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bermed/underground mobile home

 
Posts: 3
Location: Plainwell, United States
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hi all..... In Mike Oehler's book he made a short statement ...a couple pages ... about placing a mobile home underground with beamed support system surrounding it. My question... has anyone ever done this or investigated it enough to know if it would be a sound idea??? Since reading his book a few years ago, this idea has been milling around in my thoughts off and on. There is no information like it anywhere I have found on the net. SO I thought maybe someone here may have an idea.
My idea would be setting/backing a mobile home(which would already have all wiring, plumbing etc..as opposed to shipping container) under a beamed and concrete walled structure that has been earth bermed. The structure would be built with openings somehow for the windows( for emergency escapes system and light). Then with the front being open it could be turned into an enclosed greenhouse of some sort. This may then be a cheaper way to have an underground home/mobile home(used mobile homes can be found relatively inexpensive) and a safer mobile home living.  Any thoughts or ideas???
thanks for any input...
Teresa
 
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Many people here hate the synthetic stuffed mobile home as a permanent residence.
The structure you describe to surround and enclose the mobile home is far along towards having a full residence.
Parking the mobile home in that structure might stall any process of conversion.
If are OK with living in a mobile home long term you want to improve the insulation or thermal mass on it, there are probably cheaper ,easier and greener ways of do one so than a concrete reinforced underground/better structure.

Your mention of a green house reminds me of a couple who built one and moved the mobile home inside.
The green house buffered them from cold and wet,gave them a huge amount of additional living space,and they used it as a place to set up their wood burning stove,a device not often welcome in old fire prone mobile homes.


 
Teresa Priley
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thanks for your reply and ideas William.... yea I am not too keen on living in a mobile home again either(had one when I was younger and living in town) but am looking for a way to inexpensively create an underground home. Some here have talked up the shipping container method but don't see much difference... they are both steel buildings and the mobile home comes equipped with all that one needs to start living in it.
The idea about moving one into a greenhouse sounds good but not too much safer in tornado prone area such as Michigan.... which is why the idea to start.
thanks again....
 
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This is a link to an article about a family in Sweden that has a house inside of a greenhouse.
You can also find videos about this specific house on youtube.
http://inhabitat.com/naturhus-an-entire-house-wrapped-in-its-own-private-greenhouse/

Edit: I see that greenhousing your mobile isn't a good option for you, but maybe someone else will find the link useful.
 
William Bronson
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Ah, tornado's, got it!
Now the desire to burrow makes sense.
Yeah, compared to a cargo container, a mobile home or even RV seems way better.
Cargo containers aren't strong enough to bury without needing similar protection as a mobile home,and the cargo containers are just  boxes.

So for the price of a walk out basement you make your used mobile home tornado resistant.
As for the penetrations to allow escape/light,etc, I think making the concrete space twice as large as the mobile home would be better.
That would leave space for escape and light could enter via the greenhouse side.


 
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Someone did this in an episode of doomsday peppers.  No dirt or walls touched the walls or roof  of the mobile home. It was big enuff to have a small swingset "outside" the mobile home, albeit still underground.
 
Teresa Priley
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thanks guys... and Wayne I will have to go find that episode of Doomsday Preppers to see what they did....thanks.  Sounds similar to what I was thinking... but maybe tad bigger...
 
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This is similar to what I intend to do. I live in a 40' travel trailer. I intend to build an Oehler style structure around it with wood, leaving one end with a wooden wall to the outside that I can dismantle.
 I intend to have a greenhouse hallway along the southern side, with a second layer of windows to the house to buffer the heat.
 The kitchen and living room will be built, then the RV pulled out and bedrooms built in its place.

 I think it is very doable and I've already drawn up plans on paper to do it.
 
