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I just wanted again to say thanks! We love our new house. It was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. All of the energy efficiency we built in has made a house this size affordable! Thank you for The Owner-Builder Book and the website. It gave us hope we could do it ourselves and we did.
Eric Luebbert in Keller, TX

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.
Owner-Builder Book News - Dec 2008
Mark A. Smith, Editor Vol. 7 Number 4 - Dec., 2008
  • Super Bowl "Ad" Contest
  • Christmas Movie in Riverbottoms house released
  • New Video Blogs On Amazon
  • Owner-Builder Book Group on the Web
  • Featured Owner-Builder Journal

Super Bowl "Ad" Contest

Win a $250 Super Bowl prize pack including a $100 Wal-Mart gift card to purchase your choice of food and beverages, and a personalized set of The Owner-Builder Books Series. Mark and Elaine will pay an electronic visit to the winner's Super Bowl party.

To enter, simply submit a video "ad" of yourself promoting owner-building, showing off your plans, project or handiwork, your review of The Owner-Builder Book, or your video blog of any phase of your planning and construction. Click "add video" to submit within a forum post or journal entry.

Entries are due by Friday, January 23, 2009, with the winner announced on Saturday, January 24, 2009.

Christmas Movie in Riverbottoms house released

The cast of the movie "Together Again for the First Time."

The owner-built house that inspired owners Mark and Elaine Smith to write The Owner-Builder Book, known as the Riverbottoms house, is prominently featured in PorchLight Home Entertainment's newest released movie "Together Again For the First Time."

Production of the movie started back in 2006 when location managers selected Mark's owner-built American-styled home as a great location for filming as it fit almost all of the requirements they were looking for in a house.

Read about all of the movie making process here, where Mark journaled the experience of having a movie filmed in his house.  The video is available at a special price of $15.95 in our bookstore.


New Video Blogs On Amazon

Mark has posted three new video blogs talking about the download gallery, IKEA, and the movie "Together for the First Time." Head on over to and check out these new posts.

Mark's video blog

Owner-Builder Book groups on the Web

The Owner-Builder Book is now on Facebook and YouTube.

Join The Owner-Builder Book groups to have access to forums, pictures, videos, and to show your support for owner-building.

Click on the links below to be directed to the sites.


Featured Owner-Builder Journal

Mark in Holualoa, Hawaii started owner-building a bungalow earlier this year. He is one of the many members on the website journaling his progress on the house. This newsletter we spotlight him and the progress he is making on his owner-building adventure.
getting started

Posted to Hawaiian-Bungalo by Mark in Holualoa, HI on 1/2/2008 5:42:27 PM
We have a contract on a half acre lot in Kailua-Kona, HI.  A lot of the planning work has been done as it comes with a set of permitted plans for am 1,800 sq ft three-BD two-BA house with a two-car garage plus 700 sq ft of covered lanai area.  My initial cost estimates came in at $285,000, not including the lot.  As I plan on doing most of the work myself, I expect to be able to bring that number down a fair amount but I went with the bid amounts to keep the lender happy with the numbers.

We are supposed to close on the loan on the 7th; it has already been extended once due to appraisal and loan issues.  At this point we are just waiting. I am working on getting everything ready to go on the foundation.  It will be a slab on grade, the lot is clear and level with a driveway cut already.  We will be on the grid and have county water with a private septic system.

I have thought about using metal framing due to the termite, mold and other issues here in Hawaii but have not made a decision yet; better do that soon.  I like the ease of construction, weight and no warped, splintered, etc. lumber but I have not talked to anyone that has used it here yet and no cost comparisons to lumber, so we will see.

More and photos to follow soon.
We closed on the lot
Posted to Hawaiian-Bungalo by Mark in Holualoa, HI on 1/26/2008 1:58:17 AM
After a month delay the lot is finally ours.  I don't know if I could recommend IndyMac or not at this point but we closed and now I can get started.  I went out today and marked off some of the corners and cut weeds.  It started getting dark, so I will get more pictures tomorrow.  Here is our site, elevation and floor plans, I am extending the garage to make it a three-bay so I will have some shop room. 

