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anybody lived in their basement while building?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
So we're currently living in a mobile home on several rural acres. We're going to start our new house building in January with a walk-out basement. We have enough cash for the basement and - maybe - to partially finish it right away. We won't get a loan on the house, so unfortunately, framing it right away all the way to the roof is out of the question.

Now I've heard of friends of friends (mostly people's grandparents) who have lived in their basement as they built the rest of the home, so I know it's possible. But dh and I have no idea what to do about roofing. If we don't frame it out right away, what are our roofing options?

I'm just hoping someone else here might have taken this path and can help me out. It's an odd kind of thing to try to Google....my search terms were turning up nada.
post #2 of 15
Sorry, no help because here it was also dh's grandparents. I hope you fins some info.
post #3 of 15
I think you would end up spending more money in the long run trying to get the basement livable with a roof and then building up. I have seen people get the framing & roof done and move into the basement when more of the house was done.

I knew a family of 6 who lived in a camper until the barn was done, had the tack room area heated with full bath and moved into there. Then built the house over time. That was something my DH and I considered when we were exploring options last year. Build a garage or barn with a one room living area and bath.
post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
With our particular house plans and situation, it would definitely be a better financial move to build the basement and live in it if possible rather than a pole barn with an apartment. The main reason is that our house plans already include a finished basement with a bathroom and a small kitchenette (for canning and other summer jobs) and all our bedrooms. With a 9-foot ceiling, it is basically an underground living floor. Plus, we already have temporary housing with our mobile home, but if we could sell our mobile after finishing the basement and moving in, we could make enough money for the ground floor framing, at least.

It sounds like no one else has taken this track personally, so if we do, I will definitely post how it works out for us. So far, we've come up with three or four different possibilities for roofing...still researching though.
post #5 of 15
I think most of the house cost is in the "fittings" ... floors, drywall, plumbing, hvac electricity. It might be possible to build the shell and just live in the basement.

On the other hand, in most places you will need an occupancy permit - which will require code inspection. That is something our grandparents did not have to deal with.
post #6 of 15
I see that this is an older post, but some friends of ours lived in their basement for a while. They used a swimming pool liner for their roof to keep the weather out.
post #7 of 15
Wow, what a coincidence! I am almost in the same situation as you!

We are living in a mobile home on 5 acres, and this year it will be paid off. We plan to use our own money to start building a house. No home loans, just pay as we build. My husband is into canning, and he is DYING to build a basement for all his storage.

I would love to hear more about your plans and experiences. It seems like these days, it is normal to get a 30 year home loan. I don't want that. It seems like you don't either lol! Good luck with everything, and please keep us all posted!
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 
That's cool - we're not the only ones!

Here's our plan so far (which is always subject to change for a better deal):

DH was laid off November of last year...we took his entire 401k as a distribution the first of January. We did it then because the tax implications would be much lower this year with little to no income than they would have been last year with his salary. Although many people frown on taking out your 401k, we felt like it didn't make sense to leave it in there to make money just so we could turn around and *borrow* money for 30 years.

The 401k netted us enough to build a 32 x 38 basement into a hill with a walkout, including excavation. We might be able to save $$ on this still. I have a feeling the first estimate came back high.

DH now wants to have a gambrel roof built on top of the basement with site-built trusses making the inside of the roof completely open (barn-style). When we have money later, we can put a floor in there and it will become living space.

We're keeping our bedrooms in the basement to cut air-conditioning needs in the summer. We'll put in a small kitchen that will become a basement kitchenette down the road, a small bathroom with shower stall and a little living area. The gambrel part will become a big kitchen (both dh & I cook a LOT and this is where we always want to put our money in any house), a larger family room & a second bathroom.

If we can get the basement part with the roof and septic hookup finished by June, along with enough interior to get a certificate of occupancy, we can get that tax rebate next year for 20% of our building costs. I'm beginning to think that's a tall order, but if we could do it, then I'd feel OK to borrow the 20% knowing it would come back to us in a few months.

