$15,000

Exposed-Duct-Work

Like we stated before, we had no prior building experience, but we were so determined to change our lifestyle that we took a leap of faith. We were not willing to let anything stand in our way and there were lots of obstacles along the way. We were thinking outside of the box, but people with building experience always refused or could not wrap their heads around what we were trying to do nor were they sure why we were trying to build a house out of a grain bin.

So without us having building experience, this created one of the biggest obstacles that we had to face. With very few people in the construction industry able to offer information, we fell back into line on doing things traditionally with contractors doing the work. This was short lived after we received a $15,000 bid for the heating and cooling system. Keep in mind, they were going to use part of our plans and our idea of exposed duct work for installing the system. This situation reinvigorated the do for self mentality. I know, a lot of people are going to say, “I’ve never done a certain thing so I cannot do it and it will not be right. I need a professional to do it.” This is so far from the truth. We are all capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for or are willing to take a risk on. After doing research, we came up with our own idea of how the duct work should be installed and look. Of course, there are basic principles with sizing a system, cfm flow rates, etc., but we were able to design and install a system for a fraction of the cost, and I mean a fraction.

By deciding to continue to do things ourselves, we were able to save more money for operation quit job. The goal of the entire project was still to live a simple stress-free existence. Everyone’s idea of a stress free or less stress lifestyle is different. For us, it means being debt free and not a slave to lenders, to not have to work 50+ hours each week, to not sacrifice our personal time and family time, to own fewer things, and setting up our own little homestead for self sustainability. I know this concept seems far out to a lot of people, as it was to us once upon a time, but a lot of these ideas started to come into fruition with each project that we conquered. Although each project we conquered was fulfilling and was a step closer to our ultimate goal, we also had setbacks like trying to build curved stairs to our loft.

This was highly difficult because no one could tell us nor could we find information on building curved steps on a curved wall. So we had to call for back up AKA my dad. We told him we needed to build curved stairs. His reply was, “I know how to build regular stairs, but not curved stairs.” So much for the backup. It was up to us to figure this thing out because we had planned on having a loft, which kinda requires stairs, well unless you can fly. We tossed around several ideas for a week or so between working on other projects. It took my math brain and my husbands pure genius, per him he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, to come up with an idea that would work.

Curved-Stairs
Curved stairs on a curved wall

My Husband Shot Me

Framing-Grain-Bin-House

At this point, the budget got even tighter. We put even more money into saving, or bought things that we knew we would need for the house in the future. At the same time, we were still preparing to deploy operation quit job.

Everything was on us now. We were the general contractor, the contractor, the builder, the electrician, the HVAC, and the plumber. Our approach was that you never know what you are capable of unless you try, and if you fail, there is always someone that can fix it. Now it may cost you more to fix it, but on the flip side, when you succeed you start to realize how much more you are capable of doing in this dependent society. If you do a crappy job, you only have yourself to blame and have to live with what you’ve done. But if you hire someone and they do a crappy job, you have to live with what they’ve done and this could leave a bad taste in your mouth. We had already experienced this in different situations, so that’s how we came to the conclusion that we needed to do this ourselves.

We strapped on our boots, and yes my husband made me buy real work boots, which I wear everyday on the job (stickler). After working 10 hours, I drove straight to the job site AKA the grain bin house and started framing. It took a while to figure things out, but once we did we got into this amazing groove and knocked out a good portion of the framing. At 1AM, we decided that it was probably time to call it a day because work (the real jobs) were going to come fairly soon.We were hungry and beat down tired, but we had this sense of accomplishment energy that made us even more confident that we could do this. So this was the routine for the next week. Everything was moving smoothly and uneventful until the tragedy. Ok, maybe not a tragedy, but it seemed like one at the time. Our first job site accident.  As we were framing, my husband just happened to put a nail through 2 of my fingers while I was holding a couple boards for him. Well actually, it came out the side of the board and went through my fingers. I must say I was a super trooper. I did not cry, but I wanted to. I was sidelined for most of the evening, but later on, I was able to help out a little bit. After the incident, we were very aware of the power that the nail gun possessed and were very aware of where hands should and should not be placed. Safety first!

Finger-Injury
Work site tragedy

So we kept trucking along, and things started to get really interesting. Walls went up, walls came down. We cut 2X4’s the size of our couch, chairs, etc. and placed them on the floor to see if we liked the layout and how flexible it would or could be before we put up walls. Even though it was frustrating at times, it was so much fun because nothing was or had to be set in stone. So many things were done on the fly and the most creative things were simply not planned. But also, when doing things on the fly, you still need to have a vision of the final product.

The Big Day

Grain-Bin-Raising

The big day has finally arrived. The contractors started preparations for pouring the concrete slab. This was a particularly stressful time due to the fact that we are geniuses who thought it was a great idea to have concrete poured in the middle of winter. But then again, I guess we were just being ambitious. Any who, we had a few bumps in the road. The contractors were able to get the concrete footers poured, then the bad weather set in. Goodbye window of opportunity.