Jeff Higdon
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My site is a steep hill sloping to the North west. The house will be bermed on the north with uphill patio to east, greenhouse to south and daylight ground level to west.
 
pollinator
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Interesting idea, though you need to be a little careful if you think a mobile home and a shipping container are similar.  Yes, they are both steel but the container is by far stronger and has much better paint on it than the mobile home.  The SC was designed to endure salt water and rough environments, the MH only rain, snow, sleet etc.  The SC will hold upwards of 60,000 pounds on top if it...the MH...my guess is that a MH would not hold the weight of a small economy car on its roof.  Yes, the MH is "pre-built" but I would also have reservations about the kinds of materials present in them - how safe are they?  If it is fairly new and you are  putting it within a relatively air tight space, the off gassing that happens with some materials used in MH's will have no where to go but into you

Just saying....
 
pollinator
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Tom Connolly wrote:Interesting idea, though you need to be a little careful if you think a mobile home and a shipping container are similar.  Yes, they are both steel but the container is by far stronger and has much better paint on it than the mobile home.  The SC was designed to endure salt water and rough environments, the MH only rain, snow, sleet etc.  The SC will hold upwards of 60,000 pounds on top if it...the MH...my guess is that a MH would not hold the weight of a small economy car on its roof.  Yes, the MH is "pre-built" but I would also have reservations about the kinds of materials present in them - how safe are they?  If it is fairly new and you are  putting it within a relatively air tight space, the off gassing that happens with some materials used in MH's will have no where to go but into you

Just saying....



I wouldn't be concerned about the weight it could hold in comparison to the shipping container because nothing is going to be touching the top of it.  I would be concerned about the outgassing.  If I were going to do this I would make sure I had very good ventilation built into the outer structure.  Of course, the larger the structure around the mobile home, the less risk involved with fumes.

As an aside, shipping containers can hold a huge amount of weight above them, but only if all the weight is supporting directly by the support structures built into the corners.  If you pile weight onto the roof of the shipping container, they are very weak.  All the containers I have seen for underground use have large girder support systems welded into them to overcome that deficiency.
 
pollinator
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You could look at how Ark Two built their fall out shelter/bunker with school buses as inspiration.

http://www.radmeters4u.com/arktwo/photoconstruct/photocon.htm



Or here is a slide show of someone prepping and burying a short bus.


School busses are way over engineered for roll over safety due to carrying children. Which makes them actually fairly able to handle being buried.
 
Jeff Higdon
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My idea with the RV is not to make it part of the structure. The structure will be an Oehler style pole building underground. The purpose of putting the Rv underground is to immediately have the benefits of heating and cooling from being underground and fully functional until the remainder of the structure is built.
 
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So glad that there is a thread about this concept already.

Over the past year I have been looking into building an earth berm(underground) house. However, the events this year have proven to make things difficult. Between the virus struggle and the political turmoil it was hard to catch a break, and much harder to scrounge up materials. Seeing as housing materials, especially wood costs have become much more expensive. The reason behind this is not clear, whether it is simply shrewd business men taking advantage of the hurricanes, or if it is a more politically motivated action it has not made things any easier. Strange times indeed…

After scrounging up all of the materials I can over the past 6 months through auctions, salvaging, and searching I now see that even if I go with the earth-carpet floor, it will be no small feat to get enough wood for the walls and roof of the structure.

Reading through this thread seeing people mention concrete really worries me because concrete is not cheap, nor is it fun to work with. Mike Oehler hated the stuff.

If someone wanted to follow the Wofati-Oehler design how could they do it with a mobile home? The trailer structure is not load-bearing at all. Someone mentioned in this thread laying a small car on top of one would cause it to collapse, so putting support beams is a must. Also a shed roof is a must. seeing as the current roof is somewhat flat. Putting the beams straight through the walls of the trailer would not be easy… beams would have to be outside of the trailer. Would it be possible to lay poly against the back of the trailer and backfill or would that cause the pressure to break the walls? Would there still need to be some sort of shoring between the posts? perhaps that is simply a question of whether or not the walls of a trailer can withstand any weight behind them. The trailer is 50 feet by 12. Please offer any suggestions or info you can, Although if you are going to tell me trailers suck, trust me I know. But you know whats worse than trailers right now? Wood prices, and if things keep going this way getting my hands on all the necessary materials to build an underground house right is not going to be possible.

