Finishing an Owner-Built House

When I gave Jenna and Guillaume a tour of my tiny house, I pointed out a few of my lingering projects. Is it ever REALLY done?! "How long did it take you to build your house?" people who are curious ask people like me who have built our own homes.

When talking to most people, I explain that it took about six months to make The Lucky Penny livable. But when I'm talking to someone who has built a home of their own home, I often groan and say "Ugh! Is it ever really done?!" and they shrug and say "Nope, definitely not!"

Most people I know who have built their own homes, either on wheels or ground-bound, have never completely finished them. Or, if we have, we did it just before selling the house to someone else (who probably promptly ripped out half of what we've done to make the house suit them!) One of the Joys of Homeownership, no matter the size of one's home, is that there's almost always a project that could be done.

There's a saying*: When the carpenter finishes his house, he dies."

But I don't think we're superstitious. I think we're just utterly exhausted. Oh, and we've probably tapped out our budget, too!

So we continue working on little projects as we make our houses home, but most of us have a few things we'd still like to do. When we give tours of our homes, we're usually the first to point out that piece of trim we never finished or that temporary ladder we never replaced with the real thing. I know several owner-builders of ground-bound houses who have lived in their homes for a couple of decades now and never have gotten around to completing their punch list. It's good enough. Enough. See, there's that word again!

In deciding how done enough our homes are, what we can live with and what we can't, we figure out what enough is all over again! Maybe they're just perfectly imperfect...

Furthermore, those of us who blog about our builds usually start out pretty strong, but then taper off on the posts. As we push to get the house built we often lose momentum about talking about it. This absolutely happened with me and The Lucky Penny. In May 2014 and June 2014, when I was going strong on the build, I wrote a couple posts each week to chronicle my progress. By November, when I had my Move In Day & Housewarming, I was posting every other week.

There are so many stories about my Lucky Penny Finishes that I never really told. Some of the details I've forgotten by now, but some of those build days are emblazoned into my memory: long afternoons of meditative shingling, followed by blackberry milkshakes by the river with my build buddy Laura. Building my tiny house was one of the most empowering things I've ever done. And, of course, I've thoroughly loved living in this little sculpture I created!

So as Isha and I prepare to begin construction of our new tiny house (T42) and map out our T42 Build Timeline, I've been thinking about these three things with regard to the LP:

  1. Which building stories I still want to tell about the Lucky Penny Finishes.
  2. Which experiences I want to share about Living in The Lucky Penny.
  3. What projects to put on the Lucky Penny Punch List.

I've set aside some time next week to work on my Lucky Penny Punch List. I imagine I still won't finish the house, but it will be nice to devote some energy to those pesky lingering projects. I am already fascinated by my process of deciding what the priorities are and I look forward to sharing with you whatever transpires!

If you've built your own home, feel free to share in the comments any lingering projects on your list (or alternatively, how you got our house finished some time before - or after - you moved in)! If you haven't yet built your own home, what would be the minimum you'd consider acceptable to have completed before you could call your house home, sweet home?


*Nope, not sure who said this because the internets won't tell me, but someone, somewhere told me this and I've brought it up as a snippet of reassurance (read: excuse!) for those of us whose houses just refuse to be finished!