Rebuilding our New Old House – Want to Help?


Here’s the front view in “before” condition. Not bad, but wait’ll you see the back.

This past Friday, Mrs. Money Mustache and I walked downtown and purchased a bag of bulk cinnamon and a nice Midcentury Modern house. The ease with which these two errands could be combined reminded me how much I like this town.

As for the house, It’s the same one I mentioned earlier this month, but now we actually own it, and boy do we have some renovations in store for it.

The original plan was to rent it out for a year while we take our time planning things out and giving ourselves time to contemplate the implications of downsizing our living space by 1000 square feet.  But this time we decided to be a bit more adventurous and just go for it: full-power renovations, starting as soon as possible.

So what are we doing?

This house is a textbook example of  “good bones”. Or maybe, “nice legs, shame about the face*”.

The location is perfect. The placement of the house on the generous 80×80 foot lot is great too. Solid brick construction, graceful overhangs, spiffy window arrangement, a great wood-burning fireplace surrounded by bricks, and nice wood floors.

On the downside, the kitchen is Junk City, all the windows are single-pane and warped (requiring a prybar to close them), one bathroom is a tragicomic room obviously designed for a previous generation of much smaller humans. The ceilings are all only 7’8″ high, the attic insulation is not very good, and all the electrical and plumbing work needs to be redone.

The solution, of course, is to immediately tear off the entire roof (not just the shingles, but the roof), and rebuild it with a new slope. This will give us higher ceilings, great insulation, optimal light fixture placement, and room for a row of high South-facing windows that will give us most of our light and heat for free – forever.

Here is a a photo of the current South-facing side and a couple of quick concept sketchups of the new roofline and windows.


Here's the South face as it stands now. Obviously, removing all that television-related bullshit will be among the first tasks.

Here’s the South face as it stands now. Obviously, removing all that television-related bullshit will be among the first tasks.


View from SW corner showing South facing side of house with new roofline idea

Front view of house with new roofline

Front view of house with new roofline

After this most destructive part of the renovation, everything else should be pretty simple: tearing out a few unnecessary walls to open up the space, building a nice new ensuite bathroom for the master bedroom, and making a kitchen.

On the exterior, I have plans for one of those fancypants outdoor kitchens overlooking the public park (which we’ll be treating as a 1.3 acre extension to the back yard), a new fence and some gardens, and eventually a 20×20 accessory building that will serve as my workshop, office and the new crossfit gym that we open up to all the friends in the area, allowing everyone to avoid the $130 per month fees that have become popular these days.

The Financials of Home Downsizing

Although this project should bring benefits to many aspects of our lives, it’s hard to ignore the boost in the money department as well. Let’s check out the estimated benefits over my usual ten-year time horizon:

Base price of new house: $240,000
Estimated Renovation costs: $60,000 (this is on the very high end of possible costs)
Carrying costs during renovation (taxes, utilities, capital cost of tying up $240k for 9 months @3.5%): 6000

Total cost of house in finished condition: $306,000
Estimated value of house at this point: $400,000
Estimated proceeds of current house, after selling costs: $420,000

Amount of capital freed up by the move: ($420k-$306k) = $114,000
Annual property taxes saved from smaller house: $1,000

Estimated value of investing $114k @ 5% after inflation, plus adding $1k per year: $181,000

So 10 years from now, just as little MM graduates from high school, we’ll be about $181,000 wealthier than we would otherwise be if staying in the current house**. To put it one way, this move alone would pay for several complete university educations. Or another way, with a net benefit of over $18k per year, this move is paying for about 70% of our total family living expenses for the next 10 years.

Note: Yes, it is easy to take exception with any of my assumptions here, especially on how to account for the capital or appreciation. You are free to tweak the numbers as you like. For me, these represent my best back of the napkin calculations for the moment. Since the number comes out overwhelmingly positive no matter how I tweak it, it tells me the project is a “GO”.

Another interesting thing here, is that I’m using a portion of my own savings to do this project, and if you do the math they will be returning considerably higher than the 5-7%-after-inflation I sometimes quote around here for investment returns. And I couldn’t do this project if I hadn’t amassed the savings. Thus, although you can’t reliably beat the market by trading stocks, you can occasionally beat the stock market in your own life, by having savings that allow you to take advantage of unique opportunities.

Whether it is a strategic house remodel/downsizing, springing on an undervalued Toyota Prius on Craigslist then taking the time to get the most when selling off your Lincoln Navigator, or other tricks, a ‘stash has a way of multiplying itself.

