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Getting around building codes; shotcrete; retaining walls; LOW cost.  RSS feed

 
John Abacene
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Ok, here's the deal - I live in Oregon. I am a poor man, but bery capable and clever.
I can build whatever I need/want with shotcrete one way or the other.
In my area (classified,lol) I do not need a building permit for retaining walls 4ft or less high, or for 'accessory' buildings less than 200 sq ft and under 10ft high.
I can do a lot with this - the problem? I need good, strong sheds (Shotcrete/permanent), but area building codes demand I build a house (avg 600 sq ft min., etc etc) before any 'accessory' buildings.
This is a problem. I am super poor, but can do a whole lot with very little.
I cannot afford to build "their" house, that I don't want anyway (alternative building methods), and I cannot afford to buy even a small mobilehome (trailer, RV, etc not allowed).

I need to get around building codes any way I can!
I live alone, have no intention of renting/selling/etc. and intend to retire and die of old age on the property I will be buying.

- Looking for good ideas/suggestions/etc...

 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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Hello -

I am assuming that you feel a cabin would be to much for you to take on (cabin = 600 sf, no electric, no plumbing, just an outhouse).  A cabin permit only affords you seasonal living, but I would think you could get around this by being shrewd.  Building out of line of sight, in the trees and behind a gate at the road.

You may want to try - Crag's List, Penny Shopper and other 'free' means to advertise
"a place to the store a single, double or triple wide mobile home for free".  Maybe even work a deal with a local used mobile home dealer for temp storage, or something.  Or get someone to donate an old one, just to get it off their property - you haul and install it at the front of your property (decoy don't you know).  I have looked at many properties where I would want the old-junk-mobile hauled away

Best way to get around the codes is to build as far back as possible out of sight, and only have walk-in access, you park at the gate.  The inspectors have to have probable cause (see something) or (have a complaint filed) to access your land.  Get a copy of the laws and research your rights.

Build your cob house using only aged/grey wood, up in the trees, with a green roof that matches the surroundings, and park your car at the decoy mobile next to the road/gate.  You get caught, swear it was there when you bought the place (grandfathered in), and it looked better than that single-wide dump so you moved in..... Make sure your outbuildings have camo green roofs too.

If the inspectors don't think to look for other dwellings, and they don't get alerted by neighbors, aerial photos and such, you can live in peace. 

Good luck

As with many things - see if you cannot work within the system before going renegade.


i don't suggest anyone break any law........ but, if a person was too, the should do it out of sight, and as fast as possible (most inspectors don't work holidays or weekends so a Monday holiday, with starting on a Friday after 5 or so is best) neighbors are the biggest issue, and yes you typically have to show exact blue-prints/plans etc and several rounds of inspections when you apply for a permit, plus there is then a city record of your build-


The main purpose for the permit application is to queue the property up for a 'tax value' evaluation for the county assessor.

I'd apply for a permit to build a lean-to livestock shelter, and then make sure whatever I built looked somewhat like that to a casual observer. The assessor will spend 10 or 20 minutes 'assessing the value' of the improvement, your property tax statement will reflect that, and no one will be the wiser.


Many Tax Assessors and Code enforcement types I know will also use google earth to look at the area they preside over and upon noticing something they haven't seen before or are just curious about will then pay you a visit and find out whats going on.  So be ready with a plausible explanation that doesn't involve inspection.


The county I live in here in Southern Oregon has lots of "illegal" houses. It seems like a lot of folks figure that if it's out of sight from the neighbors and the land agents then they just do what they want. There are lots of great natural, artistic houses around here!

 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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I found the following on http://www.landrights.com/ ; Know your land rights!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
BUILDING PERMITS:

In this Short Article I will attempt to pass on a few points of interest relevant to Local Building Permits.

Inasmuch as a contract consists of three points (Offer, Acceptance & Consideration), it is clear that a building permit is a contract.  Thus it should always be remembered that when you sign your name to a contract it becomes binding and for want of a better term; “You belong!”  So you must always ask for full disclosure of your permit (contract). If you were denied full disclosure, it would appear as if your local government is perpetrating a fraud.  Don’t sign without that “full disclosure”!  Always keep in mind that when you sign for the permit you are giving the local government full control over your property.  Keep in mind that they wrote the rules governing permits.

In your full disclosure request, ask your local representative for the legal documents that allow them to supercede and bypass 42 USC 1982; and/or 42 USC 1441.  Research shows that government officials must have a monetary or proprietary interest in your real or personal property in order to have jurisdiction over it.   Please remember that real property is that which is intangible; (your land or dirt) while personal property is that which can be moved, carried or is tangible; such as your house, car, etc.; 42 USC 1983, protects both kinds of property.

In any event, if you have singed a permit application and they have not tendered you a full disclosure, you may have a legal action for fraud.

If you find any wording in the contract you do not agree with, ask for a straightedge and draw a single line through the letters or words you wish to exclude.  Initial and date the corresponding side of the page.  If the other party signs, it’s a done deal.  What you have drawn a line through shows your rejection of that portion of the contract and as such, that portion is invalid and no longer part of the agreement.  Don’t try and block out the words.  A simple straight line is sufficient.  Government officials are charged with the knowledge of their own rules and are supposed to know the law pertaining to their governmental functions.

