My family moved to MO about a year ago from WI. We may wind up finding a bit of land and building a home on it, and we're doing some research into what the best kind of house would be. It would be a medium to large home (probably 1500+ sq ft)Our area does have problems with tornadoes, flash floods, lightning, not a lot of soil above bedrock, heat, cold/snow, and humidity. We would like the home to be as non-toxic/natural as possible, so I don't like the idea of off-gassing, old tires, plastic, and bad chemicals everywhere. Any advice and insight would be appreciated.
Valerie Zutavern wrote:My family moved to MO about a year ago from WI. We may wind up finding a bit of land and building a home on it, and we're doing some research into what the best kind of house would be. It would be a medium to large home (probably 1500+ sq ft)Our area does have problems with tornadoes, flash floods, lightning, not a lot of soil above bedrock, heat, cold/snow, and humidity. We would like the home to be as non-toxic/natural as possible, so I don't like the idea of off-gassing, old tires, plastic, and bad chemicals everywhere. Any advice and insight would be appreciated.
I've lived in Missouri most of my life (born in Bonne Terre and left for many years, but I've been back now--near Branson this time around--for 26 years) so I can definitely tell you a bit about what you can and can't build with here. First, you need to understand that there are actually 2 Missouris, above the Missouri River and below it. Northern Missouri is not my stomping grounds so my knowledge of it comes from people I've known and things I've learned from reading. Basically, if you want soil to speak of, that is the area to look in. Most of the farming (not homestead plots but big ag) is done in that part of the state.
Down in southern Missouri where we live, the biggest "crop" is rocks--lots of them! So ... if you want to build, consider a stone house. There are many ways to do it, but one of the simplest and the one that requires the least knowledge of stone-masonry is the method that Helen and Scott Nearing used, slip-casting. Basically, just collect and wash all the rocks you can find and make forms to put them in along with cement. When one section of wall sets up firmly enough, you remove the forms, reposition them up higher and slip-cast another section.
A second resource that is plentiful in the lower part of the state is trees--especially oaks, hickory and eastern red cedar. Log cabins and cordwood homes are naturals, and if you want something really different and non-toxic, there are all sorts of ways to use sawdust (which you can get cheap or even free at the many local mills) for mixing with lime, clay or straw to make cob or poured earthen floors, etc. A portable saw mill you can buy for anywhere from a couple hundred dollars for the chainsaw-type to a few thousand for the band-saw type. You can make a lot of your own lumber from a good-sized woodlot while thinning your trees for forest health.
Of course, there is always strawbale--with a lime coating and with very wide overhangs to protect it from our wet weather and winds or a ferro-cement outer covering to protect from tornadoes! I suggest a round (cylindrical or domed) building for the same reason. Wind goes over or around instead of through!
I have a ton of ideas, but I'm actually supposed to be doing something else right now and will have to come back to this later. One thing I would not recommend is trying to build anything earth-bermed or underground--we just don't have the depth of soil for that (except possibly in the northern part of the state). Oh, and welcome to Missouri!
John C Daley wrote:Dampness and mustiness is a result of bad design and construction rather than the environment.
In my case, my dislike of the building might also be attributed to living more than 40 years in a dry desert, so Missouri was just plain old musty and dank to me, even outside.
As a Missourian from birth to age 62, I resent "old, musty and dank". Actually, I have lived in so many places and only lived here until I was in 5th grade--not coming back until near 40--so I can compare it with other areas. It is, beyond doubt, about the most humid climate I have ever lived in. Even Florida and Hawaii do not compare for humid.
So ... when it is hot--which it is for a good 5 months out of the year--it is VERY hot and humid to the point that when you sweat, it has no place to go except to trickle off your nose and down your body and make a big puddle at your feet. (Can't evaporate when the outside air is 90% humidity!) If you leave anything wet outside it turns to mold overnight. Maybe you could call that musty and dank, though you'd be hard-pressed to apply that appellation to our glades or dry oak/hickory forests. Anyway, that is the bad part.
The good part is that you can grow just about anything here that can grow in either southern or northern climates because we are smack-dab in the middle. If you can put up with being soaking wet with sweat all summer, we have relatively mild winters and a good LONG growing season. We also have great species diversity here for both flora and fauna, so foraging is very productive. Since it's also a cheap place to live, it works out well for people with little money and big dreams of a self-sufficient homestead. Besides, we also have a lot of clean water, so when you are hot and sticky, you can just go jump in a creek. My point is, you learn to deal with humidity as a trade-off for an abundance of so many other good things.
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
posted 2 years ago
I loved the growing conditions in Missouri! And the high humidity seemed good for my health and well being. I recommend that construction techniques take the high humidity into account.
Southern Missouri is definitely one of the harder climates to design a building for, as it has to deal both with tropical-like heat and humidity in the summer, and also winters that, while mild compared to the northern US, are still cold enough to need to incorporate heat-retention strategies for.
As has been mentioned before, mold is one of the major problems in this climate. I'm not a building expert, but I have been in a lot of different styles of buildings in this and similar climates, and heard plenty of other people's experiences, and a few things stand out, namely good airflow and being up above the ground. I have lived without air conditioning here without any major issues with mold while others I know have been severely affected some of those same years. My situation isn't ideal, but the airflow is good enough with cross breezes and it's not in contact with the ground. Besides the obvious matter of having a roof that doesn't leak, having a raised floor seems to make a big difference. I know of many buildings without a raised floor, whether it be on a concrete slab or earthen floor, that struggle with mold, and earth-bermed houses tend to be even worse. There may be ways to do an earth-bermed house here that doesn't have mold issues, but you'd have to really know what you're doing. In my experience, buildings with crawlspaces tend to have much less mold issues.
I love living in the woods, but too many trees and shrubs too close to the building reduces airflow and can also lead to too much moisture/mold. Some trees to provide shade from the heat are nice, but I'd keep branches trimmed a ways away from windows. i know of a place that had mold get bad when some tall shrubs were planted and grew in front of several windows.
So it seems like an above ground house and a nearby storm shelter might be the best option. I know some people deal with heat by having a major attic fan. Wouldn't that also help with getting good airflow in the warm months?
I'm building in Southern Missouri, not doing natural construction for a lot of reasons. I have some odd parameters, so it's a really specific design for both the site and our needs, but it might be worth looking at the air flow design to get some ideas for your house. Maison du Bricolage house design There is a LOT more to the design, that was just as far as I got writing it up. The air flow patterns are covered fairly well in it though.