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quonset huts

 
pollinator
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Hey, everyone, I need some input from people with experience and know-how. I have a piece of raw land and need to build something livable on it as soon as possible. My elderly Dad needs to move in with me and I don't think off grid living in an old truck camper is going to cut it for him at the age of 83.

Quonset huts seem to be the most feasible and affordable. I hear they're rather noisy but was thinking that if I build, essentially, a wood structure inside the metal one it might work. I also hear that condensation can be a problem. Was thinking that if the quonset was a little bigger than the inside wood and it had great ventilation that might be mitigated.

I really wanted a rocket mass heater but realize that may be a pipe dream now. I can't even find anyone around here (Pierce County, WA state) who knows anything about them. I'm living off grid now so I only get to a computer when I get to the public library. Please be patient with me if I'm slow to respond.

On a secondary note - anyone know how to minimize condensation in the camper? My solution right now is to heat as little as possible, as rarely as possible but still the walls get quite wet just from my and one dog's breath.
 
master steward
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If you're going to build a wooden structure inside, why do you feel you want the quonset hut overtop?
If you're looking for speed, have you considered buying a kit for a 2 1/2 car garage, doubling up the studs on the inside so you have more room for insulation, make sure you put insulation and a thermal break for the slab floor, but you might have to just pour footings for the moment at this time of year, and put up with a dirt floor until spring?

A fellow I knew had a shop for years in a quonset hut and he regretted not moving sooner. He said it was hot in the summer and damp and cold in the winter and the stick-built building he moved to was totally better.

As for the camper, in our wet climate, have you considered a small dehumidifier? I run one in the bedroom every morning for an hour to dry the bed out, and again later if someone uses the shower. We dump the water into jugs to use for laundry, dishes etc. Hmmm.. but you're off-grid, so maybe not enough power to run one. Mold is bad stuff, but most truck campers are too small to get those mini- wood stoves safely in. You need a dry heat and a way to expel moisture without simply drawing more damp air in.  There's a reason I identify my location as the Pacific WET Coast!
 
Rocket Scientist
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For the rocket mass heater idea, if you are reasonably good working with your hands and can follow directions, there are enough books and other resources that you should be able to build one yourself.

Ernie and Erica Wisner's Rocket Mass Heater Builder's Guide is the best printed source and includes exact designs you can use. Permies has multi-DVD video series which you can see advertised all over here, as well as many threads on the topic and helpful people ready to give you good advice when you ask.
 
master steward
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My dear hubby's family lived in a Quonset hut when he was a toddler.

I feel with insulation noise might not be a problem, especially after adding walls and other furnishings.

My house has a metal roof and noise is only a problem when it hails though with the insulation it is not that loud.

I would suggest looking at the local options for a storage building the size you want.

Tuff Shed will come to your property and do the building.  That was how we built our tiny house.

For the Rocket Mass Heater look at the Liberator:

Thomas said, "Have you seen the Liberator RMH stoves?
They are UL listed and insurable.  They burn wood or pellets.  
They can push 12' of horizontal pipe; a trusted source recently said they can push 18'!
Here is a link https://rocketheater.com/

Of course, As the RMH guy, I say build your own with our guidance.



https://permies.com/t/27091/Rocket-Heater-Masonry-Stove-Built#1675953
 
gardener
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This housing solution is temporary, correct Carmen? If so, these temporary ideas probably exclude pouring concrete at this time while you settle on your permaculture design and long term plan, correct? Since you posted under “Tiny House,” do you want the ideas that we generate to be portable / moveable options? If you are dedicated to the quonset hut, please confirm.
However, if you are open to other ideas or brainstorming give us specific requirements (such as mobility, money, temperature, sunlight, time needed, cooking needs, available power, building skills and so forth).
I’m sure that experienced permies members are full of ideas if you free us up a bit!
For example, I (a true amateur working alone) built a cozy standalone “tiny bedroom” on stilts for under $1000 in the equivalent of a week of full-time work. Would you consider a tiny bedroom for your dad, a tiny outhouse and a tiny cooking shelter while you continue living in the truck camper for the winter? These tiny shelters could be repurposed later. Because they’re small (~5’ x 8’), heat is passive solar (no panels).
 
Anne Miller
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Carmen said, "On a secondary note - anyone know how to minimize condensation in the camper? My solution right now is to heat as little as possible, as rarely as possible but still the walls get quite wet



We use a product called Damprid.  It is easily found at big box stores and hardware stores.

DampRid is mostly calcium chloride with trace amounts of sodium chloride and potassium chloride.

Here are some thread that might be of interest:

https://permies.com/t/162929/kitchen/Humid-Pantry-problems

https://permies.com/t/118103/Permie-dehumidifier-idea
 
rocket scientist
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Hi Carmen;
If you insulate and heat a Quonset hut it will not condensate.
They are high ceilings so heating can be challenging.
They go up fast with minimal effort compared to building a cabin.
You can even spiffy them up with a front porch, lots of windows, and an upper deck from your loft area.
With paint, they might even blend in with the surrounding terrain.

