My house

elkimmeg Posted By elkimmeg, Dec 7, 2005 at 3:38 AM

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  1. elkimmeg


    I built this house to be energy efficient, before many even gave thought of most of the ideas I implemented into this house. My first plan was to find a lot that had a hill and faced southerly. I built the house into the hill and had 4 sliding doors facing south, to take advantage of passive solar radiation. I usually do not require heat during the daylight time on sunny days in the winter. By building into the hill the natural warmth of the ground does two things. It never goes below 55 degrees so that is the point where I start heating. In the summer the same ground 55 degrees helps keep it cool. If one can notice by the picture I have a 4’ overhang. By studying the suns angles I correctly figured that its lower angle in the winter and all the trees loosing leaves would allow maximum sun light into my house. The 4’ overhand shades the sun in the summer due to its higher angle. Situated in the center is my fieldstone chimney wood stove and separate fireplace. The mass of the 16” thick fieldstone absorbs heat from the wood stove and radiates heat long after the stove has burned out. Plus heating up the flue and stone also radiates heat to the upstairs as well. So actually the walk in is where most people have cellars but I have oak floors and plastered walls, just like everybody else. The next concept was to limit windows facing north (Greatest heat loss exposure). All exposed walls were built with 2/6 with high R ridged Styrofoam insulation, and insulated with R19, giving me an r value (Walls) R26, Twice the r-value of all 2/4 framed homes today, Attic ceiling R38.
    All windows were double glazed Andersons. Even before double-glazing was required by code 6 years latter.

    I hand built this house with very little help. It took a year using all my spare time to do it. In fact I slept in a tent there while building it. I personally stick built it including all plumbing, (heating 3 zones FHW) wiring, masonry. Excavation and landscaping, Hung the blue board, but the only two sub contractors I hired was the plasterer and well company. From time to time, I had advice with the plumbing, heating, and wiring aspects of it, but I did all the work. The boiler, not a builder special, but a cast iron boiler with a heat retention and automatic damper, to keep in the heat longer, the most efficient way to do it back in 1977. When I moved in the week before Christmas the bench saw was still setup in the kitchen. My wife Ellen pregnant, and my first daughter Kim 2 days after Christmas, Even all the moving I did by myself, as my wife’s condition could not
    Lift anything.

    To the right of the picture: Two years later I built the foyer porch entrance with Ellen’s sewing room above and the two car garage. The window above is a greenhouse window, already started the garden’s seedlings. Two years ago I finished over the garage into a 3 room apt for my daughter to stay, including a full kitchen bath Living room and bedroom, separate electrical panel and FHA by oil Heating system. It took almost every spare hour to complete about 4 months.
    Not shown in the picture is the family room added to the back with the screen porch and pool area. The family room (1985) was a difficult task. It took the entire Labor day weekend to sledge hammer through the foundation wall to create the opening for the stair way. Also in the family room is my second wood stove, where I built a two-flue masonry chimney floor to ceiling cobble stonewalls and blue stone hearth. A third wood stove is in the cellar and used occasionally to heat my workshop. Over the years I have built most of my furniture, like the dinning room table and hutch. I also have refinished old wooden iceboxes and hoosier. I have many older furnishings I have redone. Over a period of time I have redone all the tile work and remodeled my kitchen in 1997, to reflect the more modern look, and my wife hated the dark walnut cabinets. Last summer I stripped and replaced the roof, all 40 squares. It is possible for one to completely build there own house. Imagine, there has never been a complaint about a contractor. Disclaimer, there was another subcontractor, the concrete form guys.

    Attached Files:

  2. bruce56bb

    Feeling the Heat

    Nov 18, 2005
    Flint Hills of Kansas
    wow elk, two thoughts.......very impressed and very jealous. i'm pretty handy with steel, but couldnt ever learn to drive a nail! is currently 9* here with a predicted low of 6* and my earth stove you see in the pic is pumpin out some serious heat.
  3. Sundeep Arole

    Sundeep Arole
    New Member

    Nov 18, 2005
    Framingham, MA
    Elk, that is just a cool house. And to do all that work by yourself! My wife laughed at first when I told her of my dream to build my own house. Later when she found out there was a remote possibility I wasn't all kidding, she threatned to leave. She had seen my doing, we moved into pretty much a junk house in 2001 when house prices in MA were going through the roof, every house had 10 offers within a couple of days, and real estate agents wouldn't so much as bother to call you back (didn't need to.) We were quickly getting priced out and so pretty much streched as much as we can and got into a POS fixer upper. With over half the paycheck going to a house payment, hiring anyone to fix stuff was just out of the question.