It seemed like things were going nowhere fast, but in hindsight, it gave us an opportunity to make changes and double check plans, and to make sure that contractors were on the same page. So we thought, but my husband, being the perfectionist that his is, he discovered that the were problems with the rough in plumbing.This is a particularly bad situation because had we not caught it our stairs wouldn’t have fit where they were supposed to go, our bathroom would have ended up in our hallway, we would not have had a kitchen sink in our island, the bathroom vent pipe would have ended up on the outside of the grain bin house, and nothing would have drained properly because there was not enough slope with the plumbing. Once these things were fixed, some by us I might add, we were finally ready for concrete. At this point, we had such low confidence in the contractors ability thus far, we were just praying that things would turn out ok. So much so that I called in to work on the day of the pour to supervise. Not so sure they enjoyed reporting to a woman though. It got dark and we had puppies at the time, so I fired up the rocket mass heater we had built and played with the puppies, but at 10PM I was exhausted and left for home while they continued to float the concrete by headlights.

This was a learning experience for us as to knowing when to fire a contractor or when someone else does not have the same vision that you have. We were building something that was not common so having a contractor that saw the project the same way we did was extremely important, to ensure that we were able to build as planned. Looking back, this is something we wished we would not have been afraid to do, but it makes it harder when it is a friend. Lesson learned, friend or no friend, if you need to change  contractors, do not be afraid to do so and don’t drag your feet, things will not get better.

After the concrete was poured, we had bad weather move in, which delayed our ability to have our grain bin put up. We were able to get it on the books for the first day of  good weather. This just so happened to be a beautiful Saturday morning. Well maybe a little cold, but beautiful in the fact that we were having the grain bin house raised. Due to our experience with our previous contractor, we were quite nervous about the grain bin install. Six men showed in two big trucks with trailers at sunrise. The pulled into our drive and we thought that the carnival was coming to town. But let me tell you, these guys were super professional. It was like watching ants work. All 6 guys on the team knew exactly where they should, what they should be doing, and how they should be doing it. There was never a moment that they were out of sync. We were totally impressed and this wiped the bad taste out of our mouth from the previous incident.

At the end of the day we had this round, tall, metal, echoey grain bin that we were going to call home. This was daunting because we knew that we had a monumental task in front of us and we couldn’t believe that we decided to build this.

Empty-Grain-Bin
Empty Grain Bin at the end of the day

Hello Chaos

Perfect-Tree

Homeless. Homeless. Homeless. Ok, maybe not really homeless, but we were actually homeless for about two hours. We had all of our personal possessions in a U-Haul waiting to meet our landlord and get keys to our apartment. We finally have a home again, then it was a mad rush to get everything into our apartment with only 5 hours of daylight left because it was just us two moving. All of our friends bailed, I mean they were busy, at the last minute. So being that we had to work on the land the next day, we thought it was a great idea to get everything organized and put away that night. Needless to say, staying up until 3 A.M. was not our brightest moment. No one said we were the sharpest tools in the shed. The morning rolled around rather quickly. We were awakened by noisy neighbors, which was a new experience for us and might I add awesome?!?

But on a positive note, we got up, and went out to the disastrous land to begin clearing trees. We still did not have a clue about where this grain bin house was going to go. The placement of the grain bin house was contingent upon where the septic tank could go due to the rules and regulations imposed by the county code. We started to determine which trees needed to be removed. We started up the chainsaw, and began to cut down trees, drag them into piles, and started bonfires, which was awesome. After working until dark with bonfires still blazing, we had to shut it down in preparation for the everyday grind that we all have to endure.

So begins our new “normal”. Get up, work 10 hour days, come home, eat dinner AKA gas station food, work on the land until there was absolutely no daylight left, and go to bed. In the meantime, we were able to get approval on our septic tank, which enabled us to determine where to put the grain bin house. On the land, we have lots of 50+ feet tall oak trees. There was one particular tree that was perfect in every way. It was probably 70 feet tall, with a perfect trunk, no lower limbs, and as you get to the top of the tree the foliage formed a perfect dome shape for a great shade tree. But the tree happened to be in the perfect spot to place the grain bin house, which was slightly behind a wooded rolling hill. We spent a couple weeks trying to figure out another location for the grain bin house, but we soon realized that this was just the “perfect” spot. So the beautiful tree had to go, which was saddening.

Meanwhile, we were continuing to work the disastrous land and waiting for the contractors to show up to pour the concrete slab. At this point, we were not quite sure if the contractor would actually show up, due to the fact that they seemed shocked and kinda unsure if we were serious about pouring a circle slab for a grain bin house, but said they could pour a circle. At the time we told them our idea, they thought we were rather crazy just like others.

Get Out

Perfect landscaped yard

30 days…to get out!

As we packed, we discovered that we had excessive amounts of stuff that we hardly ever, or for that matter, never even used. We started to think about, how much stuff  do you actually need to live? That question coupled with moving from a house to an apartment spawned this crazy idea of only keeping what we actually used. Ok, maybe this idea is not crazy, but in today’s society does not seem to be very practical. Or is it?