Around here there are booming businesses selling premade "sheds" some of them are dang nice looking.
They need insulating, plumbing, and electricity installed as well as finishing interior walls.
They could be an option.
 
Carmen Rose
pollinator
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Thank you all for your thoughtful replies. My county will not consider any ready made or 'tuff' sheds as homes. I don't know yet if they will consider a quonset hut. I am looking at this as permanent. I was amazed how expensive it has become to live in the Pacific North 'Wet'. I work at a school job 6.75 hours a day and still can't afford even a room in someone else's house. In fact, living in the camper, I'm not saving very much. It seems like every month something comes up to either use all my extra income or even a bit of savings - dental, something breaks, etc.

When I have more time at the computer I will follow up on some of those links. I can't afford to be picky or spend a lot of time saving or building. I can keep working and make mortgage payments if I can find a lender. Does anyone in my area know of anyone who lives in a quonset hut or has built one? I would really like to have experienced help when/if the time comes.

 
Carmen Rose
pollinator
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Forgot to explain why I'd build a wood structure inside the metal one - The metal would be the official (to satisfy the county) house. The inside would be smaller, wood, quieter and hopefully protected from the elements more so it would require less upkeep. Plus, we could live in the metal while building the inside, taking as much time as we'd need instead of trying to live elsewhere and using that cash for rent instead of building materials. Does that make sense? In fact, I was thinking if the quonset was a bit longer than the house and one end (of windows) was on the south side it would be almost like living in a greenhouse.
 
Anne Miller
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carmen said, "My county will not consider any ready-made or 'tuff' sheds as homes.



Where I live that is a good thing.

Does this mean that a person cannot live in a tiny house?

That is a really strange rule because Jim Walters has been building ready-made homes for many years.

https://jimwaltersconstruction.com/

I guess that rules out all manufactured homes.
 
Carmen Rose
pollinator
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Anne Miller wrote:

carmen said, "My county will not consider any ready-made or 'tuff' sheds as homes.



Where I live that is a good thing.

Does this mean that a person cannot live in a tiny house?

That is a really strange rule because Jim Walters has been building ready-made homes for many years.

https://jimwaltersconstruction.com/

I guess that rules out all manufactured homes.



Manufactured homes are accepted as are tiny homes but apparently they don't think ready made 'sheds' are sturdy enough.  I'll check out Jim Walters. I would love to find someone near me that even is interested in what I'm trying to do. Most businesses don't even call me back. Thanks for the contact.
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Anne Miller
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If I were in your position, I would talk with builders, even the builder of the Quonset hut to find out the ins and out of getting around code in your county.

Gossipy is the green-eyed monster that ends up costing a lot of folks a lot of money and keeps them from having what their hearts desires.

I also had problems finding builders who would come to my location so we ended up building our house ourselves.

Look at what is local to your area, talk to the county, and find all the real resources that are available to you.

Your bank loan officer might even be a resource who can help you find a builder if you will be needing a loan.

Best wishes for making what your heart desires something real.
 
master steward
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I am not saying that inspectors can’t be a problem, but most I have run into are very reasonable …. Especially if you use them as a resource for advice.   I was the CEO of a company that received over 12 inspections a year.   I always made a point of welcoming them and gaining everything I could from their expertise.   So, I would go to them and ask for their help.
 
pollinator
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Carmen,

I spent 17 great years 'in the wet'.  One of the many reasons I left was as you stated.  Another was excessive regulation and gov't over sight. I hate to discourage you but if you are developing raw land on the West side of the mountains you are in for a long road.

Your first challenge will be a wetlands study.  After that getting a septic plan approved is the next hurdle.  In the 2000 they were requiring an geo engineer to stamp any and all egress points and culverts for erosion and mudslide control.
Then they would talk about building permits.

King county was bad. Snohomish was worse.  I had an neighbor get a 5 figure fine for clearing an area on her land because she did not have a timber permit or a pre approved plan.  

Tiny houses are a way around some of the regulation because (they may still) fall under non permanent structures like an rv and dont require a septic plan.

It is a wonderful area to live but very expensive, especially to develop. I wish you luck. Be polite but assertive with the county employees.

 
Posts: 523
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I bought an acre and a half with a Quonset Hut on it very cheaply. There was an addition built on to it with a masonry fireplace. The home was insulated and had an air conditioner and an oil furnace. The Quonset Hut was built on top of a 12+ course high concrete block basement. The QH was a 16 1/2' X 37.5' WWII military surplus unit erected in about 1950 as "temporary housing". There were rough cut 2x8's spanning across and into the top course of blocks. On top of this was a metal grid which the QH sat on. The side walls were about 4' high and then began arcing up. There were no windows along the side walls and you couldn't mount kitchen cabinets. There was a double width window on one end and a door and a small window on the other end. The steps to the basement were along the middle of one side wall and the addition was built along most the other side wall.