    Over time I remodelled the bathrooms, did the tile, the fixtures, replaced rotten wood, drywall (old tile jobs were cheap jobs done directly on sheetrock, no cement board, and so water had made it into the wall and pretty much destroyed everything inside) , paint, etc. Never had so much as picked up a hammer before, learned everything by reading up and watching the home shows on TV. At Home Depot everyone knew me by name. Took me well over a month to do what a pro could have done in a couple of days, but it was the only choice for us. In the end, I got a premium quality job as I took my own time and made sure everything was done the right way. Made a few mistakes, but learned from those. Home repair became a new hobby of mine, but on the other hand it consumed all of my spare time. Then when the remodel moved to the kitchen (again a forced job as plumbing leaks over the years had rotted out all the cabinets from underneath), got a set of display cabinets from HD for cheap and installed those. Took me a full three months to finish the job, and for a month my wife was washing dishes in the bathtub. But again, in the end I got a premium job out of it, for the price I would have paid someone to do the cheapest job.

    Doing it yourself provides a satisfaction that is simply not the same as paying to get it done. If I ever have to move from this house, it will be a sad day when I sign the papers.
  4. begreen

    Staff Member

    Nov 18, 2005
    South Puget Sound, WA
    Really impressive Elk. One of these days I hope to build new myself. How many square feet are you heating now? How is your fuel consumption?
  5. elkimmeg


    I forgot to mention some additional items I built in. In Jan It could be zero outside. I can lay in a day bed and have the sun caress me to the tune of 82 degrees great for taking a nap. Not pictured is the dark tile areas located behind the sliding doors . Beneath them is a channel of piping that transfers the heat ( solar radiation) to a storage tank, which then is circulated into the forced hot water system. My Ac system is like none other. I have a blower setup that removes warm air and it passes threw a 6” pipe line buried 5' below the ground, runs about 250’ long. By the time it re enters the house it is close to ground temp 55 degrees No compressors just a blower. My wife got into the act by making drapes insulated with rock wool. Once the sun declines we close the drapes to prevent the stored heat from escaping. But that’s not all. At the ceiling top above the sliders we have valance boxes. What that does is prevent warm air getting trapped behind the curtains and create a chimney effect in reverse. At floor level using sawdust and sand she sewed a door draft stop, further preventing the curtains and drafts from the sliders leaking cold air at the floor level.
    It will go only to mid teens tonight both Vermont Casting stoves cranking heat. I doubt the furnace will kick in. The second Vermont casting used 1989 ( free) EPA approved completely rebuilt including a new combustor ( is performing beyond expectations. What a nice room area stove. Who said VC make junk running 24-7 all what one can expect and the price was right less than $100 The main stove, a 3 years old VC resolute delivers and performs up to expectations. Maybe its me, if it requires to be maintained I just do it.
  6. Xena

    Minister of Fire

    Nov 30, 2005
    South Shore MA
    Very impressive to say the least but I would love to see some more and bigger pictures please.
    The picture you posted is the size of a postage stamp on the screen of my laptop.
    Can we see some shots of the inside, particularly the rooms where the stoves are?
  7. elkimmeg


    I will do follow up post with the stoves and new Atrium replacement center swinging to opening venting side lites door I put in Saturday replacing the original Alum l sliders. Most women want the kitchen aught see Ellen"s sewing room One asked how many sq ft
    Remember my mind set,, I squeezed out every posible sq ft for living space Round numbers 3000
  8. hardwood715

    Feeling the Heat

    Nov 30, 2005
    Hyde Park, New York
    Wow Elk, I knew there was a reason why i trusted your knowledge and took everything you posted on my situation seriously, very impressive work, and you must feel so satisfied knowing that your home was built by yourself and the peace of mind knowing exactly what is what, lucky you and great job, pat yourself on the back, Steve
  9. Rick