What it reminds me of is the wofati shed that they built, simply a cheap underground structure devoid of moisture… however I do not have nearly that many logs, so how would I get around that fact?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkIglvErt3w&ab_channel=Dirtpatcheaven
 
Jeff Higdon
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I don’t think you would be able to include the mobile home in any structural load bearing way. It would just save you money on interior walls and infrastructure.
 As far as wood goes for making a berm shed to put the trailer inside you’ll have to scrounge.  In my area there are lots of pine trees. The trees are planted very thickly, then someone buys a property and decides they want to put a house on it, so they “park” it out, thinning out the small 3” diameter trees for fire prevention and to make it so you can look through the forest.   Many people in my area will cut these trees for people and then haul them to a fence post mill to be made into fence post. There is even a government program that will pay the tree cutter to do this. Those trees would be the perfect size to use for roofing a berm shed.
 For larger logs, perhaps talk to tree trimmers and see if you could haul off trees they cut down, just tell them what diameter and length you want and you’ll have to be quick about getting out to them.  This will require a flatbed trailer or a very heavy duty rack on a pickup. A lot of tree trimmers have skid steers they can use to load you.
 Also, developers clear house lots or commercial building lots. They will pile up the logs to burn and they are often free for the asking.
 Another source is right of way crews that maintain power line right of ways.
 Right after storms there are often many trees blown down that are free for the taking. In our area there are state and national forest. If the tree is on state or federal land and it blows down into the road right of way, it’s fair game. Saves the state the money of dealing with it.
 Another source is pallet materials. Some areas have companies that produce a ton of pallets and crates. Some crates use 10-12’ long 4x4’s. This could be repurposed into decking for a roof.   A pallet breaker tool can be purchased at Home Depot or online for taking the slats off efficiently, and an air denail gun will make quick work of removing the nails from the slats so they can be reused.
 Another great source for wood is tearing down houses or barns. Be careful here though, it’s easy to get in over your head!  It is a LOT of work!  However, if you have the time you can do a little every day after work for a few months and you’ll have a pile of lumber that is well cured. Old homes often have rough cut lumber, and some have 1x12 decking on the roof that would work very well for decking your roof and sides.  I helped tear down an old Victorian home one time that had really nice lumber in it.  An uncle did this as well, tearing down several houses, and built three houses for himself and his two sons.
 With resourcefulness you will be able to come up with the materials. Make sure to protect the materials well, put pallets on the ground to stack the lumber flat in so it’s protected from ground moisture and doesn’t warp. Billboard tarps can be purchased for about $50 online and make excellent heavy duty tarps to protect everything with. If you know someone at an outdoor advertising company you might even get them for free, but if you do don’t let anyone know about it!  Your source will be dried up in no time.
 
pollinator
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I had this idea looking over the boat section of Craigslist, you know boats that are without titles (and people abandon boats all the time) can go cheaply sometimes, and smaller ones even go free for the hauling.
The interior is essentially a tight little mini apartment with bathroom,  forward v berth, small sink, and often the bones of an electrical system in place.  Especially once you get up to around the 30' length  some
fairly decent amenities can be had.  I dont mean to say it would make a perfect home for the long term, but as an apartment for guests, or particularly an emergency shelter in Tornado county, a 30 foot sailboat backhoed into a protective mound of earth would probably be pretty rugged in a bad squall and fairly easy to plant over to conceal from prying eyes.  In quiet times the mast might serve to function to mount a windmill generator or just a flag, to make it less obtrusive. In the USA,  FL, TX and the Chesapeake Bay area, they are often seen.

Somewhat bothersome to tow however, but if there's one in the neighborhood mouldering away....
 
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Shipping containers only hold the weight on the corners.  A 40’ high Cube max load weight is roughly 72,000 lbs, can only be lifted by the corners or fork skid center bottom.  If you are going to build subterranean with one you have to encase it in reinforced concrete.  At that point why not just build a reinforced concrete structure?  
 
