Family, friends stage modern barn raising Couple builds house with lots of help HARFORD COUNTY

February 28, 1993|By JoAnne C. Broadwater | JoAnne C. Broadwater,Contributing Writer

Last August, when ground was broken for Steve and Marla Sawyer's new home in northern Harford County, the Edgewood couple set up a picnic table and gas grill not far from the backhoe at the construction site.

After all, over the next few months Mrs. Sawyer would need to do a lot of cooking to feed the construction crew: All of the relatives and friends who were pitching in to help the Sawyers build their 1,540-square-foot white rancher with the colonial blue shutters.

The house -- with three bedrooms -- was custom-designed to include all of the features that the couple wanted, with a bedroom for Mrs. Sawyer's mother, Mildred Finn, a guest bedroom and 1 1/2 bathrooms. It has cathedral ceilings in the living and dining rooms, a covered front porch, French doors, a first-floor laundry room, a two-car garage, a wood stove in the basement and lots of closet space.

"This entire house was built by family and friends," said Mr. Sawyer, who worked at the site every day for more than four months -- from the summer, when he installed the sediment control fencing, until the holiday season, when the trim work and painting were done and the house was finished. The Sawyers moved in after the new year, and their home is now decorated in a warm country style.

During construction, Mr. Sawyer would work at the house from early morning until early afternoon every weekday when he would head home to Edgewood for a quick nap before reporting for the night shift at the Bethlehem Steel Corp. at Sparrows Point where he is a machinist.

In the morning, he might be joined by his father, Bob Sawyer, a retired Bethlehem Steel machinist, and a new neighbor, Rudy Roginski, a retiree who became a regular worker with the Sawyers.

"My dad was the superintendent," the younger Mr. Sawyer said. "And Rudy stuck with us through the whole project. He was a blessing."

Cousins, a nephew, in-laws, other relatives and friends would arrive by the truckload in the evenings and on weekends to help with everything from foundation block work and framing to the installation of siding.

Mr. Sawyer's brother, a professional builder and remodeler whose name is Bob Sawyer like their father, was his general contractor.

"He led me in the right direction for the best materials," Steve Sawyer said. His brother's company is Sawyer Building of Churchville. "A lot of his friends helped to build the house. And he and my dad did all the trim work."

With all of the help, the Sawyers were able to build the house at a cost of about $80,000. The house has an appraised value of $175,000, including the $50,000 lot, Mr. Sawyer said.

Mr. and Mrs. Sawyer -- who were married four years ago and lived in a mobile home -- had looked at houses but couldn't find anything they liked.

"Steve's family was always saying to us: 'Buy a lot. Build a house,' " Mrs. Sawyer said.

Finally, in October 1991, they decided to do just that. They began looking for property and three months later, Mr. Sawyer "fell in love" with a lot a little larger than an acre that overlooks the rolling countryside in a Norrisville subdivision.

By March, the property was theirs. They applied for a construction loan that would convert to a permanent mortgage after the house had been built. Mr. Sawyer's father -- who has experience building homes for himself and his family -- drew the plans for the house.

The Sawyers were approved for the loan in August and by the middle of the month they were ready to start construction. A hole was dug and a foundation laid. Mr. Sawyer took a week of vacation when it was time to start framing in early September and the stick-built house was under roof within two weeks.

He admits that he might not have been able to build his house if it were not for the construction expertise of his relatives and friends, as well as the experience he gained working as a carpenter building houses for five years before working at Bethlehem Steel.

He is proud of the workmanship in the home: "They don't build houses like this," he said, explaining how he thoroughly insulated -- especially around the windows and doors -- added extra roof supports and reinforced the foundation.

In fact, he said, his fellow workers began to kid him about the extra materials he was using. "They laughed at me because I put so many nails in it," Mr. Sawyer said. adding that six five-gallon bucketfuls were used. He hammered lots of extra nails into the floors because he didn't want any squeaky boards, he said.

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