woman putting siding on home
Jade Small
Jade Small
February 16, 2023 ·  4 min read

Single Mother escaped an abusive relationship and built a home from scratch from watching YouTube tutorials

A Secret Life of Mom Highlight Story: Sometimes, there are stories that are just too good, too beautiful, or too unbelievable to keep locked away. That’s why we scour the archives and bring some of them back to enjoy again. They may make you smile or shed a tear, but they’re always meant to add a little positivity to your day. This story is from January 2017. Enjoy! 

A single mother raising four children alone has certainly outdone herself. She had been in an abusive relationship that was starting to take its toll on the whole family. So, she decided enough was enough and planned to get her children into a safer environment. She saved up enough money and built a 3500-square-foot house without any help from contractors. She did not have any building experience before this amazing feat, but she did watch countless YouTube tutorials on building houses.

Image credit: Ashley Murphy

We lost the ability to laugh together”

Abuse is never easy to identify. From the outside, abusive relationships do not seem as threatening as they are behind closed doors. When emotions are added in, they make things even more complicated, not to mention having children included in the equation. Many people hold out for a long while, hoping against all odds that their situation might improve, or their abuser might change.

For Cara Brookin, she had finally had enough. She set her mind into plan mode, working out how she was going to save herself, and her four children, Hope, Drew, Jada, and Roman, from their abuser’s clutches. “We lost the ability to laugh together,” she said in a 2017 interview with TODAY home. “We had spent so long being beaten down.”

In 2007, she was driving the kids to the Ozark Mountains for Thanksgiving. On the way, she passed a house that had been destroyed by a recent tornado. There were only the foundations left behind. This sparked an idea in Cara, who stopped the car and got out to get a closer look. “I stopped and got out to look at it and could see inside the walls,” she said. “I thought, ‘I bet I could put this back up if I really tried.’”

Single mother and her kids built a house from scratch

After discussing it with her children, they were immediately on board with the plan. She went to the bank and took out a home loan of $150,000 to buy the necessary building supplies. Bear in mind that none of them are trained contractors, and the only knowledge they had on building houses was learned as they went from watching YouTube tutorials.

Image credit: Ashley Murphy

As per the loan’s terms and conditions, they only had nine months to complete the project. The single mother and her children had to do all the building themselves as the loan only covered the cost of the building materials and they couldn’t afford to pay a professional to do it. However, a local fireman helped them out for $25 an hour. “We knew it was going to be hard,” she said. “But we had no idea of the scale.”

Image credit: Ashley Murphy

This was all done in the year 2008, and YouTube was much more limited back then. Furthermore, they didn’t have smartphones either, so they would often sit back and try to remember what the tutorial videos had instructed them to do. Needless to say, there was a lot of back and forth happening. “YouTube in 2008 was unorganized,” she said. “They were mostly amateur videos.” She added, “There was a lot of ‘Do you remember how to…?’ the next day,”

3500-square-foot house built by single mother

The building part seemed much easier in their imaginations. In reality, they realized the scale of the project they started was a lot more, and they were deeply unprepared. “We were so weak then, we were carrying around these blocks and slugging through mud,” said the single mother. “We didn’t have proper work boots so we put plastic bags on our feet with old tennis shoeswe were completely unprepared.”

Image credit: Ashley Murphy

The end result is seriously impressive for amateur builders. They named their new home “Inkwell Manor,” It included 5 bedrooms, one for each child and the single mother. There was a large front door with steps leading to the grass out front. There were also three and a half bathrooms, so there would be less arguing in the morning. Additionally, they added a garage that could fit three cars. “We overbuilt a lot, making sure everything was done in the most sturdy way. I was also very aware of being energy efficient,” she said. “My goal was to have a house that was very inexpensive to live in.”

Keep Reading: Warrick Dunn: The NFL Player Who Helped Build Over 145 Homes For Single Mothers So They Could Have Better Lives


  1. Single mom builds 3,500-square-foot home by watching YouTube tutorials.TODAY. Jenny Pennel. January 18, 2017
  2. Mother of four builds home from scratch after watching YouTube tutorials.” CBS News. Christina Capatides. January 12 2017.