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Lots of Questions: Basement or No Basement  RSS feed

 
Paul Wertenberger
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First let me say what a great place to learn.

Let me introduce myself. Paul from South East Nebraska,

I teach high school woods, welding, & drafting. I also own and operate a small sawmill.

That being said. We are planning on building a timberframe soon. We were all ready to break ground for a basement this summer when I began reading posts by this Whitecloud person who keeps making me change my mind about conventional construction. (footings - 9' concrete basement walls, ICF's) then timberframe)

So with 3 kids we were planning on a frame about 42' x 42' with a full basement with a walkout to our horse arena. Now I read about how concrete is a not so good thing and it has me wondering about redoing my plans. The Mrs wants the house big enough for our children to return and visit with their families. Which was easy with a basement, but now... I'm entertaining the idea of just a small basement/cellar/storm shelter. But that = a larger house or a 2 story house.

question: 1 Full basement or just cellar under part of house.

Q2. if no basement, do you go a rambling house or 2 story, I hate heights

Q3. The Asian methods appeal to us, and we have been watching most all of the videos that Jay, Bill, and others have posted. Does anyone have floor plans of Asian timberframes?

I plan on milling and cutting the frame myself with whatever outside help as needed.

Q4: What exterior wall to use? clay/slip straw, truss walls, etc...

I know several answers could be "It depends" We want a home that will last for generations (God willing, no Tornado's, bombs, etc) mold free, solid foundation, no Radon, non cancer causing home.

Thank you

Paul
 
Jack Edmondson
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Before you can ask the question of basement yes or no; one needs to look at your soil profile. What are you building on? What is the water table? Clay? Does that clay expand significantly? What is your frostline? How are you going to waterproof is done? CMU or poured frame? (I hope we are not talking timber below grade. )

The simple answer is yes... If you have the right conditions. Good economic use of space. Makes a solid reliable foundation. Etc, etc... However, the devil is in the details. Too many questions, yet, to determine if one is a good idea or not. Free advice. Take it for what it is worth.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hey Paul...Welcome...

Paul Wertenberger wrote:...planning on a frame about 42' x 42' with a full basement with a walkout...


If you have 'dug through' much of what I have shared about "basements" and there esoteric evolution within architecture you will know that "walk outs" are one of the few exceptions when they may very well be of good use and practice. This form of them actually facilitates a usable space that takes (or can take) full advantage of earth mass insulation, and even (in some cases) attached solarium which I am not always a fan of for a number of reasons. It then boils down to..."What will it cost to build?"..."How will we build it?"

Paul Wertenberger wrote:question: 1 Full basement or just cellar under part of house.


Get us a "sketchup" model and perhaps some site photos and we can all gander at it more with you. It may also come down to the fiscal aspects of the project comparatively. What will give you the most monetary "bang," for the dollar spent. Perhaps a full frontal "half basement" with good height in the crawl space to the hill side of the design. This often works very well, and can facilitate "safe rooms" and "escape tunnels" well for family security purposes. Yours would be 42' x 21' and that gives plenty of space for those that "move back in" to live and not be underfoot...

Paul Wertenberger wrote:Q2. if no basement, do you go a rambling house or 2 story, I hate heights


Gotta see photos of building site...Too hard to really give good advice on this one without understanding more about the local biome and general topography...

Paul Wertenberger wrote:Q3. The Asian methods appeal to us, and we have been watching most all of the videos that Jay, Bill, and others have posted. Does anyone have floor plans of Asian timber frames?


Oh my...well...yes...too many...in both Minka, Imperial, and Samurai Japanese styles...as well as many more from Turkey to the Punjab region and into China and Korea...Feel free to send me an email...

Paul Wertenberger wrote:I plan on milling and cutting the frame myself with whatever outside help as needed...Q4: What exterior wall to use? clay/slip straw, truss walls, etc...


Good for you! Being your own Sawyer is very rewarding and gives you a special relationship with the materials that is a must for well built timber frames...No matter the modality selected be it African, European, Asian or some other indigenous modality.

As for number four question...yes to all of the above possibly...I think more of the projects evolution needs to take place, budget (time and money) as well as, what other local resources may (and may not) be available...

Look forward to being of any service I can offer. Sounds like a wonderful project and you have great skill sets to start it...

Regards,

j

Hi Jack,

I agree with many of your thoughts, yet many are not really that much of a challenge in most building sites (unless in a swamp of course or where there is "permafrost")

Frost heave is a non issue most of the time and blown way out of proportion for the most part when other factors are well designed and this tends to go for water table too...unless the site is below it. Water proofing also...at least in the natural and traditional building systems isn't usually a concern either, as CMU and/or poured concrete may not always be the only way to go. There is stone, and brick that can be used...gabion foundation systems (even with basements)...tiered and extra mass earthbag methods...and yes...even just wood (if one knows how...)

