Unforgettable Memory #7 Building a House While Living In It ~Nancy Radke


I should say finishing a house, but I’ve done it twice now. I still have some electrical work needing to be done on this house, that I moved into it as soon as I had hot water, heat, lights, and most electricity.

The first house was one that my husband, Walt, and I built together in 1982 – 1989. He was a schoolteacher and worked on it during the summer months. Our children were ages 3+, 3, and just born. They learned to never touch a tool that had been left on the floor. Sometimes those tools had very sharp blades.

We lived in a small pumice block home of two rooms and a large bathroom that also served as the laundry. Onto it, we built a larger home with a basement, one bedroom and two bathrooms (we converted the pumice house into two bedrooms and a bath for the children, as pumice doesn’t ever burn.

Walt acted as the general contractor and did most of the work. We had a tractor dig the basement beside our house. Once after we had poured the basement walls but not the floor, Walt removed the walkway we had built from our only door, over a corner of the basement, to the ground. He was pulling on a piece of the wood railing when it gave way. He fell into the basement backward, head first, but did a mid-air flip and landed on his feet.

Walt hired day laborers when needed, and hired different companies to do special jobs. We had a friend who was a steamfitter in WW2, whom we hired to do our plumbing for us. Copper pipes. We never had a water leak.

I designed the house, then sent the plans to a company called Capp Homes. They turned my design into architectural drawings, got them permitted, then shipped the lumber, doors, and windows in two large moving vans. They sent a carpenter and crew who assembled the pre-cut lumber in five days, so that our home was lockable, with doors and windows. They supplied the roofing and siding, but we had to put that on. Paid $30,000, and then started finishing it up. Never owed anyone, as we put in items only as we could afford them.

We had a friend who was an electrician, who did the electrical work. Hired sheet rockers, but we put on our own siding and roofing and did the flooring, insulation, and painting. Heated the house with wood burning fireplaces, changed later to freestanding gas stoves, as they don’t use ducts.

My son built my new home. They have nail guns now, so didn’t have to hammer in very many nails. Took three years total to build this home, what with having to work out more financing along the way. I’ve never been in debt before, and it took me a while to figure out the credit card tricks.

I love my new home, as it is smaller and meets my needs now. It’s attached to my daughter’s home, so when I need her, I just open a door and walk through.

I had a small tower built on the top, like a lookout tower, with windows all around, which everyone loves. It is a place to lift up one’s spirits in the middle of town. I’ll use it for relaxing and writing and just enjoying the sunsets. It is the focal point of my new home, a place to get away from everything.

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