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$5000 House on the High Plains Challenge

 
pollinator
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In perusing the forum I found this quote from Dale Hodgins

In looking at your shopping list , the one that stands out for me is the amount you plan to spend on a house . I can't think of any environment on earth where I couldn't construct a suitable structure for $5000. I've been in several quite livable spaces here that could be replaced for $2000. Not very fancy , just walls and a roof with a hand pump and simple kitchen. Plumbing usually involves a simple pit toilet. A modest sized house could later become a tourist rental or worker housing. This would require an adjustment in expectations, but would greatly reduce your immediate budget.

from Building our permaculture dream, working alone: it just takes too long!

The Challenge is to build a climate, materials and environment-appropriate house on the High Plains for $5000 or better yet, less. The worker - me, fiftyish with a little experience wielding a hammer and using a Skilsaw as a Habitat volunteer. These tools I own. There is no electricity where the house is going but there is 1/2 a mile up the road. I will build a shed or put a cheap local container at this electric pole for tools, freezer, washer, and found materials storage. The water windmill is near the electric though within the year I hope to have a refurbished well near the house site. Why don't I build where the electric and water are? It's right in the middle of four gas well pads. If I need labor other than mine, it needs to come out of the $5000. I can probably hire high schoolers for $10/hour and they likely are more capable builders than me being ranch kids. I can sleep in the shed briefly while the house is going up.

The house needs to withstand the weather. The wind blows all the time! High winds are common; one weekend this March the wind blew 30-40mph and gusted 60 to 90mph. Tornadoes up to EF3 are also common.  It's 90F to 105F from June1 to mid-September. From December through February the low-temperature averages 29F to 35F. Hail typically occurs 3 times a year.

Wildfires are not uncommon and the house will sit in pastureland.

To protect from small tornadoes and high winds these are requirements:
1. A shed roof or a shallow 15-degree gable roof with little to no overhang (high winds love an eave to take your roof);
2. Continuous Load-Bearing Path - the roof needs to be hurricane-tied to the walls, the walls to the foundation, and the foundation needs to be well-tied to the ground, and a rigid floor-slab needs to be anchored to the walls;
3. Smaller window openings;
4. Thicker walls to protect from wind-borne missiles.

The view is to the Northeast. Many more well pads are to the West and South. A compressor station is to the south and it's noisy when it runs. An open pit fracking disposal site is 2 miles to the southeast which smells when the wind is from the SE.   Due to these issues, I believe most glazing should be to the East and North, with none to the West.

Available materials:
Dirt, orange dirt. Eastern Red Cedar, larger ones are in the gullies and would need equipment I don't own to be pulled out.

What I'd like the house to include space for:
A bed nook
Kitchen/living- stove, oven, fridge, sink and a table, and sofa or two chairs
A desk and two filing cabinets
A bathtub in the main living space (not in its own room)
Storage space for linens; food; and food preservation- pots, juice steamer, pressure cooker, dehydrator, drying rack, carboys; clothes - in and out of season; backpacking gear;
Battery space for eventual solar or wind or generator.

I'm hoping you will accept this $5000 house challenge and help me brainstorm ways to make this happen in a reasonable amount of time. Thanks for the idea Dale Hodgins!


 
pioneer
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I would get Mike Oehler's $50 and up underground house book and build a house from his plans.  I don't know how to work the bathtub into that though.  The tub wouldn't be hard, filling it would be doable, but emptying it would be a challenge to figure out.
 
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You say you have orange dirt, but you don't say what kind it is. If the clay content is high enough, you might be able to go with cob. A thick cob wall can hold up to a lot of abuse, wind would be no problem. Blowing rain might be trouble, but there are things you can do to make the cob less vulnerable to water damage.
 
master pollinator
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To be fair Denise, you are taking Dale out of context. He is saying in full truth he can live in a livable house for $5000. And he can...I proved it when I was 18. He did not say a person could make a list of wants and live in that house for $5000. It is like watching House Hunter's where the couple has a bare bones budget, and then demands that the realtor finds them a house with all the amenities in their price range. There has to be compromise.

I detailed a way you could live within much of your wants, except for the bathtub, and the A frame roof, and all for $4,000. You said in another post you are going to build your home after you lived on the land for awhile anyway, and my plan will let you do that. You can even sell the RV afterwards for the same money you paid for it.

