Build Your Own House

Build Your Own House

Build Your Own House
– Published in 1973, the book "Shelter", which I found at the library during my teens, was my first exposure to the idea that you could buy a broken down house for cheap, fix it up to live in and sell it later for a profit. Cheap meaning under $30,000 and no such price was to be had in the Bay Area. I was still enamored of the idea as well as all the other DIY housing plans the book offered. I was also entranced by the vernacular housing of indigenous cultures shown in the book and determined that a yurt was the way to go if you didn’t have permanent land. Shelter was later reprinted, thus I could get my own copy. To continue the movement, the creator published "Home Work" in 2004 which describes even more determined attempts at DIY housing in full color.

Also at the library and later at a used bookstore, I ran across the other classic, "Tiny, Tiny Houses" by Lester Walker published in 1987 and was enamored of the little writing shack owned by George Bernard Shaw that could be turned to face the sun. Plus all the other shacks and micro-homes that could be lived in on the beach, on a frozen pond or in your backyard. I spent countless hours examining the floorplans and collecting information on how to build sheds. To make it even easier Mr. Walker wrote a book to show children how to build houses.

Mother Earth News introduced me to the California Mello Act which allows people over 60 to live in a micro house (under 640 sq ft) without a permit providing you have a friend with a backyard willing to allow you to live there.

I became politicized about housing when I read "Democratic Housing" by Donald MacDonald (1996) which introduced the idea of permitting modular housing. Small structures that people could build themselves and add onto as their finances allowed. Also included were plans for tiny student designed shacks that could be used by the homeless. And though these structures were readily put into use, the cities enlisted were not willling to allow them for fear they would be sued should someone, occupying them, have a mishap with one.

As time goes by more people have realized that the system creates more problems than it solves and, in fact, isn’t really interested in solving them. That these books came into my life at all I owe to subversive librarians at the Menlo Park library (probably just one long haired Marxist who later tried to date me). And now we have the internet where these ideas are being shared. There are a number of sites devoted to people building tiny dwellings that sneak under code either by putting them on trailers or keeping them under 100 sq. ft. The most famous is the Tumbleweed but those plans and the wood for it a bit pricey so others have embarked on building a free house of scavenged wood and pallets with sites offering free plans. The most useful tiny house site I’ve found is

To date I have yet to build a single hut for myself, but the opportunity of land and materials seems closer to presenting itself. Since putting up buildings takes a great deal of effort and I seem to be the only one interested in such endeavors, I spend most of my time entertaining various ideas in search of one that will best suit my resources.

(by Earthworm on 2010-02-06 16:33:56 )