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The $50 and Up Underground House Book by Mike Oehler

 
Adrien Lapointe
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Summary

In this book the author talks about a very economical way to build a really eco-friendly house. He covers the design, material to use, the construction, and code considerations. The house described in there is not the typical moist underground house as the title might imply.

Where to get it?



Related Books and Magazines

The Earth Sheltered Solar Greenhouse Book by Mike Oehler

Related Podcasts

Paul Wheaton Permaculture Podcast 091 - WOFATI Eco Buildings
Paul Wheaton Permaculture Podcast 215 - Glenn Kangiser on Oehler Structures

Related Videos

Get the DVDs for the Underground House Workshop and Shelter Seminar HERE!






Related Articles

Wofati eco building Article

Related Threads

The Official Mike Oehler Thread
Underground housing thread at Permies
wofati eco building thread at Permies
Wofati and earth berm forum at Permies


Related Websites

Mike's Website -UndergroundHousing.com


 
Jake Parkhurst
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9 out of 10 Acorns

Just read it! It is really nice to read about the house design, why it works, mistakes made that led to the current iteration, thoughts of the future, and of course, how to build it. As an engineer, it would be nice to see the engineering manual, but other then that, wonderful book. Written in a tone of "take it or leave it, here is my design/research".
 
Cris Fellows
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I would give this book 9 of 10 acorns. No, it doesn't answer every how to question...but it is just so darned fun!
 
Dave Dahlsrud
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I have read the book and watched his DVD production that goes along with it. I would rate them an 8 out of 10. Ingenious ideas, entertaining, well worth the time and money. Just need to convince my wife that I won't grow a beard if we live in an underground/earth sheltered house.
 
Simon Johnson
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I wrote up a review for this book on my blog http://www.mypermaculture.net/?p=143 and wanted to share it here as well.

Enjoy!

I give this book 9 out of 10 acorns!


Now here is a cool book! mike oehler presents some most excellent ideas for low cost, low tech, natural building methods, which he has demonstrated to last 30 plus years thus far. Using methods presented in this book of building and sourcing materials, would easily make this one of the cheapest ways to build a solid home that isn't terribly difficult to heat. This building concept also makes it fairly easy to expand on an initial small home design; ideal when going the mortgage free route.

Right off the bat this book is great. Starting on the title page and continuing in small segments throughout the book, the author has copied the text of a letter from Chief Seathl, of the Duwamish tribe, to the president of the US about a proposed offer to "buy" the Native's land. The first time I went through the book, I read only this letter. It is an excellent piece, which nicely fits in with Mike's view of the world and what he is trying to do with this book.

The book keeps on rolling in the introduction with Mike giving a rundown on his views on things and what he likes and doesn't like. This section is quite entertaining and gives you a good idea of where he is coming from.

He then proceeds to explain how his underground houses are not dark, damp, dingy basements, but rather bright, airy, comfortable living spaces. He elaborates further on why underground houses are better than conventional, but this little bit says a lot.

"An underground house has no more in common with a basement, than a penthouse apartment has in common with a hot, dark, dusty attic."

Next he goes into the history of his $50 house, how it was built, how and where he got salvage/cheap materials, and things he learned along the way. There are some cool old pictures showing the work in progress as well as the finished product. He also has a few nice drawings showing floor plan and cut out views to give a better understanding of the build. His list of materials and cost is excellent. All totalling $49.70! $22 of that was for the wood stove and chimney pipe. My favourite line is this:

" The nails were bought at a local junk sale. They were used so I had to straighten them one at a time."

Classic!

The next section goes into his Post, Shoring, Polyethylene (PSP) system which is the basis of the whole design. Basically it is posts sunk in the ground every few feet with boards nailed between them, like a regular wall, and then plastic along the outside of those boards. This then gets back filled with dirt. Super simple. He goes into why this is better than concrete and shows drawings of the concept compared to conventional construction.

In the next chapter he goes into design. This is the largest section and goes into lots of different ways to design using this system. It starts off with what not to do, then goes into the general basics, and expands from there into making different levels, side entrances, gable roofs, clerestories, courtyards, etc. He then moves on to talk about flat land design ideas, which really didn't look like a good idea to me. As far as I am concerned, this building method should not be used in the way he was showing on flat land. Aside from that, this is a great section with lots of nice drawings and even some colour pictures of his place!

Next he talks about where to buy and scrounge materials for cheap/free. Lots of good ideas and things to think about here too. Things like demolition sites, auctions, sawmills, etc. He talks on getting your own lumber from your land and how to go about getting the logs ready to build with. He uses some less than ideal methods of treating the logs to make them rot resistance and I think there definitely better ways of going about that.

Now he goes into construction techniques. This part is packed with good info and some great lines! He has a 'secret construction method' which he developed out of desperation and calls it "starting over here and working-over-that-way-taking-it-as-it-comes". Perfect! He goes on to explain the method further, but you'll have to get the book and read it. Some great stuff. He then goes on to talk about the excavation, how you shouldn't dig by hand for 8 hours a day and if it is really tough digging to blast! Pretty funny guy, but it's all good stuff. Lots of explanation for building the walls and roof. How to lay the plastic, and back fill so everything stays dry. All the things you want to know before building.

The book ends with a nice section of tables and drawings showing engineering stuff that will keep the place from collapsing. How far apart to place logs depending on size and what not. Very useful.

