Monday, November 21, 2011

Books for wanna-be owner-builders

I'm planning on building an adobe house in Northern New Mexico within the next 2 years (we'll be looking at land to purchase next month!).  I really don't have much building experience, so I've had to do a lot of research.  Here is a list of books that were particularly informative.


1. Building Green by Clarke Snell and Tim Callahan

Excellent book, huge amount of clear, color pictures that show their process of building this little house with different materials on each wall.  If you've never seen anyone build a foundation or a roof it's highly informative.  They are also very honest and talk about their concerns and what worked and what didn't work in the building.  Beautiful end product as well.

2. Living Homes by Thomas J. Elpel

I love a building book that tells someone's life story and how they built their house.  This is one of those, Elpel and his wife built their house little by little without taking out a loan.  There are some good general ideas in here as this guy seems to be a bit of a free thinker and an experimenter.

3. The Hand Sculpted House By Ianto Evans, Michael G. Smith, and Linda Smiley

This book focuses on building with cob, which is a similar material to adobe, but it's built up chunk by chunk while wet instead of being made into bricks and dried first.  Their "Heart House" is small, which I love and built around the occupant's needs.  This book gave me the idea for a "Phase One" building, which I am implementing.   Really, it's about more than just cob, a lot of design stuff here too.

4. Making the Adobe Brick by Eugene H. Boudreau

 Once you get through a lot of the general books and you figure out what kind of material you want to build your house with, you can start getting into the specialized books.  This one is a bit dated, but it's another story of a guy that just says (and I'm paraphrasing) "Fuck this, I'm just gonna build my own house for my family", which is basically what I said.  "This" being a mortgage, and jobs to pay for the mortgage, etc.  Also, how amazing is this cover?

5. The Owner-Built Adobe House by Duane Newcomb

Just some specific adobe information, nothing too fancy.  I honestly don't remember much about this book, but it's on my list so I must have gotten some good info out of it.

6. The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins

Ok, so I haven't gotten around to reading the whole thing yet, but I get the gist.  Poop and pee in a 5 gallon bucket, cover with some sort of organic material that soaks up liquid, when it's full take it out to the compost bin and let it sit for a year or two.   When it's done composting, give it to your plant buddies.  It's available to read here:

7. Create an Oasis with Greywater by Art Ludwig

This is my first greywater book.  I plan on doing rainwater catchment in addition to utilizing the greywater.  A lot of what we'll end up doing will depend on building codes.  Ideally, I'd love to just have a pipe coming out of the kitchen sink and the bathroom sink to a couple of fruit trees in the yard.  And an outdoor shower.  Keep it simple stupid!

Layout, Floor plans and Design:

8. Tiny Houses by Lester Walker

Great illustrations of tiny house layouts.  Most are really, really tiny.

9. Compact Cabins by Gerald Rowan

I found that books on cabins had the floor plan ideas I was really looking for: one large open room, a loft, simple and somewhat DIY-friendly.  A good range of sizes and uses are represented here.

10. The Cabin by Dale Mulfinger and Susan E. Davis

Another cabin book, the house on the cover is actually my favorite.  These are a little more contemporary (sometimes too contemporary, although this one doesn't get too far into architectural jerk-off territory).

General ideas and inspiration:

11. A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander

Wowzie, this book is crucial reading for everyone!  Not only are there ideas on putting together a nice feeling house, but ideas on how to put together neighborhoods and towns.  There is so much SENSE written in this book, it will make you feel even sorrier for the time and place you are living in.

12. Little House on a Small Planet by Shay Salomon

A good overview of small homes and a lot of the people in the small home movement.  It's really not about size, but about layout and how well things are put together.  Fun reading.

13. Home Work, Handbuilt Shelter by Lloyd Kahn

I love the books Lloyd Kahn makes (check out his blog under my favorites), they are put together in a fascinating, cut and paste scrapbook kind of way.  Tons of photographs and little bits of information about homes people have built for themselves, either very skillfully or just a bunch of stuff piled together.

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