Glenn's Underground Cabin Update

Started by glenn kangiser, January 30, 2005, 10:24:03 PM

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Hi Sharon,

Glad you had a nice Thanksgiving, ours was nice... I had to leave for work right as everyone was sitting down to eat, but did manage to fix me a plate of food.  We always seem to have more to do than we have the energy or  initiative for.  I'm finally back at the cabin.  Had to do all the "organizing" things around here after Glenn had been bacheloring it for awhile  :P.  Today I did some more stucco & was the gofer for him while he was making the frame for the door that lets the bobcat into the "livingroom" :o.  He surprised me with new shelves & counter space he built while I was gone :).  We're trying to get a bunch of stuff done before we have our big holiday family/friends get-together up here (good way to get a lot of things done fast! ;D.)  



I really didn't notice anythng out of place. :o  

I went out and took a picture for you Sharon.  Gotta prove that at least I do something around here. :-/

To the right you see Kathy's stucco work - base for earth plaster and making wall solid enough to backfill and landscape against.  There are also backer boards in the lower part of the wall but the upper section is only stucco lath - chicken wire with a light tarpaper and kraft paper front still visible in the upper left.  The rounded area is the bathroom exterior wall-- hoping to eventually bury part of it and blend it into the landscape.

The wall framing to the center is an 8'x8' appx section that swings out to allow the Bobcat to come in so that dirt work can be done later.  It is hinged at left top and bottom.

I also made the cabinet/shelves -small counter top so Kathy could have more counter and storage space.  I looked at a piece of Birch plywood I had for the back, but could not make myself use it.  Something about real boards - bug holes an all that I just like- it represents the way my granddad may have done it.  He had sawmills..  Plywood represents manufactured goods to me.  I got really fancy with this one - ran the boards through the planer- squared my table saw guide -used a planer on the edges too - cut with near precision then shot it all together with 2" brads- I don't have a finish air nailer- I ran the belt sander over the top which was too big for the planer- touched it up around the edges with the belt sander too.  It was about a 2 hour project-maybe 3.  Sorry PEG - I don't have the time or patience to do the fine cabinetry you do- I'm just a lazy rustic (excuse) sort of guy. :-/[smiley=2vrolijk_08.gif]

So -there you have it -- a progress update. ;D



Don't know if you can help but maybe someone here can if you can not.

I found the link that describes my land and there is a topo map there, but I don't have a clue how to read it.  Thought maybe you have a clue.  The description says that the slope is to the east and that the road side is 80ft higher than the back. Does this mean it it quite steep or what?

Here is the link:   oops...lot B is mine

Thank you to anyone that can help!! ;)



How wide is that lot?

Had friends once who bought a 6-acre lot in the Nashville area going from the road down to the river, the blessed thing wasn't but about 60 feet wide.  Since nobody else had laid claims to it, they put their garden on the adjoining lot.

What are those other nice folks doing with their land?  

I personally like my winter woods at least as much as the summer.  And no ticks either--although since Buster the much-lamented tick magnet died, I haven't seen many.


The info book I got says the all the lots are at least 165ft on the road.   As far as I know no one lives there except one family on the E<F<G lot.  Would like to pick up A or C if I could.



Hi Sharon -- I just got to my motel with internet service- working San Jose again -tooooo many people.

I'll look at your link and see what I can see.  The closer lines are together on a topo map the steeper it is -as the lines get farther apart the land is leveler - lines show elevation change - . [smiley=vrolijk_26.gif]


That map doesn't have the contours so doesn't help much - do you have the lot size - so - many feet x so many feet - that would tell you a little- any street address? May find something that way. :-/

Calculating it out  if 165 wide then it would be about 650 ft deep round numbers -80' / 650 ' = about a little over 1 foot in 10 feet- but it is not necessarily an even slope.  Doesn't sound too bad though.  When you actually find out you can let me know if I'm crazy or not. :-/


Hey Sharon -me again

Judging from your map -

and the comparable picture-

it looks to be a nice wooded area running from 650 to 720 or so feet elevation - I couldn't nail it down exactly where you were but should be very close (red dot at the end of the white distance line from Alton).



Thanks for the info.  Like I said earlier, I hope to see it this summer.  I didn't think by the map it was that steep of of drop, unless 1ft per 10ft is a steep slope?  

