Some concluding remarks and lessons learned. Though as I write this we haven't actually completed everything (still lots of trim work to complete and haven't built the front/rear porches yet nor finished the shed and mower-port) and given the list of projects we have already talked about we might never really finish working on improvements, I believe I can make a couple of concluding statements that those who have read my comments with the idea of doing it themselves can take away. First, the concrete floor turned out to be a major issue, though in large part due to bad timing. When I was working up the initial estimates it was possible to have a concrete floor installed by professionals for less than the cost of the lumber for a wooden floor, but that reversed by the time we got started. Given that the purpose of the building shifted so dramatically over the course of the project (from a workshop/lab with minimal finish work to tide us over until we built a bigger house later to a moderately high-end completely finished house we might live in for the rest of our lives) if I had designed it with a crawl space we could have substantially modified the layout even after the shell was built. With the concrete floor that would have necessitated jack hammering the floor to move the plumbing, something I am totally unwilling to do (we can just build another house!). Second, saving a couple of grand instead of getting attic trusses was a real bone headed mistake. We could have got the potential for an extra thousand square feet of living space for about $2K and practically zero additional labor and instead of the rather dumb attic stairs I would have designed the house to have a 'real' staircase to the attic space. My only excuse is that at the time when we ordered the trusses we still had fantasies of fitting within our original budget (this was before the price of the foundation doubled, the cost of the well pump went up about 4x and the septic came in about 25% over budget and long before the building got re-purposed) and the couple of grand seemed important. We also could have had the walls prefabricated for us for about 2x the cost of the materials (or about $2K) which would have knocked off at least 10 days of the construction effort to get dried in.

Some other things of note. I should have taken an extra couple of days with the bulldozer when I was putting in the driveway to a) put in drainage ditches (we have had several washouts as the water preferentially runs down the driveway as things stand now) and done some grading so there were not the many lumps and bumps all over the place making mowing such a pain in the ass. Pay a bit more for the trailer and get one that doesn't have a leaky roof! Still get the canopy, though, as the canopy will probably be paid for in the electricity savings on the AC bill. On that canopy, spend the extra $100 up front and get the mobile home anchors to keep it from blowing away. The relatively inexpensive tarps from HD, etc. are not worth the price if you need to replace the canopy as we did, pay the extra money and get the replacement as it lasts much much longer. Really really try to get your significant other (Eliz in my case) completely on board when the plans are just lines on a paper as it is trivial to make changes at that point. Eliz really couldn't envision the finished product until the walls started to go up and only then did she start to take ownership of the project and start to make the suggestions that so many were brilliant, but too late as literally concrete had been poured around the initial design.

All in all we probably learned to build a house and built it in about 14 weeks of full-time effort and about 1.5 year.s worth of weekends or about 250 days of effort or probably about a year of full-time effort taking weekends off. This is with 99% of the work being done with just the twain of us! We characterize the construction effort as being like childbirth. A long, drawn out often painful and frustrating process that never the less leaves you wanting to have more once done. We will almost certainly be building additional structures (right now we plan on the front/rear enclosed porch with a carport on the front (and maybe the rear), a 3 car detached garage, a workshop/lab to replace the one that got 'lost' during this process and 90% for sure an enclosed pool) so we will get to take advantage of the experience we gained, not to mention amortizing the $5K (at least) equipment we purchased over the years. According to the zoning laws we can build 3 additional residences on our property and the 23 acres is actually two tax lots so we could build on the front lot any time and have another asset to sell if needed. We have plans for a fruit/nut orchard, a bit of a vineyard and landscaping the entrance way so it looks like a million dollar estate when you drive by.

For those of you curious about dollars, the entire project cost us about $300K and in November of 2008 the house and land appraised for $500K for an on-paper profit of $200K or a payment of approximately $50 an hour for our time (4,000 hours betwixt the twain of us assuming 8 hour days for 250 days). Here is a bit of a breakdown we calculated:

HD purchases$69,651.34
Check purchases$79,897.61
Lowes purchases$22,964.34
Misc MC charges$17,956.88
Misc AMEX charges$7,190.05