All in all this is an excellent book, both for the amazing design concept and for the way it is written. Mike is a funny guy and a pioneer in the cheap natural building world. Definitely check this book out if you are at all interested in building yourself a cheap, good quality mortgage free home.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Simon Johnson
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I've seen it mentioned somewhere on the forum, that Paul thinks that Mike chose an unfortunate title. I saw the book when I was a kid and was attracted by the title.


Yes. He mentions it on a few occasions in his pod casts as well.
 
Maura Will
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This book is such a classic, so original and so essential, I have to give it a 10 despite lack of polish. If you are serious about building this way, consider getting the DVDs (set of 2) and the underground greenhouse book. Both are available at http://undergroundhousing.com/

It can be used in combination with other building materials and it really a fairly versatile building system.

The DVDs are an elaboration on and updating of the original concepts with a lot more attention to strategies to make sure the house stays dry and lets in plenty of light.

I would defend the odd title because, if you had practically nothing but a couple rolls of plastic and a shovel and you were faced with building a survival shelter, this system with a rocket mass heater in the center would be your obvious choice UNLESS your only available site has a high groundwater table.
 
Jon Stoski
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I read Mikes's book about a year ago. I thought it was great, the ideas were new to me and the methods were definitely working for him. Something made me hang back, though. I wasn't really comfortable with the idea of covering packed earth with plastic and carpet, and calling it finished.

Going back to this book after a year, I think Mike has some great ideas for establishing drainage and possibly some good ideas for living underground using plastic sheeting and beams. Someone could take this book and build a house for almost no money, and for this I think the book really shines. It deals with most of the major issues that a builder will have to deal with, and the originality of the ideas really stands out. However, consider that a house is only one part of an overall land care plan, and take the siting information with a grain of salt. My verdict is 7 out of 10 acorns.
 
Mike Sved
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Jon Stoski wrote:Be aware that the book doesn't give a permaculture perspective, and take the siting information with a grain of salt. My verdict is 6.5 acorns out of 10.


I don't think you're giving the book or Mike a fair assessment. Not everything of value to permaculture thinking has to be conceived from permaculture thinking, and besides, he wrote the book long before most of us had any ideas about 'permaculture'.

In the book, he addresses a number of siting pros and cons but acknowledges that people aren't always able or willing to pick the best location.

Most importantly though, is that he's a terrifically cool guy who spends his life 'doing things'. People like that have the power to save us from mediocrity.
 
Jon Stoski
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he's a terrifically cool guy who spends his life 'doing things'


Yes, I give Mike 10 acorns out of 10. Here though I am reviewing the book, which I found decreased in value over time. When I first read this book, I would have rated it a 7 or even an 8, because the ideas were new to me and I had that initial "ah-ha" feeling. As it sits on my bookshelf, I find that it doesn't get revisited as often as say Bill Mollison's textbook on permaculture, so I wonder if that rating for a book is deserved and so I downgraded it to a 6.5. That's the difference between 50 original ideas and just 5. No offence intended, I imagine that most humans rate about a 3 in terms of originality.
 
Amber Fauson
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I give this book 9 out of 10 acorns.

The $50 and Up Underground House Book is an easy and inspirational read. If you're handy this book will provide you with enough information to build your own underground house. Of course, if you need to purchase land, if low or no cost building materials are unavailable to you, and if you find electricity and indoor plumbing a necessity you're looking at a significantly greater investment than $50. That said, I found this book very intriguing, and hope to someday use Mr. Oehler's techniques to build a house. I especially like the idea of earthen floors, and the uphill patio/greenhouse.
 
Brian Brown
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I will be starting on an underground house using these methods this spring and summer. I hope to have it finished in two seasons as there will only be two of us working on it. Most likely start a thread here with progress if anyone is interested.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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Just an FYI: You can now get the Underground House Workshop and Survival Shelter Seminar 3 DVD set PLUS The Earth Sheltered Solar Greenhouse Book PLUS The $50 and Up Underground House Book for only $55!

Click Here For More Details!

These books are both HALF OFF what they normally cost!
 
Dave Dahlsrud
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Dave Dahlsrud wrote:I have read the book and watched his DVD production that goes along with it. I would rate them an 8 out of 10. Ingenious ideas, entertaining, well worth the time and money. Just need to convince my wife that I won't grow a beard if we live in an underground/earth sheltered house.


That's 8 out of 10 acorns, just so it registers on the checklist of book review awesomeness!
 
paul wheaton
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I just want to announce that Mike's niece, Alex, is trying to pick up where Mike left off to make sure operations are working smoothly and correctly.

For a while, Mike offered a sweet, sweet deal to permies, and Alex has now put that deal back in action.  The deal is to have the underground book, the greenhouse book and all three DVDs as a digital download for $55.  

I think that the most important thing is DVD #2:  it has a lot of details about how to get light from all four directions.   The magic of Mike's designs is that you have can a roof on your home that costs practically nothing, provided that you follow his simple roof design - something that most people seem to not understand even though they think they do.   DVD #2 really helps to drive this point home. 


To get this super sweet deal, please CLICK HERE


Also, for those of you that have already read Mike's book, please post a review!
 
Destiny Hagest
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Here's a little graphic of everything you get with this awesome bundle deal, now available here at Scubbly!
special-3-covers.png
[Thumbnail for special-3-covers.png]
 
A teeny tiny vulgar attempt to get you to buy our stuff
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