The addition added two rooms also built on a matching height foundation. The addition made it much more livable. It added two rooms with windows which complemented the 3 rooms of the QH. Because of the addition and the basement steps there were no windows in the middle room of the QH so we referred to that room as the "useless room". After 62 years we removed the "temporary house" and built a small real house. We framed out a bathroom and the necessary hallway in what was the useless room. We hadn't planned to remove much of the addition. The roof needed to go because the roof trusses sat on top of the QH. The walls weren't the correct height and then the builder found that they had used half the addition for a porch for a number of years and when they framed that in they laid 2x4's over the roofing and the floor under that was "soft".

Before I made my offer for this property there was an offer awaiting mortgage approval which failed because of the only bathroom being in the basement. I think that was a mistake as I can't believe anyone would put a mortgage on a Quonset hut and then on top of that the basement bathroom. That offer was for 15% more than mine.

We hired an Amish crew to frame the new house in 2012. They charged us $7800 to remove the old and frame out the new including the tar paper on the roof. They took 3 days for demolition and framing. That didn't include the framing kit; the lumber, windows. doors, etc. We did this in a county with a larger city with tough zoning. There was and is a septic tank which wouldn't have happen except that we used part of the old house; the foundation. There was a matching QH about 30 feet away on another lot which was torn down shortly after our project. They're now building an oversized 2 story house about a 100 feet away on that acre lot.
 
pollinator
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My Aunt & Uncle lived in a yurt in the Klamath Falls area years ago.  This was 20 or 30 years ago, but, I'm thinking they lived there 3 or 4 years while they were designing and building their home.  You could put it on a platform and be in it fairly quickly.  I wouldn't call it a permanent solution, but, it would be fairly quick and relative inexpensive.

More along the lines of your question.
I have been in a number of steel buildings with smaller wooden structures built inside of them.
From my experience - don't skimp on insulation, or plug ins or light fixtures.  I know, you're off grid.  But, if the place is wired for power, the re-sale value will be greatly enhanced.

My wife and I have solar panels and are looking at adding battery back-up.  If your place is already wired, that would be a much easier move for you or a future buyer.
 
Carmen Rose
pollinator
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Thank you to the voices of experience. That input is beyond value! I found a couple of companies that build quonset huts and they're very helpful but I'm having a hard time trusting them. They sound very much like used car salesmen - "There's just this one that the person didn't pick up. If you buy it today it's $10,000 off" and  "Let me go talk to my supervisor - 5 minutes later - They'll approve it but someone's coming tomorrow to look at it and if you haven't bought it they probably will." and "How much can you afford? If you get this bigger one..."

From y'all's experience, is this normal or might they be legit? It is the end of the year and some companies like to reduce their stock. There is the odd person who really does put down a deposit and then not follow through. I don't want to lose out on a great deal because I'm being cynical but I don't want to be duped either.

Does anyone know whether the county will require plumbing and electrical to be included in the proposed plans? The quonset people provide engineered plans that are drawn up for each state's specific requirements, which is a huge plus for me! I'm finding the searching for workmen to be most daunting. But, of course, they can't know where my plumbing and electricity comes in and goes out. Am I going to have to hire an engineer or architect to fill in those details? This is being a whole lot harder than I expected.
 
John Indaburgh
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From my memory the township building inspector inspected the framing the electrical,  the insulation and the drywall. They would have inspected the plumbing but the only thing we did was cut the kitchen sink plumbing below the floor and reinstall a new sink on the new floor. The only thing they hit us for they wanted hurricane braces on the top sill to the roof trusses because we're on top of a hill. They also had a minor problem with how the the electrical ground was done.

I don't think they'd allow a Quonset Hut to be installed here. If they won't allow mobile homes they're not too likely to approve a QH.

From what I learned here I'd suggest you go with a framed house the same size as a QH. Don't use the dimensions of the military QH;s. Sixteen foot max. Code here required 2x12's for over 16 foot wide and we were only 6 inches over. Frame out a bathroom. Our QH had no wooden framing. The drywall was screwed into the metal framing; even along the curve. The drywall will take a curve! We used trusses with 2x10's in the ceiling and 12" insulation between those joists (In the new framed house).

I don't know what to recommend for a foundation. There's so many different methods used across the country. Here basements are common. One of the reasons because there's so much hilly land that it's easy to find a place to hide the dirt removed. But it does double the space. And they don't count it as floor space on your taxes. Unless it's totally finished when inspected.

Try to find a floor plan with a materials list and find an Amish framer. Not a builder, (a sub to a builder). Let him submit the plan to the municipality. It's quite possible that it'd be cheaper to buy a plan for a slightly larger house and go with the Amish framer than to hire a builder. It cost us as much for the electrician as for the framer!
 
John Indaburgh
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I found some pictures of the 2 Quonset Houses that were here near each other. They were both built by the same person for members of his family in about 1950.

DSC_5784.JPG
[Thumbnail for DSC_5784.JPG]
DSC_5782.JPG
[Thumbnail for DSC_5782.JPG]
DSC_5785.JPG
[Thumbnail for DSC_5785.JPG]
 
John Indaburgh
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The second picture above shows our QH shortly before demolition. in fact the blue tarp covers art of the framing kit. The chimney for the furnace was removed. The other is for the fireplace. It was rebuilt shortly before this because a tree fell on it. But we realized that the new roof was going to be higher than the old so we had him add to the height.