As for the bathtub, that is a luxury that I would forget and occasionally soak your bones when at a friend's house, or rent a motel when you can. You can rent a lot of cheap motel rooms for what a tub will cost. Its actually not the tub itself that is expensive, but rather the space it occupies that is. I got a family of (6) and we have not had a bathtub in our tiny home, and we have lived here for a full year. That includes (4) girls, 2 of which are teenagers, and my wife. And Katie and I have not slept on a real bed either in a full year, she has one couch and I have another. It is not going to be forever, but that is what Tiny House living is like. You make compromises to live frugally.

So....


Buy a used RV for $2500, and then some cheap jackstands at Harbor Freight to jack it level. Or you can go to a junk yard and buy old car jacks, and break apart pallets to use for blocking.

Rent an excavator for $350 and dig a trench for the RV, on a slight upgrade so it goes down hill to drain the water if it rains. You have to place the trench in so a hillside, or make a hill to dig into with the excavator

Buy a 8000 watt generator from Harbor Freight for $650. Get some plugs from Home Depot and a thick cord to plug your generator into your RV

Buy a 30 gallon propane tank for RV's from a hardware store for $50 if your RV did not come with propane tanks

Buy 2 NEW IBC tank from Tractor Supply from tractor supply for $330 and bury in the ground partially with the excavtor to help protect from freezing. Then buy some 5 gallon buckets with lids at Home Depot to bring water to your tank. Buy a $30 dollar pump, and some garden hose to go between your tank and RV at Walmart.

This will get you a kitchen, a bathroom, running water, electricity, and heat. and with the RV being backed into a trench, will keep the wind from blowing around your RV, All for less than $4000

Is it glamourous? NO! But there is a reason why thousands of people live in RV full-time...they are cheap. A very good friend has done just that In Maine for several years.

The following are links to prove my prices.

webpage

webpage

webpage

 
master pollinator
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Dale here. I think your first reply is pretty good. Semi Underground with the face poking out, toward your best view and hopefully with wind in the direction you prefer.

Check to see if there is any hand demolition of old buildings going on nearby. Lots of good stuff is sold cheaply or given away. There's also plenty of free stuff available online. You want to place your own ad as well saying that you are willing to pick up free stuff.

The wall or walls that stick out of the ground , could be built of adobe or they could be conventionally framed. A dirt floor can be covered with free pallets and then topped with whatever else is found.

I think you could create a survivable situation for $500, and something quite nice for $5,000. That's without hiring any labour.

I have $2,000 in a 550 square foot cabin at my place. Most of it came from my demolition projects. The masonry heater that weighs more than a ton, has $55 worth of fire clay. Every other item was scrounged for free.
......
On the bathtub. I put a free bathtub into my place and I ran about $5 worth of pipe through the side of the cabin. It drains into some cedar trees.

Whenever I state the price of a house, for any climate, I don't promise that I can make it legal, just perfectly livable.

I also made a urinal from an old bleach bottle, some garden hose and duct tape. It also drains out to the trees. If it starts to stink, move the end of the hose.
 
Travis Johnson
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I moved into my first house at 18 years old for $5000.

I realize that was in 1992, but it was also a new building. It was kind of funny, my Mom gave me my birthday party, and before the people in my family all left, I packed up. They asked me where I was going, and I said in my new home. Like Dale said, it did not have running water, but my birthday is in May so there was plenty of rain and snow melt to scoop up in a 5 gallon bucket to flush with.

At that time a 24 x 24 garage costs $5000, so I built that, spent $1500 making my own LEGAL septic system, and spent $4500 to put in a new well. That was a 8x12 bathroom with washer and dryer, a combined kitchen and living room that was 12 x 24, and a 12 x 16 bedroom.

A fully functional home for $11,000. (Well, septic, electricity, phone, everything...)
 
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Denise,

I lived close to your area for 25 years.  Straight north of the Antelope Hills about two miles north of the South Canadian River.  You aren't really asking for much in the house.  I bet you can make it work.  A few things I feel a little differently about though.

