It usually took about two or three months to make a house, from framing it, to covering it with clapboards, to making the wattle and daub, and finally thatching the roof. Work on the finishing touches sometimes went on for a few more months even after the family began living in it.
When the houses were finished, they were not very large. Because the Pilgrims hoped to own their own land and build better houses in the future, the houses in Plymouth Colony in the 1620s were not as comfortable as the ones the Pilgrims left behind in England and Holland. Most of their houses only had one room. The colonists did their cooking, eating, and sleeping, as well as other work, in this room. The women cooked around a hearth, where small fires were lit. The fire from the hearth provided heat during the winter months and light at night. Candles and oil lamps were sometimes lit too. If there was a chimney, it was built of timber and clay and clapboards just like the rest of the house.
Most of the time, the houses were very dark. They had only a few small windows that closed with a wooden shutter. The floors were hard-packed earth. Some houses had a storage space above the first floor, called a loft. These spaces were used to store food and other goods, like dried herbs from the garden, bundles of corn from the fields, or even beds. They used ladders to climb up to the loft.
The English colonists had a very difficult time during that first winter as they were building their town. About half of the men, women and children who sailed on Mayflower died of sicknesses brought on by the cold and wet weather and by not having warm houses. By the next winter, however, they had built 11 new houses. The town began to grow, and the colonists finally had the shelter they needed.