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Moisture...it would have to be a really failsafe layered system with built in humectants to keep not only moistude from air inside outside and from the earth.  What a rotten way to discover inadequate moisture barriers in place have failed...house disintegrates underfoot.  

Not saying it cannot be done at all, I find it intriquing frankly.  Better still, thosecwhobare innovati e, creative and handy, design and build a MOLEblehome (pat..pat--♡h clever me!) out of moisture/mold/mildew resistant materials including from every aspec considered, researched, tested, scourced.  

I propose a Kickass Kickstart funded Permies involved Consortium of everyone's creative ideal be melded into a Permies logistic/design team.  Kind of like a Permies coming together as one to make this happen.  Mo
 
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Look up the reasons why mobile  homes are... well, mobile homes. Its because the building standards are lower for them than for other structures, and thats because they can be  unhooked from utilities, raised up, axels and wheels put on them, and away we go to the next destination.

Its a decent concept, in theory, but not such a  good one in practice.  From my experience, it does not take much to  make them collapse; after living in a used one that sustained wind damage and had a couple of walls removed after purchase and set up, and repaired, and  the weight of the roof still made the walls bow out away from the frame out of the bottom, I would actually tell you to NOT DO THIS.

Unless you put in a surrounding  support system of 6 by 6's and strong metal sides and roof, and  the heavy rubber liner to keep any and all moisture away from the mobile home itself, and I mean SUPERIOR air flow and SUPERIOR moisture prevention techniques, you are going to have a moldy, falling in mess on your hands in about 10 years.

I have lived in older mobile homes for years, and even above ground, they weren't ever the best of the best. We had leaks, mold issues, etc. with them.

Shipping containers, that have steel supports, and are used for transport and shipping good, will bow inside it pressure, like from  compacted earth, is pushed up against them form outside,; and the roofs will cave in. Mobile home will not hold up to the weight of the soil; they are not designed to.

NOTHING in an older, used mobile home is up to any type of long term building endurance; the onstart of the mobile home/ travel trailer industry was set up to actually recycle  modular bits into new homes being manufactured. They were made to be used for about 20 years, then they were SUPPOSED to be  disassembled and the bits and pieces recycled back into the industry.

Well, due to corporate greed and the fact that reclaiming items would actually be environmentally responsible and have to have a facility manned by people who needed to be paid and insured, and it would cost as much as it would to just make a new mobile home, that second part of the plan was  made redundant by someone's representative and passed as law in a bill or something, some where, that actually allowed for sale of older mobile homes rather than stripping them down.

The reasons cited for that is that the codes for building them changed every few years. The older homes are at the low end, minimum housing requirements in the USA at the time of manufacture. Building codes still change, however the industry is now building better homes for better longevity.

Its only been recently that mobile homes/manufactured homes have been brought up to a better standard of building, and thats because not only due to customer demand for better quality for their money, but due to so many older homes being fire/mold/safety hazards, the Federal Government has passed, and passes every few years, the standards they need to be built o, for longevity.  The pricing of the homes over the past 10 years is a reflection of those increased standards.
 
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An alternative that would have similarly low energy needs for heating and cooling is a Skytherm Roof.



Harold Hay, Skytherm, and the Quest for Passive Cooling

Essentially the idea is thermal mass on the roof that can be covered/uncovered by shading/insulation.
In winter, the mass is uncovered during the day to absorb solar heat, and then covered/insulated at night to retain the heat overnight.
In summer it's the reverse, shaded during the day to avoid heat gain, and uncovered at night to let any heat radiate away into the clear night sky.
This maintains a much more equitable temperature inside the building year round with far lower heating/cooling needs.
One cheap way would be to simply place the  thermal mass on the existing roof which might need some reinforcement and build a second roof on top of the normal one that is glazed with clear polycarbonate roof panels.
Inside the roof above the mass but below the glazing install movable insulation/shading. This could be as simple as roller blinds or mini-blinds or a roll of insulation material.
 
pollinator
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My idea was to take an RV,    then dig a hole in  ground,   in that the RV could drive down into the hole on a slant.      then using I beams  make the roof out of  cement / rebar,  the walls out of cement block  so that you could drive the RV into the cave,  then during the day you could drive the RV out if the weather conditions were better outside.