Loved your last photos. Looks like you and Kathy are getting a lot done.  Can't wait to see it some day.  I think it was on the Backwoods Home forum someone was talking about Mike's building method and mentioned termites as a potential problem, have you had any problems with this and how would one prevent termites?



To visualize the slope, get 10 feet from a wall - put your hand 1 foot off the floor - the imaginary line from your hand to the wall/floor intersection is a 1 in 10  or 10% slope - Most of my place is 3 or 4 to 10 -  or 30 to 40% slope.

Termites could be a problem in an area that is in contact with the ground where fungi can draw water from the ground- termites like water- I have used some wood that had a few termites in it when I cut it - they leave when it is too dry.  A worse problem is powder post beetles - they like dry wood.  Usually there are not many at once and a little wasp spray etc into the hole and treating the affected log with borate will eventually stop them.  Remember that nearly all your wood - logs - boards etc is accessable from your hole in the ground so you can take care of each specific problem as you see it.  There is an ocassional problem bug - not many- done properly the wood remains dry.  Probably more of a problem is some floor dampness in the winter around edges where a gopher has worked - etc.  Proper exterior drainage - uphill patio - regrading - french drain - sump etc are possible remedys.

Ocassionally we have some ants - but then so does any house around our area.  We feed them all the Terro ant food they want -they die- no problem.


You will many times find that people who mention potential problems have very little or no experience with this type of building.  Actually the active layer of ground is the top 6 inches or so of soil- below that there is not a lot happening.


Hi Glenn and Kathy  :D

Just had to check in on you kids and see how your latest project/s are going.  As for me, I am busy quilting for Christmas and haven't had time to get back to my bulding ideas.

Also wanted to know how much of this snow we have here in MN you wanted shipped to you? [smiley=2vrolijk_08.gif]

Sharon   [smiley=beer.gif]


Hi Sharon --we had a family and friends get together yesterday so had a great big push to get something done before they arrived as some only show up once a year.  Much progress but sometimes I feel as if I'm only digging myself deeper into a hole. :-/ ;D

24 guests if we counted right-- they all loved it and know that I'm not a good enough carpenter to do better than "rustic" --Okay - I'm too lazy to do better than rustic. ::)

I'll post some new pictures and information shortly.



Rustic is my favorite word!! I also like Organic..covers a multitude of sins! ;D

My kids even have it down "Yeah, it has that rustic look Mom likes!"



Organic is also a good word - that is the way this place grows - depending on what I find-- the entrance was to be 16' long with a low roof - the log I found was 24' long at it's most optimum length and height had to be raised to about 12' to accomodate bumps in the log- therefore it is now a 24'long 15' wide 12'high entrance.  Glad I didn't have plans. ;D

The wall at the end swings out to make a 7'6" wide door so I can drive the Bobcat in for dirt work and carrying large objects.  It has a standard size door and sliding glass door glass window in it.

This next photo shows the levels looking at the bridge- bottom level 0"0" , bridge level 4'6" on right, bridge level 8'0" on left - way in the back up the adobe stairs is the 16' level -the floor inside the greenhouse above the uphill patio.  The batteries and inverters  are to the right in the greenhouse on the 16' level.

More to come soon.


Speaking of floors - copied from the old forum-

We are now doing an experimental floor a step beyond the CBRI light duty concrete floor - guess we need a cool name for our variation --- How about "Glenn and Kathy's cheap and easy light duty concrete floor" :-/  - OK - so a good name is hard to come up with.

QuoteMike Oehler used an earth carpet floor system, he just graded and tamped the soil then put the plastic and carpet over that.    

The light duty concrete floor from India mentioned by Ken Kern, with the plunger posts is also durable and cheap to make - one inch thick concrete over Hessian or burlap.

Based on the above CBRI floor, we made some experimental major modifications.  We used sacrificial wood forms to work the laundry and bathroom section of the floor we were ready to finish at this time.  The plunger piers will hold the floor even if the wood deteriorates.  

The loose soil is filled to the top of the forms.  The last 1/4 inch or so is filled with sand and graded even. I set my finished level to be about 1/2 " above the top of the wood.  Sand fill stops at the top of the forms - the floor will be a form of  ferrocrete -similar to stucco but a stronger mix.  The advantage-- we used 4 small wheelbarrow loads of concrete mix to do about 90 square feet and less than one sack of cement. We added fibermesh to the mix for reinforcement.  Comparable standard construction would have used over 1 cubic yard of concrete and about 6 bags of cement.   We mixed cement with a fast setting anchoring cement called Rockite to speed up the set and for higher strength in the cool weather.  The holes are pounded as deep into the ground as the digging bar will go by repeatedly picking it up and forcing it down - appx 2 to 3' centers on the holes-- they varied in depth from 4" to 12".  They were made with the blunt end of the digging bar in the right foreground of the above photo.