All of the above may be worth looking into.  After all, the same government officials have most likely threatened you with jail and/or fines if you did not sign.  Remember that you only signed the application for the permit.  The infractions were then carried forth through verbal allegations of violations.

In closing, it is important to remember that they are not entitled to qualified immunity from liability by asserting a good faith claim relevant to the acts of municipal officials as a defense to a 42 USC 1983 Violation. See, Owen v City of Independence, Missouri, 445 US 622 (1980).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

About Trespassing by government employees:
http://www.landrights.com/trespassing_intro.htm
http://www.landrights.com/trespass.htm
http://www.landrights.com/NoTrespassing.htm
http://www.landrights.com/trespass2.htm
http://www.landrights.com/court_order.htm
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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books chicken duck food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees
 
                                  
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A friend that I met at a recent permaculture class built a canvas dome house about 15' in diameter (it is acutally an incredible structure that took her less than two weeks to construct).  She then found an owner of a vacant 10 acre parcel a ways out of town in a wooded area, pays $100/month and put up her dome.  It is off the road so no one can see her car or her dome.  Then, she went to meet the neighbors, was very socialble until she had a feel for their reactions, and then invited them to dinner.  It is working for her.
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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Can you get any pictures DG?  Or information on how she built it? 
 
                        
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http://inhabitat.com/2010/08/19/eco-emergency-shelter-built-entirely-from-shipping-pallets/

If you are really well organised, have planned out exactly how the thing is to go together and  have been very selective with your pallets you could likely build a pallet house over an intense long weekend. If any of those things are missing, it could take a  LOT longer, esp if you wanted it to look good.and why wouldn't you, if you are going to go to all that work anyway? A building that doesn't alarm the neighbors can save a lot of hassle.

I have no idea if these are code compliant - the wiring would be easy but plumbing might not be..outhouse? composting toilet? portapotti until such time as? inspectors unlikely to be happy with the bucket brigade.. but if you covered the outside with batten boards from dismantled pallets and stained or painted the thing so it looked good (you could tell them you were building  a play house for a niece maybe? at least until you were living in it) I suspect you would have fewer problems with inspectors. Appearance counts for a lot.

There was another one from the Tiny House blog which looked even simpler (and to my eyes nicer, I prefer the traditional style rather than the modern) but I cannot now find it 

The idea of a canvas yurt sound good except that canvas is very expensive.As long as you avoid swiping the few pallets which are reused (they re usually blue or orange, although some simply have the company name branded on them) most places are delighted if somewhat puzzled to give them away. Walmart is ubiquitous and usually is fine about giving away any pallets they dont have to pay a deposit on. They also generally have a weird assortment which if you have the time and PRIVATE space (pallets all over the front yard will not make your neighbors happy and may prompt a visit from some local bylaw officer)..can be organised so you dont need to do a lot or even any cutting to make spaces for windows and so forth. 

Warning that you need a good tape measure though, pallets may LOOK the same  but frequently are not and a couple of inches wider or shorter make give you a world of headaches. Power and a saw will make life a lot easier.dismantling pallets by hand is frustrating and time consuming and sometimes even dangerous.

For vapor wind barrier you can use the  wrap that lumber is wrapped in when transported by truck; they are free everywhere if you can talk someone into saving them for you. I tell people I am using them to cover round  hay bales with (true but not the only thing I do with them). You need to be aware of the holes and rips but usually there is mostly very usable material..and if one  is not usable and needs to go to the landfill, well it was headed there anyway.So not only do you get shelter which costs you basically the transport to get it home and the screws or nails you use to put it together, but you are doing a major good thing in keeping these materials out of the landfills.
 
                        
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Location: Iowa, border of regions 5 and 6
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Any info on where to find plans for building one of these?
 
                        
Posts: 278
Location: Iowa, border of regions 5 and 6
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Pam, I think I found the article you're looking for.  The guy who does Tiny House Blog now has a new site, Tiny Pallet House ( http://www.tinypallethouse.com/ ) which has pictures, drawings, and step-by-step plans on building a pallet house.
 
                            
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Jami McBride wrote:
I am assuming that you feel a cabin would be to much for you to take on (cabin = 600 sf, no electric, no plumbing, just an outhouse).  A cabin permit only affords you seasonal living, but I would think you could get around this by being shrewd.  Building out of line of sight, in the trees and behind a gate at the road.


A cabin like you mention would be perfect for my needs.  I tried to find information regarding cabin permits in Oregon, but couldn't find anything.  Is a cabin permit something you know to exist?  Might it be unique to your county?

Thanks,
Budro
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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I have looked at a couple of properties with cabins on them and seen others advertised, but I haven't looked into building one myself. 