We have lots of Amish in our area, so electricity actually isn't required for occupancy.

Once we can move in, we could sell our mobile for around $10,000, so we could start making the gambrel part into finished space.

Other small things we're considering...there are currently tax deductions (not as good as the rebates, but still something) for putting in big energy saving systems in new construction. The deductions are for 30% of the cost of purchase AND installation, and they include wind power, solar power, geo-thermal & I think solar water heaters? Anyway, it might work out to incorporate some of these bigger ticket items in our new house and pay little difference from a conventional system when you factor in the tax help.

Also, we have many red cedars on our property, so dh has been cutting them down and letting them begin to cure so we can use these for the siding on the opposite sides of the roof. We also have a huge walnut that fell last year in our woods over a creek. The position it fell into gave itself a natural termite barrier. We're considering having a local sawmill turn that into some hardwood flooring for us. Walnut flooring is a bit excessive, I guess, but it's better than letting it sit there and rot. I'd love to be able to get some kitchen cabinet lumber out of it too.

So I know that's a lot of info and details , but maybe it will spark something in the brainstorming process.

And thanks for the input on the swimming pool liner. That has now become our backup plan if we can't go on to do the roof yet!
post #9 of 15
We camped in our basement while building our house. We also have a walkout and we are built into a hill. Honestly it was miserable and I would never do it again. The basement was very damp and moldy and so much of our stuff was destroyed. If I do it again I will not live in the building I am building. We are off grid and so we only had a generator for power tools which was fine for living but when building it was hard to not have basic amentities after an exhausting dirty day.

But if you can live in the trailer and finish the basement before moving and make sure it is not moldy that might work. Were I live occupancy permits are hard to get but we lived illegally in our home while building before we got one. Maybe the pool liner would keep it dryer although even with a proper roof and a well poured basement ours is still damp. We are planning on sealing the concrete that will probably help.

I love your enthusiasm for building it will help you get through. Building a house was so hard for me. It wasn't the work, I love insane labor and huge projects and I can work hard maybe due to my farm upbringing. The psychological, marital and financial stress almost broke me. If we ever do it again we will budget a marriage counseler into the project cost. But I now love my house and sometimes I miss my hammer. I really do not want to discourage you but there is a lot I would do differently and the more people you talk to that have built there own house the more prepared you'll be.
Good Luck!
post #10 of 15

How did all of your building go? You guys sound just like us.  We are planning on living out of the basement while building.  Currently we live in a mobile home on lots of acres too.  Just curioussmile.gif

post #11 of 15

We are looking into doing the same thing! I am now just researching costs and such. I am very anixous to do this ! I am hoping to break ground as soon as the frost is gone in the spring! ;)

post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 

Wow! I can't believe how busy it has gotten since I've been able to get back to this thread. I wanted to mention a few quick things we learned while building, in case they might be helpful to someone else.


• When you build your basement, pay extra attention to drainage around the sides and take extra care to prep the ground under. Most suggest if you are going to live in your basement at all to put both gravel and thick black plastic down before pouring. This is all really really good advice and don't ever be tempted to shortcut it or you'll regret it later. BUT - and this is just good to know - concrete does not cure quickly and the first year is going to be wet in your basement no matter what you do. A dehumidifier works a little, but not enough. The drywall might mold if you have any. Any rugs you have down will have to be thrown out. If clothing sits on the floor for more than a day, it gets fuzzy mold. We installed tile in our basement and this was an awesome material for over the concrete - I wouldn't have anything else. But, in July and August of last year (basement was about 8 months old at that point), we actually had standing puddles of water from condensation, even after the tile was in. It was crazy. I had to throw out many pieces of wood furniture because I could never get rid of that musty smell. So knowledge and prevention are everything, I think. I was so scared it would go on every year and it didn't. This year, we've had almost no problems, certainly no standing water, and my contractors told me it won't fully cure for 10 years. So 1.5 years in, we're already seeing a complete difference. It should only get better.