So...it is yes to a basement...but only sometimes as they often cost more per meter (or foot) price than would be a structure on grade that is multi story or rambles...one is tall the other has roof expense...

 
Bill Bradbury
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Hi Paul,

Thank you for posting this great question.

Basements can be great for extra room and staying cool in summer, but they can be problematic when built poorly or with poor materials. Site drainage is the #1 cause for basement failures and for my work(older homes) #2 is concrete. It doesn't matter how well it is poured, concrete starts to disintegrate at about age 80 from what I can tell. Most people think this is a long time, but the stone foundations that I deal with are much older and although they typically have more problems when I first see them, the problems are more easily repaired and the materials(stone, lime and sand) have an indefinite lifespan.
Stone walled basements are an incredible amount of work, so the question is; is there a product that is breathable and can last indefinitely, that is easier than stone and mortar?

I don't know. I like the look of these Durisol ICF'sdurisolbuild.com, but I haven't worked with them.

I like basements, especially walkouts. They allow access to the joist space under the floor, facilitating an easier route for plumbing, wiring etc. and a place to put your mechanical equipment.

I'm looking forward to seeing site photos,
Bill
 
Paul Wertenberger
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https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B29yk-BY4PxDS3ZoZE0wbUp6TWc/view?usp=sharing

This should be a site layout of where we plan to place our house. It used to be the site of a barn that unfortunately we let fall down.

Thank you for the replies and information. I'll post more later.

Paul

 
chad Christopher
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The major benifits I can think of having a basement, in my case, a crawl space are... water storge, grey water processing, and the thermal mass that comes with it. I personally plan on having a crawl space, filled with cisterns. Other than my own site specific reasons, basements are troublesome
 
Bill Bradbury
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Hi Paul,

I think the best way to design a building is to look back at well designed homes that have withstood the test of time and have been adapted to a similar biome and lifestyle as your own.

I found some photos of vernacular architecture that employs a walk out basement. Obviously these are all very old and appear to be in use still. All are from colder climates, but utilize completely different building styles. Take a look at these and others from similar climates, then let's talk about how to adapt the particular ancestral design that inspires you most into your modern lifestyle, materials and methods.
M-zeum_kysuckej_dediny-1.jpg
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Village_in_A-t_Bouguemez.jpg
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Safranbolu_traditional_house_1.jpg
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Paul Wertenberger
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Bill,

Perfect.

I think the best way to design a building is to look back at well designed homes that have withstood the test of time and have been adapted to a similar biome and lifestyle as your own.

I agree, I hate "re-inventing" the wheel.

The first picture of the "cabin" style house is very much what we are after.

Thank you

Paul

 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hey Brian...Great Post!!

(Paul, I received you email and will be in touch very soon...)

All three architectural forms that Brian has shared could be well adapted to today's needs.

The first example is of Slovak traditional folk architecture (slovenský ľudová architektúra.) Many of these styles would lend themselves to "walk out" bank architecture.

The second form is predominantly earth architecture. The Atlas Mountain region's architecture, in and around the Bouguemez valley are very beautiful. Earth architecture of North Africa is very diverse and ancient examples of vernacular systems of building with limited resources.

The third example reflects the stone, timber, and earth based architecture of the Ottoman Empire are some of the oldest "undocumented" timber frame and log architecture in the world. One "was" in Syria and "was" over 7000 years old...

Of all the Turkish architectural types, those on the edge of the Balkans and the Black Sea region of Safranbolu area present as a true archetype in vernacular architecture of the Middle East. Their architectural "wheels" need no reinvention and are well proven for durability and "good practice" in architecture. UNESCO listed Safranbolu Houses as a World Heritage item in 1998. One of my students in traditional timber framing (Erkin Nasar) has just moved back there with his father. I have loved and had a relationship with this region of the world for a very long time, and the "square" footprint styles of these homes are beautiful...Here is another view of one below...and this link here has many more...


 
Bill Bradbury
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Hi Paul,
Coming back to your design; I think there are many traditional systems that could be incorporated, but you may have to use OPC in your foundation system in order to satisfy code officials. This would be in the form of a rebar reinforced footing and then stacking a fully grouted and rebar reinforced stem wall built with ICF blocks(hopefully not foam) and then to achieve the look of a more traditional/natural build, face the exposed portions with stone.

I would then build a timber frame on that and infill and overlay with clay/straw, plastered with lime/clay inside and out. A 12 inch wrap of clay/straw has been evaluated at R-19, code minimum, but will perform much better than that because of the mass wall effect. I'll bet a guy like you could field a hell of a labor force for the packing!