As I think about it.    This would give me one of the best shelters that I could use for my van against hurricanes.          I was thinking that one could berm this up like a wofaiti,   so you have like a drive in bat cave :-)

If done right it could also double as a pit garden.
 
Michael Littlejohn
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Thanks everybody for this thread, this is of intense interest to me. With the economy as it is, I think Im going to concentrate on getting enough land and put a trailer home on it . I am definitely headed for a tornado AND hurricane prone climate. I wish the accompanying schematic was better, but I have been reading that homes that are ovids seem to be fairly resistant to tornados, while at the other extreme mobile homes are not. What about the idea of of earth sheltering in an oval shape, initially built with cull wood and soil and amply planted with fast growing fodders (honey locusts and willows as an example).  The walls of the mobile home would not be weight bearing, there would be a 30" gap (wiggle room I suppose) between the berm supported by vertical logs perhaps even drilled or notched for planting of more trees counting on the root systems to bind everything together in time. These trees would have to be coppiced and grazed regularly to prevent them from becoming oversize and breaking off and becoming a hazard themselves but if sheep goats and cattle were run across it periodically it could stay trimmed. Or perhaps just goats, as I wouldnt fear that goats would fall into the 30 inch gap (only that they would dance on the roof of the home (yet a new problem see how that works?)  So my idea is a 3/4 wraparound, making it resistant but not impervious to twisters. Any comments or refinements?
Semi-Sheltered-Mobile-Home.jpg
[Thumbnail for Semi-Sheltered-Mobile-Home.jpg]
 
Mart Hale
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You will want to think about 2 things.    1)  heavy rain,    perhaps put gravel under the trailer and a path for the water to grow.       2)   Mold    being that dark will increase mold conditions,   I suggest skylights that go thru the dirt, but can be insulated if needed,  include fans to keep that air flowing or solar chimneys.

 
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Thank you for sharing.  Regarding building with a shipping container.  This video shows the way and the end results.  He discusses the way to do it to avoid the issues you mentioned.  In my region it would work well.  In areas where sandy soil is more prominent maybe not so.  It requires research though.  This design was taken from researching bomb shelters.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0oFJ2jbkDI     source of video        https://faircompanies.com/videos/earth-cooled-shipping-container-underground-ca-home-for-30k/
Hope this helps those searching for a solution.  Have talked to him via email as I work towards my structure.  To date he has no complaints after many years now in his structure.
 
Michael Littlejohn
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Great video, thanks for sharing that. M
 
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I was gobsmacked when I came across this decades ago:



So, it is possible to build to survive a hurricane. I do need to point out that their wheelchair access is a goner.

This got me to thinking if there was a building code for a tornado resistant house. I failed to find any example. It is heartbreaking to see entire houses sheared off after an F5 wanders through. It seemed to me that rebuilding like "normal" was plain insanity.

I came up with a design that would half-survive a tornado driving 2 by 4s horizontally.

I inverted the house. Bedrooms, kitchen, storeroom, garage and bathrooms are on the ground floor. This is to be brick and mortar with smaller windows. Ditto for the stairwell. The first floor will be the living, dining and anything else. This can be of wooden construction with huge plate glass windows which open to a balcony and a walkway to a berm that surrounds the house and is one storey high. The berm is a one turn spiral with a slight overlap. Your Cybertruck can be driven in until it is hidden from view. Hardy shrubs and trees can be planted to strengthen the berm.

In the event of a tornado, the first floor and roof is sacrificed. The berm protects the ground floor from projectiles. You survive and life can still continue unlike current prospects where all you have is the shirt on your back.
 