I like eaves on a house.  Also a covered porch would just about double your living area. If your view is to the east you could have some great afternoon shade by placing the overhang there.  It could also protect your house from the late morning sun.  Your bathtub would just be grey water so it could just go down and out to wherever you wanted it.  You might need a vent--I'm not sure.  I would want a window on the south or west that  I could open on the nights noise wasn't a problem.  If the humidity isn't too high a cross breeze through the house makes the sleeping wonderful.  We set a black rubber stock tank (one of the 100 gallon ones) out where the sun would hit it.  It was called our redneck hot tub by the neighbors that saw it.  Most evenings you could soak and take a bath in it.  Dump it out and refill it and the next evening it was ready again.  You could possibly rent a 500 gallon propane tank from the suppliers for about 50 bucks a year.  They deliver the propane then and its not up to you to go get it.

Good Luck with everything!

Bryan
 
Travis Johnson
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I do not think there are any wrong or even bad ideas here, I know from my experience there are really two inhibitors to what you wish to do.

1) Just starting

2) Ridicule

I have endured them both each time I began my Tiny House adventure.

The first is to just start. I have worked for the railroad 7 years where Elle lives (Powder River Basin) so I know what the plains are like summer and winter, and thus I know getting started on this as early as you can is a great start. It is nearing the point where it is almost too late due to winter. But the point is, it is easy to overthink these things, once a person is in a situation where they have to work to thrive, they will. Too many people sit and think about what they want to do. instead of just doing it,

The second part is ridicule. That is going to come...from the snide comments of , "still camping" or in my current case, "I cannot believe you and Katie are still married living as you do"...so be ready for it, and ignore them. What helps me cope is statistics. 85% of American's are broke, and broke is boring, so ask them why would you ever want to be like everyone else? I wish I could take credit for that, but that is a quote from Dave Ramsey. He lives debit free and is worth 10 million dollars after being in financial ruin trying to do it the world's way.

I would never encourage someone to do something that is dangerous, but I would encourage people to be adventurous. I am proud of you Denise, you have a adventurous heart like I do.
 
denise ra
pollinator
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Travis Johnson, The farm does have a bit of a slope in the place i want live. How deep would you make the cut for the RV at the deepest? Would you pile the dirt removed from the hole on the north-western edge to protect from the worst of the summer sun? All the rest looks easily doable, thanks for a great, simple plan. If needed I could use a simple fence to protect from the Western sun. Will that generator run an AC to take the edge off when it's 100 out?
You said:

As for the bathtub, that is a luxury that I would forget ...

I lived rough in a bus one winter and used a large plastic storage tub to bathe in, I think a bathtub of some sort is doable. It's about quality of life for me. But, you are also right about motels, I might like to 'get away' from the farm and watch some TV sometimes.
 
denise ra
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Trace Oswald, I would like to dig in and live underground! It's been a while since I looked at Mike's book. I have deep concerns about moisture issues and mold as I have a sensitive constitution. I've thought of building an inground storm shelter out of masonry blocks as the first room of the house, but when I look at FEMA plans for a shelter they are too complicated. Perhaps there is a middle ground. As for the bathtub, I could use a little pump to empty it if it's below ground level.
 
denise ra
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Ellendra Nauriel, You're right I did not say what the composition of the soil is. I neglected when I was on the place to gather more than one sample of soil. I do have enough to do one soil test and need to get on that.  Yes, if there is clay building with earth would be a good way to go. Cob however, not so much. It's too time-intensive and does not have the structural integrity that compressed soil blocks or perhaps rammed earth have. Yes, cob seems solid, but a tornado is an expert at taking buildings apart.
 
denise ra
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Dale Hodgins wrote:

Whenever I state the price of a house, for any climate, I don't promise that I can make it legal, just perfectly livable.


In this place there are no building codes, so legal is a non-issue.
Many houses are livable, but for me, the big issue is wind and tornadoes. I know what a house needs to be resistant to tornadoes up to EF3, ergo the list in my original post. If I was able to build a house like this, I would call it good and not put in a storm shelter to protect from bigger tornadoes. Having grown up in tornado alley and knowing how easily tornadoes destroy houses, I would like to sleep at night and not worry if there is a tornado on the way.
As for scrounging materials, that is right up my alley. I hadn't thought about putting an ad in the paper. Good idea Dale, thanks.
 
denise ra
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Bryan Elliott wrote:

I like eaves on a house.  Also a covered porch would just about double your living area. If your view is to the east you could have some great afternoon shade by placing the overhang there.  It could also protect your house from the late morning sun.


