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Mark, thank you for writing such a great book. I have bought many books to help me through my building process, but yours is the one I go back to the most. I'm on my second home now. It is so much easier the second time around. The first house was such a huge success. It cost us about $100/ft to build with top of the line details, and including a swimming pool (but not including land), and we sold it less than two years later for about $235/ft. We made several hundred thousand dollars profit on that one house! I think it's safe to say owner-building has changed my life. Thanks!
Chad in Arizona

Try one of our new Construction Bargain Strategies for free. Coupon code: CBS. One strategy could save you $1,000 or $10,000 or maybe $50,000 when you build or remodel.

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Posted to Katabatic-Wind by Michael in Huntsville, AL on 10/16/2008

Previously, I had been using this system (Micro-Blaster) for breaking up rock. It was working, but not as well as I hoped. North Alabama has some very hard limestone. That's one of the reasons Toftoy and Werner Von Braun chose the site for rocket testing in the Fifties (at least, that's what's I've always heard). But, I assure you limestone comes in various densities, and this is in the upper range.

Anyway, I tried more than one cartridge per hole and that worked wonders. To the point that one hole with two cartridges was more effective than three holes with one cartridge each. Still, I have a lot of rock on my site, so my goal in this current excursion was to weaken as much as I could at various places so that the rock hammer would be more effective than it was last time. Hopefully equaling less equipment time.

Here's the current state. Hard to tell the difference, but on the backside of the large bolder, a lot was broken up. The stuff on the front would just slide into the street if I did more.


Rock work

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Posted to Katabatic-Wind by Michael in Huntsville, AL on 6/29/2008

This was from a while ago... but I'll put it up to show the pics.

First off, I wanted to post some pics of the lot and some initial excavation work done. Also, the before and after of my rock-breaking attempts.

So, the rock-breaking worked somewhat. But, it was slower than I expected. Once I put the cracks in the rock with the MB-2, I found the most effective method of removal to be:

   1. Take a rock hammer and tap. Listen and feel for hollow spots. This means it might come off.
   2. Just use the SDS drill with a decent-size bit and kindof vibrate the split piece off.
   3. Put in some more cracks and repeat.

But, I purchased a longer drill bit (I had to special order) to make the cracks run deeper. We'll see what happens. It could turn out to just be too time-consuming even with the MB-2. I haven't given up hope yet, but if it saves a day or two of excavator time, it will still be worth it.

I sold my old house, so now the focus can be more on the new house.


Initial exploratory work.
Rock 1 Before.
Rock 1 After a day's work.
Rock 2 Before (It's Huge!!!).
Rock 2 After a day's work.
Rock 2 After a day's work (another side).

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Posted to Katabatic-Wind by Michael in Huntsville, AL on 3/19/2008 3:45:53 PM

As the previous entry states, a Katabatic Wind is a cold downhill wind.  My house has to be build up on a slope, so there you go on another reason I picked that name.  There is a pretty substantial rock face on the road at my tiny street edge. I am in a cul-de-sac on a weird diamond like lot.  This all adds up to a difficult to reach site (read: expensive driveway) that rewards with a decent view.  I knew when buying the lot that it wouldn't be easy to build on. That is why the lot was affordable and in a good area.

My brother-in-law has began some excavation and rock crushing work for me. This was for me to try to determine where driveway will run before I got plans - as this land dictates the route. Well, some of the limestone boulders were too strong for, what I would call, an average size excavator with a hydraulic hammer. So, getting quotes from the excavation company he works for - and they had done some similar lots in the area - it could be anywhere from $20,000 to $80,000. It's hard to tell on this type of land until you start digging.  That basically would make the house un-affordable.  Well, I could afford the same size house I am in now, but the size is the problem with the current one.

Not wanting to throw in the towel so early (or build up a savings that would allow that kind of excavation cost), I have purchased a Micro-Blaster II from Ezebreak [ ].  I deliberated about that or some form of non-explosive demolition agent (Dexpan for one).  I plan to test it out on what I estimate to be a 10-ton limestone boulder. Energy withstanding, I'd like to have before and after shots of the grand destruction. After that, come excavation time, I hope to hire my brother-in-law again to move the dirt.  When he reaches a rock thats too big, I'll come in and crack it. 

Wish me luck!

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Posted to Katabatic-Wind by Michael in Huntsville, AL on 3/19/2008

First, let me explain the name: Katabatic Wind. If I have to explain the name, then it wasn't a good choice you say? Point taken. Basically, it is a cold wind blowing downward. What I am referring in respect to this journal is obstacles and resistance in one's path to build a house. This even more the case if you are an owner and not a contractor for a living.

But, don't let me bring you down (no pun intended). An uphill battle can be very rewarding. My hope is to focus on the beautiful view that will be seen from inside a cozy house atop that hill.

And I am not just referring to subs not showing up, materials getting stolen, rain delays, and more rain delays. I expect all that. It is the negative reactions I sometimes encounter when I mention my desire to build the house myself. It feels as if people would prefer to just call me stupid for wanting to build the house. That I am somehow so naive that I must believe you can order a house off Amazon.

They think they are doing a favor by trying to tell you what you are getting into. And if they were the first person to tell me that and I didn't know it - fine. Of course I worry about missing a code I didn't know or the rigmarole with keeping every thing and body straight. (I prefer to use a rig-a-marole for that). What I don't want or need is people acting as if I am deficient in a way that prevents me from doing the job. There are many difficult trials present in our history overcome by people with less means than I. What Alexander the Great did would seem impossible by today's standards. Ben Franklin was a fugitive at one point (I guess two from the Brits perspective). Even Frank Loyd Wright didn't have a degree. My point? I believe, I must believe, all - save death - is surmountable.

It reminds me of the documentary "Touching the Void". It's a very moving and gripping piece about a climber, Joe Simpson, in the Andes. He breaks his leg and his partner has to help him down the mountain. At one point, Joe dangles over a crevasse. Exhausted, his partner Simon cuts the rope tying them together -- in the end saving them both -- but at the time Simon thought he had just killed his friend. Thought dead by his team, Joe has to make his way back down the mountain. At so many points, I know I would have given up. But, somehow he manages. If you haven't seen or read it, check it out. 

So, when that wind tries to drive me back, to alter my course, I just have to tighten my resolve, and focus on that path before me.

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