A do-it-yourself dream: NLJ's Green Home experts board takes a look at the handiwork of homeowners and builders Maria Muscarella and Toby Crawley.

Author:Cramer, Maggie


In last April's Annual Green Building issue, we brought you a special Green Home Showcase: an interview with Maria Muscarella and her family about the eco-friendly home they were building with their own hands and the helpful hands of friends and relatives. They completed their house shortly after the interview ran, so our Green Home Experts Board members decided to follow up with the couple one year later and take a look at their finished product.

The story of Maria Muscarella and Toby Crawley's eco-friendly home actually begins with an eco-friendly 390-square foot cabin. The couple began designing what would become their dream borne back in 2006 and built the small cabin to live in during the building process. Their cabin itself was built sustainably in only six weeks from salvaged wood and old pallets that were used for siding. The foundation for the house was poured in 2007, and for the 15 months of building that followed, the couple stayed in the cabin and used an outhouse, a pioneer way of life Maria admits was fun at first but became challenging during the first winter.

Both the cabin and completed home now stand on their 25 wooded acres in Leicester, NC. They chose to build their house where a house previously sat on the property before it burned clown in the early 1980s. Maria says the land wasn't in great condition: it had since become a hangout for teenagers and their four-wheelers, which had clone a number to the soil and roots of existing trees.

They harvested these and other poplar trees from the site for various elements inside the house as well as for one of the house's main features: its cordwood walls. Any needed additional wood was purchased from a local sawmill that uses local sources or was "harvested" and recycled from places like Habitat for Humanity and local recycling bins. Their friends and family also pitched in not just their time and labor but materials as well, including the oak for their custom bathroom counter. All wood flooring in the home was salvaged from the dumpster; the couple estimates at least seven or eight different types of wood make up their patchwork floor-from maple to cherry and even pear. Other materials and elements were salvaged and reused, too, including interior doors and almost all of the house's windows.

To be sure they wouldn't feel the harsh winter in their new space as they had in their cabin and outhouse, Maria and Toby opted for a wood stove as well as radiant floor heating on the home's first floor. The house was carefully sited facing south in order to collect heat from the sun, and an active...

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