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HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN UNDERGROUND HOME PDF

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How To Build Your Own Underground Home Pdf

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Indoor Garden-Cost of a Dome-Constructing Your Dome to Build Your Own Underground Home, you must Today earth-sheltered homes are being built more . Rob Roy is a man you can trust, and I don't say it just because he has returned the books Ilent him. His honesty is obvious. Glance at any page in this book if you . incidental effect of building underground is that the structure has to be stronger than is the case for a conventional house, bringing with it.

Special thanks to owner-builders Peter and ing old acquaintances and making new with all Eileen Allen for help with the r a d o n c o m m e n the slightly out-of-step eccentrics who d a r e to do tary , Richard and Lisa Guay; Elaine Rieiiy Cos- something radically sensible. Thanks to architects grove, Becky Gillette and Roger Danley. Carpenter at the British Earth Sheltering Associa-. Mushwood, and who knows what in the Future. Thanks for the memories past and all those yet to come.

The British way towards the farm where we lived, one field at Earth Sheltering Assoc iation is probably more ac- a time falling to tract housing. The tall almost tive in promoting residential u s e s of u n d e r g r o u n d A frame houses that were built were crowded 10 housing than any c o m p a r a b l e organization in to the acre in the development, the net effect being America, although only a handful of earth shelters that the "view" from any house was the gable e n d s have actually been built in Britain.

I lad a development o f " U n derhills" been approved instead, the view from The bad news: The sheep could have companies which tried to m a k e a living at spe- returned. There's a sense of optimism g r o u p specializing in earth-sheltered housing, ac a m o n g the old g u a r d that u n d e r g r o u n d is on the tually built several complexes in France and Spain way back. Interest has picked up in Malcolm Wells' that would have been perfect in place of the impos books, and, a f t e r a period of slow going, at the ing homes that were built n e a r Dingwall.

Underground Space C e n t e r as well Interest is increasing again at E a r t h w o o d Building School, w h e r e we've c o n d u c t e d u n d e r g r o u n d - h o u s i n g Bv virtue of the stepped design oi the Architerra com- workshops continuously since Articles in m a g a z i n e s such as because of the unobstructed view of the horizon New Shelter a n d The Mother Earth News prolif- while permitting.

I've got dozens of differ- pared with other industrial nations with a similar ent volumes on my reference shell'. We continue to encroach fur- Then came the public perception that the en- ther and further upon the very ecological systems ergy crisis was either over, or had been a fraud in that support life on this planet open water and the First place; neither view turned out to be true.

President Keagan appealed to upward mobility and unbridled economic optimism. While the rich For the first time in decade, young people got richer, the poor got poorer.

The middle class is seem to be concerned again with the environ- only now realizing that the same old realities are ment, with quality of life instead of standard of still with us, to wit: We still waste inordinate living. Underground housing is very much in tune amounts of energy in the United States when com with this thinking. KV maintains the visual amenity of the village and countryside. The bermed house involves building the structure at or close to original grade and "berming" mounding earth against the side walls, Very often, an earth roof is chosen to complete the harmony of the building.

In the chambered house, the entire struc- ture is below original grade. There aren't many "true" underground homes in the United States, although there's a great deal of underground commercial space.

A below- grade central courtyard provides access to several underground rooms opening onto it. The court- yard, in turn, is accessed by a single stairway- down from ground level. The approach is very similar to that taken in China, where individual homes are carved out of the loess subsoil, all ac- cessed to a central courtyard.

In later designs, John B a r n a r d ' s c o u r t y a r d evolved into a covered atrium. The below-grade aspect of the original home was tempered some- what by more of a bermed approach, with a south- facing elevation providing access and light onto grade. In addition to the courtyard and the covered atrium, leaving one or more sides of the home Many different techniques have evolved over exposed to grade this is called the "elevational" the past 30 y e a r s w h i c h m a k e u n d e r g r o u n d approach to earth-sheltered housing is another houses as light and bright and airy as those homes way to provide ingress to the home, natural light, built above ground.

Underground designers seem and ventilation. Now, this isn't purely a common citizen's belief that underground hous design fault of the south-elevational wall alone.

Mike There are other ways to incorporate the code- Oehler says: But, the elevational plan did fit in well with the I remember my visit to "Baldtop Dugout," ar- site, despite the e r r o r s cited above. People have chitect Don Metz's earth-sheltered home. We felt that the atrium and sidewall pene- pelled once and for all the notion that under- tration design techniques weren't as well suited to ground houses are lacking in views.

Our own Log providing the external view that was so important. End Cave had a wonderful close view into the These techniques would also involve expenses that woods, where the activities of the local wildlife we weren't prepared to make at the time.

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The Log End Cave which we actually built in was about 30' x 35'. The dimensions were a function of site At Log End Cave, we decided to compromise be- considerations, afford ability, availability of mate- tween the bermed and chambered styles.

We rials, and certain goals for heating and cooling would use material excavated for the foundation efficiency. I shown on page For structural safety with 4 x 8 must confess that there are three glaring design rafters, we limited ceiling spans to about 8'6". This faults on this original Log End Cave design's south made the perimeter rooms rather small, a short- elevation. They are: When to the underside of the windows on the south we visit Richard and Lisa Quay's home, based on side.

It just looks nice.

