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Building a House… Through the Lens of Critical Inquiry


iMovie  “tour” of our house on You Tube

January, 2015- My husband and I are in the midst of celebrating the completion of building a log home on our lakefront property at Lac La Nonne. Had it not been for the critical thinking inquiry framework that laid the foundation for our decision making, I’m afraid we would be celebrating its completion for the wrong reasons- i.e. we may be celebrating the end of a strenuous journey! Instead, we are reflecting upon the learning experiences we shared, and enjoying the product of our thoughtful deliberations and productive physical work.

From the outset, this overarching question framed our thinking:

“To what extent should we participate in the building of our house?”

Additional questions helped guide our decision making throughout the build. We worked through questions like:

  • Would it be better to hire a contractor to oversee the build, or should we take on the responsibility of attaining all the subcontractors ourselves?   When we considered criteria like ‘completion of the house within a reasonable time frame’ and ‘having access to reliable contractors’, we decided that hiring a contractor to oversee the project would be the way to go.
  • What physical tasks would be best for us to take on ourselves? With criteria in mind of ‘doable within our time constraints of weekends and holidays’, ‘taps into our current skill set’, and ‘new skills are learnable for us and don’t require a journeyman ticket’, we decided to take on the following tasks:
    • Co-design the floor plan (The design course I took a couple years ago came in handy for this!)
    • Select all the materials for a custom build (We chose EVERYTHING – from the more obvious materials like the logs, stonework, flooring, cabinetry and light fixtures, down to the less obvious choices like the type of door knobs.)
    • Stain the logs
    • Do the stone work on the fireplace (interior and exterior- yikes, that roof was high for my husband- I was the ground crew!)
    • Paint the drywall and the interior doors
    • Acid stain and seal the concrete basement floor
    • Lay and seal the slate tiling in the foyer, laundry room and bathrooms
    • Stain the exterior trim
    • Stain the interior trim
    • Tile the back splashes (Selecting the perfect tiles was perhaps the hardest decision of all!)
    • Build the closet organizers
    • Install the mirrors
    • Be the clean-up crew and take all garbage to the landfill (huge tasks in themselves that lasted throughout the course of the build!)

The other questions we considered were:

  • What are the best resources to help us learn new skills?
    • We knew our sources  had to be reliable and instructionally sound,  so we decided that face-to-face discussions with experts at home shows and retail outlets, along with carefully selected You Tube clips would be our best teachers.
  • What would be an effective process for determining which materials we should select? Considering criteria such as effective use of time, minimal travel, accessing products that appealed to us and were of high quality, the process that worked best for us was this:
    1. Do as much preliminary research on the internet as possible, looking at product reviews and availability of the materials in our area
    2. Use this information to narrow down the multitude of choices to a few desirable selections
    3. Find which retailers in our area carried those selections
    4. Go to retailers to physically see the products and ask a few more questions
    5. Make the selection!

 We now get to enjoy the fruits of  all our mental and physical labor! As a result of this huge two year undertaking, we have a beautiful end product – a house we will temporarily use for weekends, holidays and family celebrations; the house we plan to call “home” after we retire.

Fall 2016 UPDATE: Over the past 2 summers, we worked on our landscaping. Here’s the iMovie of Our Landscaping at Lac La Nonne.