    Nov 23, 2005
    Nice house. I admire people who have the aptitude and the patience to do things like that. My father is like that, when he was 74 he built an addition to his house completely on his own. He even hand-dug the foundation and built the foundation out of stone to match the existing house. My house was constructed much the same way yours was, and at around the same time. 2 by 6, over insulated, he even used 5/8 gypsum board on all exterior walls, though I don't know why. The man who built it studied passive solar design and incorporated many elements into the home. He also did all the work himself. He was a cabinet builder and was phenomenal with wood. Not so much with plumbing, or electrical, and was kind of cheap (he used ripped up sheets to hang the central vac hose) but I've fixed most of his gaffes. The house is situated 4 degrees west of due south with a 12 pitch roof, allegedly the perfect angle for a solar collector that he never installed. During the winter the sun comes in low and heats the house nicely. I have yet to put up shades for night time. When I bought the house there was a stand of deciduous trees directly in front of the wall of windows that face south, so I naturally cut them all down. Then about 2 months later I contacted the homes builder (I'm the third owner, the original guy was friends with some of my friends, small town) and he told me why those trees were there, the leaves in the summer block the sun. Half the reason I bought this house was because it was built by the owner for himself. He put a lot of thought into this house, and I appreciate that.

  10. elkimmeg


    Cold today but 82 degrees in my upstairs room gaining passive solar radiation.
    Energy effeciency can be built in. I will have to start the wood stoves soon as the sun's effect drop
  11. elkimmeg


    Well the next thing I will have to replace is my FHW oil burner. Getting that time approching 30 years old
    Tankless Hot water setting now on its highest. I know sediment and crap has reduced its effeciency. I also know I
    can replace the coil. All too often that can be a loosing proposition. Rusted nuts and bolts shear off.
    Already Replaced most of the external components. I would love to get a Budurus. So much more effecient.
    But like always Money becomes a factor. Besides some major investment here the 11,500 well 40 squares roof ,
    I have older college Grad kids that still need assistance. Seems they live beyond their means. Which equates to me making compromises. One of the local heating contractors got involved with an addition Where the 4 year cast iron old boiler has to be replaced
    for a larger one. If the price is right it may be too good to pass up. Propbably the deal will include his installation.
    Not mine I will have to factor that in. I am also thinking about one of those used Tarms wood addon boilers I do have an extra masonry un uest flue I can vent into Or power vent the new boiler. Have to think about that. The other point as I age I know it will be harder to generate 8 cords or more every year
  12. joshuaviktor

    New Member

    Dec 19, 2005
    Northwest New Jersey
    Elk, can I ask about your AC system? Is that 6" pipe pvc, or concrete? When you say 250 feet of pipe, is it 125 out and 125 back in same trench, or a loop, or what? How big of a blower do you have on that pipe? Little grainger squirrel cage thing, tiny duct fan, BIG blower?

    I am fascinated by this idea. Makes too much bloody sense not to do., and a possible retrofit, even for my ancient heap o' house.

  13. elkimmeg


    Unfortunately after working all day many times I have come home and used another set of tools.
    I have added to my home too many times to recall all the additions . That Ac idea worked great but became a casulty
    of one of the other additions, the family room or was it the pool. I I had run was a 6 " corrugated solid drain line came
    in 250' roll. Once you are in the ground deep enough, the suround ground temp is 55 degrees. Some where deeper
    than 4 or 5'. I do not know how long your warm house air needs to be exposed to get it below say 62 degrees or 65
    on the return 100' might work. I experimented with blowers locations removing air and pulling it. Granger about 250cfm
    I believe. I also played with running cold water threw my baseboard heat. Actually work a bit but condensation killed
    that idea.

    I own a decent backhoe, which make doing things a lot easier than common home owners.

    This weekend I was given 2 chainsaws from people that used them little and were too hard or did not start at all.
    One 16" Craftsman the other a Poulan Super 25DA Actually they are the same saws Made by Poulan
    Both only needed their gas lines replaced and spark plugs. Both now opperate perfectly. At this rate I may never get a
    modern saw. There are about 1984 Homeowners types, But all metal housings and casing. Better built that today's plastic
    junk. These were not beat up saws but used occasionally for storm clearing not many hours on them. Less than 10 lbs,
    it is nice to use a light saw My old Farm Boss 041 Stihl weights twice that Probably more. Point being I am always fixing something looking at something finding solutions. Not always conventional
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