E-Mail 'How NOT to Build a Retreat, by The Jewish Prepper, Pt. 1' To A Friend

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  1. I can see we are reading a true story of the lessons of building. Every job teaches you something new and makes you better. Imagine how much you could actually help someone if they take the time to learn from those that went before them. I got a laugh about most of your comments because I have been there and done that and still do it…

    I have never worried about the insurance. Most of my things are uninsured and I attempt to guard against theft. Fire is always the biggest worry but in some cases you can not even get insurance on a vacant structure. And It is surprising to see that tornado’s will hit the same place twice. Storms tend to follow some ground contours.

    I would recommend purchasing a skid steer with a hydraulic grapple bucket to help make the cabin site. This is only big enough to push out smaller trees and stumps but you can build a driveway and carry all the big logs away from the area. The last site I was on required hauling out about 60 dump truck loads of logs and brush, old building, trash and the like. Took almost 2 months to get a handle on the ground work. If you buy a used machine you can sell it and get back a lot of your money if you manage to not destroy it or get it stolen..

  2. Thank you for your article and congrats on your success.

    I did not understand your report on the footing and why does it need to be almost as large as your building – like a slab? Please explain. Thank you

    I thought several steel reinforced concrete filled footings are spread out along the perimeter of the building? e.g 4′ X 4′ or 3’X3′ or 2′ X 2′ footings on each corner of the building and some in between the perimeter of the building (depending on overall size of the building) where the steel reinforced concrete filled columns (Piers in the USA) are erected on the center of each footing. Each footing is tied to one another with a steel reinforced concrete cross beam. Bricks are laid on the cross beam and tied to each column.

    1. He is talking about a continuous running foundation which runs around the perimeter of the outside wall of his house. He should have measured and dug the foundation so that his block was centered on the foundation instead of the block eventually setting too far to the inside of the foundation. A proper sized foundation that will support the structure wouldn’t require additional piers.

  3. I concur about the pain in the building codes. I found a location that has a building code but no inspection. The township is required to have a building code but the law says nothing of enforcement. When I talked with my neighbor about building codes and inspection he looked at me like I was from Mars, which was the response I wanted.

    I was originally looking for BOL property that was close to a National Forest and it would have been 4 hours one way to get there on a good day. Due to the isolation the people who lived there year round advised against keeping anything of value there since cabin break ins seemed to be very common. Kind of limits what or how you can store then for SHTF. Started to look closer and am very happy I did.

  4. If people don’t know what they are doing at something I find it’s better to pay a couple hundred bucks to a consultant. Check their references and pay the money, more often than not they’ll save you that money twofold at the least.

  5. I submit that if you are building to a code inspection you are not far enough from civilization. Not to say building to national codes standard is wrong. In fact this us usually a stellar practice. Most of the really rural areas have no building codes hence no inspectors. One way to find such rural areas is to look at property taxes. If the taxes are very very low, the local government is too starved to hire inspectors and will likely have no inspection standards. Where I live we burn our trash (that is burnable) and no one cares if I build an outhouse. PR

    1. Panhandle Rancher makes a key point. There is a reason that today you see very few owner-built single family homes on rural undeveloped property.

      Before purchasing such property I’d suggest finding several homes under construction or recently built. The owners will probably be more than happy to share their experiences and give you tips on what to be cautious of.

    1. I’m not certain if I live in the same “panhandle” as Panhandle Rancher, but I do live in a Panhandle area in the Redoubt, and around here we have a very low crime rate. You can check online for annual crime statistics for the town and county are considering. Obviously any crime could happen anywhere, and opiates are a problem nationwide, but you can find low crime areas. You can also check online for registered sex offenders in the area you are considering.

  6. I salute you for the courage to undertake a project of this size (no pun intended re: the size of your house.) I truly admire someone who has the guts and the stick-to-it-iveness to plan and finish building their own home. You are one in a million !

