The house of your Dreams does not have to be expensive. The key is all in the planning. How much a house costs, how it looks, how comfortable it is, how energy-efficient it is - all these things occur on paper before you pick up even one tool. A little extra time in the planning process can save you tens of thousands of dollars in construction and maintenance. That is time well spent!
Living Homes takes you through the planning process to design an energy and resource efficient home that won't break the bank. Then, from the footings on up to the roof, author Thomas J. Elpel guides you through the nuts and bolts of construction for slipform stone masonry, tilt-up stone walls, log home construction, building with strawbales, making your own terra tile floors, concrete countertops, windows and doors, solar water heaters, masonry heaters, framing, plumbing, greywater, septic systems, swamp filters, painting and more!
Table of Contents
Building a House on Limited Means: The Elimination of all that is Unnecessary to Achieve a Dream
Part I: Dreams, Goals and Ecology
Integrated Design and Construction: Homesteading in the Twenty-first Century
Choosing a Location: Planning a Thousand Years into the Future
Disaster-Proofing Your Home: Preventing the Obvious. Preparing for the Inevitable
Building Codes, Permits and Inspections: Exceed the Minimum Standards!
Defining Your Goals: A Blueprint is the Sum of the Criteria
Part II: Principles of Energy Efficiency
Warm Houses for Cold Climates: Insulation, Thermal Mass, Solar Gain, and Air Locks
Insulation and Insulation Systems Many Choices, Most of Them Bad
Air Quality: Finding Fresh Air in a High-Efficiency House
Part III: Building the Walls
Footings, Foundations and Floors: Starting from the Bottom Up
Cement Mixing & Measuring: Aggregates, Admixtures, Substitutes, and Reinforcement
Slipform Stone Masonry: A Stone Masonry Primer
Tilt-up Construction: A New Lift to the Ancient Art of Stonework
Log Building Basics: For Builders with Little Time or Experience
Building with Bales: It's Fast, Inexpensive, and Energy Efficient
Part IV: Closing It In
Putting the Roof On: The Search for Better Solutions
Terra Tiles: Hand-Made Tile Floors from Sand, Cement, Dirt, and Dye
Wood Frame Construction: Building Interior Floors and Walls
Windows and Doors: Putting a Plug in the Thermos
Part V: Plumbing, Heating, and Wiring
Water Supply, Management, and Recycling Squeezing More Use out of Less Water
Practical Plumbing: Important Tips I Could Have Used
Heating Systems: For Backup Heat & Hot Water
Revival of the Masonry Stove: An Old, but Efficient Heating System
Electricity: Wiring the Alternative Home
Rethinking Appliances: Energy Efficiency is the Path to Independence
Part VI: Finishing Details
Concrete and Fly Ash Countertops: A Nice Kitchen Doesn't have to Be Expensive
A Primer on Paint: Reusing and Recycling
Conclusion - Reinventing Housing: The Road to Sustainability
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A Positive Relationship with Nature
Our culture teaches us that we are separate from nature. We spend most of our lives in houses surrounded by manicured lawns, living in towns or cities where recrecational activies are based on human-centered sports. Nature is something we go to a park to see, or we watch a show about it on TV.
Those of us in the field of environmental education try to preach a different message, telling people that "all life is interconnected" and that "we really are part of nature". But in the next breath we tell them to stay on the trails and to practice "no-trace" camping. We tell them to look at nature and photograph it, but not to touch it. We tell them our modern way of life is destroying nature, and that we need to stop mucking up the planet. In other words, we tell them we are part of nature--the bad part!
Here at HOPS Press, LLC we advocate a positive interactive relationship with the natural world. We want people to get involved in nature, to be a part of the process on many levels:
Through Participating in Nature: Thomas J. Elpel's Field Guide to Primitive Living Skills and the Art of Nothing Wilderness Survival Video Series, you can experience an intimate connection with nature as you rediscover the skills our ancestors used to survive for tens of thousands of years. Instead of merely camping in the wilderness or passing through it, you will become part of the process as you learn about nature by using it to meet your needs for shelter, fire, water and food. Learn to set aside the trappings of modern culture and step directly into nature with little or nothing, to experience nature on its own terms.
With Tom's book Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification, you can connect with the wonderful diversity of plants and flowers all around you in a way that you may have never imagined. Instead of seeing the green world as little more than pretty wallpaper, you will learn to know the individual plants, wildflowers and weeds as if they have been your life-long friends. Our book Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids Ages 9-99 utilizes the same patterns method of identifying plants as Botany in a Day, but in a metaphorical story form where children of all ages can join young Shanleya on her journey to learn the plant traditions of her people.
In Living Homes: Integrated Design & Construction you will learn how to make your home part of nature, as well as how to make nature part of your home. Learn the secrets to building low-cost, high-efficiency homes with stone masonry, log-building and strawbale construction methods. With this book and Tom's Slipform Stone Masonry DVD/VHS Video you will be able to build your quality, earth-friendly Dream home on a budget, even while the "experts" say it isn't cost effective.
Finally, in Direct Pointing to Real Wealth: Thomas J. Elpel's Field Guide to Money, you will learn to see the economy as an ecosystem where money is a token that represents calories of energy. Learn the basic rules of this economic ecosystem and you will be empowered to use your resources to more effectively achieve your desired quality of life, while making the world a better place to be. You will be able help convert an economy that harms planetary biodiversity into an economy that helps restore it.From the Author:
"Our house may look expensive, but the reality is that we only have about $10 a square foot into it. The whole house cost about as much as the average new car. Yet I have seen some million dollar homes that looked like junk. Appearance, like energy efficiency, is more a product of design than of cost. You can take the same materials and arrange them poorly or arrange them well."
"With a combined income averaging $10,000 to $12,000 a year we lived simply and invested everything we could in building materials. Construction proceeded slowly throughout the process, due to our chronic lack of money. We moved into the house after the second summer, with no doors, few windows, and no insulation in the roof. Winter stopped about three feet from the stove. This might all seem a little rough, but I later realized that we saved at least $150,000 in interest payments by eliminating the need for a loan. That is not a bad wage for a couple years of camping out!"
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