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Part 1: Taking the first step, trusting and believing

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Digging the first post holes after setting up the profile. The ‘profile’ is the outline of the building that includes the measurements of how far your roof overhang will be and how big your building will be.  It needs precision and patience.  Note also how the first post hole is being dug directly under where the point where the stings cross.  It needs to be done with every hole.

I promised myself that once I took this journey of building our own home, I would share whatever I learnt with others who may be going through this process or are at the crossroads where they’re trying to decide between a home loan or a ‘build it yourself project.’

I chose the later.   This is  a personal preference. Primarily, because I hate loans of any sort  and I detest  the fact that you have to report to a financial overlord who doesn’t care about your family’s welfare and  monthly finances.

The other reason, also personal, was to remove myself from the depression of calculating how much I rent I paid to landlords every year.  Paying rent gives you a false sense of security. It’s only when you miss a few days, that you realize how much the landlord dislikes your lack of punctuality.

Please note that this is not the perfect option. This option works if you have access to land. Also note that we had a lot of help from friends and family especially our younger brothers, their friends,  our friends and their parents.  So I can’t claim all the credit :D.

  1. MAKE THE MOVE, MAKE THE SACRIFICE.

Your home won’t happen if you try to ‘ease into it.”  Make a decisive move. Our decisive move was to leave the comfort of rented accommodation and, literally, set up camp where we intended to build.  Putting yourself in a difficult position, creates innovation.  Innovation doesn’t happen in a place of comfort.  The move forced me to research and design everything from camp designs, pit toilets, sanitation,  house designs, building materials and building options.

  1. TRUST AND HAVE FAITH.

A guru once said to me: “Whatever you want to do, go and do it and the Universe will come and help you.”   On the first night, after completing the camp.  I laid on the ground looking up into the starry sky. My daughters had moved to Madang with their mother and I, dirty and sweaty was thinking to myself: ‘WTF have I gotten myself into?’

All I had was a design of a rather large house drawn on SketchUp (great software BTW), 36 metal posts bought from Atlas Steel, hardwood bearers and no idea how I was going to build it or who was going to build it.

Then, a very important family friend and elder came to visit that night.  He happened to be a builder and owned a small construction company. Long story short.  He asked: ‘Who’s going to build it for you?’

I said: ‘I’m still thinking of it.’

He said: ‘Go and bring the bearers and the posts and we start building tomorrow.  The rest, you just trust and believe.’

The first part of home building is the right state of mind.

  1. GET AN EXPERT TO SET YOUR BUILDING PROFILE.

Don’t settle for less. The profile of your building is super important. I cannot stress this enough. GET AN EXPERT TO DO IT.  If you don’t your whole building won’t turn out as you expect.  With an expert, this job will take at least two days depending  on the size of the house.

  1. THE POSTS

If you are building on stilts, you have to decide between tall and short posts. I chose the 1.8 meter posts.  Which gives enough storage space under the house. The floor will be head high when you lay the bearers (the big timbers that sit on the posts horizontally.)

  1. BUY IN STAGES.

Don’t buy the studs (wall timber) if you have not bought your bearers.  Timber that is exposed, deteriorates in wet weather.  Don’t go buying doors if you don’t know how wide your door frame will be.  The general sequence is:

  • Posts, bolts, bearers and cement bags
  • Joists (timbers that go on the bearers, walls stand on them)
  • Studs (wall timbers)
  • Trusses (roof timbers)
  • Kapa
  • Outer walls
  • Flooring
  • Inner walls, ceiling, electrical, plumbing etc…

I hope this helps, I’ll continue in part 2.

6 comments on “Part 1: Taking the first step, trusting and believing

  1. Thanks for sharing this! If all the carpenters out there could learn to write, we’d all be building our own homes already! And I agree – the big thing is you make a start – take action NOW and the next steps will present themselves subsequently. Anticipating Part II.

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  2. Ann-Tania Sipori

    Hi Scott,
    Thanks for these awesome Blogs on “piece on build your your own home/house” and the “dismantle slavery system….”. I resonate with every single words you said in those 2 blogs because am living that life of freedom you have vividly described in both blogs. I am proud of you for taking that same journey as I and you will not regret it. I think its really amazing that despite our professional difference as me being an engineer and you a journalist, we both share similar beliefs not only for ourselves and family but for PNG as well. I appreciate reading all your blogs but I had to reply/comment on these 2 blogs because you “Hit the Nail on the Head”. God bless your creative genius mind. Cheers. ATS

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  3. Thanks for the inspiration, finally got round to laying down the first brick just few weeks ago and your post is truly timely motivation. looking forward to part 2:)

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  4. I am at step 1 ready to leave rentals worth over K90,000 😭 paid over 5 years in Pom. I’m still crying btw. Very very angry I said ENOUGH! So I’m going to camp, pit toilet and all. I hope Pom affords me good prices on hardware. I’ll let you know my deals 👍

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  5. I took this step back in 2013 and I so believe that fact about the universe providing and supporting your plans as I have experienced that too.

    Anyway, I have always hated renting, so when we were living at my company rented house I told myself that before I get removed from my job for some reason I should secure a land and build my house. So the journey began a few weeks later when I stumbled upon a man who assisted me secure my piece of land to build on and the rest is history. I’am now trying to build my dream home.

    Thank you for sharing, it’s such a beautiful feeling living in your own home designed and built by you.

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