So where do YOU come in?

I really need a Colorado-licensed Structural Engineer to help with my plans for the new roof. The people I have worked with in the past have become unreliable or too busy. But if we’re lucky and a reader of this blog happens to hold this license, we could have some great fun coming up with a design. Of course, you’d still get paid, and it’s up to you if we profile your role publicly on the blog or anonymously.
Update: I found one! We’re now jumping into the design stage, and I think I found the perfect guy for the job.

– Carpenters and assistants needed: Although I will be working full-time on the project, I would like to get to move-in condition as quickly as possible, which means giving up my old tradition of doing everything myself. If you are a framer, roofer, electrician, or willing to try your hand at a little demolition, get in touch!

– Construction boot camps: Occasionally, we’ll be doing some easy but fun things that are educational to help out with for the first time (replacing windows, building interior walls, laying out plumbing for a new bathroom, running new electrical circuits). If you live in the area and would like to help out in exchange for learning these new skills, let me know through the about->contact button at the top and we can organize a little club. This might sound a little Tom Sawyer style (hey! Want to paint my fence for me while I sit in the shade relaxing?), but it’s not quite like that, since as the “instructor” I’ll be just as busy.

The end result of this big construction project should be a house that is ready for the next 65 years of its life, with a bright and airy new design and a dramatically reduced level of energy consumption to go with it. Stay tuned for more updates as the project progresses.


* It’s an old 1970s English punk song from the Monks. No more emailed complaints about my alleged insensitivity to women, please.

**You could make further adjustments based on the projected resale value of each house at that point, but for now let’s consider them equal (the new house is in a more prestigious location which should be more valuable over time).


  • Chasity September 24, 2013, 11:30 am

    Man do I wish I lived in Colorado so I could be a part of your carpentry club and learn some skills!

  • epowers September 24, 2013, 11:40 am

    I am a licensed Structural Engineer in Illinois. I am not well versed in the building code requirements of the City of Longmont (not yet at least), but I do know that Colorado does not have a specific Structural Engineering license, so you are probably looking for a licensed Professional Engineer with an emphasis on Civil/Structural Engineering, not a licensed Structural Engineer, but that’s just semantics. Also, Colorado may be an exception, but usually architects are qualified to seal construction documents for single family homes, and sometimes for any building less than 4 stories tall, unless it is a hospital or a school. Anyway, I’d be happy to discuss your roof design with you until you find someone licensed in Colorado, or to get the design to a point that a local engineer (or perhaps architect) can just review and seal the construction documents. I’d also be willing to apply for licensure by comity in Colorado if you don’t find any other engineers or architects with whom you would like to work. Thanks!

  • Crystal September 24, 2013, 11:54 am

    Wow, sounds like some hardcore renovations! Good luck!

    It is fun to see everybody’s different version of a dream home. We just had our McMansion of sorts built last year and enjoy it (yeah, we’re not minimalists, lol), but I can see the benefits of a smaller space. And I definitely hear you on property taxes…they are killer here in Spring, TX too. Our rent house is a 1750 sq. ft. 2 story and has about $3000 in prop taxes a year, but our 3750 sq. ft. new house is closer to $7000. We’ll probably stay here for 30 years or so and then downsize to a 1500 sq. ft. one story in our 60’s…

  • MonicaOnMoney September 24, 2013, 11:58 am

    I’m very interested to see how your new house is after the renovations are complete! It looks like a great house and I love how you’re removing all of the TV related stuff too.

    I think downsizing is a really smart decision for many people. I personally live in a pretty small condo but I’ve seen people living in houses way too big for them!

    Best of luck with your renovations!

  • D312 September 24, 2013, 12:16 pm

    I’ve built or helped plan a number of Crossfit gyms to date, including in my own garage, so if you want any advice leading up to that phase, feel free to ask.

  • Brian Shaffer September 24, 2013, 12:23 pm

    I’m in Boulder and would love to be part of this “Construction boot camp.” Let me know when things get underway.

  • Diana September 24, 2013, 1:25 pm

    How exciting – congrats on the purchase of the new home! Can’t wait to see more pics and how the renovation comes together.

    We are in the process of doing the same as you – selling our over-sized home and exchanging it for something far smaller. This will be a win-win for us, because we’ll be able to purchase the new home in cash w/proceeds from the existing home. Not having a mortgage will significantly shorten our road to FIRE, and we can’t wait!