The drawback is that snow those plans and described in chapter 16, we're starts to accumulate right there, and, in northern impressed by the comparatively roomy bedrooms New York, it isn't long before somebody is out and bathroom with their ten-foot spans. Also, every square fool Although every owner-builder likes to design of a south-facing elevation given over to double- his own home, incorporating the features which pane insulated glass will actual provide a net he finds important, 1 offer a 40' x 40' Log End energy gain in northern climes.

Cave plan Illustrations The house can be built on a the home's internal heat directly to the outside. At the time, we didn't real- of ingress and egress. Even a chipmunk knows ize that overall structural strength isn't compro- better.

One never knows when a fox or a build- mised by joining shorter girders over the pillars. The south-wall elevational plan of the original I og End jive, a bermed structure built on a gentle slope.

While bending Bending failure is when a m e m b e r s n a p s some- strength is slightly d e c r e a s e d in this example, where near the middle because of the load. Be happy that you only have to deal with 10' member is supported by a wall or a post. Two girders, not 20' or 30" behemoths.

The 40' x 40' floor plan lllus. T h e than the open-plan great room, assuming that you 40' x 40' plans call for 5 x 10s, as we used at o u r have centrally located wood heat. In 10' to 12' lengths, the original Cave, and w a s considered at the de they're heavy, but not unmanageable. You'll want sign stage. Jaki is English, and l had lived seven s o m e help with the heavy timbers. The stress-load years in Britain, so we were used to cool bed- engineering for t h e plans is b a s e d u p o n a 10' x 10' rooms, and believe that they a r e healthier than module, repeated 16 times.

I always design floor plans to make the joining of internal walls with exposed rafters Many people casually a c q u a i n t e d with u n d e r - and girders both neat and easy to construct. The new 40' x 40 Cave's block, rafter, post-and- beam plan. The 40 x 40 Log End Cave plan improves upon the original design. The home is designed to support a roof load of at least lbs.

In fact, earth is a pretty poor insula- about 40 F lllus. When the outside winter air tor. Put another tion? The earth is a great capacitor. The ambient earth tem- good conductor. Thankfully, tional side, there's no reason why a penetrational there's another thermal mass at our disposal, one d o o r couldn't be incorporated on one of the other over which we can more easily exercise control. Penetrational b e d r o o m windows, if they internal mass such as a m a s o n r y stove.

The best open, can also satisfy building codes egress. For way to regulate this thermal mass is to separate it example, the National Building C o d e NBC allows from the earth's thermal flywheel by a thermal the e g r e s s vvindowsill to be no m o r e than 48" off break, typically rigid-foam insulation placed cor- the floor. Other codes may specify 44" rypically, rectly on the exterior of the home's fabric. This is very important.

The clear-opening width must be at least 20" S o m e worst thing to do and it's amazing how often it's building codes will allow the alternative of two done is to place insulation on the interior of the doors f r o m b e d r o o m s offering t w o separate paths thermal mass. Not only has all control over the of escape. The house built on the in internal walls. Meeting the r e q u i r e m e n t of surface has two choices: The b e d r o o m s in the another great cooling advantage.

Unlike the high 40' x 40' plans need either interconnected door- surface t e m p e r a t u r e s of asphalt t a r s c a p e s , the ways or penetrational code-worthy windows to earth roof is cool just a few inches below the sur- pass an inspection.

Check with your local code- face. Respiration by plants and e v a p o r a t i o n of enforcement officer. Or, if you're building in one of moisture off the earth roof both help to cool the those few remaining rural a r e a s w h e r e building building, just as a wet towel draped over a 5-gallon codes are rare, use your o w n best-informed judg- bucket will help to keep your drinks cold.

Err on the side of safety. When designing an u n d e r g r o u n d house, keep in mind three important words: As for The 40' x 40' Log End Cave plan is an example of keeping the house dry, d r a i n a g e is the better part elevational t e r r a t e c t u r e with b e r m e d sidewalls. On any steep-slope projects, consult with a soil or structural engi- The perfect exposure for a window meant to collect neer. Remem- site combined the a d v a n t a g e s of g o o d drainage, ber. An added benefit was so bad in the midsection of the U.

With a volt e n e r g y sys- tity of light will vary a g r e a t deal in different parts tem. The use of line loss at low voltage. Finally, driveway access the rooms come into play here when you design w a s excellent. Building materials and ready-mix the floor plan. As the sun begins to set, a great deal concrete w e r e easy to deliver to the site.

The site had been a m e a d o w when o u r home- stead had been part of a hilltop farm m a n y years ago, but this particular c o r n e r of the m e a d o w was overgrown with small apple, cherry, and poplar trees. It took Jaki and me a couple of days to clear e n o u g h of the g r o w t h to see the terrain clearly. Plan ahead so that just the that have been built.

For a two-storey home, a right a m o u n t of earth is moved, and not moved steeper slope would work, but much m o r e atten- twice.

Halfway between those times the sun top or hillside. First, we set up a surveyor's transit will be at true south. Cloudy for a week? Use a at the top of the knoll. You can rent a contractor's magnetic compass, but don't forget to take into level which will do the same job quite inexpen- account the magnetic deflection for your area. A sively at tool-rental stores. We plumbed and lev- good transit will have a magnetic compass built in, elled the transit to a point on the ground within the but a rented contractor's level probably won't.

An even better benchmark would be a large of the level's compass rose to a fixed point, the nail driven into the ground, with a rod piece of corner of Log End Cottage. Then, with Jaki hold- tape tied just under the head so the nail can be ing a calibrated g r a d e stick you can rent or make found again.

