porch to be at the south side. The interior throughout is trimmed with cypress and stained a soft brown. The second floor joists are exposed to view and are stained in a similar manner, while the ceiling space between the joists is plastered. A broad archway separates the living and the dining rooms, and while it forms a separation, it does not preclude the possibility, when desired, of throwing the two rooms into one large apartment. The large, open fireplace is built of clinker brick, and its facings extend from the floor to the ceiling;it has a wooden shelf supported on corbeled brackets. A semi-boxed stairway rises out of the living room to the second floor. There are three bedrooms with good-sized closets, and a bathroom on the second floor. A cellar, under the entire house, has a cemented bottom, and contains a laun dry. This house costs about $2000 complete.
Houses built of cement blocks are growing in favor. Cement blocks can be made anywhere by unskilled labor. All that is needed is a competent foreman to direct the making and seasoning of the blocks and laying them in the walls.
The cost of concrete compared to frame or brick structures is, if anything, all things considered, in favor of concrete. Houses built of wood are likely to become increasingly expensive because of the deforesting which is going on in all parts of the United States.
There are abundant books of plans and costs published, showing what may be built, and several responsible publishers recklessly offer to refund the cost of the plans if the expense of building the house exceeds their estimates.
There are also a number of manufacturers of ready-made portable houses, running in cost from about three hundred dollars for four rooms, upward. Some of these are adapted to all-the-year-round use and may be used where land is taken experimentally.