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questions about PSP construction

Posts: 3
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My husband and I learned about Mike Oehler's PSP method last summer and are excited to build our own home. But we have some questions, of course! If anyone can help or point us in the direction we need to go that would be awesome.

Posts/beams: the book says to dry them at least 3 months, can they be used green though? We built our current cabin out of our own milled green lumber the way they did it back in pioneer days.

Shoring: what are the dimensions for the boards used as shoring? Also, what else can be used other than mill ends or wood loads (which are very hard to find!)? Are the shoring boards nailed onto the posts?

Closets: when building in a closet, do you need to add any extra posts?

Floor: is a wood floor, instead of carpet, possible? If so, how?

Uphill patio: what do the dimensions need to be for each terrace in the uphill patio? Are the walls of the house on that side always buried partly or can it be exposed? If one wants part of the patio to be greenhouse, is it best to make is the section next to the house?

Royer Foyer: what are the dimensions of the RF? Has anyone ever used that area as a greenhouse? If so, what did you use for the roofing, etc?

Windows: has anyone in a northern area (we are in the NE corner of WA state) used single pane windows (less expensive)? How did they work for you?

I think that's it for now! We don't have internet at home so replies to posts are slow and only about once per week. Thank you!

Tom & Krystal

Highland Glenn Ranch

Posts: 4617
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Howdy Krystal , welcome to permies!

Have you seen these threads? They might answer a lot of questions.


Allerton 2

Posts: 2965
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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Single pane windows are going to leak a ton of heat, and make you feel cold when you are near them in winter. At the least, you would want to have storm windows for the cold season. It's not hard to build your own sealed double pane glass, if you can use silicone sealant and work carefully.
Lab Ant
Posts: 63
Location: Rensselaer New York
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I'm surprised no one jumped on this. I am far from an expert but i built a PSP house this year and have visited Mikes buildings. I highly recommend it for a first house on the cheap.

Green posts and beams were used in my home some a few months old but most were much much greener. That could cause some mold and or the shrinkage of it drying could make it less than sound i have heard. To try to mitigate the mold i put a wood stove in once the walls were up and ran it hot and often. it helped a great deal with drying all of it  soon the logs showed signs of being very dry. I was worried this might cause a structural issue as they shrunk but with the way PSP is designed  it all seams to lock together tight . its a very sturdy home all things considered.

In Mikes book he states that the shoring should be 2 inches thick at least. my home wont be totally underground so i took a risk on 1x4 lumber . also it was all i could afford lol i added some extra posts .on post about every three feet. and i may add a few more just in case they decide to bow out on my during burial.In the book he also says you could possibly go without nailing and just back fill behind the boards. i nailed them though because i will be living in it before its buried.

from what i have seen an addition needs extra posts they are a key part of the perimeter of the building.

You could defiantly use a wood floor if you like. In one of pauls cabins he has a layer of vapor barrier with wooden floor on top. Jim has one as well. as far as i know both are working great and not rotting.

from what i know about the uphill patio the one crucial part is that it is larger than your home on contort and deeper than your home. mine is deeper by a few feet and wider by a few.

walls dont always have to be buried on both sides but be aware if its not even amounts of dirt it could push the whole thing to one side. imagine a 300 pound man pushing you from the back . you fall over. add a 300 pound man to your front pushing at the same time now you dont fall over. thats the principle at least. also the ground protects you from winter could and summer heat so the less ground you got the more you have to try to insulate or compensate with heat.

I have stood in the original Royer Foyer and thats the only one i have seen. its not big i would guess actual dimensions are not that crucial as long as they fit your home. haven't seen one as a green house but i dont see why you couldn't.

i used single pain windows in my home because of price as well. actualy they are mikes windows! his family let us take some after mike passed to try to put some of his things to good use i framed them in the middle of a 2 x 6 frame my idea is a pane one glass on the inside thats removable. the actual window . and another removable window on the outside. i did not stay the winter. but my guess is they will do just fine. we shall see.

greenhouses are normally attached to a house. there are a lot of reasons for this . most of them boiling down to energy costs.

like i said im no expert . if you haven't gotten mikes 50$ and up underground house book i suggest you do it helped me to understand what people were talking about. all and all im glad i built PSP and i hope you enjoy your home as much as i do mine.

gardener & author
Posts: 1659
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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I have lived in solar heated houses for 20 years, in a remote (cold) part of India and I actually prefer single glazed windows. We did make several versions of double glazing but they eventually get cloudy inside after a fw years and you can't clean them. I prefer to have clean single glazing and a warm curtain to close every evening in winter. Even double glazing is a huge heat loss (low R value) when it is not getting direct solar gain, so you should have warm curtains in winter anyway. And if you have warm curtains anyway, why not go with single glazing? There are additional cheap techniques like bubble wrap for the coldest part of winter, that leaves your window clean or cleanable when removed.
Krystal Beers
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Thank you so much! It is really, really nice to have found a group for support in this endeavor.  

We did purchase the set of Mike's books plus the DVD's and highly recommend it!

I'm sure we'll have more questions along the way, but for now you helped immensely.  

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