South would then corre- tance on a chart, we statistically mapped the area. Again, we so on. I'd set the level or transit at 0", for example, measured the distance. Likewise, we recorded ev- and Jaki would move away from me with the grade ery 6" drop along the ray until we were outside the stick until we were able to discern a drop in the vicinity of the house site.

Then we repeated the land. We wards in inches from a point on the slick equal to now had a statistical abstract Table 1 of the large the height of the level off the ground, say four feet. This j o b took us As s xm as we could perceive an inch of drop, we all afternoon. Then Jaki moved further away transcribed the figu res onto a large piece of graph. The north and south walls were almost even with the original ground level; the terrain around the cast and west walls was built up using excavated material.

To avoid There's another big time-saver that comes out of confusion later, I lightly marked the elevation next these little maps, now that the trouble has been to the corresponding dot: We considered 1" to be level for our purposes. Once we determined on paper the best location for After all the figures from my chart were thus tran- the house, all we had to do was transpose the four scribed, it was an easy task to connect the dots of corner points to the site itself.

We used a simple like elevation with gently curving lines.

The Complete Book of Underground Houses

Lo and angle-and-distance system. Using a small protrac behold an extremely accurate contour map of the tor and a ruler, it was easy to determine, for exam - site emerged as the dots were connected lllus. It's important to be able to set up off by eliminating a lot of guessing later on. From a the transit or contractor's level in exactly the same piece of the same kind of graph paper, I cut out a spot a s it was when the o r i g i n a l f i g u r e s were scale model of the foundation plan, using the out- taken.

We set up over the brick using the corner of side dimensions of the planned block wall. We did the same little square around the contour m a p until the with the other three corners. Then we checked the most sensible location emerged. Walls We knew that the i oncrete slab at door level would were the right length; diagonals checked. I happened to have a 4' x 4' sheet of plywood As seen in lllus. The south wall of the excavation itself lllus.

The earth that another set of hefty birch stakes to mark these comes out of the hole during excavation is used to points.

Of course, the original four stakes marking build up the terrain to the tops of the east and west the house corners would be eaten by the front-end walls. By this plan, the new ground level melds loader, but I wanted the operator to be able to nicely into the shallow-pitched, earth-covered visualize the project clearly before starting.

It's roof. With our contour map, it was excavation and to formulate the most efficient ex- easy to explain just how d e e p to go at each corner cavation depth to lake advantage of natural con of the excavation. A certain very much easier to estimate. It w a s worth the amount of erosion can be expected during the job, effort: The landscaping around the Cave wasn't a and although we spaced our stakes 4' out f r o m the big job and it came out very well.

Transposing the four corner points from paper to the site, using a protractor, ruler, and surveyor's level. The ing in the g r o u n d , the excavation slope called the space was about 30" on average, at the base of the "angle of repose" will cut away into the four feet at excavation. If the digger leaves the markers stand- the bottom lllus.

Our soil health department may be able to help with soil had a fair amount of clay, which allows steep exca- maps and information about septic systems. The vation sidewalks, like those shown in lllus. Since you'll probably have to conduct On the positive side, you'll probably be able to these tests anyway to satisfy the health depart- backfill with the same material which came out of ment for approval of a septic-system design, you the hole, because drainage is excellent in sandy might as well do the tests before you do the site soils.

If you've got h o r r e n d o u s drainage, such as derful sandy soil is only three feet deep, with hard- soils designated as "expansive clays," or if a deep- pan or clay below: It enters If your site is flat, you'll be spared the tedium of the home through cracks in the foundation. Un- creating the contour map. All you need to know is derground houses can pose a higher risk than do the soil conditions, and I would definitely advise a other types of housing by the n a t u r e of their con deep-hole test.

The hole doesn't take long for a strucUon. If you're in an area known for high ra- backhoe to dig, and. Appendix 1 The Log End Cave design, in fact, is midway be- treats radon in detail, and gives sources of addi- tween the b e r m e d and c h a m b e r e d styles of under- tional information. With the bermed style, the builder need only calculate the amount of earth needed to mound up gracefully against the sidewalls.

But keep in mind that unless the site is entirely of sandy soil or good-draining gravel, it isn't wise to backfill with the excavated material. The drainage characteristics of the subsoil w h e r e Bring in sand or gravel, if necessary, to e n s u r e you build must be considered carefully when cal- good drainage. Because o u r subsoils have such culating the size of the excavation. You need to poor drainage, we had to backfill with 25 d u m p - answer one very important question: Can the ex- truck loads of 5 cubic yards each If it's necessary cavated material be used to backfill the walls of to bring in backfilling material, this task should be the home?

If percolation in the subsoil is good, figured in when calculating the depth of the exca- then the a n s w e r is yes. If the soil holds water or vation. With a b e r m e d house, it's easy to get rid of doesn't let it through, as with claylike soils, then a little extra material.

The thicker the berm, the the answer is no. If percolation is poor, you'll have better. In fact, if the earth piled up against the walls to bring in backfilling material or use one of the is thick e n o u g h 5' to 6'.

This will probably gravel pit. There was no topsoil. We built a pad of be an economic decision, weighing the cost of good percolating sand, which w a s right on site, many loads of coarse sand or gravel versus the and "floated" the f o u n d a t i o n slab on this p a d. This hypothetical site isn't blessed with a the gabled berm-style house shown in lllus. How much material of essary to bring in backfilling material. If the site the kind taken from the excavation will be required has good topsoil, the whole area should be on the berm?