I have decided to buy a backhoe if I can find one with a hammer; supplies are limited and shipping is horrendous.  With the driveway cut, rock wall building, digging for the foundation (slab on grade) and the utility trench we will need one for a while so it will be better in the end for us, I hope.

I am meeting with two rock-wall builders tomorrow as I need a retaining wall on the north corner for the larger garage.  After that, I will spend some time cleaning up some brush along that edge of the property.  When I get tired of that I will do a rough layout of the house on the lot.

Here are some pics of the lot too.
 View from our lot.
 Our lot and the view
 Our lot and the view again

Files elevations 1.pdf elevations 2.pdf floor plan.pdf site plan.pdf
  Slow going
Posted to Hawaiian-Bungalo by Mark in Holualoa, HI on 2/16/2008 1:37:39 AM
Things are moving along, although a little slow still.  They will be doing the ground plumbing tomorrow and should get the inspection for that next week.  If the hillside can get dug out to make room for the garage soon, they will be able to finish forming the slab and they hope to be ready to pour after next week.  As building has slowed down here. too, inspections are not taking very long but still a couple of days each after ordered.

I got out today to several suppliers and got out new take-offs for bids again as lumber prices seem to keep dropping, good for us.  Due to the cost we are going to go with wood construction on this one.

The revised floor plans are here now, with the three-car garage.  Virginia has not downloaded the camera yet, so I will have to add pictures later.
revised floor plan.pdf
Retaining wall
Posted to Hawaiian-Bungalo by Mark in Holualoa, HI on 3/13/2008
So almost another month has gone by with a lot of finger pointing and little to no changes.  I finally got together with my plumber's partner today and we got the plumbing permit and hope to get the inspection tomorrow, fingers crossed.  I don't know who dropped the ball and at this point I don't care. We just need to get moving forward.  I have a concrete and a framing crew sitting around waiting for this plumbing inspection so we can get the slab poured.  We have backfilled as much as we dare and probably more than we should have prior to the inspection.

On some good notes I have gotten the rock wall finished, it took them four days to complete the retaining wall, and it looks great.  I was also able to get the piles of rock and dirt moved out of the way to make room for the concrete trucks and ready to be used for the front retaining wall and backfilling.
 Our building permit is posted.
 The four-day rock wall, at least something is getting done
 Was a big pile of dirt and rock and our forms.
 More of the wall and a kukui nut tree, upper left, that was cut down a year ago

Ready to Pour
Posted to Hawaiian-Bungalo by Mark in Holualoa, HI on 3/28/2008 1:21:50 AM
The plumber finally got his act somewhat together. We were very close to parting ways with him. We passed our plumbing inspection; they came and applied the termite spray, we passed the foundation inspection today and if the electrical ground inspection goes good tomorrow we will pour on Saturday.  It's about time!

We will set the framing materials delivery for Monday, as my friend Matt will be helping and his wife is about to kill him, as he hasn't worked for three months now, we need to get started.