I would just call your local building division and ask about it, call from a pay phone if you want to be anonymous *grin*
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Since I also live in Oregon, I've thought about what the OP asks quite a bit.  Because the authorities DO look for illicit building from the air, it would be difficult to disguise any major project, unless it's well-hidden among large trees.  But I think that if you could get a place framed and then quickly covered with earth (a la mike oehler's PSP system), that might avoid detection for some time.  It would be important to leave as little trace of human presence as possible, though.  Get your mail at a mail-drop place (I think the Post Office requires proof of residency to get a box there); don't make paved paths, and so on.

Kathleen
 
                        
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hmm I thought that the problem was that he HAD to build a structure of at least 600 sq ft to live in before any other buildings..the ones he really wants to have there.. were permitted? If so,  that suggests that somehow trying to hide the building entirely won't do the job.   It sounds to me as though going the cabin route is the best bet  since that would seem to provide the least fodder for the house inspector to  chew on..
   Pompous inspectors full of their own importance can be a pain in the behind but rational ones can be useful in trying to prevent people from killing themselves  with weird wiring that shorts out and causes a fire or roofs that collapse after the first snow. Some of the stuff (photos)  I have seen on the internet in the name of fixing things  is truly scary, and novice homebuilders may not be aware of some of the stresses their home may be asked to deal with.  Not all inspectors are S.O.B.s  just waiting to give people a hard time. many are simply trying to make sure the building is safe.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Pam wrote:
hmm I thought that the problem was that he HAD to build a structure of at least 600 sq ft to live in before any other buildings..the ones he really wants to have there.. were permitted? If so,  that suggests that somehow trying to hide the building entirely won't do the job.   It sounds to me as though going the cabin route is the best bet  since that would seem to provide the least fodder for the house inspector to  chew on..
   Pompous inspectors full of their own importance can be a pain in the behind but rational ones can be useful in trying to prevent people from killing themselves  with weird wiring that shorts out and causes a fire or roofs that collapse after the first snow. Some of the stuff (photos)  I have seen on the internet in the name of fixing things  is truly scary, and novice homebuilders may not be aware of some of the stresses their home may be asked to deal with.  Not all inspectors are S.O.B.s  just waiting to give people a hard time. many are simply trying to make sure the building is safe.


I agree -- we've had to deal with inspectors here, getting our (permitted) garage built, and they were all quite nice.  In fact, in three states I've never yet met a bad one, to be honest.  But I do sympathize with people who desire to build their own home without someone telling them how to do it, or requiring them to pay fees for the privilege!  It's our responsibility to make the structure safe....

Kathleen
 
                                                
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as a person who designs multimillion dollar homes on the shore, but lives in the woods and hates to see the government take any more than they they already do this is a subject near and dear to my heart...let the rich pay taxes for traffic lights, paved roads,....we don't want them-

I do not exactly understand your situation? do you want to live on this land legally? or do you want to live there and have no-one know you are living there?

If it is the latter I would suggest a sub-terranian dwelling, which has a plethora of benefits beyond its inconspicuousness-
does your property have any topographical features? rocky?
 
John Abacene
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Sorry, I have been away for a while - appreciate the interest and input from everyone.

I guess my real concerns/desires/points are as follows:

#1: The prevailing building codes violate common sense in that I want to first build a good, strong storage shed to store necessary materials, tools, etc. - But, they want me to build a house first. - But I need to store the materials necessary to do that, as it in any case will not likely be completed overnight.
#2: What I want to build would be extremely strong, safe, sanitary, and will likely last at least a couple hundred years - but unfortunately that does not necessarily guarantee pleasing the building/code/etc. bureaucrats.
#3: I want to not only build 'green', I have a dual system(s) for (A) Hydroponic Greenhouse and (B) Waste treatment system, also used to feed/water plants, but nothing for human consumption, (although it would work perfectly fine for that as well) but just for growing animal feed or other things/purposes other than for human consumption - I am almost certain that would be a problem, no matter how well designed, built, and working.
#4: I don't like the way things are going in our society in a number of ways, and personally, I don't want people, especially bureaucrats in my business and knowing every detail of my Home (Castle).
#5: Before I can have a lousy storage shed, I first have to build the house (horse before the cart logic), and before I can build a house, I have to first pay for a well - I don't want a well up front, but much later, and prefer to buy/haul/etc. my own water to the site until I am ready for a well.
- I'm sure there will be yet other stupid technicalities having little to do with logic, reality, or respect for my rights, privacy, etc. as I go, that I may be 'informed' of until it is a problem half-way through getting things started or done. If they are going to make this much of a problem and intrusion unto my rights and privacy, and make everything 3 times harder and more expensive than it should be, then they lose my respect and cooperation, and I have to find every last possible loophole and trick to get things done.

I would appreciate as much further input as you guys can offer - especially anything from out in left field, no matter how way-out-there it may be, as the strangest technicality or idea can inspire a possible solution directly or indirectly. - Thank you in advance.

 
Lolly Knowles
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Can you start with a purchased semi trailer?  In many parts of the country they are considered personal property, therefore not subject to land use tax assessment.  Having one placed on your land would provide storage for those things you want to keep under cover and would provide a staging area for future work projects.  Currently a business in my area offers those semi boxes for $500, which is less than the cost of a commercial shed from the big box store that is 1/4 the storage volume.  There should even be room for a RMH/stove/bed.

