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Hi all,

I've gleamed a huge amount of priceless information off this site so thank you all for sharing your invaluable knowledge!

I'm trying to figure if its possible to build a stone basement, partially underground, with a wooden cabin on-top. Ideally, I could build a stone retention wall that can also support the weight of a wooden cabin.
We have built many dry stone retention walls on our steep property, generally 50cm wide with about 20cm infill of smaller stones before back-filling with tamped earth. Of course I've never built anything on top of them and it seems logical that it would need more support in the form of columns and bond beams?

The footprint would be aprox 12' x 20'. Basement height 6.5'. The back of the basement entirely bermed, the sides partially and the front open air. We live in the sub tropics so we get 4-5 months of rain but the site has little to no run off. No freezing to worry about. It's also an earthquake zone.... I've wondered if building a semi circle rather than a rectangle would work better? The basement's use would be mostly as a cellar/pantry, secure lock-up and wood storage.

Is the combination of stone and wood just a bad idea in an earthquake zone? Would earthbag or tires be a better fit?
I'm very much in the ideas phase so any 'through it out and start again' type ideas are welcome too!

 
gardener
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Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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First off, what is the character of your stone? Flat, round, irregular, smooth, rough, jagged? My best friend lives in a 200 year old timber framed house with a dry laid stone basement, about 18' x 25' inside. It is not an earthquake zone, but the frost line is at least 3' deep, maybe more as it is in a shaded ravine with little solar exposure. It was laid up originally to an unknown thickness, maybe a foot and a half, and then for whatever reason another foot-thick layer of wall was added inside. Our local stone naturally cleaves into smooth, flat, rectangular shapes, easy to build with but maybe not so shake-resistant because of all the smooth faces in contact.

I would think that curves would be a good idea for earthquake resistance. Look at Inca buildings in Peru for ideas - they are in a serious earthquake zone and many have lasted for 500 years. The monumental stones are not reasonable for general use, but just some of the irregular fitting with some human enhancement for closer joints could be effective. Keep all seams, vertical and horizontal, staggered so there is never a long straight joint that could slip.
 
Leah White
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Thanks Glenn,

The rock here is volcanic and irregular. It varies a lot in density but we can select dense and crack free stones for building. A local stone mason has broken a lot of our boulders into manageable sizes (i.e.. just about small enough for two people to maneuver into position, down to small enough to lift alone.) We also have two 5’ x 5’ boulders nearby which could be foundation cornerstones.

Do you know how the wooden frame is attached to it’s rock base in your friend’s house? We built our house with a Japanese foundation influence. We placed big rocks in the ground, drilled into them and put in steel rods which are attached to the bamboo that frames the house. I’m wondering if a similar concept could work here though the earthquakes could be a problem..

I’d be really really interested to see photos of your friend’s house if you have any!
 
Leah White
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This is a pic of one of our stone walls
IMG_20180201_134958_HDR.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20180201_134958_HDR.jpg]
 
Glenn Herbert
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Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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Your stone looks great for building basement walls! If you can chisel off points and make the faces fit each other solidly, with irregular joints, you should have a foundation to last a long time.

Common old-time buildings around here have floor framing just sitting on the basement walls, not recommended for sound construction nowadays. In the case of dry-laid stone, anchoring to the top layer would be of little use anyway. For you, I would recommend fitting or scribing the bottom of the framing to the top of the stone, and using the biggest possible stones in the top layer. Pinning the frame to monster stones may be beneficial.
 
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