The third picture is during demolition. The steel girders are in the foreground. They were merely stamped tin.
 
pollinator
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About 30 years ago I helped a friend build a QH.
He had it spray foamed inside for insulation.  I was very large and we framed up living space on one end and it was 2 levels.
The rest of the space was for his business and he parked his truck in it.
He never had any condensation problems.
This was in NW Montana.
 
Carmen Rose
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Amy Gardener wrote:This housing solution is temporary, correct Carmen? If so, these temporary ideas probably exclude pouring concrete at this time while you settle on your permaculture design and long term plan, correct? Since you posted under “Tiny House,” do you want the ideas that we generate to be portable / moveable options? If you are dedicated to the quonset hut, please confirm.
However, if you are open to other ideas or brainstorming give us specific requirements (such as mobility, money, temperature, sunlight, time needed, cooking needs, available power, building skills and so forth).
I’m sure that experienced permies members are full of ideas if you free us up a bit!
For example, I (a true amateur working alone) built a cozy standalone “tiny bedroom” on stilts for under $1000 in the equivalent of a week of full-time work. Would you consider a tiny bedroom for your dad, a tiny outhouse and a tiny cooking shelter while you continue living in the truck camper for the winter? These tiny shelters could be repurposed later. Because they’re small (~5’ x 8’), heat is passive solar (no panels).



Thank you for your answer. My Dad will definitely not be open to anything tiny. He thinks 520 sf is way too small, wants his grid-supplied electricity, plumbing, etc. He is not of a permies mindset. He's found someone to live with him for now so that buys me some time, but probably not a lot. He is willing to live in a quonset if it has those things so that's what I'm pursuing.
 
Carmen Rose
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John Indaburgh wrote:I bought an acre and a half with a Quonset Hut on it very cheaply. There was an addition built on to it with a masonry fireplace. The home was insulated and had an air conditioner and an oil furnace. The Quonset Hut was built on top of a 12+ course high concrete block basement. The QH was a 16 1/2' X 37.5' WWII military surplus unit erected in about 1950 as "temporary housing". There were rough cut 2x8's spanning across and into the top course of blocks. On top of this was a metal grid which the QH sat on. The side walls were about 4' high and then began arcing up. There were no windows along the side walls and you couldn't mount kitchen cabinets. There was a double width window on one end and a door and a small window on the other end. The steps to the basement were along the middle of one side wall and the addition was built along most the other side wall.

The addition added two rooms also built on a matching height foundation. The addition made it much more livable. It added two rooms with windows which complemented the 3 rooms of the QH. Because of the addition and the basement steps there were no windows in the middle room of the QH so we referred to that room as the "useless room". After 62 years we removed the "temporary house" and built a small real house. We framed out a bathroom and the necessary hallway in what was the useless room. We hadn't planned to remove much of the addition. The roof needed to go because the roof trusses sat on top of the QH. The walls weren't the correct height and then the builder found that they had used half the addition for a porch for a number of years and when they framed that in they laid 2x4's over the roofing and the floor under that was "soft".

Before I made my offer for this property there was an offer awaiting mortgage approval which failed because of the only bathroom being in the basement. I think that was a mistake as I can't believe anyone would put a mortgage on a Quonset hut and then on top of that the basement bathroom. That offer was for 15% more than mine.

We hired an Amish crew to frame the new house in 2012. They charged us $7800 to remove the old and frame out the new including the tar paper on the roof. They took 3 days for demolition and framing. That didn't include the framing kit; the lumber, windows. doors, etc. We did this in a county with a larger city with tough zoning. There was and is a septic tank which wouldn't have happen except that we used part of the old house; the foundation. There was a matching QH about 30 feet away on another lot which was torn down shortly after our project. They're now building an oversized 2 story house about a 100 feet away on that acre lot.



Wish I had an Amish community nearby. They have such a great reputation for building!
 