I salvage and rebuild old windows and doors for an affordable alternative to cheapy PVC windows and steel clad doors. Most of the time they are free.

My favorite homes are from Greene and Greene; check out the Bandini house. I love the "U" shape with a small pond in the large courtyard. http://www.usc.edu/dept/architecture/greeneandgreene/111.html

All Blessings,
Bill
 
Paul Wertenberger
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Bill,

Thank you for the latest picture of the "u" shaped house. No you have me rethinking my plans. Here is what I'm thinking:

1. Open the "u"to the south, so in a map view since north is always up, I'll refer to it as an n

2. In looking at the n the right leg will have the walk out basement, (probably the durosil ICF)

3. The top of the n (north side) mabe a cellar area

4. The left side would be a crawl space

5. Now to figure out the main floor layout.

I hope to sketch this up today and post it for comment


Paul
 
Paul Wertenberger
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site layout 4-21-15

The link above should be a jpg of my site layout with the current "U" shaped house layout.

I apologize for not having a site that hosts my photos. If the link above doesn't work please let me know.

Paul
 
Paul Wertenberger
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I'm trying to post a sketchup view of the drawing. Or a link to my 3dwarehouse.

<iframe src="https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/embed.html?mid=u60e77bd1-03db-4e89-aa23-53e52ea87e9e&width=400&height=300" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" width="400" height="300" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Paul

[url=<iframe src="https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/embed.html?mid=u60e77bd1-03db-4e89-aa23-53e52ea87e9e&width=400&height=300" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" width="400" height="300" allowfullscreen></iframe>]sketchup[/url]

 
Paul Wertenberger
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Hopefully there is now an image of the layout of my site plan for our house attached to this post.

The Pole shed is already there (has been for 50 yrs). The site for the house was a barn that due to ignorance and neglect fell down.

I will post more images if this works.

Paul
north-place-sawmill-shed-with-house-6-2-2015.jpg
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This is a view of my existing Sawmill shed and proposed location of our future house.
 
Paul Wertenberger
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In regards to the following pictures, I took them when I was standing where the words WALK OUT are located on the picture in the previous post.

So I am standing 12'- 14' below where the house will sit. In the following pictures I hope to give you a 360deg idea of my location. The rusty old wagon sits where the house will be.

Paul

Ok where are the pictures.... I'll try again..

... ARGH they came in upside down... Off to try again...


... upside down again.... they are right side up on my computer, well I guess I'll turn them upside down on my computer, and try again (3rd time is the charm)
house-location-1.jpg
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Looking up at where the house will sit
House-location-2.jpg
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Looking Northish
House-location-3.jpg
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Beehives and at the far left you can just make out the hog cave
 
Paul Wertenberger
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A continuation of the previous posts. the last 180 degrees

Paul

BTW... I had to save my pictures upside down so that they would post right side up on here

House-location-6.jpg
[Thumbnail for House-location-6.jpg]
Old sileage pit/future hugle
House-location-7.jpg
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Happy cows and goats
House-location-8.jpg
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Back where we started
 
Bill Bradbury
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Hi Paul,

That looks really great! I think that is an excellent site.

Could you please post an enlarged floor plan, I couldn't really see it.

All Blessings,
Bill
 
Paul Wertenberger
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Bill,

Thank you,

Attached should be a sketchup file of what we are working on. The image in the sketchup file is what we are basing our plans on. Since it has been raining here almost non-stop we have been putting in some time on the floor plan. So any advice/suggestions will be taken with consideration. Right now we are working on the layout, then we will merge the layout to fit with timber framing practices/sizes.

We haven't decided on the skin, keep going between Trussed Walls and Clay straw slip. The high humidity (70-90%) during summers concerns me with clay straw slip. But I don't know what I'd insulate the Trussed Walls with?

If you don't use sketchup, let me know and I'll post a better image.

Paul
Filename: n-place-sawmill-shed-with-house-6-2-15.skp
Description: Sketchup file of house plans
File size: 3 megabytes
 
Bill Bradbury
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Hi Paul,

Your floor plan is excellent! I really love the central courtyard design.

I have one thing that I would change, but that's just a preference for simplicity, not a real change. I would eliminate the 1/2 bath by the office so you can look out into the courtyard from the office. This still leaves 3 bathrooms and visitors could use the guest bathroom. Just an idea. Then I also wondered where the mechanical systems will be located and what type of systems you are planning on using.

I love your layout utilizing the central courtyard and separate patios for the master side of the house and the guest/children side. You have a real talent for this!

I know some people in northern California that are in a humid climate and they are quite happy with their light straw/clay/timber frame home. Other infill choices would be; rockwool, MgO, straw/hulls or cellulose. I would go with one of the first 2 in your climate.