Then you could get busy fabricating that house from shotcrete and local stone.   
 
Len Ovens
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Lolly K wrote:
Can you start with a purchased semi trailer?  In many parts of the country they are


I have seen many professional contractors using both office trailers (often enough an RV) and ISBUs for storage.
 
John Abacene
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@Lolly K:
If I could find a semi-trailer for that price, it would be an option - the hard side is that I would also have to pay someone to bring it there, and I might even have to go through DMV registration costs and headaches as well - but still an option IF I can/could find one for $500.00 or less.

People have also suggested buying a 40 ft cargo shipping container, but those are always expensive.
In most cases, the cost of buying anything that would be free and clear of code entanglements cost far more than it would cost to just build a damned shed, etc., and in the Klamath Co. Oregon area, it gets damn cold and snowed in in winter, so insulation becomes a major factor, but worse is that such a thing would be vulnerable in warmer months to break-in, because there's nobody around, sometimes for miles.

@Len:
One other code entanglement is that of having "vehicles" or trailers of any sort there, as it seems the code department out there has an issue with that as well.
Your idea is a good one, and worthy of merit, but unlike most code people I hear about on this blog, these guys are anally retentive to the point of rectal implosion. I have to assume the worst in any plan.
They claim that this is one of those situation where the few have ruined it for others, which is a lousy excuse to deny people their due property rights and privacy.

What I guess I really need is to find every last possible technicality in the code so that I can "get away" with doing reasonable things legally enough that they are not likely to be contested.
Example: In Klamath Co. I can build a retaining wall or terrace not exceeding 48" without a permit or pre-qualifications, etc. . This works with most of what I want to do with the property - except building(s); but I have been trying to find ways to build parallel berms, terraces, etc. with retaining walls that could somehow/later be bridged to become part of a building....

- Still open to any other ideas whatsoever guys...
Thanks

 
John Abacene
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The underground or Earth Shelter option plays well into what I want to do, except that I have to plan on prolonged snow drifts in winter of well more than 5 feet.
Key into this the problem some people have with water seeping into their basements, and it means not only very good planning, but possibly unconventional building techniques to absolutely guarantee that won't happen - ever; as you don't want to have to dig up half your home to fix something like that.
- Yet another reason why I want to just be able to build what I want the way I want without twisting everything out of shape to comply with narrow-minded building codes that may not recognize what is actually a superior method of construction.

If I tip my hand by asking for approval on something like this, then my whole property will be suspect for possible underground constructions.  I want a situation where they don't know, and if they do find out, its of such good construction that they cannot fault it and order me to tear it down - or dig it up or fill it in.

 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Creteman, I'm in Klamath County, and while the building inspectors here can be detail-minded, I've found them helpful to deal with for the most part.  I know they've issued permits on a number of strawbale houses (they told me that at the building department, don't remember if I'd even asked), and recently issued an experimental permit for a cob house out in the Bly area.  (I'd like to find out how that project is going.)  I think that if you go in and ask "How can I make this work?" (go at a time when they aren't too busy, like probably this time of the year, so they have time to talk to you), they'll probably be willing to help you figure things out.  I know they do want an engineer's stamp on experimental stuff, but you should be able to find an engineer who is interested in alternative types of construction (I know several engineers, but unfortunately they aren't into alternative stuff yet -- I have hopes of convincing at least one of them one of these days!).  You might talk to some of the teachers and engineering students at OIT. 

They 'say' that you aren't supposed to live on your place in a travel trailer while you are building, we were told that when we asked, but friends who built a house (or had it built) recently not too far from us lived on their place in two travel trailers until they moved into the house.  As far as I know, the inspectors never gave them any grief about it.  I think if you were circumspect about it, and nice to the inspectors, they wouldn't give you any trouble. 

Some of the building codes in this area are to stand up to earthquakes, as we can have bad ones here (had a 7.something in the early '90's that collapsed several buildings and killed a couple of people). 

Where in the county are you?  I haven't seen too many drifts of five feet where we are, and the coldest it's been in the eight years we've lived here is only twelve below (compared with the Interior of Alaska, where I grew up, that's not bad at all!).  It doesn't stay that cold for very long, either.  Usually just a few sub-zero nights each winter.  It's not really all that bad of a climate, IMO. 

Kathleen
 
John Abacene
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@Kathleen:
Unfortunately, it not about "how" to do what I need to do. I t has to be built a certain way to work, period.
If I clue them in to what I want to do, and they decide, for any reason that they do not like it, I am sunk.
I have spoken with people in the area about the travel trailer/RV thing, and most times people aren't bothered simply because the code people don't know about it, and neighbors have not complained.
I know all about Earthquakes, I used to live in SoCal and saw some of the worst they have had first hand.