Mo Green
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Wowza!  Sure shows you know what you are speaking about.  Thank you.  Some sharp permie needs to design and build a new kind of built-for-burying  (BFB) (even partial) manufactured home with designed installation instructions. I like the ideal with both ends of structure open to outside as well as the middle on of one side of length and barest amount of soil on the top of middle of surface.  A solar powered dehumidifier wicking moisture from buriedstructure heavy moisture barrier channeled to watgarden via ingrown irrigation.  

Oh my, a 2nd cup of decafe coffee has wired me with creative visions...feeling compelled to sketch it now.  
 
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curious if anything ever came of this?  Does anybody know if she built it?
 
Joshua Plymouth
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This idea just dawned on me. So maybe it is a very bad idea, Please if you think of something I overlooked, or some error, let me know.

As I kept on thinking of ways to make this house trailer idea work, I could not shake this horrible feeling that I was being stupid. Building a structure around a structure so that we can put it into the ground?! That is ridiculous. Putting in supports and beams all around a very delicate structure trying to keep it from getting squished. Making sure the walls are covered in plastic so that the walls against the earth do not make massive leaks happen. Everything about it seems counter intuitive.

Then the idea dawned on me. The other day I was digging a grave for a lost furry companion, however my loved ones were not ready to put it into the ground yet and it was about to rain. I took some metal trash can lids and set them on top of the ground around the hole to cover it up, then set a tarp over that. I threw my shovel onto that tarp to hold it down and went back inside quick. I knew they would not like it if the grave became a wet mud hole.

Two major things we learn from Mike Oehler and his research. water is the main enemy of earth-bermed/ underground homes. and the uphill portion of a structure must be away from the dirt (uphill patio) because the water causes the hill to creep onto the structure and cave it in. We also know that if earth is directly on-top of a structure, or leaning against a structure, that structure must be as solid as the earth itself or it will falter and collapse.

What if someone dug a hole in a hillside a bit larger than the size of their mobile home, with a point of entry on the uphill side. However the earth hates straight walls, even if these are not on the uphill side they may start to become loose and cave in if not shored up and walled off, so instead of shoring up the earth walls on each side, allow the walls to become gradients or steep hillsides. Dig out the uphill side so this is where the trailer will come in at. But all of the other sides will not be steep enough to cause collapse. This would start to look like you are building a pond, so on the downhill side drill a hole, a drain almost like an earthtube or a pond drain, all the way through so that water will pass right through the back end of the hill. This would pose a serious problem for most underground homes, but not if you set it up the same way most mobile homes are set up, sitting 3 feet or so off of the ground! This would make a structure that welcomes water, is protected from hurricanes, and even gains the ability to be insulated by the earth. But I can hear you say "What about the roof!? The leaks? Most heat leaves from the roof!" Take a giant waterproof shed roof and lay it directly across the hole stretching across on each side, no wall supports, just a sturdy roof slanted enough to run water off of it, and a sheet of polly and a bit of earth ontop. Or use some other waterproof roof, like tin and forget the earth on top. and just lay it across the ditch like those fast bridges people used to make to go over a stream. as long as a great deal of weight is not put upon this, it will not need support in the center.

Maybe we are looking at mobile homes all wrong. These are not well made devices, they were made in a factory with no concern of where they would be going or the outside environment. Invented to be handy, cheap, and thrown away and therefore they have some major weaknesses. But they are a structure stable enough that they can make a nice home if they are sat in the right place.

I have a good friend who's family rented a barn from a farm owner, they rolled their mobile home into that barn and that prevents the leaks, and it even helps with the temperature issues during the cold weather.

What I am proposing is just a small valley, with a roof across, and a way water can leave. Mobile homes are not great, but if this idea worked a person could hire an excavator for a week and scrounge up a few old used trailers and make themself an in-ground complex.
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If you send it by car it's a shipment, but if by ship it's cargo. This tiny ad told me:
how do we get more backing of the brk?
https://permies.com/t/145583/backing-brk
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