It’s a rainy day here in Buffalo. The temperature is in the fifties. It’s the first day of October. The trees yawn in their morning slumber. My cat meows softly in the background, as he cuddles into a warm blanket that I have on my bookshelf. I have a pot of Typhoo tea and am drinking it as it steams on my desk.

Vincent and I spent the last month reviewing the plans to build our house at Story Road. Vincent really is taking the lead on this project, getting a good understanding of the materials we need and calling companies for quotes. He spends so much time reviewing the plans and watching videos of how each part should be constructed.

I am trying to understand it. I have imposter syndrome when it comes to building a house but with patience and with some work, I think I can understand this project. I keep telling myself, the only way to know how to build a house, is to build a house.


We broke ground in September, arriving last week to see the full basement completed.  We are working with two really good contractors. The first contractor, our main guy, excavated a hole for the basement. Then, our second contractor put 12 cinder blocks on each side of the house. These will give us an eight foot high ceiling. Our house is 24 feet by 48 feet. It’s a beautiful rectangle.


We are trying to create a house with a tight thermal envelope, so two days ago, we went up to Story Road to insulate the outside walls. It was a rainy two days. We worked during the day, gluing and taping the insulation. I have a difficult time with manual labor. I want to like it, but I constantly feel uncomfortable: too cold or tired, or whatever. Part of this project for me is living a totally different type of life than I had imagined. I always thought I would be a professor or a teacher, and have worked as an adjunct professor at a couple of colleges and at a Montessori school, but gave up that path when I realized real estate could allow me time to write. I just needed to exchange it with manual labor. Teaching came naturally too me, whereas real estate does not. But, I like the idea of building something beautiful in the middle of woods and inviting people to come stay there. I like interacting with the contractors and learning a whole new set of vocabulary from the one I’m used to. I’ve always wanted to be a working writer and this lifestyle allows me a day job that is entirely different from writing. My mom has always encouraged this: let your day job give you the metaphors you will use for writing. For instance, I think I am trying to build a thermal envelope around myself. I want to insulate myself from all the cold drafts. I want to stay warm and dry.


We haven’t bought our supplies yet. Vincent created spreadsheets of what we need to buy and we met with some companies last week. We got a tour of Nunda Lumber, which was awesome because they had a lot of the materials we need. It was exciting going through their lumber yard looking at all of the wood. We kept asking them, “Do you have ZIP systems? Do you have I-joists? Do you have AdvanTech? Do you have PCL posts?” I felt less like an imposter that day. I felt like I knew what I was doing.


Our main consideration right now is getting the sill plate installed. This is the the part of the foundation that connects the cement blocks to the wood framing. We need pressure treated wood for this. There are bolts in the foundation that we connect the wood to. Under the wood, there is a small sheet of foam to help with the thermal envelope. Once we have the sill plate, we can put in the girder beam and then connect the dimensional lumber or I-joists to this (24 feet across). Finally, we will put AdvanTech sheathing across the lumber. This will give us a our subfloor.


So maybe I’m not a professional builder. Maybe I’m operating always a couple steps behind Vincent, but I’m not giving up. I’m going to learn how to build this house. The only way to know how to build a house, is to build a house. And so, we carry on.


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