Example: Most places will not allow you to build anything significant out of stone masonry - using that "excuse" of Earthquake safety. I have over the years, especially in SoCal done significant hiking in areas that years before had been devastated by decades of  major floods, Earthquakes, etc. the remains of old stone masonry houses, many built before there was much of any building code, also burned down by kids/vandals/idiots/etc. who also in some cases did their best to destroy them for kicks, and no matter what had happened, all that remained consistently, were chimneys and walls built of stone masonry, many being built by unskilled people. - yet, the code bureaucrats will not allow any significant stone masonry building, even though its has been proven through time and every disaster to be the strongest, most indestructible, longest lasting method of construction. - I'm sure there are some few walls and such built really wrong that people have seen compromised, but I used to do stone masonry, and although labor intensive, is really fairly simple to do right.

I don;t trust them, because I have to gamble everything to make this thing work, and don't want 'well meaning' bureaucrats to screw it up for me.

 
John Abacene
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NOTE: I did, through anonymous means, discuss certain things with the code department already - and when they will not allow me to build a lousy storage shed for my tools and materials, no matter how/well built, and demand that I first build the house, and before that, that I pay for an expensive well, when all that is putting the cart before the horse, then they lose my trust and respect, and become part of the problem, not the solution.
- I'll be friendly with them alright, because it suits my cause, but they are the not just a problem for me, they are the biggest problem, obstacle, and cause of unnecessary costs of all, beyond anything else whatsoever involved.
 
sam12six Hatfield
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Just throwing out an idea, but would it be possible to build a 600+ "house" with no interior walls, have it inspected and signed off on, then just fill it with the stuff you need for the other buildings instead of living in it?

If they'll let you go with a simple cabin like this, just build it with where you know you want a barn and add your REAL house to the property whenever you feel like it.
 
John Abacene
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@sam12six:
A very good idea indeed. In fact, it has already been a serious consideration of mine.
Only two possible problems with it: (1) The zoning only allows for "One" House/Home only. (Again, none of their damned business as far as I'm concerned) which leads to the issue, that if I were to want a "better House", would they allow that? Would they demand that I tear the original down? Would they demand somethng else to render it "not a house" or unlivable or something I dunno, and could not get an answer on that when I suggested it.
(2) It would mean extra cost, expense, etc, and would delay doing what I should be able to do in the first place. - But still, so far, the best idea I have heard or come up with yet - so yes, thank you for that idea.
I would not mind having an extra "eluxe" Storage shed by any means - once again, its all about what the bureaucrats allow.  To an extreme, maybe I could build the first "Simple?" house, and then, after building what else I wanted, say, "Oops, it fell down! I have to now build another!" - or what I wanted to build in the first place - also means a lot of extra time, work and expense, but in the end, might be the best that I can do. Thanks sam12six.

I have heard of a difference between a "seasonal" "Cabin" and a "House/Home" as far as codes and requirements are concerned, but have not found anything definitive about that yet.

I have also been considering if its possible to construct a "Period" / "Historical" adobe (Concrete?) Pueblo, like in the old west, which, if possible, might be a loophole for me, but that is just wild guessing on my part...

- Still looking for loopholes, technicalities, etc. no matter how strange, folks....

 
sam12six Hatfield
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To an extreme, maybe I could build the first "Simple?" house, and then, after building what else I wanted, say, "Oops, it fell down! I have to now build another!" - or what I wanted to build in the first place - also means a lot of extra time, work and expense, but in the end, might be the best that I can do.


In a worst case scenario, you might have to do this.

I was thinking something more along the lines of telling them you're dissatisfied with the current structure as a home and want it legally converted from house to barn so you can start a new one. Obviously, whether this is an option depends on whether you're dealing with one of the a-holish inspectors who do things like insist you tear down your mailbox before he'll issue you a permit to put it back up.

Local regulations vary, but generally the primary difference between seasonal and all year dwelling is size. Codes for electrical/plumbing may differ between the 2, but no one says you have to have either. What I'm saying is if you have electrical and plumbing, you might be forced to install the systems to the more stringent code requirement, but not having them at all might be OK.

Anyway, I still think this line of thought is your best bet. Moving in a mobile home probably won't save money since they don't allow you to move the really old trailers you can get for next to nothing.

If repurposing the building is not feasible, I'd say build the absolute cheapest thing they'll accept as a home, build your other structures, then burn that sucker down.

I'm not advocating insurance fraud, just saying that sometimes you have to do something outrageous to comply with a bureaucracy.

For example:

Once I had a cell phone that was a lemon. The antenna would come off after a couple of days - it was insured and they would repair it free. After the 4th trip to have it repaired, I told them, "I don't want it repaired. I want it replaced since the previous repairs didn't fix the problem." (My insurance also covered free replacement for any reason).

After getting the runaround because the guy insisted that their regulations would not allow them replace a phone that it was possible to repair. I walked out the door, threw the phone up against the wall, picked up the pieces, and went back in and told him, "I need this phone replaced. It got destroyed."

The guy says, "Sir, that wasn't necessary!!"

My response: You wouldn't replace it before when I asked. You're going to go in the back and get me a replacement now, right? Apparently it was necessary.
 
                        
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If they have already allowed straw bale construction, then why not go with that? Straw bale is very very stable in earthquakes. Tell them you are using cisterns and composting toilets if they want to know...and recycling greywater into a "vegetative treatment system" as the researchers named them when talking about what they are researching what to do with feedlot runoff (and what solviva did).