Calculating the required depths of excavation for this hypothetic. The plan is for external wall dimensions of 30' 0. I"he square, or 10 yards by 10 yards. Let's say we were sand for the drainage remains the same 64 cubic to excavate one yard 36" deep over the whole area yards. The berm is V higher now. The 3 in 15 pitch within one yard of the walls. This square, 12 yards 3: Because of poor yards, then, the berm is 1.

The volume of the berm. The total length of yards out of the hole. Not bad. Add to this the obvious lack of a second entrance. Such a bermed volume of the two delta-wing Shapes where the house would be just slightly smaller than the Log berms meet at the corners, marked "D" in lllus Hnd Cave we actually built.

The thick berm and e a r t h - taken cubic yards out of the hole! And the visual and environmental Before we make a second guess, let's consider impact is about the same as that of the original Log End Cave. From a distance, the house would look the situation if the excavated material had been of like little more than a knoll on a flat landscape. In this case, the At the earliest stages of planning and siting, con- total volume of the berm right up to the Walls is sideration must be given to the disposal of waste- Vk cubic yards 97V?

Wastewater disposal systems based than the cubic yards that came out of the hole. Moreover, pumping sys- originally, this isn't too bad. The berms could be tems are subject to ongoing maintenance, con- stant consumption of power over their lifetime. As the hole gets deeper, the berms above grade get smaller. Remember, "For this example, I've d r a w n the gable o n e yard 13' hlflher too. The roof pitch, therefore.

Roof pitch is usually measured m terms n rise per 12 lateral feet. Our example is equivalent Let's assume that we have poor soil. This time, 1. A contractor will be inclined to give a ages. Therefore, integrate the siting of a below- better price if justified by the volume of work. I grade house very carefully with the location of the Stayed with the s a m e contractor throughout the septic tank and drain field.

On the side of a hill, work at Log End Cave, and liked his work so much waste drainage hy gravity won't he a problem On that I retained him again at F a r t h w o o d. I get excel- a flat site, it may be necessary to dig d e e p e r tracks lent service as a regular customer. If two contractors give similar estimates, but scape sculpting to build the berms. I also order to establish a correct gradient for a gravity prefer to pay by the hour rather than by the j o b waste-disposal system.

You may c h a n g e your plans d u r to be higher than the drains, rule out the site imme- ing construction, about w h e r e to put a snakawuy diately. Rule out lloodplains, too. Even if tile walls dry well , for example. If you're paying by the job. The backhoe worked well, so natu- vation represents one of the biggest and costliest rally I assumed that I needed one at the Cave, but jobs connected with building u n d e r g r o u n d. Esti- the major excavation there was d o n e much more mates should be obtained f r o m several heavy- efficiently with a front-end loader The loader was equipment contractors.

If the contractor knows than half the time it would have taken the backhoe. Some contractors than the o n e for the Cottage and, because it w a s may tack on what a p p e a r s to be a hefty profit for cut into a hillside, it w a s easy for the front-end the job You can't hlame them.

They also have to loader, with its 6' bucket, to maneuver. The e n - cover unforeseen circumstances when bidding by trance on the south side w a s the natural way for the job. It's the per-hour charge, as well, and this is almost true that the loader has to back away with each always the way I hire the equipment contractor.

But son can be made. For example. But Smith uses an 18" hoe, did use a backhoe, instead; at that point, the loader while Jones has a 24" bucket. For excavation, Jones had to travel too far with each load to d u m p it will come out cheaper, other things being equal.

It's Ask the contractor if he charges for hauling the a big plus to hire a contractor w h o has a variety of equipment to the site. The loader would also do well for the excavation Bear in mind that you'll need equipment later of the b e r m e d house used as an example in this for backfilling, landscaping, and p e r h a p s a septic- chapter.

You want to can do a remarkable job quickly. The foot- two feet beyond the outside of the planned footing ing supports the entire structure and distributes Illustrations , 4—2. Check the level with a con- the weight of the walls and roof over a base that's tractor's level and g r a d e stick. Because of the slope broader than the thickness of the walls. The foot- that will be left if the work is done with a front-end ing is given tensile strength by the use of strong loader, the 2' figure is consistent with the place- iron reinforcing bars, often called "rebars," so ment of the second set of white-birch pegs 4' out- side those that mark the house corners.

For relatively lightweight On the flat excavation, mark the location of the concrete-block construction, such as for a small four outside corners of the footing so that a back- block building, the dimensions of the footing fol- hoe can draw the tracks within which the footing low a simple rule. The depth of the footing should will be poured.

There are two ways to plot these be equal to the width of the wall. The width of the corners: Following this rule at Log End boards way up on the surface so that we could Cave, with its planned 12"-vvide block walls. I de- slide su ings back and forth to make sure the sides cided on footings 12" thick and 24" wide. These boards A few years later, it was pointed out to me by can be seen in Illus.

A local contractor friend, concrete-foundation experts that using a 12"-thick Jonathan Cross, came over on a Saturday morn- footing is really "overkill. We're not batter boards. We'd been at it for hours. We fig- building a skyscraper! Properly reinforced con- ured that once we had the batter boards estab- crete is phenomenally strong on both compres- lished, we could use them for the footing's inside sion and tension the resistance against settling at and outside dimensions as well as for the block a weak point in the subsoil.