I have some more rock walls being built on the front of the lot.  There will be two walls here, one along the drive that is four feet high then on four feet back from it that will be about 8 feet tall.  We will backfill in so there will be more yard out front of the house and have a planter between the two walls.
 Ben compacting the drive apron, the lanai in the foreground to the left, unformed. My son Mark standing by the truck with Daryl, one of the masons, sitting.
 The rock wall builders hard at it. This was a day and a half of work.
 Ben is still compacting the apron. With big brother Marcus watching. The three-car garage in the foreground. The drive will come in from the right, behind the pallet.
 Start in the garage, then the kitchen, Dining and livingroom in the center, master BR to the right, two BRs on the left, lanais on the far side and the Pacific about three miles out. The house is 1,784 sq ft and the garage is 912
 Spraying for termites.
 The mason crew, all in the family, father Benny kneeling, he is 73 and has 13 kids, the big guy Marcus is 17, Marshal on the left is 16, Ben on the far right is 14 and their friend Daryl, he is almost 60. What a great crew they have been.
 Vapor barrier and rebar, ready to pour, almost.
 Two days of work.
 A shot from the lot above.
 Another one from above with the first wall that was done a couple of weeks ago.
Very busy week
Posted to Hawaiian-Bungalo by Mark in Holualoa, HI on 4/7/2008 1:57:30 AM
Both pours went smooth, on Saturday they did the slab and garage then finished the lanais and drive apron on Monday.  We snapped lines on Tuesday and got our framing delivery on Wednesday.  We had three walls up by Thursday, two more on Friday, and Saturday both.  It has been a little slow going, as Matt has the only real framing experience and it has been awhile for him too.  We have a lot of sliders going in the makai (ocean) side of the house along with multiple beam-pockets and shear-wall specs to figure out, so we are taking our time.  The perimeter walls are just under halfway done. By the end of this week we should have them all finished and be working on interior walls.

Pedro, the rock wall guy, and his crew are amazing.  They are using rocks from my lot and very few of them are being broke.  They put the big ones in by hand, no equipment, hand cut and all.  The lower wall is along the drive coming up as it is a flag lot.  The second wall will be a retaining wall/fence for the yard and privacy from below.

The utility trench has been started now that the pour is finished and we can block the drive.  There are still some issues with the plumber/excavator Bobby.  BJ, the backhoe operator, did not show up on Friday, as he was out of fuel and could not get ahold of Bobby to get more or get paid.  I told him I would pay him directly and deal with Bobby myself.  The only good thing with him has been he left me the backhoe with keys to use for four weeks NC.
 The start of the slab pour on Saturday the 29th.
 The house and garage being finished.
 All finished, house, garage, lanais and drive apron.
 The lower wall with a second four feet behind started.
 The mason crew,l to r, Marshal, Marcus, Scottie, Daryl, Sonya, Ben, Gary, Bennie and Rich.
 The first wall is up.
 First Day of framing.
 The first day's work, my son Mark in the background.
 The first 50 feet of the 310-foot utility trench.
 The rock walls coming along.
 After two days work.
 After four days, Saturday was a rough one.
 From the lot below. The walls will continue to the lua (toilet) on the right after the utilities are finished.
A month already???
Posted to Hawaiian-Bungalo by Mark in Holualoa, HI on 5/5/2008 3:01:39 AM
It's hard to believe that a month has past since my last post.  We are starting to sheet the roof tomorrow, Monday or today for most of you, we have a couple of interior walls to put up yet too, and a fair amount of metal to put in.  The framing has gone good for the most part; we had to make some changes on the fly, but all worked out.  The worst thing was a post bracket that was out of position by three inches set in concrete.   I just realized that the septic was done in two days and I didn't get any pictures; I'm slacking bad.

There are a few more rocks that need to be hammered out for the utilities to be put in, but most of the trench is ready.  I finally fired the plumber/excavator, I should have done it a long time ago.  He has cost me too much time on this, two days to dig 20 feet of 3'x3' trench and even then he wasn't to depth.  The new guy finished 100' in half a day. This same guy did the septic too.

We have decided to go with a stucco finish and have been getting bids for that.  I still need to decide on a new plumber, SOON!  A least I have a couple of options for that.  All of our doors and windows are ordered and most are in.  We are doing shingle roof, so now just pick style and color.  Will set up for a hard measure for the cabinets soon and get the flooring ordered.  The appliances have all been ordered too.  My biggest problem has been colors, I couldn't pick a color to save my life and my wife is just as bad.

