Building Our Passive Solar Home

Yurt or Katrina cottage? Log or stick built? Those were some of the first questions we had to answer in our home building journey. We really liked the idea of yurt living for a few years, but wanted something slightly larger in the hopes of expanding our family. We priced out a nice Katrina cottage. It was affordable and comfortably sized, but we wanted something with a more open floorplan to take advantage of our view. We met with an architect at the local log home builder and worked on an open floor plan, but we decided it was stretching our budget a little thinner than we were comfortable. So, we settled on stick building our home. We were lucky in that my dad has been a carpenter for almost 30 years. And we had just sold our home that we completely gutted and remodeled, so we were no stranger to the work it would entail.

Once we decided on a stick built home, we then had myriad questions to answer. We knew from owning and remodeling our first home what we did and didn’t like in a home. We knew our future plans and what it would require in a home. It was also very important to us to make our home as efficient as possible. A passive solar designed home was our answer.

We pored over floorplans. We had a few requirements: a full day light basement with a root cellar, a large kitchen with a walk in pantry, an open floor plan, and one level living with a laundry room on the main floor. A few plans fit our criteria, but one stood out to us.

The floorplan we chose fulfilled all of our requirements and then some. Our main floor has three bedrooms with room in the basement for more in the future. We were sure to plumb in drains in our basement for a future canning kitchen and bathroom. There are vaulted ceilings in the great room and kitchen area and nine-foot ceilings throughout the rest of the house. There are two porches: one to the north that allows for some amazing morning views and one to the west, which is quite comfortable to relax on and watch a summer sunset.

The passive solar design required lots of windows on the south side of our home. The windows let in so much natural light we rarely, if ever, have to use lights during the day. The windows are triple pane casement windows. They are quite lovely, but weren’t so lovely on the cold and blustery January day they were installed.

The walls were framed using 2×6 boards and blow in insulation gives our walls an R value around 30. Our ceilings have an R value around 50. This insulation is fantastic for keeping the heat in in the winter and keeping things cool in the summer.

Each aspect of building our home presented challenges. The first well that was drilled failed after one day. Our road got demolished when the foundation walls were brought in on a big truck on a soggy day in December. Although there were challenges, we enjoyed a mild winter. My husband was putting on our side porch in his shirt sleeves in early February. The building process took a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Quite literally, as my husband accidentally shot a nail through his hand with a framing nailer. But, we all persevered and are so thrilled to be living in a one of a kind home. We know that no one has quite the same finishes as we do. Next time, I’ll share about one of my favorite interior finishes: reclaimed hardwood flooring. Or maybe my grandma’s sugar cookie recipe!

Follow along with us on our journey! You can find me at The House on the Hill or follow me on Facebook and Pinterest.

Published on Dec 10, 2013

Grit Magazine

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