Earthwood is a much walls. I still like the 24" width, because this de- and it w a s much easier. I lad I known in what I know now, I could drive a 2 x 4 stake at the northwest corner for have saved about a third of the money spent on example 2' in from each side of the flat area.

Put a concrete for the footings at the Cave. Let this be the nail in the top of the stake, leaving the nail head first of several mistakes that we made which the sticking out an inch for tying the mason's line.

Buy reader can avoid. Measure the length of ner, describe an arc with a radius equal to the the footing along the north wall to a point " in shorter footing d i m e n s i o n , 30'8Vfe" in our case. Drive a stake into the corner- a n d describe a second arc equal to the ground and a nail into the stake. The hypotenuse diagonal measurement of your foot- point w h e r e the two arcs intersect is the southwest ing figures.

We'll use our own figures as an exam- corner.

Drive in a stake and a nail there. Find the ple. Thanks to Pythagoras, we can cal- m e a s u r e m e n t with the south-side measurement. Check the work by m e a s u r i n g the other diagonal.

The diagonals must be the s a m e in o r d e r for the rectangle to have four s q u a r e corners. P e r h a p s the rectangle you've laid out doesn't use the cleared space to the best advantage. It might c r o w d one of the excavation slopes, but it might have plenty of r o o m on the adjacent side. It doesn't take long to rotate the rectangle slightly to alleviate this problem. You might even have to do a little pick-and-shovel work if o n e of the sides These calculations t a n be d o n e in a jiffy by doesn't have enough room.

In this case, a 5Vz"-thick floor is lb get ready for the backhoe, place flags or recommended by manufacturers of such systems. You can set these guide of it. Get information on products from your local stakes by eyeballing. Sight from one stake to an- plumbing-and-heating supply store Be sure to in- other and instruct a helper to plant a third marker sulate with extruded polystyrene below the slab. In all, I low much? At least an inch, but check with the you'll place eight guide markers.

Although the ac- How deep should you dig the footing trench? Fig- tual Cave footings w e r e 12" x 24", the drawing ure this depth carefully. The important relation- shows a footing with a sufficient 9" depth. TWo ship is the one between the level of the top of the inches of the concrete floor and 4" of compacted footing and the top of the floor.

The cross-hatching sand will be below the top of the footing. This in lllus.

For un- leaves just 3" of additional material to be excavated derfloor drainage, bring in 4" of sand to lay the to accommodate the footing track. This footing floor on.

The advantage of a full 4" is Digging the footing track is probably best done by simply more thermal mass for heat storage. The hand, unless digging conditions are poor because exception to the 4" floor would be if you intend to of hard soils or large boulders.

In such cases, a incorporate an in-slab heating system, such as a backhoe can save a backache. A keyed joint can be ing and under the floor.

At Log End Cave, we didn't can be easily removed from the partially set con- include this detail and suffered condensation at crete. Oiling the key way board is also strongly the base of the wall and about 6" in from the floor recommended.

I"he resulting keyed joint will look during w a r m moist conditions in May, June, and like the one shown in lllus.

Note that the draft early July, when the footing w a s still conducting. Later, the "coolth" from the still-cold soils at 7' of depth. Not first course of blocks can be firmly tied to the until the footings w a r m e d up near the end of July footing by filling the block cores halfway with con - did the c o n d e n s a t i o n disappear.

If I w e r e doing a rectilinear earth-sheltered footings and floor with e x t r u d e d polystyrene house again, this is the method I'd choose, because stops this condensation, as we've proven at Earth- the blocks wouldn't be in the way of screeding w o o d , w h e r e there's no condensation at any time flattening the top of the concrete so that it's even of the year.

Also, using point. I don't know of any other extruded polystyrene the door. The footing below this portion of wall foam with sufficient compression strength. Do not doesn't have the protection of 3' of earth, as does use expanded polystyrene also known as bead- the rest of the south-facing wall.

So we decided to hoard around the footings or under the floor. This e x t r a c o n c r e t e boulder has to be removed, be sure to fill the hole worked line; the foundation has never heaved in 17 with well-compacted earth or sand. Be sure to wet years. In theory, the frost wall should have de such material for maximum compaction. Concrete scended to 48". But this p r o t e c t e d south-facing wall If the subsoil is disturbed, mechanical compaction doesn't experience that extent of frost penetra- is imperative.

There's another method of protecting against frost heaving which is being used m o r e and more frequently. The method uses insulation to take ad- FROST WALL vantage of frost's tendency to p e r m e a t e into the In northern areas, it's necessary to prevent foot- soil from above at a 45' angle, lllus. Heav- this works.

The advantages of this system are case ing can occur when wet g r o u n d beneath the foot- of construction and savings on materials. The massive weight of the wall is of little styrene R away f r o m the frost footing to a help. The expansion forces of freezing don't care distance equal to the local frost depth. This pro- how much weight they're called upon to lift. The tects the cross-hatched area shown in lllus. This can be d o n e by tion by covering it with 6-mil black polyethylene going deeper with the footing, protecting it with and 3" of 2 crushed stone.

Pitch the foam and extruded-polystyrene insulation, or both. The insets show alternate methods of placement. Similarly, the east and by Jonathan Cross. These worked out in forming west forms on the inner ring are 3" shorter than for our 12"-deep footing we just let the extra 2" the inner measurement of the footing because the concrete at the bottom take the shape of the track thickness of the planks of the other two forms will itself , but they would have been perfect for mak- make up the difference.