All Blessings,
Bill
 
Paul Wertenberger
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Thanks Bill,

I cannot take the credit for the plans, just some that we have found, tweaked, have and will be continuing to customize.

I guess that I need to research rockwool and MgO insulations.

I'm going to have to nail down a floor plan soon so that I can have someone design a timber frame for it, so that I may begin cutting timbers.

The mechanical systems will most likely be in the basement.

Thanks for looking

Paul
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hey Paul...

I have been lurking in the shadows and following along...everything looks great thus far!

Your attached file tells me the "Sketchup" skills are well advanced now.

When you are ready to "talk timber" send me another email and I could "rough up" a draft model to send you for "mussing over." I would love working on that with you. Perhaps even get some of your students involved (??) Your region needs more young Timberwrights..

I checked today, and I was the last to send an email, among the many we have exchanged now...Hope I answered all your questions about the Maru floor you had. I started a dedicated conversation about them here today, as several folks have asked me to do so.

Regards,

j
 
Paul Wertenberger
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Thank you Jay, I will be in touch soon. I hope to get the floor plan completed in the next several days then I will get it sent to you.

Next year I'm teaching a carpentry class that I plan on incorporating some timber framing into.

Paul
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Awesome Paul,

I have worked with a number of schools and voc-tech school program facilitators to develop syllabus for such classes...I actually was just speaking to ours the other day and they are on their third project. I am excited for you and your students, and look forward to hearing from you!

Regards,

j
 
elle sagenev
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You live in Nebraska and you don't want to put in a basement? I'm in Wyoming and I would not even look at a house that didn't have a basement. I value the shelter from tornadoes and you guys get them way way way more than we do.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Elle,

The notion of "having to have one" because of hurricanes or tornadoes is just that...a notion (or feeling.) Can a basement be "sometimes" the safest place in a house...yes. However, this not a reason to go through the expense and trouble of building under a structure unless the building site really makes that easy to do (like walk outs) if one has it in there head they "need one."

If we are speaking of an area with lots of tornadoes I would more than encourage a client to have a good solid traditional root cellar, maybe even with direct access from the house "under ground." Now this type of fossorial architecture is pretty bomb proof against tornado, as basements are not, by a long shot...they are just better than being upstairs when one comes. For real safety from these types of wind events...the root cellar will always be way to go, well beyond a basement...

Just another view to consider...

j
 
Paul Wertenberger
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elle sagenev wrote:You live in Nebraska and you don't want to put in a basement? I'm in Wyoming and I would not even look at a house that didn't have a basement. I value the shelter from tornadoes and you guys get them way way way more than we do.


I don't disagree with your statement, I was just looking for other options. Since the layout of our place works well for a walk out basement, we will have at least a partial basement.
 
Paul Wertenberger
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Jay C. White Cloud wrote:Hi Elle,

If we are speaking of an area with lots of tornadoes I would more than encourage a client to have a good solid traditional root cellar, maybe even with direct access from the house "under ground." Now this type of fossorial architecture is pretty bomb proof against tornado, as basements are not, by a long shot...they are just better than being upstairs when one comes. For real safety from these types of wind events...root cellar will always be way to go, well beyond a basement...

Just another view to consider...

j


I will incorporate a root cellar/shelter into the back of our basement, I don't like the idea of being at the bottom of a house piled on top. So now any sketches of a cellar/shelter incorporated into a basement, maybe with an escape hatch?

Paul
 
elle sagenev
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Jay C. White Cloud wrote:Hi Elle,

The notion of "having to have one" because of hurricanes or tornadoes is just that...a notion (or feeling.) Can a basement be "sometimes" the safest place in a house...yes. However, this not a reason to go through the expense and trouble of building under a structure unless the building site really makes that easy to do (like walk outs) if one has it in there head they "need one."

If we are speaking of an area with lots of tornadoes I would more than encourage a client to have a good solid traditional root cellar, maybe even with direct access from the house "under ground." Now this type of fossorial architecture is pretty bomb proof against tornado, as basements are not, by a long shot...they are just better than being upstairs when one comes. For real safety from these types of wind events...the root cellar will always be way to go, well beyond a basement...

Just another view to consider...

j


Ahhhh don't ruin my delusions. Tornadoes scare the crap out of me and I'd like to think my basement will save me.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Elle,

I am so sorry...I don't mean to be "scary" but it is a bit of a "delusions" that basements are safe. They are safer than staying upstairs and better than nothing.

They are not a reason to build a house around or over them though...not at all.

Even if someone has a basement and cares to actually "be safe" they need a "root cellar" or a specially designed room called a "Safe Room." I have designed a few for folks and there is information all over the internet (good and bad information) about them.

Regards,

j
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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