  • SuntailedShadow September 24, 2013, 1:35 pm

    Carrying costs during renovation (taxes, utilities, capital cost of tying up $240k for 9 months @3.5%): 6000

    I’m unsure, does the above calculation include the lost revenue from having your $240k working for someone else, and not for you? Not just the cost of paying someone to borrow money at 3.5%?

  • Ryan September 24, 2013, 2:56 pm

    I wish I could help! This sounds like so much fun. Unfortunately currently working in London… Hope you guys have tons of fun on the remodel. I love your blog!!

  • Giovanni September 24, 2013, 3:44 pm

    Nice project! I really like the Frank Lloyd Wright look of the front elevation. The blend of materials, colors and depths gives it a very Prairie mid-cent modern feel. I would encourage you to really look at the front elevation to make sure that the new higher roofline doesn’t hurt the aesthetic or the curb appeal. I understand that you plan to live in it for a long time but every house eventually sells and the timelessness of good architecture adds value in the long run- I once owned a construction company that did quite a bit of “un-remodeling” to uncover the good lines and proportions built into houses back in the day.

    How many college educations will you be able to pay for starting in 10 years with 180k? Does Little MMM have dual citizenship? And the next Facebook up his sleeve? OK just kidding with that one but I was just reading a very interesting Priceonomics piece yesterday about college costs. They’ve been rising faster than anything else including healthcare, without any real competitive pressure to keep them down. Here’s the link: http://priceonomics.com/is-college-worth-it/

    Would love to break out the toolbelt and come help you, swinging a hammer is like a vacation for me these days but I’m up to my elbows in apartment acquisitions right now. Would be happy to talk apartments though when you sell your old place. I’m not a broker but a consultant and I crunch numbers on apartment investments for a living.

  • Pablo September 24, 2013, 3:52 pm

    I wish I could be around to help! That sounds like a very fun project. :)

  • Micro September 24, 2013, 4:36 pm

    You’re taking off the entire roof? Wow, that seems like a crazy undertaking and I am looking forward to seeing pictures of the progress. Is there a tarp or anything that you use to protect the interior while you work on getting the new roof up. It would seem pretty bad to have the roof off and then a down pour floods the interior of the house.

  • TheAminal September 24, 2013, 4:54 pm

    I am a LEED certified Architect. Let me know if you need some help, or just want to bounce some ideas around.

    I worry about the shed roof with those south facing windows. South facing windows are amazing in the winter, but need a wide overhang for protection from the late/early summer sun. A shed overhang slopes up, and will not provide much protection. That room will heat up like an oven on a hot September afternoon. I would think about a high, off-center ridge that allows the roof to slope back down. This way, you can get a nice overhang to protect those upper windows.

    The lower windows will still be exposed. Some louvered sun shades could protect the windows, but the walls will still get cooked. I am a big fan of light shelves for first floor windows. They shade the window on the outside, while bouncing light up to the ceiling inside. Have some fun drawing a quick sun angle diagram to see how these interact.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 24, 2013, 8:00 pm

      Thanks The Aminal,

      When doing solar simulations with Sketchup throughout the year, I found that the 2′ overhang was just about right for my solar gain needs. The sun starts to come in at this time of year, but not too much. And Colorado actually starts to need some heat by late September (nights are in the 50s), so I don’t mind a bit of sun.

      For comparison, my current house has lots of totally un-shaded South-facing windows, and I have been grateful for the heat they are providing this week. And if you get too hot, no big deal, just open some windows. (The climate here is such that you don’t need air conditioning at all if you have an insulated house and get your day/night open/closed windows cycles right).

  • Sean September 24, 2013, 5:06 pm

    Let me save you 1-2k on your outdoor kitchen. Built in grills cost big bucks; for no reason other than rich folks like outdoor kitchens because you see them in rich folk magazines. I suggest buying a quality portable gas grill and making it appear “built in” with your construction.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 24, 2013, 7:51 pm

      Definitely! I was going to pick up a lightly used Weber Genesis off of Craigslist, unbolt the head from the stand, and set it into my new concrete-and-stone outdoor kitchen countertop. Bonus points if I can find a natural-gas-fired unit and run a gas line underground to pop up in this new contraption :-)

      • TomTX December 26, 2013, 8:16 am

        Many grills can be converted from propane to NG with a kit from the manufacturer. My parents had a NG grill outside when I was growing up – I never thought anything of it, until I was on my own and had to start dealing with the hassle and cost of propane cylinders!