The footing measurements given are Preparing the forms takes time. First, figure out based on the location of the 12" blocks laid up by exactly what lengths your forms need to be. No the surface-bonding method. I drew a diagram of the whole form- lus. Cut ing system, showing clearly how the corners were cleats at least 3' long and use penny scaffolding to be constructed lllus. The long forms on nails to fasten the cleats to the planks. I use ten nails on each cleat, five for each plank.

Butt the planks tightly together and eyeball This j o b would be difficult without a contractor's them dead straight with o n e another before nail level. The most impor- ing the cleat. Note that the required measurement tant consideration in setting up the forms is that of our north and south exterior forms is ".

To they be level with each other. Set up the level at make g o o d use of Cross' 18' planks, we cheated a some point outside the foundation w h e r e you'll little and left them 2" short of butting against each have a clear view of a g r a d e stick held at each of the other This is okay as long as you install a little four corners lllus. Using the existing corner spacer lllus. The spacer will give stakes as guides, bring in the longer of the north- almost the same stability as t w o planks butting side f o r m s and put it roughly in place.

Drive n e w directly against each other. Allow five or six for cnch length of form the outside of the forms. Don't drive stakes on the ing and a few extra for the o n e s you'll smash to side of the forming b o a r d s w h e r e the concrete is splinters with the sledgehammer. I was fortunate poured. Drive all the n e w corner stakes so that in borrowing stakes from Jonathan, but you can they're at the s a m e elevation, as judged by the make stakes from economy-grade studs.

How to Build Your Own Underground Home

Fifteen contractor's level. This will be about 10" above the 8-foot 2 x 4s will make sixty 24" stakes. Put well- average g r a d e of the excavation or of the footing tapered points on each stake. The most important consideration when placing the footing forms is that they he level with one another. This relationship, in turn, de- into the ground, so that the point of the nail is just pends on which method you've chosen for keying barely showing through the stake.

Use a rock or the first course of blocks. Make a cross-sectional sledgehammer to help resist the pressure as you sketch similar to lllus. Put at including all of the details of your floor; footing least one stake between the corners and the mid- dimensions, insulation, keying method, etc. The rest are done in the readings at equally spaced locations, and average same way as the first. Complete the outer form the results. The inner ring is placed to leave a top of the form is level with the top of the stake.

Make 26"-wide tracks to allow for the into the ground about halfway along. Only the inch of extruded polystyrene on each side of the corner stakes need to be at the same grade as the concrete.

Other stakes can be Check the whole job with the contractor's level, driven slightly lower than the level of the forms, so moving every 8' or so around the forms. Make that they will be out of the way of screeding when slight adjustments by moving the stakes up or the pour is made. Use a lever to move stakes upwards, a Now level the form.

This chore is easiest with sledge to move them downwards. Hit the stakes, three people: It may be necessary to clear some read the contractor's level, and one to pound the earth from beneath the forming boards to allow nails. Again, use scaffolding nails, coming in from them to settle into the proper grade. Finally, nail the outside of the stake and into the forms.

Drive 2 x 4 buttresses every 10' or so to resist the tre- the nails into the stake before you pound the stake mendous outward pressure exerted on the forms. Movable cleats will keep the forms shutteringI intact during the pour.

These buttresses can be footed supports you use, they'll b e c o m e a part of the back to the walls of the excavation.

Another means concrete, so choose something clean, strong, and of resisting this pressure is to construct about a of the right height, about 3". Keep the rebar at least dozen movable cleats lllus. If s o m e o n e has torn down a silo in your area, try to work a deal for the hoops; they make strong, cheap rebar. Yet, construction rebar very important rigid-foam insulation. As previ isn't very expensive, so weigh time and effort ously stated, the rigid foam at the bottom of the against money.

Other extruded polystyrenes not ex of concrete you need. Mere are the calcula- the footing, unless there's a significant cost sav- tions for t he Log E n d Cave footings. If you follow ings with one of the other extruded polystyrenes. Dividing by just put the insulation 4" up from the bottom on the 27 gives cubic yards: We inside of the forms. Old engine oil painted on to the added an extra cubic yard for our d e e p frost wall top 4" of the inner forms will facilitate form re- footings at the southeast corner, which gave us moval II floor dimensions exceed 40', just leave Actually, o u r computation was a the rigid foam right to the top of the inner forms little m o r e involved than this, since the footings and the foam becomes your expansion joint.

This adjustment rcduccd the figure to 9. Some building inspectors cubic y a r d s. The cement truck had a maximum may require three pieces, but two is really suffi capacity of 9. The rule of I called for a full load. We ended up with about a thumb lor overlapping reinforcing rod is that join- w h e e l b a r r o w of concrete left over. So the overlap with Vz" rebar close.

H a v e a place to put any leftover concrete, should be about 2tf'. Tie the overlapping pieces some small project. Form a sidewalk, a trashcan together with forming wire. Bend right angles in pad, a playhouse foundation, anything to make some of the pieces for use at the corners. This posi- On the morning of the pour, apply a coat of used tioning is shown in lllus.

The rebar can be engine oil to any part of the forms in contact with supported during the pour by pieces of broken the concrete.

This coating will make removing and bricks or small 3"-thick flat stones. Special wire cleaning the f o r m s much easier. If you borrowed supports m a d e for the purpose, called frogs or the forms, you'll want to return them in as g o o d a chairs, a r e commercially available. Whichever condition as you found them. In o r d e r to prevent Round up plenty of help on the day of the pour. If voids, try to vibrate the c o n c r e t e d o w n into the they're fairly sturdy individuals, a crew of four or forms with your tools.

