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Our "contracting your own home" book

Two years ago this month, we broke ground on our house.  You may or may not know that we contracted it ourselves.  No, we are not home builders.  We simply couldn't find a builder in our area that was willing to build a farmhouse.  Armed with a dream and determination, we set out to do it ourselves. 

This organization book was an important part of our success.  I didn't leave home without it.  Once building commenced, I had it with me 24/7 even in the grocery cart while shopping.  Why?  Everything about our house was in that book.  And you never knew when a contractor would call with a question.

So what's in it?
Let's take a look...

Inside the front pocket, I kept a ledger of every dime spent along with the checkbook to our building account.  With those, I kept "Unconditional Waiver and Release Forms".  No one got a check, without signing one of these pieces of paper.  It gave us piece of mind and kept them honest on what we owed them.  When building your own house, you must do this.

In the front and the back of the binder, were our dreams.  The front pages were my husband's initial drawings of our farmhouse. 

In the back, were the photos of how we wanted it to look when we were finished.  Since, we had been saving magazine pictures for years, there was not a shortage of inspiration pictures.  We narrowed down the look that we were going for along the way as well as saved pictures of specific items that we wanted in the house like our dining room light

In between, are dividers for house details. 
Let's just work our way through, shall we?
  1. Permits (from the city along with inspector phone numbers)
  2. Worker's Comp & Liability Insurance of Contractors
  3. Contractors (I used baseball card holders to store business cards)
  4. Quotes (or should we say Estimates?)
  5. Budget (we refigured this along the way making changes as needed)
  6. Land Preparation (water well, road, pert test, porta-potty)
  7. Exterior Structure (roofing, siding, windows, etc)
  8. Mechanical (a/c heater, wood burning stove, cental vac, anything that makes the house work)
  9. Plumbing (after fixtures were chosen, I made copies of their specifications.  These were needed well before it was time to install them.
  10. Appliances (again, specifications for measurements are key)
  11. Interior Finish (trim, doors, cabinets)
  12. Market Watch (we had to sell our old home and watched the prices very closely to time our sell just right)
  13. Outbuildings (we weren't just building a farmhouse but a farm so we kept information on fencing and mini-barns here)
  14. Photos (pictures speak a 1,000 words but if a contractor wants one, make a copy.  You won't get it back.)
Lots of details, right?  I tell you, this book was very important!  When building a house, time is money. Since we were on a tight budget, we needed to help the contractors be efficient with our time.  Answering questions immediately by having the information they needed at the tip of our fingers saved us time allowing us to complete building in under 6 months. It also allowed us to stay focused in our decisions and create the farmhouse of our dreams turning this...

into this...


  1. that's just an awesome undertaking and glad it was such a beautiful success!

  2. Wow....that is impressive, and SUCH good advice. (Only wish I'd been able to follow it when we were building our house - bit of a different scenario, cos hubby was building it - but so much of what you say, andwhat you did, still applied).
    Oh well, maybe the lesson will be learnt by our kids :)

    ...And you do have such a beautiful home now :)

  3. Hi Kim,
    You certainly did a wonderful job of staying focused and organized before and during your building process...what a wonderful book to have! I have never built a home nor will I ever..unless I win the lottery ;) but if I do....I will certainly put your suggestions to good use. GREAT IDEAS and you ended up with a beautiful farmhouse that turned out exactly as you'd planned. Thank you for sharing this with us!
    Maura :)

  4. oh wow...not sure i could be so organized! wow! thank you for sharing all of that, never know when it may come in handy!! :)

  5. Wow! Now that you have done it and been through it you should write a book or at least an article on how to do it - you could get money for it. Let this blog post be your first step. Seriously, many people are looking for this information and you have done an awesome job of compiling it and know what needs done.
    WELL DONE by the way.

  6. So nicely organized! I may be referring back to this post if the day ever comes when I get to build my own house! Great information!

  7. I second that suggestion you should use your book to write a how to book/coffee table book. Your home and homestead are beautiful!

  8. I can imagine how important that book was. We had a similar one and we weren't our own contractors.

  9. Do you have a schematic or layout of your farm, particularly your house in relation to your outbuildings anywhere on your website? I am finding the pictures fascinating, but would love to get a better understanding of how it is all laid out.

  10. I'm lovin' this book. I have dreams of a new kitchen and I think that I should be doing more collecting of ideas. I'd like to know what 100 people think is the best thing about their kitchen. Back to my knitting!! Christmas will be here before I know it and my stocking won't have a heel and toe yet!!!
    Have a great day!

  11. do you have a floor plan available?

    1. I'm sorry but we do not share or sell it. Here is a blog post about why...

  12. Can you share a copy of the Unconditional Waiver and Release Form you used?

    1. I looked through our book and we no longer have a copy. They were kept with the invoices and we shredded them several years after building. I can tell you we revised one that was in a self contracting book. It had specifics with our names and address on them. You should be able to work one up as a Word Document from examples online or found in contracting books. Hope that helps. Good luck!


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