Caleb’s Small Clog Guest House

Caleb’s Small Clog Guest House


by Caleb Clark

What: We built a small house in our Southern Vermont backyard and documented the process, including:

Who: We are not professional carpenters, nor will we be quitting our day jobs. Laura is an elementary school teacher at The Neighborhood Schoolhouse. I’m the director of the educational technology program at Marlboro College Graduate School. I also worked as a carpenter in my youth, and have always been interested in real estate. In November 2010 we bought a house on tiny 1/8th of an acre lot, 1/2 mile from downtown, Brattleboro, Vermont. (200 miles North of NYC).

Why: I created this Clog because when I was doing research on small house construction, this is what I wanted to find on the Web. We also wanted to have a record for ourselves, and blogging is somewhat job related for me. My wife Laura came up with the “Clog” name and we loved it. We are “clogging” the project in the spirit of open source information.

The idea to build came from a childhood spent in a “back to the land” community in southern Maine in 1970s. Building your own simple house was common place and everybody seemed to be an amateur carpenter. When we bought our house it had an old garage that begged for help. I convinced my wonderful wife Laura it would be a good to invest our savings in something that could provide extra income. We also both like guest house possibilities, and enjoy being around people. In addition we wanted to shorten our needlessly long asphalt driveway and park near the road to reduce shoveling. Then we found out that our town offered $3000.00 grants to build second units, and we could get rebates from Efficiency Vermont if it was efficient. Our journey had begun!


  1. The drawing of your house plan and the rendering showed a fence around the house that almost looked like a chicken run. What is that and are you going to build it?

  2. Nice and roomy!

    If the bathroom sink was under the window, you would have room in that middle wall area to put in a kitchen pantry – I never have enough storage in the kitchen 🙂

  3. It’s a great layout!

    One of the drawbacks of living in someone’s backyard is lack of privacy and blurry personal boundaries, but you’ve solved that with the fenced yard. The overhang for shade or shelter from rain is a nice touch.

  4. Nice to see the actual expenses, gives a good idea of what to expect. Clear explanations too. Also interesting to see the differences between estimated and actual costs.

  5. Caleb
    Great design, open “chalets” have been around along time and are both asthetically pleasing due to there “openness” and simplicity. I have built a number of these similar designs and i only offer one suggestion “structurally” if you where to have all the floor joists actually continue inside the wall cavity and be sistered up to the side of studs attached with bolts and put a “jack” stud under each , the floor joists would act as collar ties and the second floor would not be a “pivot” point that it is now with the use of “joist” hangers and a wall plate. Its obviously not going to fall down and with the steel roof you will not have to worry about snow load. All in all a beautufully executed and documneted project. Maybe you should be in the business.

    • I just got a pingback on this post. Agreed Nick. I would make the loft bigger, and put collor ties across the entire top of the first floor, some for the loft, others to break up the vaulted ceiling, provide access to front top window via a walkway, and in the future, someone might want to put a bedroom above the front door, and use the loft I had for an office.

      Also, if I could afford it, I’d make a full basement. That would be a killer storage/pantry area and we have the dry sand to do it. But alas, no money.

      I’m also interested in SIPs for something like this.

      But, one year in, our tenant is happy and we’re almost done with the roof of the shed on the left.