Bryan, Eaves give tornadoes something to grab onto to begin to take the house roof. Therefore, no eaves. I have thought of "porch" roofs which are not attached to the house. If the wind took them, at least they won't cause the roof to fail. Cross-ventilation is a good idea. I was thinking high windows on the south that the winter sun will come in and low windows on the north. Or maybe high and low on both sides so that when the wind direction changes I can catch the breeze either direction. I like your stock tank hot tub idea. I love the idea of soaking in both the water and the view.
 
denise ra
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If I go with an RV, I'm searching for tie down ideas. I don't know how much good they will do but here is one I found on irv2.com: "put 3 anchors in the ground with a 1/2 inch eyebolt protruding. Can even be recessed for lawnmower issues. Get 3 cheap comealongs from northern ; one for the tongue and one for each rear corner. Crank them down as tight as you feel. This will keep the rock and roll off and it will stay put. ...This is cheap and quick! Also the front eyebolt is a good anchor for cable lock."

Here is a more elaborate one from "Travel My Life" blog.
"1

Inspect the area where you will tie down the travel trailer. The anchor systems will be different for paved or unpaved areas. If you plan to install a new concrete base under your trailer, install new concrete anchors at the same time. Use screw anchors for loose or dense soil, concrete block dead-man anchors for loose soil, drive anchors for rocky or coral soils and hard rock anchors for attachment to rock.
2

Install two or three vertical anchors per side and four to six diagonal anchors per side for most trailers 50 feet or less in length. Manufactured home design must follow the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards at 24 CFR 3280, part of the HUD Code. Included in the HUD Code are wind zone designations for areas with higher potential wind speeds. Zone I covers non-coastal areas of the continental United States, zones II and III cover the coastal areas of the eastern and southern United States and Alaska. Travel trailers not being used as permanent living spaces may not have mandated tie-down regulations. Check with your local building inspectors for requirements where you live.
3

Install wood or concrete piers to raise the trailer above the ground. The trailer should be level and the tires should be at least 2 inches above the ground. Use wider foundation blocks on loose soil to prevent settling.
4

Install vertical anchors directly under the trailer frame if you are connecting the tie-downs to the bottom of the trailer. Place diagonal anchors at a 40 to 50 degree angle out from the trailer frame. Use diagonal anchors in addition to vertical anchors to prevent the trailer from being moved sideways in high winds. A combination of vertical and diagonal tie-downs will provide adequate protection from all but the greatest storm winds.
5

Determine the type of tie-down you will be using. Purchase tie-downs with a minimum breaking strength of 3,150 pounds and at least 50 percent overload or 4,725 pounds. Fiber straps must be part of outdoor use. Cables or steel straps should be galvanized or stainless steel. Check with your local building inspectors for strap recommendations or restrictions.
6

Install the tie-down straps or cables per manufacturer's instructions. Tie-downs can run from the trailer frame directly to the ground, or you can install tie-down straps over the top of the trailer, connecting to the anchor point on the opposite side of the trailer. Align the straps with roof trusses or other strong points on the trailer roof to avoid crushing the trailer. Use corner and roof protectors for overhead straps. Use adjustable tension devices on all straps or cables to allow for adjustment of the tie-downs.
7

Turn the tie-down adjustments slowly on each side, using tools specified by the tie-down manufacturer to balance the tension on all tie-down points. Look for loose anchors and re-position them if they do not hold in the ground. Proper tension will secure the trailer without causing any structural strain or deforming the frame or roof."

Would these work? Tie downs and Earth Anchors or Amazon Mobile HOme anchors Do they have to screw all the way into the ground to achieve their maximum holding power?
 
Travis Johnson
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Denise...I do not like the anchors in the first link because they do not auger into the ground good. I prefer the anchors that are corkscrew in shape and are often used for dog tie-outs. You might be able to get them cheap at pet stores...but I am not sure of their breaking strength. I would think they would be plenty strong though. I think I bought mine for $1 a piece.