• If you can design your house to have your bedrooms in the basement, or at least to have summer bedrooms in the basement, you might not have to run a/c at all. We've been fine this year without any a/c, even on the 110 degree, high humidity days. Our bedrooms are permanently in the basement. We have one framed side that is almost all windows for better light so it doesn't feel like a basement at all. Apparently, most of the Amish in our area have extra summer sleeping areas in their basements as well.


• We ended up building the whole shell of the house at once, so I didn't need to deal with tarps or anything. That worked really well and it gave us storage space for our building materials.


• If you build a framed side (as you would building into a hill) in your basement and design any sleeping rooms to be situated on that side, you won't have to fool with VERY expensive exit windows. For that matter, be sure you check the required size of bedroom exit windows if you're getting a permit and if you'll be inspected. You might be surprised how large they have to be. Windows, doors & kitchen cabinets are some of the best materials to collect yourself from building surplus or reuse places. You will save major money on these items over buying them new, and they are usually easy to find.


Overall, I LOVED being the general contractor on my house. Yes, it was a lot of stress. Yes, it was a lot of work. I kept detailed spreadsheets. I woke up at 2:00 a.m. frequently so I could add some detail to my spreadsheets that I was afraid I'd forgotten. All the work had to be organized in a certain chronological order and synchronized. I had to get up long before I was ready on freezing cold mornings and drag my newborn and toddler over to the house because my Amish contractors get up at insane hours so they would show up at my house insanely early. And don't even get me started on the number of exhausting Lowe's and Habitat Restore trips with three kids in tow. But I learned so much, and I adore my house now. And I formed new friendships and relationships I never would have formed without just jumping on in. And every single item in my house has a whole story behind it.


Since we did none of the building ourselves and very little of the interior finishing, our savings was more modest. We saved about 25% over going with a turn-key builder. I think the majority of that was probably in my sourcing and hauling home surplus and reused materials. And the fact that my uncle did the blueprints for us so I didn't have to pay an architect.

post #13 of 15

Wow.   Many of you have similar stories, so please tell me more, and give me tips.


Our house burned March 2012, and we live in Central NY.  We were lucky it was a mild winter, and the insurance paid for a 5th wheel trailer.  The company which sold the trailer to us lied--it is NOT a "four season" trailer...  There is little insulation.  But we did have our septic and well, so it was doable.  Now, as winter comes closer, we are planning on moving into the professionally built basement, which is all new, from the footers and drainage up.  We plastic covered and insulated the areas built into the hill before back filling.


So we have a basement with stick frame on the south side, and a huge bank of windows and a walk-out.  We have septic installed in the basement, though not yet hooked up, and my husband is an electrician, so that aspect is taken care of (we laid 100 yards of 200 amp & conduit it a 4 foot ditch this afternoon.. I *hurt*.  In my late 40s this is not what I'd expected to be doing, though it is satisfying to see the job get done...)


The subfloor is done, but as winter approaches, we have to worry about how we'll keep the place dry--a flat "roof" means feet of snow which must be shoveled often. 


We are thinking that we'll calk, paint with some sort of water-sealer and then cover it (stapled) in plastic.... Has anyone done this in a snowy climate?





post #14 of 15

We lived in our basement when we tore our house down to the foundation and rebuilt.  I would never do that again.  The basment is still part of the construction zone since everything (it seems) routes through it- plumbing, heating, electrical, etc.   What a nightmare.  Construction lasted about 6 months but recovery took several years.  (seriously!!)

post #15 of 15

My dad built our house ase a very long term project. After ~30 years it is now more-or-less done. Most of the building was done over a ~10-11 yr period, ending when I was ~9 yrs old. My dad recently (last ~5 yrs, since we moved back) done some major upgrades - geothermal system (prevoiusly heated exclusively with wood stoves), new windows, new roof, new foundation. It was built in 4 main stages - log cabin, bathroom, basement, family room/bedrooms.


When we *just* had the basement (and nothing ontop of it) for several years, it was a flat roof with tarpaper over.

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