  • Eric September 24, 2013, 5:09 pm

    Mr MM: I guess that being an older house it doesn’t have roof trusses but rather a center beam and rafters. This makes the “attic” essentially hollow. So instead of raising the roof, remove the ceiling and presto, a big vaulted space with just a few visible cross ties. This big hollow will be in shadow, so…

    Instead of putting the clerestory windows along the south perimeter wall, extend the front roof slope up another five feet or so, then install the row of clerestory windows, and then continue with the existing south slope. This would bring the light and solar gain into the center of the house rather than all being on the south side. It might also facilitate design review if your city does that, or if the 50’s modern house has heritage value you don’t want to squander it with an addition that “spoils” the curb appeal.

    If you have to strengthen the south exterior wall to support “my” new clerestory windows, consider replacing the load bearing beam that runs along the top of that south wall. It is probably located below the roof trusses/joists. This means that the windows are down about a foot from the ceiling, to allow for the perimeter load bearing wall. When you have everything opened up, replace this beam with a new one, higher up, then extend the south windows right up to the top of the ceiling line, so more light floods deeper into the room, with no top shadow. The new beam or load bearing portion of the wall now buts up against the roof rafters rather than holding them up from below.

    Since you are doing so much roof work, you might as well look at the economics of a metal roof vs asphalt shingles. Asphalt shingles are short lived, and have a frequent replacement cycle. That means more frequent labor costs, whether you pay someone or do it yourself. A roof made of 25 guage steel sheets will last 150 years, not fade for at least 55 years, and breaks even after about two asphalt roofs, so you will still be living there. Be sure to raise it on cross strapping so it fully vents under the steel, which reduces cooling costs drastically in the house. I’m not a fan of metal shingles, as there are too many joints, and aluminum is flimsy whereas steel is strong. Do not accept recycled steel in the roof sheets.

    If you do go for a vaulted ceiling, consider how to insulate the underside of the roof. Spray in closed cell foam? Vs adding several layers of polyiso or phenolic board to the exterior of the roof sheets (watch out for the dew point! Careful calculation required; the Green Building Advisor site can advise you on this.

    I have done something similar to these points in my own house (exposed collar ties and mid-room clerestory windows), although it is a 1903 Edwardian in Ottawa Canada not Colorado.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 24, 2013, 7:56 pm

      Love the ideas, Eric! We did consider that center window idea, but it actually matched the architecture less than the proposed double-shed-roof design from this article. Also, the old roof is indeed trusses so the new one would have to be built from scratch either way.

      I used standing seam galvanized metal roofs on the two houses I built in the past – they are great things. Damned expensive though – the capital tied up in one of those would more than pay for new shingles every 25 years. But much better environmentally, which is why I used them anyway. Most of the money goes to labour and profit for the roofing company, rather than crude oil to make the tar shingles, which is a better use for my money. For this new house I am considering metal, but only if I can find a supplier to provide the materials so I can do it myself. Then it would be a triple win – environment, cost, and experience.

      • Crystal October 17, 2013, 8:09 pm

        I hope you can go with metal…they are the best for building rain water gardens on your landscape. You can discreetly redirect your roof rain water into your landscape, for instance a small basin with a fruit tree. Are you familiar with Brad Landcaster’s Rainwater Harvesting books?

      • Greg October 24, 2013, 10:32 am

        I hope you can find a metal roofing supplier, it’s the best roofing investment you can make. It shouldn’t be that hard to find one who’ll work with you.

        That kind of metal roofing is pretty easy to install, and doing it yourself ensures the detailing is done correctly. Deep, fascia-style gutters in the same material finish the look, if you need gutters.

  • Jeff September 24, 2013, 5:39 pm

    I have a question for MMM: Where do you keep the money that you set aside for projects like this? You’ve talked about not keeping an emergency fund, but I can’t see you putting this project on a credit card. I’m thinking about how to prepare for an opportunity like a rental house purchase.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 24, 2013, 7:47 pm

      That is a good question, and it’s the reason I put most of the house on my existing line of credit: I don’t keep $240k lying around. Here’s a really old article that discusses the concept a bit: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/04/22/springy-debt-instead-of-a-cash-cushion/

      To pay for the rest of the renovations, I was just going to use monthly surplus from existing income if possible. If not, a few shares of index funds can be sold to make up the difference. I’m also working on a sale of the other rental house, and if that works out, there will be a surplus of cash to pay off the line of credit and do other good things.