To drive them into the ground I like to use an impact wrench. I use compressed air, but you might be able to borrow a battery powered one. Still you can also drive them in by hand. To do that, I use a breaker bar, and a big socket that I seldom use. Like a 1-1/16th socket...really, what bolt uses that odd size? I took a grinder with a thin cut off wheel and made a notch that fits over the die down end. Then putting the breaker bar into a Tee Handle position, press down while turning the bar. It takes a lot of effort in hard pack soil, but they will slowly auger their way in. You will have to notch out a socket if you use an impact wrench too though. (Handy hint: these notched sockets work great to tighten wingnuts too, like on a Christmas Tree holder.

Another homemade version of anchors is, to buy some tires and rims at a junkyard. Then dig a big hole and put the tire and rim in the hole. Then secure your straps to the rim, and then bury and pack the dirt down. This will hold an incredible amount of weight, but only if the connection is at a 45 degree, a straight up pull will pop it right out of the ground. But in a sideways pull, they will hold a lot. It is called a Deadman if you want to look it up.

Another option is to make your own. All you need is flat bar about 18 inches long and 4 inches wide, a quarter inch thick will do. Drill a hole on one end for your straps to attach to, and then weld shorter lengths of flatbar to the one with the hole...say 6 inches long. Weld these on at an angle going up towards the hole. This will form a flat bar barb. Bury them in the ground like your tires and rims. When a sideways pull is placed on them, the barbs dig into the ground and are impossible to pull out. I once tethered a full grown bull in this manner, and if a 2000 charging bull cannot rip it free from the ground, several holding down a RV will hold too. If you cannot weld, just see a local weld shop, and they could make them for you at a very reasonable cost.

 
pollinator
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If you can take the time to scrounge used materials and wait for good deals, i think you can easily build a nice place for $5000.  We didn't have time, so we ended up buying everything new (except windows) at rural Canada prices. That means expensive ;)  We spent about $12,000 for materials and small tools for a seriously overbuilt, 12x16', stick framed, one room with a loft kinda deal. No plumbing or wiring.

I'd never built anything other than some super basic bookshelf level kinda stuff. My husband has some carpentry knowledge and experience, but had never built a house. No electricity, so everything was hand sawn, hammered, and screwed.  Concrete for piers was mixed by hand. It took us about six months to build. We could probably have done it quicker with better weather and less miserable living conditions. (We were in a tent, and it was cold and rainy all summer.)

I think a bathtub is totally doable in a small space. You could have it sunk into the floor and have your couch on castors overtop. Or tub on castors and have it slide under a bench/couch. Easiest yet, plunk a sheet of plywood on top of the tub when not in use and pile with cushions.

Sounda like you want lots of storage. If you want small windows, you'll have lots of wall space for shelves, cupboards, and hooks. Two of our four walls are almost all glass, which cuts down on storage space for us, but we still have plenty. Big items, like a canner, might do better on a deep shelf or cupboard mounted high on the wall. Then it's not sticking out into your living space.

Our loft spans half the house; the rest is vaulted ceiling. This vaulted area is almost entirely taken up by plants, but we do have some drying racks, hung one above the other, that we can raise and lower on a pulley. I use these mainly for herbs and seeds.

The floor joists of the loft are exposed. In between them, we mounted lengths of steel c channel that perfectly fit a wide mouth mason jar. All our canning is easily accessible and visible this way and doesn't take up any living space. From the joists themselves we hang mesh bags of nuts and squash. The main pantry area is a set of 12" deep shelves.  You can fit mason jars three deep. I keep a certain type of food on each shelf, so I always know at least approximately where something is, even if it's not visible.

I don't think you'll have a problem with storage.

