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steward
Posts: 30365
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
hugelkultur trees chicken wofati bee woodworking
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How dry is the floor?  If you start with dry posts and dry dirt, does your dirt that the posts are in ever get wet?

So the grand summary of the plastic bags is:  If your wood is wet and your dirt is dry, plastic bags are damn foolish.  But if your dirt is damp and your logs are bone dry, then plastic bags are damn smart. 

About right?

 
pollinator
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
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While the ground feels dry, it is surprising that a sheet of plastic on the ground will nearly always trap moisture moving up through the ground... even in a desert.  I read that the moisture content under plastic will always reach 100 percent at the plastic on the ground.  It is nearly impossible to keep from scratching the plastic with wood on one side and soil - sand - rocks on the other.

Once broken and even slightly damp, fungi can begin to grow, and they actually send tendrils out into the ground to pull moisture into the wood and turn it into soil.  Check a log in contact with the ground.  It is loaded with water in a short time due to this action.

I don't trust it.  I drive a steel pin in the ground, put a piece of plastic over it - a couple inches of mortar mix - drill a hole in the post and place it over the pin.
 
paul wheaton
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So .... wrapping a dry log in plastic is, therefore, wise?

The real thing to not do is put a damp log in plastic.  True?

Hmmmmm .... so your dirt is really clay intensive, right?  And, there is some sort of soil wicking that happens and pulls the water from far away into the dirt under your floor, right?

Wicking ..... I wonder if there is a way to mitigate wicking. 

I wonder if it has something like a "half life" but where "half life" refers to time, we might use distance instead.  So that the dirt that is five feet from the outside wall might be drier than the dirt one foot from the outside wall.  ??

 
Glenn Kangiser
pollinator
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Location: Central California
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I still would not wrap the log in plastic.  I would not use the post sleeves sold for 4x4 posts either.  A small amount of moisture can start fungal growth then the fungus/mold will send tendrils out to draw more water into the wood so it can decompose it.  From my experience, I will not do it  for any reason. 

The wood stands a better or the same chance charred  with the plain soil than it does in the plastic in my experience.  It only took about 2 years for the sinking of the logs to start.  I do not believe most will wait 2 or more years for a log to dry before building with it.  Even then it may not be dry or stay dry enough.

The fungus actually grows tendrils that go out like octopus arms and collect the water to bring it into the log-- wicking is not so much necessary as the fungal growth actively brings the water into the log besides what may naturally be in it.

The main moisture movement here is in the top 2 feet of soil and the clay resists change - wetting or drying but when either happens change takes a long time so moisture that gets into the uphill patio cold be there for several months or more.  This will stillo be a problem in nearly any area though.  We average 25 inches of rain per year in the winter months  mainly.  Little of it gets into the uphill patio.
 
paul wheaton
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Having done a fair bit of construction of different types, I would like to ask you the big two questions:

1)  Cost:  suppose you have land with water/power/septic already set up.  And you can have a three bedroom conventional home built there for $100,000.  What might a similar Oehler home cost to have built (assuming that the home owner is just gonna pay to have it done).  And let us further suppose that the contract has built a few of these in the past. 

2)  Time:  How much faster would the Oehler style home be done?

 
Glenn Kangiser
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That is a rather tricky question Paul as there are a lot of Variables and as you know - it is not conventional - the stigma of a contractor building a house that he is convinced will fail because the codes educate him away from Mike's methods just to sell materials  and get taxes...

Could I find one to do it if he thinks he may be sued or risk his contractors license.  I even shy away from doing it for a lot of people especially  for others As I am a licensed contractor and many people are hard to trust - I lose my ability to collect if it is not to code.  Building to code changes it from low cost to out of this world in my opinion.  Even if it could be built to code I see the cost going up to several hundred thousand dollars just to meet the code requirements.

As a contractor in California I would lose my license if caught doing it for public and not per codes and approved plans- as approved by the county etc..... it is the system.

Now if I was to do it to code - treated wood IS required.

I think the Oehler style house really cannot be done for sale to the public - at least in my area.  Too many health compromises required by code.

Lets go to not code -- I dug a 9x32 excavation for one in a day with my Bobcat - it was in trade, but my Bobcat is a 963 and going rate for that work is about $125 per hour - Say about $1000 labor for the hole The owner did the tmber framing in about a week and the side boards in about a day on each 8x16 section.

2 more days and sufficient materials and he could be done in a few more days.  But that is with assistance of some friends and equipment.

My experience here says an owner builder can do it at his speed for the $50 and up still if no worries about code, keeping up and passing the Joneses etc. is not worried about- true shelter rather than a trophy.

I have seen a similar contractor /code -concrete terrorist version  as Mike calls them, cost 300,000.00 or more and one stalled in planning and at the bankers for over $,1000,000.00  It was a small three bedroom or less underground concrete home.  The lady worked trying to get it passed for about 15 years.  The $300,000 one or so estimated from his comments, had to leave the roof conventional as the codes and inspectors wiped out all of his budget and then some.

Not all may have this experience but I see it as being the majority.  Codes do not recognize alternative building for the most part.  It goes into a timberframed on of a kind engineered structure with codes.  They all want their cut.

I wish I could give you a better answer but it's not that easy.

Equipment versus hand work can improve speed 50 to 100 times, but I find that most who are interested in building this way don't really want to pay true value for the real market price of equipment work or are unable to afford it. 

I feel Mike's houses were not for the people with unlimited money but for the people who have a piece of land but are short on money and long on determination and need to shelter and provide for themselves and or their families.

I did it as a revolt against the system and cronyism/forced government reliance and forced asking for permission (contracting away our God given rights) and government prescribed sheetrock crackerboxes  (mud and paper) that makes it nearly impossible for our children to be able to afford to build their own shelter.  Somewhere in there is the reason I did it...I don't even know all of it.

Maybe we can look at it another way?... Hard to answer.



 
paul wheaton
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There are parts of the country that don't have a building code. 

In order for this style to end up in the code, there first has to be several examples of it.  And one of the early steps for getting into the code is to have people pushing for it.  And for people to push for it, they need motivation for it.  And one of the big factors to get folks motivated for it is to have a motivating factor - like price. 

So if an expert were to say "I've built conventional homes and I have built Oehler-style homes.  I can say that when my company builds a comparable Oehler home on a woodland where there is already a stack of dry logs to use, the cost savings for the roof, most walls and the floor is massive.  A $100,000 conventional home typically costs $55,000.  And because Oehler structures are so much easier to do, I think a home owner can take on most of the work and save themselves another $20,000".

It's this sort of data that gets things rolling. 

And, this sort of data is damn useful in those areas where folks don't have to worry about building codes, which includes a lot of homesteader land!

And then if we can work in the PAHS stuff, then we can also talk about cutting a/c and heating bills.  Way better than straw bale homes.

But we need to start gathering some rough data ...


 
Glenn Kangiser
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It is still hard to nail down as there are few examples and not even standard methods of building them.

There is little info on side wall construction even in Mike's book.  I found out through experimentation  that an 8 foot sidewall span requires at least 2x material or it will bow in.  Cut that to 4 and 1x material will work.  All of that could still change with varying conditions.  Specifying things such as this could give a standard model to bid on but there are still lots of details.
 
All that thinking. Doesn't it hurt? What do you think about this tiny ad?
Gracie's backyard - a film about permaculture farming in the far north with Richard Perkins (stream)
https://permies.com/wiki/133872/videos/Gracie-backyard-film-permaculture-farming
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