      • George_PA September 24, 2013, 8:54 pm

        Why are you going to sell the other rental house? that is a reliable $2400 / month cash income source, good for buying groceries.

        After selling the other rental house and getting the lump sum payment, what could you possibly buy that is more useful than that?

        • theanimal September 25, 2013, 12:39 pm

          More profitable investments

          • Mr. Money Mustache September 25, 2013, 1:27 pm

            Agreed – the key part of the equation is that the other place is worth over $500,000. So $2400/month, minus property taxes, HOA, maintenance, and hassle, is not the greatest return on half a million!

  • Charles September 24, 2013, 6:33 pm

    For most people housing is their largest cost. Everyone should do the same analysis you did in figuring out the true opportunitiy cost of a large house and not just the payments.

  • Trevor September 24, 2013, 7:54 pm

    MMM, you should really take your time.

    Just for starters, sorry to be blunt, but that roof line is awful. Have you read “A Pattern Language”? If not, you should before you spend a ton of cash and time building THAT!

    Your south-facing window idea is great, but it’s much more complicated than that. Have you heard of Passivhaus? If not, you should check it out.

    In terms of other sustainable building techniques, I could list a ton, but to save you some time, you really should check out Chis Magwood at Endeavour Centre.

    Lastly, I love Sketchup for quick visuals, but you gotta either get yourself some real 3D modelling software, or better yet, find a great architect and designer to do it for you. This is one area where DIY = DISASTER!

    Instead of just ‘Going for it’, walk back to the mirror, give yourself a good face-punch, take your time, and ‘do it right’.

    • tallgirl1204 September 25, 2013, 10:46 am

      Ditto on reading a Pattern Language.

    • tallgirl1204 September 25, 2013, 10:47 am

      Ditto on reading a Pattern Language. although I can understand how MMM might be iconoclastic enough not to want to buy into it.

    • chc4444 September 25, 2013, 11:15 am

      I agree that “Pattern Language” is a must read for this project. We’ve had our copy for years and I often find myself just thumbing thru it to solidify my ideas about design.

  • reader from the rockies September 24, 2013, 8:30 pm

    Considering the age of the home, how will you manage issues related to asbestos and lead paint. In my experience, these are expensive problems to deal with, and not open to do-it-yourself. Any creative solutions in mind?

  • Melissa September 24, 2013, 8:30 pm

    Hey MMM, your project looks so fun! I wish I could hang out and learn/help! Please post all kinds of “befores” so we can see the old vs. new and tell us all the gory details in between!!
    You noted that you have access to natural gas. Please consider a natural gas tankless water heater! We absolutely love ours, it uses so little energy! We’ve had ours 8 years and it’s been a wonderful efficient addition to our house. (We have a Takagi.)
    Love your house. I can see it faced with stone. Whatever you do, I’m sure it will be to-die-for!

  • Chris September 24, 2013, 9:37 pm

    Excited for you MMM. DW and I just bought a foreclosure in April. I spent two very busy months, acting as lead contractor and sub contracting out all the renovations (I know, not very manly but surprisingly time consuming). We did a complete interior cosmetic rehab-paint, carpet, lighting, tile, wall texture, new landscaping and kicked out the squatter living in the attic. We then moved in and have been living here since early July-it’s awesome.

    We dropped our square footage from 3000 to 2200. Cut my daily commute in half, 48 to 24 miles roundtrip. The coolest part, our mortgage went from 2465 to 578/month PITI (we put a large amount down on the house). We now owe 59K on it.

    You’re making a difference, keep setting the example brother!

  • Jim Camasto September 24, 2013, 10:40 pm

    Reworking the entire southern exposure is the perfect time to incorporate passive solar heating/day-lighting design! You can minimize operating costs for the remainder of the building’s life and maximize natural light.

    Think about your windows (size, placement, U-factor, # of panes) and roof overhangs to capture winter while blocking summer sun. Consider adding thermal mass on the interior (like concrete or ceramic tile flooring, ideally thermally isolated from the ground) to absorb winter sun and re-radiate into the interior. And think about movable insulation on the interior of those windows.

    While you are remaking the roof, consider your region’s optimal angle for future photovoltaics and/or solar thermal water heating. Also, adding stand-offs and pipe runs for above solar modules.

    I’m a 1man crew residential painter. I also call myself a “finisher” – that is, I’m the last guy to leave the room after all the other trades have finished the real work – as I excel at buttoning down all the details, fixtures, finishes and transitions. I’d be game to help out, obviously nearer completion time, as mutually convenient. I’ve also installed 3kW PV and DHW systems on my own home.