Operation: Give Away. So we started to get rid of everything that we hadn’t used in forever. Lucky for us, we had the sweetest two old ladies that lived next door that we gave quite a bit to. It was a good feeling because they were in need of items we were getting rid of; they were so thankful and it was a win-win situation for both of us. We were also able sell a few items and donate the rest. So, we didn’t throw everything away because we had not decided on our future space, but we did get rid of quite a bit of stuff. As we packed and gave stuff away, the house actually started to look better and feel better because there was just less stuff. Less to trip over, less to clean, less clutter, and more space. This pushed the notion of how far can we take this minimalistic approach?…TINY HOUSE. So with our newfound approach, we jumped feet first into the tiny house movement idea. But, after some research and the realization that we love each other very much and spend quite a bit of time together, this was not going to work. Tiny house idea… DONE. After researching other structures, we both became stuck on the grain bin house idea.

So we started to take measurements of our current living space and really started to figure out what we wanted and didn’t want in our new home.And boy let me tell you, the old excessive giant really kicked into gear.I wanted this, he wanted that.  We were going to put everything in this house! Then, reality kicked in. We didn’t have THAT kind of money. So, we had to settle for the must haves. At the same time, we had to think about growing old in the house. Wider doors, bigger showers, and necessities accessible on one level for possible wheelchair access and/or old age. As we started to draw the floor plans and narrow down what we had to have in the grain bin house, we also had to consider long term costs; like maintenance, taxes, repairs, etc. As we drew up the floor plan and got things organized for building a house and moving, this minimalistic, more self sufficient, stress free lifestyle change was fast approaching.

30 days were up and it was goodbye to the “perfect” little life that we had created. It was a bittersweet and might I add, scary moment.

My idea is crazier than yours

Welcome to Weirdos in a Grain Bin! We are excited to share our story. This story is not only about building a grain bin house, but being self sufficient, debt free, simple living and life hacks.

We decided to quit our jobs. Sounds crazy right? But we’ll get back to that.

We are just like every other American trying to live the American dream. What is the American Dream, you say? Let’s see — get married, buy a house, get a decent paying job, maybe even start a family, yada yada yada, and then what? Over-worked, under-paid, stressed out, mortgage, car note, credit cards, etc.; you know your everyday rat race.  After years of the same rat race, we decided that there had to more. This can’t be the only way to live life. So we came up with a plan to have less stress and be debt free in 5 years and to be able to do what we want.  We started by looking at the interest we were paying on our smaller loans that could be paid off in a few years. For us, it made sense to make short term sacrifices now – not eating out as often, cutting cable TV, cellphone plans, etc. These sacrifices allowed us to pay off smaller loans by paying down the interest, which saved us money to be able to put more in savings. This was not an easy thing to do because we work hard; we should be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor, right? These things are only temporary enjoyment. At the same time, we decided to use our well-landscaped yard to grow a few fruits and vegetables, which cut down on the grocery bill to help save even more money. Believe it or not, it really did make a difference and it tastes better than store bought! I know what your thinking, I don’t have a green thumb, well neither did we! Try it, you just may shock yourself, we did.

After a year, we were shocked by the amount of money we were able to save and the debt we were able to pay off, which reduced stress and that was an awesome feeling. But, like most Americans, we had extra money so we started spending more on other activities. We kinda lost sight of the main goal of being debt free. We buckled down and got refocused. We soon realized that our stress free, debt reduced life was not truly stress free or debt free because of the ever present 30 year mortgage monster and working 50+ hours per week. This is when the new plan: operation quit job was born. We figured out the only way to quit your job is to own your land and home.

At this point we decided we needed to find land, which was not an easy task. We looked at land for 6 months without any luck, so we became discouraged for operation quit job. Then one Saturday afternoon, we decided to take the back roads home, that we normally do not take and we stumbled upon a property for sale. As we walked around the property my husband was rambling on about how perfect the property was and this vision of his. Meanwhile, the only thing, I can think about is we are trespassing because the property had “NO TRESPASSING” signs posted everywhere. Of course, my husband continued to trample all over the property because he (not me) was interested in buying this property. As I make my way back to the vehicle (shaking my head the entire time), he was already on the phone with the owner. Soon after, we purchased the property, which was a mess,  and I still wasn’t even sure of his “so called” vision. The sacrifices that we made early on allowed us to purchase the property.

So after his crazy idea of purchasing the land, I came up with a crazy idea of my own from Pinterest. When I jokingly showed him my amazing idea of building a grain bin house, he had the same look that I had to his “perfect land vision” maybe even slightly more shocked. Pinterest is NOT a husband’s friend. He did not say much about it until a month later, out of the blue he says, “yeah, we can probably build a grain bin house.” Coming from a man with no prior building experience, but I must admit, he is pretty handy. My shocked response was, “Are you serious?” A couple weeks later, he says, “We’re going to put the house on the market.” No discussion, nothing, just putting the house up for sale with no where to live. Sounds like a solid plan! “Maybe we can live in a RV on the land,” he says. I do not think so, so the house sold within 3 weeks of being put on the market. We were both super happy which turned into being shocked, scared and nervous all at the same time. So, we settled on renting an apartment, Thank God.