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Burying a House

 
Amit Enventres
Posts: 260
Location: Ohio, USA
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fish food preservation forest garden
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Hi! Got a question I've been formulating my own answer, but want to pick all the brains I can.

I've got a house- wood frame, brick façade. Due to "settling" the grade slopes to the house.  No prob! I'll just use this to bury the house deeper under ground making it that much less of a winter energy hog.

However, the question is how to do this to not compromise the structure. I'm thinking:

First: repair the brick façade by tuck-pointing.
Then, I was thinking water proof the thing with some sort of spray-on or paint on thing.
Then, use cinder blocks (not reinforced or anything - 2-3 blocks high, but just for structural support) to create a wall in front of the
Then, fill the whole thing with dirt.

I've thought - well, maybe I should use some surface-bonding cement to make the wall that will be below grade flat (to avoid moisture issues), but then I though-this might not work because of freeze/thaw.
Then I've thought- maybe I should fill the air gap between the cinders and the house with sand so that I insure it won't be filled with things that hold moisture, but I'm not sure the gap would be large enough to warrant and sand still does hold some moisture.

I plan on carving holes into the south-side raised area and making cold frames, but this is my general plan- greater thermal mass = less winter heating.

What are your all thoughts?

THANKS!!!
 
Sunny Baba
Posts: 61
Location: Northern New Mexico, 7600'elevation, 24" precip
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Well... If it was me doing this, (and I have built a few underground 'Hobbit' houses from the ground up)...... I would cover all areas of existing house, that are going to be buried with rubber pond liner, (totally waterproof for 35-50 years)..... then I would build a cinder block retaining wall up against the pond liner, as high as the dirt is going to be...... this retaining wall will need a cement foundation about a foot wide, and as deep as frost line, reinforced with rebar in the holes, and the holes filled with cement..... because this is actually hold the settling dirt back from leaning on your house... I would also dig & fill with gravel a 'French drain' on the uphill side of the retaining wall before back filling....... I have done this retaining wall/French drain, curved around the up hill side of a round buried Mandan 'earth lodge'... and during heave rain periods... there were two little creeks flowing out of the down hill ends of the French drains....  forget about sealing the brick surface on the house proper... the pond liner will keep the water out..... good luck...
 
Hans Quistorff
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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How they did it in Iceland.

 
Amit Enventres
Posts: 260
Location: Ohio, USA
13
fish food preservation forest garden
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So, what I figured out was the basement walls actually are actually about 3 feet taller than the ground level. Thus, all I needed to do was make sure that it was water-tight (since the basement is finished) then I could bury it 3 feet. In other words, tuck-point, water-proof cement paint, then dirt up to 3 ft. In the front. I am not done, but the first day I did a section I could feel the difference. It was weird. The side where the driveway is will be more difficult. I'm working on a mixture of soil-cement that will be just hard enough to stay in place, but will still be soft enough to allow ground movement and be removed if necessary without damaging the structure. My current mixture (about 1:6 cement:soil) was not strong enough and is slowly disintegrating (though it is functioning temporarily). In the back I'm doing other things to slow the wind (pergola, wind break, garage, maybe changing the railing to a wall railing). On the other side I will be burying as in the front. I will also be employing vines next year to try and cover that which is too tall to bury.

I really like what they do in Iceland Hans! If I had more space, I might give that or some variation a try. It makes a lot of sense for keeping the temperatures steady.
 
Glenn Herbert
gardener
Posts: 1845
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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The self-supporting retaining wall mentioned by Hans is crucial. Unless a structure is designed for supporting a large horizontal load such as you will get from earth, it will collapse over time. The bottom of the frame wall will be pushed in, if it doesn't rot first from the damp which will accumulate in the absence of positive ventilation on the outside. As long as the interior is kept warmer than ground temperature, moisture will tend to move to the cooler face of the wall and build up.

I didn't see your last post before sending this; backfilling the basement walls should be okay as long as they are sturdy enough. Unreinforced block walls can be buckled by sideways earth loads in some circumstances. If the house floor framing is secured solidly to the basement walls, that will help.
 
João Carneiro
Posts: 66
Location: Portugal, Zone 9
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Hans, that was really precious, thanks for sharing
 
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