After one side has been five is sufficient to d r a w the concrete around the poured, one or two folks can start to screed the ring lllus.

Have a few strong garden rakes concrete b e f o r e it sets too m u c h. Screed with a or hoes on hand. A metal rake is the best tool for 2 x 4 lllus.

You can use I l ie screed board on e d g e for truck driver has to stand around and wait for last- the initial flattening, and then for a relatively minute preparations. Have all the forms set and smooth surface give it a n o t h e r screeding with the supported, and the insulation and rebar in place. Side of the 2 x 4. If you intend to use the keyway Make sure access to the site is good. Have a wheel- method shown in lllus.

Push them right into awkward spots. Ideally, the driver should be able the concrete in the center of the track and screed to chute the concrete to any place in the forming. Slump refers to Can you home-mix concrete for the footings or how much the concrete sags when a test cone is the floor? I won't mix my o w n concrete. The sav- removed from a f r e s h sample. The more water the ings aren't really very great, especially if any value easier the work, b u t the weaker the concrete.

A n d a footing poured Soupy concrete can't be the 3 XX -pound-test you over several days won't be as strong, because of all ordered and might be only half as strong. There's not much to say about drawing the con Clean all your tools at the conclusion of the crete around the f o r m s except that it's d a r n e d hard pour. The cement-truck driver should have a spray. A crew of tour or five, each with a good strong rake, should be sufficient to draw the concrete around the looting ring.

Clean the forms and stakes for reuse, particularly if they belong to someone else. It took six of us two hours to d r a w and level the concrete. This is as it should be. Jaki and I re- Concrete dries at varying rates depending on its moved the forms the next day, breaking one which strength, stillness, the air temperature, and the was held fast at a place where the concrete had humidity.

You can usually remove the forms the leaked. The concrete can be screeded made level with the top of the forming with 2 x 4s. Using the footing as a guide for levelling, the The preparation for each j o b is usually m o r e work operator did a g o o d j o b of spreading the sand than the j o b itself.

We poured the footing on July evenly o v e r the area. He'd d o n e all he could in an 11th. Although we'd hoped to be ready for the floor hour, and we took our time finishing the job by pour by the 16th. It's incredible how many things there then. T h e next day 1 hired a power c o m p a c t o r and are to do before the floor can be poured. This concrete mass had no r u n n i n g w a t e r on-site. This power com- is known as a monolithic slab.

The footing portion, pacting is very important to give the floor a solid sometimes referred to as a thickened edge, is base. Tamping dry sand is an exercise in futility, so merely a thicker part of the floor pour. A 4" floor be sure to soak the sand b e t w e e n tampings. In fact, we p o u r e d both o u r compactor. But I don't r e c o m m e n d this method to first-time builders on a full-size house foundation.

The task should be broken down into two more manageable bites, footing one day. In brief, the blocks are and uniform e d g e for screeding the floor, an ad- dry-stacked without mortar, and a strong stress- vantage you won't have if you pour a monolithic skin coating of surface-bonding cement is applied slab.

Because of our plan of footing the base of the This c e m e n t coating is saturated with millions of block wall with the top 2" of the floor pour, it was tiny glass fibres, which impart a t r e m e n d o u s ten necessary to lay the first course of blocks all the sile strength to the wall.

The tensile strength of this way around the building. If I w e r e to build a similar monolithic m e m b r a n e applied to the wall has been building today, I'd choose the keyway system found to be six times stronger than the tensile shown in lllus 4 4, but in this narrative, I'll follow strength of a conventionally mortared wall. De- what we actually did. By July 14th. With s u r f a c e - b o n d e d blocks, the first course is We brought in two loads of sand and dumped laid on the footing in an almost conventional man- them just outside the "door.

When using surface but rather to accurately level the first course for the bonding, the true size of the blocks must be used in later placement of dry-stacked blocks. The only calculations.

Our block plans were adjacent blocks; the blocks are butted tight against based on size and space requirements of o u r gen one another. Mark the block The east-west length of the Cave, then, is 26 whole with a pencil and score the pencil line both sides blocks and one block laid widthwise, shown in of the block with hammer and chisel.

Go around lllus. Add 12" Before long, the block will break right along the for the block laid widthwise this is the block that scored mark.

We 34' 11" is obtained. The south wall has the compare with concrete for strength. The blocks same number of blocks as the north wall, except we used have three full cores and two half-cores in that five blocks are left out where the door panel is them, except for the corner blocks, which have the located. The regular block weighs 60 to 65 pounds, corner blocks about 5 pounds more. You BLOCKS could use 8" blocks, but with these ifs necessary to The first task in laying the first course of blocks is build a pilaster every 10' around the perimeter of to mark the corners.

Use methods similar to those the wall lllus. In theory, the outside e d g e of the block of our first home, Log End Cottage, and we g r e w wall will be 6" in from each edge of the footing, but to dislike the pilasters, which got in the way of the ifs advisable to obtain W accuracy, so fiddle with floor plan. They're also a pain to apply surface the tape and your marks until all the walls are the bonding to. They slow production enormously, right length and the diagonals check. We decided to use stable 12" blocks and the outside of the wall.

Stick to your block plan to we filled the cores with vertical rebar and concrete get the first course of blocks in the right place. It's at every location that would normally take a necessary to cut one 4" x 8" x 16" solid block pilaster.