  7. I was pleasantly surprised that the 100 year old house & 32 acres I purchased in WV about 38 miles from Parkersburg in 1991 required no permits/no inspection, just that the contractor post his WV license. The house required total renovation, so I had a neighbor build an 8 x 10 shed that came in a kit, contractor put in small window and AC, and I lived in it for 6 months. Had outhouse, 1 plug in hot plate, bought drinking water as the very deep well I had dug was loaded with SALT. Fine for washing, but NOT drinking. Had a 2000 gallon cistern installed. This is not uncommon in parts of WV due to the oil and gas underground. The local county “laughed” at me when I first called to see about inspections, as I had just moved from a Blue state in New England! NOT required! LOVED it. I could do with my property as I wanted! Nine years later, circumstances brought me back to the Blue State, and my taxes were only $450 a year in WV. The house was now 9 rooms, just what I wanted. NO neighbors right next door, but good folks up and down the very rural road and across the “ridge”. My relatives back in the East called me a “Ridge Runner”, and I was glad to be. My view off to the East was spectacular! Oh well, it was the BEST MID LIFE adventure ever! Even with a personal income tax, and sales tax, WV still has many good bargains and much rural area. The national LIGHT map from space showing the USA shows a large DARK place and that is much of West Virginia. Four seasons, little chance of tornadoes, but prone to floods, so building down near a creek not a good idea. Water runs off those small hills like crazy. I was safe high on my hill, but several times the 15 mile trip to town was impossible. I did have another way out across another ridge, just in case. If one wants 4 seasons, all of them “moderate”, I think WV is an option.

    1. Hello hl. I was born and raised in in” Wild wonderful West Virginia”. Your points about WV are right on. WV is usually the brunt of many jokes. But we love our West Virginia. We are like the little Texas of the east. Open and conceal carry are common here. Heck, camo is common so you don’t stand out if you wear it here. Good people and not too crowded.

  8. On Feb. 14 Survival Blog mentioned the birthday of Jacklyn H. Lucas Medal of Honor winner. He is buried in Highland Cemetery in Hattiesburg, MS. The cemetery is about 10 minutes from the Interstate 59 and highway 49 intersection. His grave is in the east end and is easy to spot.

  9. What a great story and lessons learned! Looking forward to remaining segments. Your difficulties are exactly why I purchased land with an existing residence, even though it was old and needed refurbing. The foundation was still solid and it was a lot easier to gut the interior, update plumbing and wiring rather than starting from scratch. The only inspection I had to have was electrical because I had new circuit boxes and a standby generator installed. Once that was done I free to do what ever I wanted without permits or inspections.

  10. The author commented on the poor quality of pre bagged mortar and he’s right. Also the pre bagged concrete mix is sub par. But there is one thing you can do to improve both. When you buy pre bagged mortar also buy a bag of pure mortar cement and mix it in with your bagged mortar cement to give it it’s proper strength. The same goes for pre bagged cement mix, just buy a bag of pure Portland cement and mix it in with your pre bagged cement mix.

  11. i built my 1140′ sf modified a frame from scratch too with no prior building experience. Luckily I purchased a do it yourself set of plans with building material list which is key for saving lots of money. I also put a container on the property and filled it up with building materials for 5 years prior to building which made my place free and clear. I ran into some of the same problems you experienced. It took me 6 summers with yearly vacations to complete. All I have left to do do is finish the cabinets. It was well worth the experience to have a paid for home with no banker involvement!! Good luck to all of you future home builders!

  12. I used a very good general contractor to set up the completed frame. From there I did most of the remaining work myself paying it out paycheck to paycheck and have a house with no morgage. I did contract septic,electrical,and plumbing.In this case having it done professionally and to code was well worth the extra cash. The rest of the house i did myself and I take credit for all the mistakes and blemishes that followed. But I have a house and 20ac.lot that is Debt Free!!!!

  13. Many thanks for the kind words, and your stories of similar experiences! Thank you also to M-ray for answering Mack’s question about the foundation better than I could have.

  14. No mention of utilities(well,septic). Was the site perked(drainage test for septic system),well location checked or advised by local driller? Why not sell standing lumber to mill(they cut and haul and give you a check) to help pay for the project. You probably could of gotten a lot of code variances if you had talked to the code offices about your”vacation retreat” or just started with a “office trailer”(built to be put on job sites) and built fro there.

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