Officer fulfills a dream, builds his own house Bridgetown resident says he saved $60,000 doing most of the work himself

Dream Home

November 09, 1997|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When most people say they built their own home, they don't mean it literally. Usually, people who build their own homes hire contractors and builders to turn their ideas and plans for a dream home into reality. No physical labor is involved, unless you count sweating out decisions like: Hardwood or tile floor in the foyer?

But when Gerald Lantz, 27, says he built his own home, he means it. The 3,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, two-bath, split-foyer home in Bridgetown that Lantz shares with his wife, Michele, daughter Lauren, 8, and son Bradley, 6 months, is the result of nearly six months of hard work and determination.

"I built this house. I framed the whole thing myself. I did the roof, the siding, almost everything," Lantz said. "Anyone can build a deck or a shed. But it has been my dream to build my own house. Everyone told me, 'You can't do it all by yourself,' but I did it."

The fact that he constructed his home almost entirely by himself makes Lantz proud. On a guided tour of his home, he points to every wall, every window, every door and every tiny detail of the house and says, "I did this."

Lantz didn't originally plan to build his own home. Last year, when he and his wife became engaged and were looking for a home, the couple thought they would be able to afford a new house.

"We found out that everything was too expensive," Michele said.

The next idea was to buy a lot and hire a contractor to build the house.

But then, "I thought, why should I hire a contractor and spend the money when I know I can do this myself?" he said.

Lantz is an officer with the Maryland Transportation Authority Police who works at the Bay Bridge, but he spent his teen years and early 20s working in construction. Many of those years were with Patriot Homes. "I figured I had already built 50 to 100 homes. I could build my own home," he said.

Construction on the Caroline County house started in early September last year.

"It was pretty stressful," Michele Lantz said. "We were trying to plan a wedding and build a house all at the same time. We were driving all over the place. There were so many decisions to make. But I always knew he could do it. There was never a doubt in my mind," she said.

"I'd get off work at 3 [o'clock], come here, work until dark, go home and then collapse," Lantz said.

The work didn't always go as planned. He had drywall crash down on his head, paw prints in the sidewalk and sore fingers from missing the nail heads.

To boost his morale, Lantz said, he often would try to imagine what the finished house would look like.

His construction labors bordered on the obsessive, his wife said.

"We were on our honeymoon in Bermuda," she said. "As soon as we got off the plane, all he could talk about was the fact that it was raining back home and that the wood was getting wet and probably curling up."

"I thought I'd never get done. All I could think about was that the roof needed to get done," Lantz said.

"We had a lot of fights during all this," Michele said.

Was the stress and aggravation worth it?

"Yes," Lantz said. "For someone my age to have a house this nice is definitely worth it. We could never afford this house."

The finished home was appraised at $160,000. Lantz said he saved more than $60,000 by building the house himself.

"And we got all the extras we wanted," his wife said. Extras like a cathedral ceiling in the living room, a vaulted ceiling in the master bedroom, skylights in the kitchen and bath, and even some unique electrical features.

Lantz's father is an electrical engineer and wired the entire house. There are light sockets under every window. Why so many? "You know those little Christmas candles you put in the windows, those cords are really short," Lantz said.

And his house has another electrical feature that every home should have to preserve marital harmony, Lantz said. "You go to bed and you get all settled in and you say to your wife, 'Turn out the light,' and your wife says, 'No, you turn out the light.' Well, there's a light switch right by the bed, so nobody has to get out of bed to turn out the light."

There are other details that the couple made sure they got. "You really appreciate the little things," Lantz said. For his wife, it was an extra-deep sink in the kitchen and lights in all the closets. For himself, it was an extra-wide door to his workshop. "That way, you don't scrape up the door jamb taking the lawn mower outside," he said.

Although the home has been complete and livable for more than eight months, Lantz considers his home to be a work in progress. He just finished building two decks -- one off the kitchen and another for the master bedroom. He is adding a laundry chute and a third bathroom on the lower level.

He hopes to start work on an in-ground pool next summer and then perhaps a three-car garage.

And then what?

"I don't know," Lantz said. "Maybe I'll build another house."

Pub Date: 11/09/97

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