pollinator
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Carmen, I have both types of structures:
One is a metal shed not a Quonset, but valid for the comparison. The other one is a prefabricated building for my chickens.
The metal shed 'sweats', in such a way that there is no way to keep machinery inside, plus now, the roof is starting to leak [yep, condensation on the edges of the sheets pretty much guarantee rust, even if they tell you different!: I have to place a plastic sheet over the table saw, and even that doesn't guarantee that there won't be rust on the machine when I use it again this spring. It is too cold to use during the winter without expensive electric heat, for a couple of hours at a time.
A googling of "barn shed delivered and installed" gave me this:
https://www.google.com/search?q=sheds+delivered+and+installed&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwjGlpy994P8AhXa3skDHSNAD38Q2-cCegQIABAA&oq=sheds+delivered&gs_lcp=CgNpbWcQARgDMgUIABCABDIFCAAQgAQyBggAEAUQHjIHCAAQgAQQGDIHCAAQgAQQGDIHCAAQgAQQGDIHCAAQgAQQGDIHCAAQgAQQGDIHCAAQgAQQGDIHCAAQgAQQGDoECCMQJzoECAAQQzoICAAQgAQQsQM6CwgAEIAEELEDEIMBOgYIABAIEB5Q6hZY-DRgu2poAHAAeACAAVuIAfAIkgECMTaYAQCgAQGqAQtnd3Mtd2l6LWltZ8ABAQ&sclient=img&ei=OW6fY4aWJ9q9p84Po4C9-Ac&bih=746&biw=1453&hl=en
A few years back, I got a wood stud structure, pretty much barebones: the studs, the asphalt shingled roof and the outside wooden cladding for about $3,000. It rested on 3 large horizontal posts, with a floor [so it could be dragged and leveled on the spot. I asked for a load of crushed granite with fines to be delivered and they leveled and moved the building in. There was a loft for additional storage and 4 small windows, plus the big double door, of course.
I remodeled, adding insulation on the 4 walls, the door and the ceiling/ loft. I added a floor for the loft. I added a trap door to let the chickens out and finished the walls and ceiling with a set of 4X 8 plastic sheets such as you have on the inside of your shower. [I definitely wanted something washable for the critters!] Long story short, my chickens love it. It is warm and cozy in there all Wisconsin winters long.
I added a small wall ceramic heater which I use only in winter.
I can maintain a temperature of 45F all winter just with this small ceramic heater [in zone 4b, central Wisconsin!]. Now, the prices have gone up, but still, this is a small [10'X 16'] inexpensive and weather tight shelter.
I'm not sure why you would want the Quonset overtop of this: You won't need it and it would add greatly to your costs, Jay is right.
Do you feel that it would be more airtight? The juncture between the Quonset and the stud structure might be problematic to unite as one building. It certainly would be attractive to mice if they were to find an entrance between the 2 buildings.
You will have companies that will come and install it for you. The delivery and install is usually included if you buy from the outfit that will do the install. Then you can do all the remodeling you want/ need on the inside.
I hope you get the building you want, Carmen. Let us know...
 
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I can see you were in a hurry to get answers and that was a month ago, so this answer might be too late. We just completed erecting a large Steelmaster building - 30' x 100' with a 4' poured concrete stem wall and 16' high building - so 20' to the peak.

The stemwalls and floor were professionally poured on a site that was tricky engineering wise and so needed signed off foundation drawings. The building was erected by essentially 3 elderlies, one of which is on disability, and we bought 3 scaffolds and rented a scissor lift and a cherry picker. The build could have been done with just two people as the third was only occupied when assembling the arches on the ground while the other two guys were putting up the last arch assembled.

Obviously we were putting up a very large barn on a thick slab and stem walls. The topsides had to be 78 lbs per sq ft snow load, which made it a lot thicker gauge steel than you'd ever think of using for a house sized structure. Unless you are building to put a second floor inside, you would also not go nearly so tall either. Our plan is for building a hay loft inside. If you don't go so tall, you would not need two machines to erect it, you might not even need one, particularly if you were relying on young fit legs that don't mind climbing ladders.

The two things you absolutely MUST do is to buy the connector plate to bolt to the footing - I genuinely cannot think how the build could be managed otherwise (despite reading the detailed instructions many times). Our concrete contractor had built QHs both with and without the connector plates and strongly advised against going without. The other thing is to FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS. They will save you a lot of heartache. Do not tighten any of the bolts more than hand tight until you get at least 10 arches up. We didn't not obey that rule and the building simply would not cooperate and go together. Having 10 arches up without being tightened down, is probably sufficient, though in the end we untighted every bolt, and left them hand tight until the whole building was up.

We are in North Idaho - and you would not have a chance of safely erecting any structure that needs to be built until spring. If you wanted to go with a steel building, I would not bother building a wooden building inside - just insulate. There are two systems you might try - I've not used either one. The first is a spray on foam - which can be finicky and I'd have it done by an expert. That's probably your fastest way to insulate. The other system provides bats that are bolted to the topside. The bolts supplied by Steelmaster are long enough to have the 'hangers' for the bats be screwed onto the topside's bolts. The hangers are part of the system that comes with the insulation. The insulation looks kind of like mattresses. Although we didn't insulate, I researched enough of the comments of people that had, to feel comfortable in buying that system if we do decide to insulate,

Your description of the sales pitch used by the Steelmaster salesmen is hilariously accurate. If anything, you were being kind. I'm glad I bought in spite of the sales behaviours. Once you get past the sales team and are working with the back office admin and engineers, I found them to be top rate in terms of knowledge and helpfulness. The other thing about our building is precision in the fabrication. My tenant is ex-military and after retiring spent many years constructing large commercial fixtures in various parts of the world. Before we started erecting the topsides he swore there was no way the building would fit together and fit the foundation. It did fit absolutely perfectly and my tenant is now the biggest fan of Steelmaster in that respect. He simply couldn't believe it when the connector plates lined up perfectly and then when the arches fit perfectly on the connector plates.


