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Building Your own House

Simple House Building / May 27, 2021

When it comes to dream houses, Americans are changing the very definition. Sure, there are still plenty of McMansions going up. But thanks to the intersection of key trends, including a growing environmental awareness, the Tiny House crowd, a continuing rise of DIY esprit in the Maker Movement and the advent of 3D printing, the romantic lure of picking up a hammer and build your dream house is gaining steam.

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“People no longer want to measure their homes simply in square footage, ” says Greg Wright, executive director of the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota, which teaches traditional crafts and skills. “They're looking for more authenticity, for a home that has real soul.”

Wright says that as the folk school movement, which started in Denmark in the mid-1800s and introduces people to everything from blacksmithing to mushroom-gathering, has gained attention, interest in North House classes that focus on home-building basics, which include classes on timber framing as well as a five-day workshop called Build Thoreau’s Cabin, are among its most popular.

“A lot of people have discovered that in the age of giant box stores, while there is a simplicity of sourcing everything, something has been left behind, ” he says. People’s enthusiasm for craftsmanship they can really understand is evident in everything from the local foods movement to handcrafted canoes. “Sure, you can go online and click to buy, let’s say, a bark-edged mixing bowl. But there’s a growing interest in the artisanship behind it.”

Many organizations offer classes that are geared not just for individuals, but also for couples—and even whole families—who are hoping to change the way they see housing. (North House recently hosted three generations who came to learn how to build an addition to the family’s lake house.) And they want to participate in the process, either by actually building things, or just learning to appreciate the intricacies of construction.

Some resources to check out:

The school offers classes in building log cabins, with classic dovetail construction, building with stone, working with stone construction, and stove-building.

in Massachusetts’ Berkshire Mountains; a 10-day class in comprehensive homebuilding costs $1, 350 in tuition.

located in Vermont, has offerings like a six-day class in timber framing for $1, 050, or a 12-day Tiny House Design/Build class in Portland, Oregon, for $1, 750.

in Woolwich, Maine, runs classes like Purely Post & Beam, where students start with raw lumber and finish with a 24 foot-by-24 foot hand raised timber frame, for $975. A one-day seminar on working with contractors cost $375.