    In a previous life, I was an environmental engineer – mostly dealing with landfill construction. Spend enough years at landfills, observing the endless parade of garbage trucks and mountains of weeping trash – and your worldview will be forever changed.

  • Jay September 25, 2013, 12:03 am

    Blast! I wish I lived in the Boulder area now. I’ve been wanting to learn some “mad carpentry skillz” (as the kids say) ever since I started reading this blog. Any idea how I can get an apprenticeship of the sort that’s on offer here in my area (SF bay)? Who would I talk to exactly? I don’t really have any homeowner friends (or even anyone who is about to become one).

  • Peter September 25, 2013, 5:19 am

    Hi MMM,
    I realize that photovoltaics make no sense in your area, but what about the good old solar heating for your warm water supply? Technology is fairly optimized, its much cheaper than photovoltaics and usually does not remember any maintenance. This would, of course call for your roof being tilted in the other direction. In order to benefit from sun exposure, you could “just” lift the northern edge by 1 or 1 1/2 meters.
    Maybe the building costs would be higher than the benefits. Probably…

  • Ishmael September 25, 2013, 6:34 am

    I’m going to suggest you consider a steel roof, with a nice simple roofline like that. They look awesome, and they last so much longer than asphault. Also, I don’t think you need to sheath in the roof that way – just lay strapping across the rafters/trusses, cover with Tyvek and lay the roofing in big sheets. I think it even works out to be cheaper because of that reason.

    Just make sure you drill the screw holes while the roofing is all together in a pile – it makes them line up nicely and look good.

    I remember reading somewhere that if houses in the southern US used white roofing instead of black, the reduction in air conditioning energy needed would cause a ridiculously large deduction in greenhouse gases – not to mention saving the homeowneres LOTS of energy costs as well!

  • Jeff September 25, 2013, 9:32 am

    Man, I am holding on to my Florida homestead no matter what! The Florida tax code, essentially, pays you to live here. SERIOUSLY! It is cheaper to have a Florida homestead AND a modest summer home somewhere else, if you can’t hack the subtropical rainy season and that is the reason you are bugging out. The cost of living may be lower somewhere else, but of places I would live, Florida is tops for LOW LOW LOW cost of living. A small block house in a Florida town can be had for less than $50,000 and under the Florida SOH homestead you may pay no property tax at all. There is no income tax. The cost of food and fuels is average, and the cost of household utilities (especially in winter in the lower 1/2 of the peninsula if you have a well and septic tank) and clothing is much lower than typical. I register my antique car and antique sailboat for $4 per year

  • Mike September 25, 2013, 9:58 am

    Love the post. My wife and I are renovating a house in the Peoples-Republic-of-Maryland, and (hopefully) nearing completion. I wish I had the same community you seem to be promoting out there; getting people to help out while teaching them in the process. I’m left with the few friends who aren’t snobby about doing-it-themselves. Very cool to help one another out! Good luck with the project, I look forward to seeing the progress. btw, what CAD program are you using there? Just google sketchup?

  • Matthew September 25, 2013, 10:12 am

    Fire places are a waste of good firewood, 90%+ of the heat goes up the stack. Figure out how to fit a woodstove in during your renovation (either in the fireplace or in another location, saving the fireplace for special occastions). Good stoves/inserts can be had on Craigslist for under $500, if you are patient, (unfortunatly the chimney will cost about the same). With good southern exposure you can easily offset any grid heat when you are home, just using the furnace to keep the house from freezing when you are out of town. In urban areas plenty firewood can usually be had by cruising down the street on yard waste day. Most of the time it is already cut to length. You could even collect it in your bike trailer if you were real adventurous. Untreated/glued contruction scraps could also supply quite a bit of wood.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 25, 2013, 1:30 pm

      Thanks Matthew, I totally agree – before even the first fire occurs in that old fireplace, I’ll be installing the most efficient and lowest-pollution EPA-certified woodstove insert I can find into the gaping brick hole. With blower fans for heat circulation, etc.

      We get ample free wood around here, due to the carpentry businesses and the huge trees in the neighborhood that drop 100-pound limbs in every storm.

  • MoneyAhoy September 25, 2013, 10:26 am

    If you don’t get any better offers – I’ll come help for a week for free if you cover the transportation from Virginia :-) I’ve built two decks before, but that’s about it – but, I’d work hard!