Having said all that, a QH would not be my first choice for a living space. If I needed something quick, I'd put up a yurt for temporary and then put up aircrete domes that were set as far down in the ground as I could go without having to worry about the water table. Have a look on Youtube, search terms Aircrete Harry and after you have a better idea of what's involved with aircrete, look on his website Airecreteharry.com. Its all a bit rough and ready, but I really like the idea of spraying up a dome within a dome and then filling the space between the domes with aircrete for insulation. I've not worked with aircrete, but this looks like a good system. I have a nearby neighbor that might try it. A 12' diameter dome is said to be buildable for $5000 in materials. That's not what I'd build to live in, but is the only pricing figure I picked up from the videos. That dome went up in 5 days - to the point where you'd have a dry roof overhead and be able to camp out under roof. This guy has done research and put together a network of engineers that can sign off engineering drawings to satisfy County Planners that the domes can be built to code. He offers hands on courses as well as a 15 hour online course. His target market is people that need to build it themselves to save money and in particular people needing to get back under cover in disaster zones - like after the recent Florida hurricane. I would feel comfortable having a go at building a dome from the explanations and help available on his website. Having said that - I've never done it, so might be giving you a bum steer.

Keep us appraised about how you get on.
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Carmen Rose
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Keep us appraised about how you get on.


Thank you so much for the helpful, experienced input. It's just what I needed. I've been dealing with a company called Mayflower and am about to sign the paperwork - unless someone warns me not to, anyway. About $18,000 for a 25'x30'x18' building to be delivered in June, but they'll hold it for up to another year if I'm not ready then. Any and all input still welcome. That's a lot of money to commit, not being able to see the future clearly.
 
Mary Combs
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Hi Again Carmen ....

I should have mentioned in my first post that you'll need to think about and prepare for delivery of the topsides steel. From the info you gave, you will be taking delivery of c. 105 stacked pieces that weigh on the order of 40 lbs each. It will probably be delivered on a standard flatbed trailer behind a semi-tractor. That's because they will be renting space on whatever commercial trucker is going your way and has the space. Those trucks do not come equipped (usually) with a fork lift. If you live up a private windy road, they will not want to deliver to the site, and if they do deliver to the site, the truck is unlikely to be manuverable into any tight spaces. The driver is also not going to want to wait for the customer to unload the building piece by piece. However, if you speak to the vendor's back office admin staff, they should help you figure out what can be done wrt hiring the delivery provider. With only 2 to 3 tons of steel to be delivered, they may be able to arrange to transfer the load to a smaller truck at a local commercial depot. With the total weight and pallet weights of our building, and being about 3/8ths of a mile from the main road, we needed a BIG outdoor forklift for our job. My tenant of the time felt that their tractor could manage the unload and move IF we broke the pallets down into smaller weights, but having spent a lot of money on the topside steel, and knowing that we would have no way to undo any damage (e.g. bent) pieces, I just bit the bullet for the large forklift rental.

A few other comments that might help your confidence in ordering your building - in spite of being VERY heavy - the pile of steel will look ridiculously small. Our load was less than 1/3 of the total load on the trailer. What you see on the ground in the picture is the sum total of the steel that made up our 30'x100' building. (I looked at the pile initially and couldn't believe it was all there!). Make sure you look for any damage before you sign off to accept the load - AND make a notation to the effect that you will still need to do a count of the pieces, otherwise they won't make good any shortages. Also, make sure you compare the nut and bolt container bucket labels to the count you get in advance from the supplier.  With 3 people available for the unload, we were able to do the count before we had to sign off on the delivery.

As I mentioned in my earlier post - the connector plates made ALL the difference in ease of erection. Include those in your order if you can. There are lots of Youtube videos available of people erecting this type of structure - and some of the techniques are different to our process, but would be very appropriate for your size of building. Stating the obvious - make sure the steel is under lock and key or that someone is on site to watch it. Even as just scrap metal, it would be worth stealing.

I've attached photos below as an idea of what is involved. Your load will be a whole lot smaller, but plan for it in advance anyway. I hope this additional information is helpful. Good Luck!!

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Carmen Rose
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Mary Combs wrote:Hi Again Carmen ....



I've attached photos below as an idea of what is involved. Your load will be a whole lot smaller, but plan for it in advance anyway. I hope this additional information is helpful. Good Luck!!



Thank you VERY MUCH! for this information!! I would never have thought about it and, although they should be able to drive directly to the site, unloading will probably be a challenge. And, sadly, with the thievery in my area, I have already planned to have someone on site 24/7 until we can put it up. I think I'm about ready to sign the order but would sure feel more confident if anyone in the surrounding area has done one of these and wanted to be involved ... just suggesting ... hoping ...
 
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Thanks for posting your question. I too am looking into QH to build a home. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to insulate it without taking away from the simple and elegant arch. Most people use spray foam or batting and cover it with tons of lumber and Sheetrock. I’m a fan of the industrial look and wish insulation wasn’t needed so I could enjoy the beauty of the steel. Since that’s clearly not practical, let me know if you find a solution that enhances the arch instead of hiding it.
Good luck with your build and let us know how it goes!
 