By using a hammer and cold chisel, it's panies, but I can't recommend them. Their awk-. Standard 12" concrete blocks, weighing about 65 lbs. FLOOR A typical pilaster tor strengthening a wall or supporting a beam. Use this pilaster if you'll be using 8 concrete blocks. All blocks, blocks, especially cored blocks, is difficult. We end each course with a block turned bonding are available in some areas.

The blocks widthwise lllus. They are, of course, Ask for a volume discount. You could set your- more expensive than "normal" blocks. Adjust your plans a bit so that corners can be made without having to cut blocks. Ask about haulage charges, too. These charges usually vary with distance, but they might also be a function of volume. Compare the blocks. With sur- Lay the first course of blocks in a rich mortar of 1 face bonding, it's worth a few cents extra for uni- part masonry cement, 1 part Portland cement, 5 form blocks.

Start with the highest corner, but know how Keep the blocks tight to each other lllus. A light tap with a hammer will tar bed. Remember that the purpose of the first usually assure that two adjacent blocks are well course is to establish a level base for the dry- butted against each other. When you lay the last stacked courses, so the thickness of the mortar block, you may find that it doesn't fill the last g a p bed may vary around the footing.

Then tightly stretch a nylon mason's line blocks.

I found it useful to check the length of the. Stretch the first six blocks I laid, Lo find out how my work line as light as you can and tie it to something that compared to the values given in Iable 2. Any ad- won't move, like another 12" block. Eyeball the line. Keep that in mind made. Remember that we allowed an extra W for as you proceed along the course, so that halfway each 1' of wall. I found this to be a generous al- along, the block is, say a string's width above the lowance, but another company's blocks might Ix.

The slightly different. We set a 4" x 12" block cut from string will tell you the level along the length of the a 4" solid inside the last full-size block on the south wall, but use a two-foot level to check along the wall to establish the b a s e for a short pillar, which wall's width. This checking is important. Laziness strengthens the end of that wall. This can be seen here will cost you time later.

On our north wall, I in the block plans in Illustrations or I'd never laid blocks before, though I'd worked barn timbers. Each of these posts must have a for masons, but it only took about ten hours to get pillar footing beneath it to support the heavy roof a decent job. We decided to north wall, where I didn't use the level often make the footing under each post 24" square by 12" enough. No marked the squares in the sand.

Because the level further blocks were laid until the floor was fin- of sand was already designed to carry a 4" floor, ished. In fact the main part of the block order we only had to excavate an additional 8" to give us wasn't even delivered until the floor was hard, so the 12" depth.

Pick and shovel work. We hauled the that the pallets of blocks could be set down on the material away with a wheelbarrow; although we lloor for convenient access during wall building. It was stiflingly hot the with our little pickup truck, three heavy loads. It's easier to pour the floor to the ideal spots for lapping up some of the cooler earth same level as the footings, and all the blocks can be temperatures below the sand.

Although at the Cave we poured these pillar footings at the same time as we poured the floor, we varied a few details three years later when we built Earthwood. The bottom half of the pillar footings can be poured at the same time as you pour the floor.

The bottom half of the pillar footings lllus. The exposed end of the d r a i n tubing should underfoot to trip in Illustrations 5 - 6 and The drain tubing I use is a black, ribbed, flexible pipe with a white nylon or fiberglass filtration sock to keep silts out of the pipe.

See lllus. The sand under the floor provides drainage for Many people think that the 6-mil plastic often water which might find its way under the floor for seen installed below a concrete floor is a water- any reason. To carry the water away, install 4" proofing course, but its main p u r p o s e is to retard perforated drain tubing also called drain file in the set of the concrete the concrete won't d r y too this drainage layer, a n d slope the tubing away to rapidly.

When any cement p r o d u c t mortar, plas- some point d o w n g r a d e from the site. My method, ter, or concrete dries too quickly, ifs p r o n e to which we used again at Earthwood, is to use a hoe s h r i n k a g e cracking. Without such a moisture- to draw a track in the sand for the drain tubing, proof layer, the d r y earth, sand in particular, will spiralling around the sand pad in such a way that rob the moisture f r o m the c o n c r e t e so rapidly that no point under the floor is more than a few feet it will be difficult to apply a g o o d trowelled finish from the drain tile.

T connectors are m a d e for join- before the concrete becomes unworkably stiff. I try to slope the In n o r t h e r n climates at least, the home should drain ever so slightly towards the point w h e r e it have a thermal break to the soil below using 1" of exits the floor under the footing. Outside the foun- extruded polystyrene beneath the pour.

Perforated 4" tubing was laid to remove any water that might accumulate under the floor:. Sty- Wood stoves need air, or they'll choke from lack of rofoam n can thus be used as flotation material for oxygen.

Instead of going totally underground, my preference is to build on high ground with earth berming. This approach avoids moisture problems, reduces costs and speeds construction, while still getting most of the earth moderating benefits of underground homes.

So use climate appropriate design methods. You state: Well the book may be free but after registering and loggging in to Scribd it will not allow the download until I picked a paid subscription model. Fortunately withe the help of Google I was able to find a free pdf which I successfully downloaded. From what I have read so far it will be a most useful source. Sorry to hear that. I downloaded it with no problems. Some people do.

The cement will help stabilize it. I can read the book online, but the print is very unsharp. Sounds strang but it works….

SHERELL from Arkansas
I do like exploring ePub and PDF books questioningly. See my other articles. One of my hobbies is mountaineering.