  • TSR Capital September 25, 2013, 10:37 am

    240 K for that house? How many sq ft is it? It just doesn’t seem like a good deal in the big picture. I’m sure you researched that area and found a relatively good deal, but it still seems like a ripoff to me. As does most residential property in the USA these days.

    How about 90 K? That sounds like a square deal for that property.

    Americans are deluding themselves (and fooling others) about the value of their property and/or their money.

  • Elena September 25, 2013, 11:41 am

    Maaaan, I so live in the wrong neighborhood! Sounds like a dream project to get your hands dirty and pick up some life-saving tool tips while at it… Enjoy, and best of success to the troops!

  • AZ Vince September 25, 2013, 4:13 pm

    Hey mister MM,

    I did a solar house in Northern AZ and am offering free advice. (Worth every penny you paid for it). I am assuming that your new roof with not have an attic, to allow the light from the clerestory windows to reach back into the house. Well, if you put some ridges running to the north and then create some extra hip area, you can really vault the ceiling on the south side of the house as well. My builder called this an inverted hip, but I don’t think that is correct. Think of it as a hip that you can see inside the house.

    It also gives the house a much more conventional exterior.

  • frank September 25, 2013, 7:05 pm


    I am not retiring till April next year or I would come out from Oregon (my Mother in law lives just outside Fort Collins) for a couple of weeks to help. I have ripped off the roof and doubled the size of our house with our own bare hands.. Of course we ripped the roof off the day before the worst downpour in 50 years!

    Some other thoughts

    1) The need for a registered structural engineer, (otherwise known as a PE) if the rules are written the same in Co as they are here you will find that ANY
    registered professional engineer (any discipline, but has to be in CO) who “feels” competent in the work can stamp (in other words approve) the drawings/design. I happen to be a mechanical PE but if I feel competent due to my experience I could stamp an electrical drawing for example. You might find a competent engineer in another discipline who would feel comfortable bringing out the stamp for your structural drawings. At least thats how the rules are written in Oregon.

    2) What you are proposing looks fairly simple so as to fit standard framing rules.. Home Depot used to sell a book called “House framing”, but there are several others. These books contain the standard rules of thumb for sizes of timber and available spans etc.

    3) Another way (the way i did it) was to buy a truss package from a local truss manufacturing place.. You give them all your dimensions and THEY pay a local structural PE (who knows the local code for snow and wind loads) for a design and then make all your trusses in the factory.. The trusses then show up on the jobsite and get loaded up on the wall plates. You take the design from the truss company (they give it to you upfront) and you submit it with your other building plans. I think for a large span shed roof this might be made of 2*4’s some 18″ deep. Anyway this would possibly remove the need for a PE altogether.

    Just some thoughts.. Looks like a cool project..:)

    Frank… about 160 work days left..:)

  • Turf828 September 25, 2013, 7:50 pm

    Be sure to check out great mid century homes and architecture before you demo. Atomic ranch magazine is a great resource for these gems. An mcm home is my dream home! Congrats on your new home MMM family!

  • Tom September 25, 2013, 10:19 pm

    I would spend the money if thats what it takes to put together a crew of four guys to bang out the demo and framing. Otherwise your house could be at the mercy of the elements for weeks. I was on a job where a storey and a half house was turned into a full two stories. Even with 5 guys it took a over a week until the house had a roof on it.

    I’d be curious to see more pics of the current construction, current floor plan, and proposed floor plan. I’m getting qualifications in building design so I find it interesting.

  • phred September 26, 2013, 8:03 am

    I don’t like shed roofs. The upper edge is susceptible to the ingress of Southerly rain. Plus, it just looks unfinished — more like a giant utility shed. With a little bit of “Southern roof” it will be also easier to add vents at the highest point.
    Just my opinion

  • sockgal September 26, 2013, 4:18 pm

    I read that painting your roof white or having white tiles saves 40% on energy consumption. Not sure if it is true or not, but if it is, wow! Why doesn’t every home in the country have a white roof. Imagine the energy we would save.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 26, 2013, 8:52 pm

      Hmm.. Maybe in an otherwise uninsulated house in Houston, occupied by people who like to keep the house at 68F all summer. But in areas like mine where a/c is not even required regardless of roof color, it would make no difference.