I would be leery of building something and then applying for another permit and telling them the first one fell down Seems to me that would be asking for very "involved"  building inspectors for any future building that was to be done
 
John Abacene
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@Pam:
You may be right about the "Fell down" and possible resulting intensive inspection thing. - Maybe I could say "I just didn't like it, so I tore it down"

Re: "Vegetative treatment system" - are you aware of any actual codes/allowances for that?
I have already run into problems with a composting toilet design - not only with code technicalities, but also that it does not work for me. I would either go with a "Treatment" system of some sort, or  a regular septic system combination with similar.
I already have plenty of plans regarding composting of all kinds of other stuff - compost and processed soil will likely not be a problem, but possibly a surplus.

I have checked into straw bale, and am not convinced of its long term viability.
Organic matter breaks down after a time, period. You also cannot guarantee that you would not be importing little crawlies into your walls that could cause problems eventually.
Straw bale would also cost more than what I have planned, and drastically affect the size of the walls, design, and floor space. You pay property taxes partially based on the square footage of your home, and I have better things to do with the space of bales then to just have a really fat walls - and if I want really fat walls, they will likely be insulated concrete walls, or double walls with some kind of synthetic insulation in them.

I also checked into treating straw bales with some kind of cement or clay or something cheap that I could douse them in to seal and preserve them, but the experts say that anything involving water would likely trigger decomposition.  They may insulate like crazy, but I am not concerned about that, my designs already cover it.

Thank you for the input though, I appreciate every attempt at a new, different, or unconventional idea.
- Keep them coming, folks, I really appreciate everyone's input, and am still hungry for more...
 
Jami McBride
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Something seems a miss with the situation.... I too live in Oregon and many many properties are just roughed in with a barn or shop and no house.  Of course your right about the (1) developed water source, (2) electric in and proper road w/ fire truck turn around, First.  But no house, so maybe if you had the proper pre-development done the shed/barn wouldn't be an issue.

This is especially true when zoned Farm Forest, Farm Ranch or other rural property use zoning.  Is your land zoned R-5, this may be a problem too, just a possibility, throwing things out there like you say.

And I wonder.... if you build something off site, something pre-fab in six large pieces, camofloage color.... much like a hunting blind *grin* and brought it on-site at dusk to assemble on the down low, behind trees, no line of site from the road.  Maybe you could have your shed 

It is hunting season here in good old Oregon you know!

Edit: typo
 
John Abacene
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@Jami McBride:
? "developed water source" - is there a "developed water source" other than a well
I'd like to be able to get away with a big water tank or reservoir...

As far as the properties with just barns and such, I have been told that most or all of them were 'Grandfathered' or older constructions, and that the code has been updated since they came to be - if that is wrong, I sure would like to know.

Re: Electric/Utilities - that would be solar, windmil, and hopefully Biogas digester natural gas, possibly supplimented with collected fryolator oil (Except that there may be soime local biodiesel outfit monopolizing the market on that) - Resources in that regard are not a problem. I might also get a propane tank, just to keep the bureaucrats happy.
Lighting would be pretty much exclusively LED and sola tube kinda stuff.

Re: Road with fire truck turn-around? That's required? - Not really a problem, but I guess I have not yet studied that far into the codes - more info on that would be great.
It's zoned as rural residential, one home - whatever that is. I have not bought the property yet, I am doing all the planning first and looking for just the right lot.

Good idea on the storage shed, but I need something that vadals and thieves cannot break into - which means good old concrete.







 
Jami McBride
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? "developed water source" - is there a "developed water source" other than a well Huh
I'd like to be able to get away with a big water tank or reservoir...


Yes, a developed spring or creek.  Developed being a pump, pump house, tank, etc.

As far as the properties with just barns and such, I have been told that most or all of them were 'Grandfathered' or older constructions, and that the code has been updated since they came to be - if that is wrong, I sure would like to know.


Hum... then they just changed the codes because I've seen really new-ish barns, but that is possible.  So have your insider ask them what is done on range and farm land - I know they have permits for seasonal help, like with timber, cattle and crops.  Again it's a zoning thing.

And I know that if you prove you are week, sick or old and need to have ranch/farm help full time (and have more than 11 acres) they will let you divide off a floating 5 acres for a second dwelling for the 'help'.  However, you need separate septic and other concessions may apply, but it's a way to grandfather in multi-family zoning. There used to be a special zoing for this too, and I don't know how it's done now, but it is done.

Re: Electric/Utilities - that would be solar, windmil, and hopefully Biogas digester natural gas, possibly supplimented with collected fryolator oil (Except that there may be soime local biodiesel outfit monopolizing the market on that) - Resources in that regard are not a problem. I might also get a propane tank, just to keep the bureaucrats happy. Lighting would be pretty much exclusively LED and sola tube kinda stuff.


Because you want to pass on all the 'modern' conveniences - I would think cabin, outhouse and/or seasonal dwelling for the research on permits.  Yes, they are not year round living permits, but that's where I focus my loophole hunting after the fact.