I don't know anything about tornadoes, but wouldn't you want to avoid something like an RV, that's built super cheap and lightweight?  Even if it's anchored down, wouldn't it just get ripped apart? Along those lines, an RV in a trench is fine, but I wouldn't pile up the soil against its outer walls too much cause, again, they're not that strong. I suppose having the walls bowed in a little would anchor it to some degree, though...
 
denise ra
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Jay C. White Cloud I would appreciate if you would comment on my OP if you have the time. I've followed many of the links you have posted about alternative building methods and you seem to have a broad view of the scene. I've spent too long delving into rammed earth, compressed earth blocks, poured earth, earth bags, alker, you name it. I need a practical vernacular tiny house in Tornado Alley. I believe I understand what makes a house tornado resistant and I listed these requirements in the OP. I can build a tornado-resistant house (up to EF3) from lumber which will not protect me from missiles but won't blow apart. I would really prefer an earth building because thick earth walls will better protect the occupants from tornado-borne missiles. Rammed earth is way too labor intensive. The non-engine earth block machines require multiple people. The engine earth block machines are expensive. I'm leaning toward poured earth or soil cement, mostly because I have just begun to investigate them and don't know their drawbacks yet, but also because I believe they would go up quicker than other earth buildings. Thank you for any guidance you may care to give. denise
p.s. I believe the soil at my building site is low in clay, but I need to do a mason jar test.
 
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What about cordwood housing?  A single person can build a 36 m2 one in about 2-3 months.  You could earth berm part of it and bury the roof a little to protect it from the wind.
 
denise ra
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Graham Chiu, how many meters of trees is that and what diameter tree is used? Are they stacked with concrete? They would need to be attached or strapped to the foundation and roof so that tornadoes can't pull the wall apart. How could that be done?
 
Graham Chiu
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You can calculate how much wood you need from the proposed area of the walls, and thickness.  Thickness of the walls is determined by climate.  So, if you know the wall area, and proposed thickness, then about half the area of the wall is occupied by wood or about 16" diameter or less.  Larger diameter rounds of wood are split as there might be too much expansion or shrinkage of the wood otherwise.

So it's essentially masonry construction and the roof is covered with about 8 inches of soil.  You can do post and beam construction for the walls, or make a circular house and make it all cordwood masonry.

https://www.motherearthnews.com/green-homes/cordwood-house-zmaz95amztak  
 
denise ra
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I've cogitated and I'm not cool with an RV even if it's tucked into a hillside. I'm hoping John C. Daley, Chris Kott, and Mike Cantrell will reply to my OP. Thank you!!
 
denise ra
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Graham Chiu wrote:

You can calculate how much wood you need from the proposed area of the walls, and thickness.  Thickness of the walls is determined by climate.  So, if you know the wall area, and proposed thickness, then about half the area of the wall is occupied by wood or about 16" diameter or less.  Larger diameter rounds of wood are split as there might be too much expansion or shrinkage of the wood otherwise.

So it's essentially masonry construction and the roof is covered with about 8 inches of soil.  You can do post and beam construction for the walls, or make a circular house and make it all cordwood masonry.  


Graham, Thanks for the info, but If I'm going to use that much concrete I will build a FEMA storm shelter out of it, perhaps using Insulated Concrete Forms for insulation.
 
Graham Chiu
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Concrete?  This is the mortar mix:  9 sand, 3 sawdust, 2 Portland cement, 3 type S (builder's) lime.

If you mean the slab, there's a house here that was built on a ring of earth bags, and no concrete slab.
 
pollinator
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I think earthbag might be one of your best options.  Sod could work, but the early settlers cut the sod with a plow.  It would take forever by hand, and your land might not have the root mass to hold sod together, anyway.  If I was going to build with earth bags, I would have to think carefully about how to do it without hurting my back, but it would be possible.  A plastered earthbag dome, partly below ground, should handle tornadoes very well.  It’s a bit harder to arrange a round space, but many have done it.  The materials are very inexpensive, and should leave you funds enough to hire some strong backs when necessary.  The maximum size for a dome is about twenty feet in diameter (inside diameter) which is plenty of room for everything you want to have.  A dome that size can also have a loft - you could put your bed and desk up there, and some storage.  How would you heat it?  A rocket mass heater could give you a heated bench.
 
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One method I’ve considered is excavating a site and create footings to support a large highway conduit. I’ve seen types that are reasonably sized sections that bolt together so could be assembled by just a couple of people. In my idea the use is as a root cellar covered by 4-5 foot of sand. Our terrain will allow one end to be exposed while the other end will be accessible via a hatch from a sunken greenhouse on the southern side of the sand mound. I know at first glance not a very Permie solution, but the steel culverts can last 50 years or maybe double that with special coatings or moisture exclusion strategies.

