IMPACT
01/13/2017 09:35 am ET

Mom And Kids Build House, One YouTube Tutorial Video At A Time

"It just looked so simple," mother of four says.
Cara Brookins (middle) poses with her construction team.
Cara Brookins
Cara Brookins (middle) poses with her construction team.

Turns out those YouTube how-to videos aren’t just for unclogging drains and cleaning the air conditioner. An Arkansas single mom and her four children managed to construct a five-bedroom, 3500-square-foot home (with three-car garage and a two-story treehouse) by watching hundreds of film tutorials.

“There was a lot of asking people at Home Depot for help, too,” said Cara Brookins of Bryant. But with “just a little bit at a time, we figured out how to lay a foundation block.” 

The family couldn’t afford to pay builders to construct a home, but they could pay for an acre of land and building supplies. So Brookins came up with the self-taught YouTube scheme, she told THV11-TV in Little Rock.

She became inspired as she drove by a tornado-hit home that bared some of its construction. “You don’t often get the opportunity to see the interior workings of a house, but looking at those [boards] and these nails, it just looked so simple,” Brookins told CBS News. “I thought, ‘I could put this wall back up if I really tried. Maybe I should just start from scratch.’”

Once the supplies were purchased and piled up there was no going back, she explained. “There was no Plan B,” she added.

“How are we going to build a house?” asked her oldest daughter, Hope, who was 17 when the work started in 2008. “We have no idea what we’re doing.” The other kids were 15, 11 and 2 years old.

But the family powered through and did everything from mixing to pounding nails and framing walls, Brookins said.

"Inkwell Manor, the Brookins' self-built home.
Cara Brookins
"Inkwell Manor, the Brookins' self-built home.

Brookins had left her husband because of domestic violence, and the project had the added benefit of helping her frightened children retake control of part of their lives, she said.

The mom has written a book about the house and the family’s transformation called Rise, How a House Built a Family.

And she has some sound advice for anyone struggling to overcome a problematic past.

“Everybody says, ‘If you just take a small step every day, it will get better.’ In my experience, though, it doesn’t,” she said. “You have to make a big leap. It has to be this huge, enormous act.  You need to do something big that changes your perception of yourself.”

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