Phil Swindler
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Kel Rock wrote:Thanks for posting your question. I too am looking into QH to build a home. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to insulate it without taking away from the simple and elegant arch. Most people use spray foam or batting and cover it with tons of lumber and Sheetrock. I’m a fan of the industrial look and wish insulation wasn’t needed so I could enjoy the beauty of the steel. Since that’s clearly not practical, let me know if you find a solution that enhances the arch instead of hiding it.
Good luck with your build and let us know how it goes!



Don't remember where I saw this, but, here goes.
Someone had built a storage building for potatoes out of those corrugated steel arched metal buildings.  To keep climate control costs down they had 2 arches, one inside the other with a 10 or 12 inch gap between.  They blew some kind of shredded insulation between the two.
I have no idea what the cost would be, or what order you would do things.  But, you would have the steel look on both the inside and outside.
 
Mary Combs
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Kel Rock wrote:Thanks for posting your question. I too am looking into QH to build a home. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to insulate it without taking away from the simple and elegant arch. Most people use spray foam or batting and cover it with tons of lumber and Sheetrock. I’m a fan of the industrial look and wish insulation wasn’t needed so I could enjoy the beauty of the steel. Since that’s clearly not practical, let me know if you find a solution that enhances the arch instead of hiding it.
Good luck with your build and let us know how it goes!



Hi Kel
I'm not sure how big you are planning to go with your QH. Our is 30' wide by 100' long and 16' tall standing on a 4' stem wall, making it actually 20' tall. They are not complicated to erect and there are several methods shown on YouTube. The team putting ours up consisted of 4 amateurs, aged 60 to 72 only one of whom had actual construction experience. We made one big mistake, which was annoyingly time consuming to correct - which was ignoring the written and emphasized instructions to erect the building with the bolts only hand tight during the initial build and then go back and tighten the bolts after. If you don't do that, the building will twist, and it will twist more the further you go, until bolting it together and bolting it down becomes impossible. Our guy with the construction expertise wanted to put the building up in one pass because of the heavy equipment we had to rent and because 20' up on a fairly slippery surface is no fun. With the size of our building, the cherry picker was useless coming at the building from the side - we could only use it from the front building face. The scissorlift was used to lift the partly build arches - which we partly constructed on the ground outside the building foot print, then lifted and rolled forward with the scissor lift and bolted on the bottom of each leg just before lifting in place. It was too awkward to fully construct outside the footprint due to the weight. The final step of tightening the bolts meant putting a man up top with less safety arrangements than any of us were comfortable with. It worked in the end, but think through how you will approach those issues before you order your building. Also, I would NEVER, NEVER, EVER put up one of these buildings without investing in the baseplates. The vendors will tell you those are optional - No, they are not optional in my view. They will add $1000s to the price, but are so worth it!

A note about the scissorlift and cherry picker. Their safety mechanisms are VERY stubborn. If the machine is not on flat, stable ground, it may refuse to lift or to lift to full height, and will insist on a perfectly flat surface before they will roll forward. The cherrypicker was a bit more forgiving than the scissor lift. You'll note in the pictures, we ended up building a gravel platform outside the foundation footprint in order to satisfy the machines. I know, that sounds like I'm anthropomorphizing, but those machines certainly gave the strong impression of having minds of their own and a high degree of stubborness. When people say the first 10 arches can be tricky and liken it to working with a slinky - that's about right. Bracing is your friend. Working in a wind higher than 5 MPH is not feasible. Until bolted down, the arches are huge, heavy kites.

As far as insulating - we haven't as ours is being used as a machine shed, but in some future, we may change its use. I will probably opt for the system that uses insulation that looks like thin mattresses, as I wouldn't want to permanently cover the joins between the metal arches and not be able to look at what is going on if there is water ingress. That system is really cool - it uses the excess threads from the bolts that connect the arches, to screw on the hardware that holds the mattresses.

You've indicated you might want to build 2 QH, one inside the other and blow insulation in between. I guess that's possible, but will add significantly to the cost of the build. You won't be able to 'hang' anything from the superstructure - unless your vendor, architect and county planner are a lot more innovative than mine. The most that my vendor would supply to be bolted to the superstructure is the end structures, which are partly self supporting. Logistically, you would probably have to build both skins at the same time, building out from one end. Your architect would need to calculate the exact shape of the inner skin so that it would run more or less parallel to the outer skin in all dimensions. The two skins would need to be separated by enough space for someone to squeeze between for tightening bolts at the end. That probably leaves quite a gap for blow-in insulation - and I'm not sure how you'd keep the insulation spaced out and not settling / compacting down into the 'legs' of your paired structure. You'd want to convince your county planner that the inner skin is non-structural and only the outer skin needs to meet snow load requirements. You might also get away with much lighter steel for the inner skin.

If you mooseage me your email address, I'll put you in touch with our team leader (the one with construction experience) and he might have some innovative ideas to help with your choices.