Re: Road with fire truck turn-around? That's required? - Not really a problem, but I guess I have not yet studied that far into the codes - more info on that would be great.


If the property is not flat and open, if it is really wet and muddy in the winter they require you put in a proper road to your dwelling and have a turn around (large rocked parking-lot) at the end of that road.  If you are within certain areas where they have volunteer FD they may let you sign off on using the FD and so your on your own, but I haven't check into this myself.  A proper road can be very expensive. 

And with the other things covered above sometimes you just have to pay for the permit and then just not use it.

It's zoned as rural residential, one home - whatever that is. I have not bought the property yet, I am doing all the planning first and looking for just the right lot.


That's another thing, because they make everyone get a septic approval permit they have to come out and approve your build site.  I know what a monster pain, don't get me started...... all of this is why people just get a dump single wide, park it next to the property access, hook it to power, water, etc. and then build off in the woods.  The trailer can be gutted after the inspectors have signed off and used for your shed.

Good idea on the storage shed, but I need something that vadals and thieves cannot break into - which means good old concrete.


You still going at this to upfront, I want to do what I want to do..... find ways to hide what you want to do, behind what they will let you do.  Find ways to work with them.....


 
John Abacene
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I should have mentioned this before, but many of the places I am looking do not have much in th way of trees - so I cannot rely on using them for cover.

Let me put it this way...
I have certain strategies to do exactly what I want, in ways that the bureaucrats will never find out, but I dare not take the slightest risk of even hinting at them publicly.
I would rather not have to take that road, and am looking for every smallest technicality and loophole to find the perfect plan to:
(A) Build what I want, that is:
(B) Something they will, or will have to approve, and:
(C) Will result in no further future cause for any further involvement on their part in my plans or property.

One thing I should make note of here is that someone suggested "Just" getting an engineer/architect to sign off on what I design.  It sounds like a great idea; but I wonder just how much it would cost

 
                        
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creteman wrote:

I have checked into straw bale, and am not convinced of its long term viability.
Organic matter breaks down after a time, period. You also cannot guarantee that you would not be importing little crawlies into your walls that could cause problems eventually.
Straw bale would also cost more than what I have planned, and drastically affect the size of the walls, design, and floor space. You pay property taxes partially based on the square footage of your home, and I have better things to do with the space of bales then to just have a really fat walls

I also checked into treating straw bales with some kind of cement or clay or something cheap that I could douse them in to seal and preserve them, but the experts say that anything involving water would likely trigger decomposition. 



Your point about the wall thickness is certainly valid but the other points not so much. They do have to be kept as dry as possible and be allowed to breathe so that any moisture that gets into them can get out again. So they should be coated with a lime plaster and NOT  with cement or there will likely be problems.

That said, straw bale houses have been around in the States for 100 years. In Europe, compacted mixes of loose  or chopped straw and  light clay slip have been used for hundreds of years, and many of those buildings are still in use. Some people now are using wood chips instead of straw. Most  today seem to incorporate borax or some such for both fire and varmint  protection.

With the light clay mixes it's possible to make panels. Once compacted and thoroughly dried, they can be used like any other panels, nailed, sawn (dusty!!!) etc. So you could have walls half the thickness of a straw bale.  These are not structural, of course, only infill. 

Only thing is you do have to make sure any  of these are completely dry before sealing  with plaster, and in Oregon that might become an issue in some areas with lots of summer rain. Not suggesting you should do any of this,  just  sayin'.

It sounds to me as though the inspection people are actually mostly pretty open minded  if they are allowing straw bale  and cob buildings. However, I'd suggest that you don't approach them with the idea that they "will have to approve" because if they feel you are challenging them they may well decide to accept the challenge and make your life as miserable as possible.

If on the other hand, you try to see them as just trying to do their job and they'd likely be willing to try to help you if they could, they may well react that way. Most everyone is just trying to get through the day these days.

The thing is, though, that if what you want to do is really uncommon or weird, (I'm assuming you aren't intending to do anything too antisocial) be aware that a whole lot of people have nothing better to do than to try to make sure nobody does anything that THEY disapprove of, and privacy is almost an unknown these days. In that event you might do better to find somewhere that hasn't got any restrictions (or near neighbors).

 
Jami McBride
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Many rural counties in Kansas have no building codes, plus the state is loosing people and therefore taxes so don't buy land there until you've made a sweet tax deal with your county seat    of choice.
 
Peter DeJay
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I've been reading this thread wit some interest and felt compelled to add my perspective.

I'm a builder in Jackson Co. Oregon and like most people have said on here, I have had great and sometimes exceptional experience with inspectors. The only exception being inside the city limits of Ashland, where there is the added hassle of a Hysterical (Historical) Society overlooking the building dept. Even though there are some ridiculous codes out there, most of them are in place for basic "common" sense reasons, and for everyones safety.  I empathize with the whole "not wanting to be told what to do on my land" mindset. For their part, they just want to make sure that you aren't a unibomber or someone trying to make a meth lab. If you approach them as human to human, tell them that you are trying to create a sustainable minimal impact homestead on minimal income. Being upfront and honest, or even just conveying the image of transperency, i.e. that you are not trying to dodge codes or cut yourself off from society, then they will have little interest in you. I have built a large agricultural warehouse in the applegate totally unpermitted, with electric and septic hookup, and went back a year later to permit it, and they didnt even tack on extra fees. I took photos of things before i sealed the walls up and was just up front and honest about everything, and once they saw that things were done safely and up to code, that was all they were worried about.