  • kevin September 26, 2013, 6:59 pm

    Mr. money, you are living the dream. My wife and I are 50 and the last of 4 kids is a freshman at Purdue university, we also have a sophomore at Indiana university and 2 graduated (Purdue and Marian university). We built our own home in 1999 with the idea that when the kids went to college we would down size and use the cash for college. Well we one upped that. in 2009 I took the kids college fund and purchased a double for $ 120,000 putting down $ 70,000 of their college fund earning about 0 % and took out a home equity loan for the rest. Last year we sold our home for $ 245,000 and purchased a new used one for $ 138,000 paying cash for it and paying off our home equity loan. Both moves were win wins for us. The double is now worth north of $ 150,000 bringing in $ 1,600 per month. I am looking to retire in 3 years with the help of people like you. Thanks for the motivation.


  • Patrick September 26, 2013, 8:38 pm

    I don’t know, man. Is this even a personal finance blog anymore?

  • Nina September 26, 2013, 10:04 pm

    I live in Lafayette and would love to help and learn in one of your bootcamps.

  • bcox002 September 26, 2013, 11:57 pm

    Hey MMM,
    I’m moving to the area (Fort Collins) and I’m willing to work and help with your project. I’m a mechanical engineer, and while studying for that I worked as a carpenter (some framing, mostly finish carpentry like doors, windows, trim, cabinets, etc). Anyway, let me know what you’re thinking and if you still need/want a hand. (also, unashamedly, I’m looking for mech engr work in FoCo, so if you’ve got any friends…. ;)


  • Cindy September 26, 2013, 11:59 pm

    Sounds like a fun project! Just curious…where do you plan to invest the $114k in freed capital to get a 5% return?

  • Patrick September 27, 2013, 12:33 am

    Congratulations on this great decision and purchase.
    I think it’s also important to point out that this home is going to be beautiful and highly desirable. Mid-century modern architecture is very popular and in line with MMM principles such as minimalist living while maximizing natural light and bringing the outdoors in. Additionally, homes with south facing windows lower heating costs but they also have health benefits to the occupants which include improved mental health and vitamin D levels due to more natural light exposure.

    Have you thought about adding sky lights?
    Have you thought about adding a full glass entry door to maximize light too? I’m debating adding a full class entry door in my new home but my concerns decreased privacy and security. I think I can overcome these two issues by adding a privacy shade and using security laminated glass it what are your thoughts?


  • bob werner September 27, 2013, 10:03 am

    A bit off topic but could you share the model off refrigerator, heat pump and water heater you use? Your low electric use is great!

  • Russ September 27, 2013, 5:10 pm


    Great Post about remodeling. My company is intimately involved in Passive Solar building and energy efficient construction in general. I thought the following post on our blog would be useful for you as you consider what Passive Solar windows you want to use for your remodel project. I am happy to dialog with you about this if you have questions or want more info. The blog post about Passive Solar Design can be found here:



  • Nathan September 30, 2013, 8:10 pm

    Greetings, I’m brand new here, but would love to be of service if I can. I run a small architectural design firm dealing predominantly with residential work. We have worked with MCM projects a good deal over the past number of years and work in Sketchup on a daily basis.
    If I can be of any aid to the design process, I would be happy to pitch in.

  • Karl October 1, 2013, 12:19 am

    I also would be careful of asbestos and lead paint in older houses. Apparently there is a predicted ‘second wave’ of asbestosis related illness to come in Australia as DIY home renovation is so popular and many people (including tradies) are young and not aware of the risk or how to deal with asbestos and lead paint. Horrible stuff you do not want to be exposed to.

    If I buy a house to renovate I would have it inspected for asbestos and lead paint first. If it contains any either not buy it or demolish the whole lot and re-build clean. Ideally I’ll be buying a undeveloped block of land and build my own residence from scratch exactly how I want it. Earthships are a nice design.

    All the best MM and be safe!

  • Elaine October 1, 2013, 8:32 am

    Congratulations! How you use a space definitely matters much more than how much you have. My SO and I live in 471 sq. feet very comfortably!

  • A Brit October 3, 2013, 9:10 am

    Oh no, MMM, your footnote doesn’t grant you immunity from charges of sexism (but good try!)

    Here are the lyrics to the song, called ‘Nice legs, shame about THE face’:

    …. and don’t miss reading down to the sting in the tail!

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 3, 2013, 12:50 pm

      Gasp! You’re right. Thanks, A Brit.. I have corrected the article.

  • Michael October 3, 2013, 10:46 am

    Hello! I just recently sent you an email about helping on this project. It looks very exciting and I like the idea of being able to help you, while also learning myself. If you can, see if you can find the email I sent, it has more information about myself. Thanks!


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