Enjoy the pictures.  I will try not to go so long between posts.  Any suggestions for colors will be appreciated.
 Foyer out door opening to drive.
 Dining area to the two bedrooms.
 Driveway into garage.
 Entryway and the one that had to be removed due to me putting 83" instead of 8'3". That one little mark makes a big difference.
 More rock walls, and I will have rocks left over too.
 The first gluelams and the post that had to be moved.
 The garage door openings.
 More wall.
 Interior walls, guest bed and bath.
 Exterior sheeting almost done.
 Mauka, (mountain) view looking to makai (ocean), east to west.
 Makai to mauka view.
 Trusses all in, 7 hours with an excellent crane operator.
 Starting to look like a house.
Not much progress...
Posted to Hawaiian-Bungalo by Mark in Holualoa, HI on 7/7/2008 1:44:31 AM
...on this blog, lol.

Where has the time gone?  The roof is just about finished, just need to button up the ridge with the vents.  Things had been going real good then my son broke his ankle skateboarding then Matt came down on his foot and strained it pretty good, also skateboarding.  So my main labor is down for awhile or out for 3-4 months.  Good thing I am to the point of subbing out some stuff.

The crew came in for the stucco and knocked it out in about 9 days total.  We are still waiting on some lights so the rough electrical inspection has not been completed which means that the lanai ceilings have not been soffit-boarded yet for the stucco.  Matt is going to fly to L.A. to pick up the lights and the last minute house audio equipment so we can finish the electrical this week.  Good thing he gets free flights.

The whirlpool tub came in last week and we are getting that framed in tomorrow so they can finish the plumbing.  I completely forgot about the shower fixtures for the master bath so I ended up running around last week to find the valves for rough-in.  I found the setup I wanted but ended up costing a lot more than we were planning.  I guess when it is the only thing in stock on an island in the middle of nowhere you take what you can get when you don't want to wait or pay for shipping.

The electric is hooked up now, so no more generator.  That whole thing got a little stressful, dealing with the HELCO inspectors and they only come out one day a week and she forgets to tell me about a major problem when she checks it before we pour concrete over it.  I was so mad but had to keep my cool and just try to figure a way to deal with it.  It worked out fine; just had to do a little grinder work and she was happy.  Now that it is done I can get the rock walls finished and they started on them yesterday.

We had a good cleanup day a couple weeks back and got rid of all the rubbish.  One of the guys where I live works for a tree trimming company and we were able to use one of their one-ton Ford dump trucks.  Loaded everything up and off to the dump.  I saved a couple of hundred bucks over getting a dumpster and still had the scrap available if we needed something, which helped a lot to keep the waste down.  To this point we had less than two tons of scrap to haul out. it didn't even fill the truck.

My electrician has been great, he has maybe 10 days on the job with one full 8-hour day and I have done almost all of the wiring myself.  It has helped me do some extra things that would have cost too much otherwise.  I have a ton of outlets in the garage and throughout the house, I put 220 lines to the range and dryer, just in case, even though I am going with gas.  "Do it now while the walls are open", he keeps saying - makes total sense to me.
 May 28 pictures, windows in.
 Rough plumbing, guest bath
 We had to reframe this opening as it was built for 2' windows, not the 3'.
 Ready for shingles
 Looking from the garage into the house, you can see the panel is in.
 Ginger, the "guard" dog.
 The roofer friend Clint and son Mark before the broken ankle
 Sliders all in
 Most of the shingles done. The color sample in front of the garage, we are thinking the gray.
 Utility trench is pau (all done).
 The entry door
 Master bath plumbing, a mix of PEX and copper.
 Brown coat done - let it cure
 The panel all made up
 Meter, phone and cable boxes
 Solar hot water valves
 Flush AV box from HD
 Lots of brackets and clips
 Clips and hold-downs
 From kitchen looking out over the bar
 Exterior trim, half-round door and windows with rounded bottom band
 Front door looking in
 Hansgroe shower valves, $$$.
 Three-car garage
 Had to hammer out the slab for four of the drains the first plumber missed.
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