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Kel Rock
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Thanks Phil, thanks Mary. The concept I’ve been playing around with is a wide, not too deep, QH for a house. Plenty of glass facing south with north wall mostly thermal mass and open inside except for an enclosed bathroom that would separate living/sleeping sides. The back side of the bathroom would be used to move between the sides and have storage and mechanical. South facing wall of bathroom could also serve as Trombe wall with a gap between wall and window to create convection. At some later point possibly use the roof of the bathroom for a small loft area. Other than cabinets for storage etc along QH walls the bathroom structure would support everything including most of the kitchen area. This would also keep plumbing as simple as possible having it all on each side of the same wall.
The only thing I wasn’t sure about (well, I’m sure plenty of issues would eventually come up) is how to insulate the shell without having to do a wood/drywall type framing and still keep the minimal aesthetic. It’s the form vs function vs budget paradigm.
 
Phil Swindler
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Kel Rock wrote:Thanks Phil, thanks Mary. The concept I’ve been playing around with is a wide, not too deep, QH for a house. Plenty of glass facing south with north wall mostly thermal mass and open inside except for an enclosed bathroom that would separate living/sleeping sides. The back side of the bathroom would be used to move between the sides and have storage and mechanical. South facing wall of bathroom could also serve as Trombe wall with a gap between wall and window to create convection. At some later point possibly use the roof of the bathroom for a small loft area. Other than cabinets for storage etc along QH walls the bathroom structure would support everything including most of the kitchen area. This would also keep plumbing as simple as possible having it all on each side of the same wall.
The only thing I wasn’t sure about (well, I’m sure plenty of issues would eventually come up) is how to insulate the shell without having to do a wood/drywall type framing and still keep the minimal aesthetic. It’s the form vs function vs budget paradigm.



Could you bury part of it and do sort of a "Walipini-ish" effect?
 
Kel Rock
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I’ve seen that some people have done that! I’ve seen a couple of different ways. The one that seems to make the most sense (to me) involves spraying the QH with spray foam insulation, then with shotcrete with reinforcing steel pieces mixed into it, laying down a layer of material to shed water well away from the structure, then mounding earth on top of the whole thing. This eliminates any need for insulation inside the steel shell. It sounds like a great idea but I would think it might be very expensive. Otherwise, I’d jump at the suggestion.
The video I saw that explained the process seemed like it was very well thought out. Aesthetically, I didn’t care for that particular house. It was more of a bunker where the door led you to a tunnel (actually a smaller QH connected to the larger one) and there were no windows at all. For me, having south facing windows for solar gain and natural light and having everything else under the mounded earth would be perfect…if I could afford it.
From what I understand, the spray foam insulation itself would be very expensive. I’ve heard shotcrete isn’t necessarily that expensive to do but it might be on such a large scale project. I have no idea what it would cost to have that much earthwork done. The foundation, QH, and front wall/glass would have to be figured in, of course.
If I’m wrong in thinking the whole thing would add up to be an expensive build, I hope someone can tell me otherwise. I love the idea but can’t imagine doing it on my budget.
 
Jay Angler
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Kel Rock wrote: If I’m wrong in thinking the whole thing would add up to be an expensive build, I hope someone can tell me otherwise. I love the idea but can’t imagine doing it on my budget.

That's always the rub. It's why if people have more time than money, they often build something small out of as much salvaged or cheap material as they can, and save up for a better future.

Have you considered making yourself up a spreadsheet where you can debate all the pros and cons?
1. Metal conducts heat and doesn't breath - I know lots of people who would choose natural materials over metal for long term comfort. We have metal edges on our windows and don't live in a harsh climate, but they're a noticeable area we loose heat through.
2. I've learned that thermal mass inside an insulated envelope is a great way to get a comfortable temperature that stays stable over a longer period.
3. Something temporary that can be re-purposed later is one approach. Rents are high in most places right now. If you can build something safe and functional that can later be converted to workshop/coldroom/animal space later when you can build something better, it may be a way forward even if it's a compromise now.
4. Build safe - storms are getting wilder and more extreme in most places (just check why many Insurance Companies left Florida). We need all the permies we can get, and quonset huts are tough if done right.
 
Kel Rock
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Jay, I plan on calling Steel Masters to ask if there’s a formal to determine how much weight can be hung from the QH arch. With the 2x framing, spray insulation, and then something to cover the insulation (plywood, metal sheeting, or my least favorite, drywall) I want to be sure I don’t do anything to compromise the structure. I would think that as long as the weight is evenly distributed it should support a fair amount of weight.
I know that covering the arch with anything (soil etc) voids the lifetime guarantee.
I know the large windows have a much lower R-value. That’s why I want to put almost all of them on the south facing wall. The back wall would have something (hempcrete?) for thermal mass, along with the concrete slab floor (bare, stained, and polished).
But yeah, I know all of this will add up to more than I’ll probably have after selling my current home, moving 2k miles, and buying a car appropriate for the rural mountains. That’s why I’ve been looking into prefab houses. Most are catering to the upper middle class buyer. But there are a few that are making what seem like nice, well built, but small homes. The kind we need in this housing crisis. If I can get into something like that and then take my time to build another house on the property. Eventually rent the smaller one out. That would take a lot of the pressure off me. The idea of selling, moving across country, then starting a building project…just the logistics of it can keep me up at night.
 
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