I agree with Pam, in that light clay/straw would be my recommendation for this project. It is easy to do and to do low tech, although it usually is done in conjunction with timber frames or a lightly framed wall. I like it better then straight strawbale in that it is compact when dried, super dense, yet much lighter then cob. There are several homes in the process of being built in Ashland where you can take a good look at this process, I would highly recommend checking them out.

I think it would be easy to build a structure that constitutes a "home" in that it has a kitchen, living/sleeping area, and a bathroom, and yet still be able to gut it if/when you decide to do another structure. Especially if you are planning on having a septic system anyway. I'm pretty sure most places you can have seperate livable structures permitted for "seasonal" occupation, i.e. having farm labor. I think 9 months is "seasonal." Another idea is see what it takes to permit a classroom or treatment room.

And lastly, if even this much involvement is too much, there is hope for you yet! In northern New Mexico, especially near a beautiful high mountain town called Taos, is a place where you can buy vast acreage for relatively little, averaging about $1000-$2000/acre, with literally no building, zoning or fire codes. People are building some of the most wild and creative "homes" there, in fact it is this area that spawned the Earthships. Of course the land is scrubrush, so you'll have to get creative about water, but its restriction free!
 
John Abacene
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@rhymeswithorange:
Your input about the code bureaucrats is almost encouraging.
- But if I can show that I am one of the good guys, that I really don't need a well, and that I really do need to build a sturdy shed FIRST - do you think they will actually allow me to? I doubt it.
Would you say that if I just went and built without a permit, not being a local contractor/builder, and build a shed under 200 sq. ft. and a greenhouse without asking them first, that they would give me their blessing? I doubt that very, very much - but if you do think so, by all means, tell me more!

As far as any clay or straw in my building, it is simply not going to happen.
Most of the material I need is already there - sand, gravel, rocks, pumice, lava rock, maybe even sandstone. Sift and proportion them out, add cement and little of this and that, and I have just what I want. - Using organic material in concrete, never. I simply will not do it. I have plenty of other uses that need that anyway. Clay is another expense I do not need, and I also have better uses and needs for that if I were to come across it, sift it out, or buy it.

The rest of what you say is also somewhat encouraging, my reservation being that if/once I commit, if they are not so wonderful and cooperative, I will be hopelessly screwed - and I do not like going into something where I know there may be a risk, and taking twice the risk making assumptions and then later regretting it and too late to back out of it and try again. - Been there, done that, too many times.

If you have other examples of unusual things done with either the cooperation, support or forgiveness of the code bureaucrats, I am all ears and eager to hear it.

 
Travis Toner
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Location: Tokyo
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I know I am trying to figure out the best route to take for a low cost, healthy efficient living space, when it comes to dealing with the local authorities, and I think there are a lot of people who are in my situation, we don't exactly know how to approach the whole thing.

I would love to hear more of people stories of alternative green building and dealing with building officials.
It would be great to hear how your region and and how far out in "BFE" you built your place affected the process, and how strict the building codes are in your area.

Also, if anyone has ever extremely modified an existing structure that was pretty dilapidated, but had a pretty solid frame- it would be great to hear about that. It seems something like that would be pretty easy to get away with as long as none of the neighbors in your rural setting gets too nosy.
 
P Thickens
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Location: Bay Area, California (z8)
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String a hammock where you want your shed.

Grow a garden in front of the hammock with a hedge between the garden and the hammock.

Behind the hedge, whip up an lean-to/awning over your hammock. Trellis and vines, canvas, whatever.

Wait until the hedge grows tall enough to hide the hammock and is taller than the shed will be. Behind the hedge and under the awning, slap up your shed, out of sight of lookyloos from the street or space.

Then get on with the next building step.

Once everything is up to code and nobody can tell what order things happened in, get permits for everything. Done.
 
Terre Tulsiak
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I just want to mention that where I live in Florida the code allows for you to build a shed prior to the house as long as it's 'temporary'. Meaning it could be disassembled? I'm not sure but that was told to me in explanation as to why the utility company had an easement, but you can have a shed on it as long as you're willing to move it for them to change out poles- every 15 years or so. That being said, when they did change out the pole behind my house, instead of using easement which meant rolling up the neighbor's chain link fence, they used their new 250,000k robot to roll over my papaya and date palm trees instead.....c'est la vie
 
roya miller
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Hey, I'm trying to do the same thing in San Bernardino CA and was wondering if you found any info about the seasonal cabin idea. I've tried to look it up but have found no code/permits or material related to it. Did you end up building a structure? did you get it permitted or keep it under the radar? From all my research it seems like we have to do it on the DL and hope no one catches us. Just hoping for a miracle loophole over here.
 
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