Owner Building FirstDay Cottages

by Ric Cedergren
(Burnsville, NC)

Just a quick review of our First day project.


David Howard is wonderful to work with. He can and does help every step of the way providing the builder asks.

We have been able to customize one of the basic models into what is close to a dream house for us. That said, I would have to disagree with the aforementioned review with respect to two statements.

The first is the reference to Firstday as a kit. A Firstday cottage is a plan (often customized)that utilizes a brilliant method of building. It also includes cabinates and uncut raw lumber, doors, windows, nails and other materials. Nothing is pre-cut or engineered. The quality of materials is high. The amount of labor is huge. It is not what many people think of when they read "kit."

The second is that Firstday is a project that does not require prior skills. There are many carpentry skills that are required if you want you house to remain inexpensive and looking good. It is true that many mistakes can be made and a house will still be strong, but it will only look good (not lean this way or that) if you have some building skills. Unless your roof-line is basic, putting on a metal roof correctly, can be quite challenging. Anytime a Firstday strays from the basic model, it becomes much more difficult. Such as adding a bay window or a cupola (skyroom).

Additionally, it may be true that a basic Firstday can be built for 45K in 15 three day weekends, if a person or couple does not have to work and does not have children, however this is not typically the case for most people.

I work full time as a teacher, my wife is a nurse and we have three children. We are in our third summer and we will be able to move in by next summer. Our 2,000 sq.ft. variation of a T-house with a cupola room, bay window and walk-out living area basement will cost around $160,000 when complete not including the cost of the well,foundation excavation, and landscaping.

We consider this to be an amazing price considering it is worth much more considering our present economy. Much of the saving is in the labor. I have built this house with the help of a few friends who help periodically.

The process has been tremendously rewarding and stressful. Keeping wood dry over the course of three years. Working on high windows, siding and the roof are all stressful work conditions for inexperienced workers who can not pay to rent expensive scaffolding for weeks at a time.
All said, this is a wonderful plan (not kit), that includes quality windows, doors and lumber. It is exceedingly rewarding. However, it is a lot more challenging than anyone can ever be prepared for.

I have met two families that have firstday homes in our area. Both had experienced help. In one case, a man had his firefighter coworkers to help out. In another, a couple had retired builder (father)and a mother to help out.

I have had occasional help from a retired engineer, a builder who helped with the Insulated Concrete Foam block basement (not Firstday)and two other helpers who work for very low reimbursement.
My kids and my wife also help from time to time, but not too much.

It is however priceless to have pictures of my seven year old son framing in his own room, my oldest daughter working on the rafters and my middle daughter working on the foundation. My wife's roll to date has been to put up with me and the time this project takes as well as help with the many decisions this process demands.

If you know what you are getting into, this is a life changing and wonderful experience. Thank you.
David


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