Think like an underground Quonset hut. This company’s brochure has pictures showing different types available. I knew a family up the road in the 60’s who built their house and the first 4 years they lived in the basement and used an outhouse until they were able to get septic in and start on the upstairs.
 
Graham Chiu
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Earthbag is pretty labour intensive isn't it?  

This is the 36 m2 cabin a middle aged couple built in 39 days in Tasmania.  They used flooring for the roof which they then sealed with rubber and plastic, but if you have high winds maybe you need more earth on top.
They had a rocket mass heater which they found finicky smoking back into the cabin at times.  Windows were all second hand.  And the logs were from pinus radiata which they got free I think.  They did get a concrete slab poured.

http://www.thehousethatworkedout.com/cordwood-cabin/

 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Graham Chiu wrote:Earthbag is pretty labour intensive isn't it?  

This is the 36 m2 cabin a middle aged couple built in 39 days in Tasmania.  They used flooring for the roof which they then sealed with rubber and plastic, but if you have high winds maybe you need more earth on top.
They had a rocket mass heater which they found finicky smoking back into the cabin at times.  Windows were all second hand.  And the logs were from pinus radiata which they got free I think.  They did get a concrete slab poured.

http://www.thehousethatworkedout.com/cordwood-cabin/



Cute cabin, but too much window for a tornado area.  Also, I wonder how well cordwood would hold up in a tornado.  It has good compressive strength, but I suspect not much resistance to a high-level tornado.  

Earthbag would be a lot of work, but probably not more than many other materials.  Generally you have a trade-off — you can have cheap or easy, but seldom both unless you go with a travel trailer or old mobile home.  Get a backhoe for a day to dig up the site and make a pile of dirt, and use leverage to lift dirt and filled bags, and the labor can be made a lot less backbreaking.
 
Graham Chiu
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Q: Have there been any studies as to the wind handling capability of cordwood homes incorporated with timber framing? I need to be able to withstand a category 5 hurricane (approx. 140 mph winds), to convince the building inspector.

A: The short answer is: No, there haven't been any studies (to my knowledge) about "the wind handling capability of cordwood homes incorporated with timber framing."    

The long answer is that you need to follow local codes with regard to wind shear with timber framing. Florida, Hawaii, tornado alley and other places have adopted "continuous load path" codes. Basically, this means that the posts must be mechanically fastened to the frame, the girts and girders tied down to the posts, the joists and rafters tied to the girts and girders. In other words, they want a "continuous load path" from the top of the house (usually some sort of peak) right to the foundation. Simpson Strong-Tie Co., Inc ( www.strongtie.com ) and USP Lumber Connectors (www.USPconnectors.com) and others manufacture relatively inexpensive code-approved connectors. See also my book Timber Framing For the Rest of Us (New Society, 2004), particularly Chapter Four. The book is available from Earthwood at www.cordwoodmasonry.com    

The cordwood must be locked into the timber-frame with wooden key pieces fastened to the middle third of all edges of the framework adjacent to the cordwood masonry. This compartmentalizes the cordwood into a series of square or rectilinear panels around the building. Wind will not impact the cordwood, as long as the framework is tied down. In fact, in seismic (earthquake) areas, where continuous load path codes are also in effect, the worst damage that would occur to the cordwood (during a quake) would be masonry cracking. And this is with the whole building being subjected to shaking.    

My approach with the building inspector would be to say that you intend to meet continuous load path codes for a timber frame (ask for their guidance in this), and that the cordwood masonry is a very heavy infill that provides compression strength to the underside of the girt system, and replaces the temporary diagonal bracing used during construction to resist racking in high winds. (It is necessary to have a strong diagonal bracing system for timber framing no matter where you build. Again, see Timber Framing for the Rest of Us.)



http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/QandA/cordwood/structural.htm

I presume that the local ordinances specify what you need to do in tornado country.
 
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Well my great great grandparents lived in a dugout sod house out near the Kansas Colorado border in the 30's. they never complained about any trouble with the wind. they did have a few things to say about small leaks and bugs and such... But I'm sure that with pond liners we have today it would be a good cheap option to seal out 'pest'

I'm guessing your just trying to make something that's "near miss proof"? Even a in-ground home could be damaged by a direct hit unless it had some serious earth over it (good bye windows).
 
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