Aquapex, waste lines and washer outlet box were installed along with romex as it was easier to do before the floor went in.  Water lines were tested before being covered also.  Aquapex can be installed directly in the soil.

A pine box will be built over the utility lines.  The bathroom walls will be wired, insulated and plastered as we wanted a rounded room.  The bathroom walls are non-bearing so framing was only used for the insulation cavity and to get the rounded shape.  The single thickness board walls have 2 1/2 inch foam board -foil covered on the outside of the wall.

There are many accessories available for Aquapex that make plumbing with it fast.  The angle stops go directly on the pex as does the washer box.

The entire bathroom floor is sloped to the shower drain from slightly to moderately in the shower itself.

To speed things up the plunger piers were filled with premixed dry ready mix and a little water then tamped - the concrete that is dry will set up from ambient moisture in the soil.  Posts and studs are set on rocks, drilled with a rotohammer and an anchor pin pr set  or 60d nail driven into the hole in the rock.  This  works similar to a post and pier foundation.  I put a French drain under the floor to keep moisture away from the wood.  Boards along the walls on the outside are to give backing to the stucco and earth plaster wall as backfill is installed and to give strength to the framing.  All construction is done in a manner that will allow settling or use of green boards without problem.  Typically the natural ground here is rock to near rock or claystone so does not have a settling problem.

Shower pan liner and aviary netting are now in place over the smoothed sand.  I used the aviary netting in place of the Hessian of the CBRI floor.  The concrete of the plunger piers joins the aviary netting and will be joined to the cement of the finished floor.  The concrete supplies compressive strength and firmly grips the aviary netting which I used for tensile strength.  Each square inch is tied to the other square inches of the netting with 8 wires - 1/2 inch weave - I assume this will be sufficient to support much more than 40 lbs. per square foot assuming each wire to have a breaking strength of at least 100 lbs -rough guess.  If I'm wrong and it breaks, I get dirt on my foot and fill the floor with more cement.  Add the tensile strength of the fibermesh - similar to hair added to old plaster and you get even more strength.

Boards span the sand and netting to prevent roughing up the smooth surface while finishing the ferrocement floor.  Note again---the soil under the netting is not compacted - in England they use a rototiller to loosen it- settling of this layer in the future is what gives the insulation space.  It is only solid enough to support spread out weight and the ferrocrete.


As an alternative a fat man on a trowel for support on the left hand and troweling with a trowel in the right hand can also span the concrete, preventing damage to the sand and netting.  The troweled concrete plaster is about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick on the average.  There will be a 1/4 to 1/2 inch color coat going over this.

The finished floor is now ready for the final color and strengthening coat.  

Will it work?   :-/  Who knows? ::)


Look at what day it is---[timestamp=1134493857] and look at our flowers and garden.

The advantage of our warm microclimate along with the horse manure on top of the underground cabin.  Note that in the valley appx. 800' elevation below us our neighbor said it had been down to 12F degrees already.  They are at about 2200 ft elevation - we are about 2910 elevation.  Cold air flows in the bottom of the valleys.


Sitting here in the MN snow being very jealous of your warm weather and your beautifull plants!! [smiley=cry.gif]
Any extra space for another house on your property?:-? ;) ;D
Sharon (teeth chattering)


All we got to do is build our sunspace and greenhouse and stuff.

We don't need to be jealous.  


It looks nice.


We have room for an extra bunk in the corner-- have even thought of some cool places for a guest cabin on the hill side by some big ol' rocks--- come on over -- I think I can round up an extra pick and shovel. :)

Interesting thought, Amanda -- I've only lived on the west coast-- Oregon rain forest- San Joaquin winter fog hole- about 4 months of dense fog-- and here - heaven most of the time with a couple months that are hot as Hades- gives me a little chance to get prepared. :-/

What does the rest of the world do---?  Do green houses work well in really cold areas - Mike Oehler seemed to have a bit of luck with his underground ones.


I'm not in a REALLY cold area.  

Unheated greenhouses "up North" seem to be frequently used to extend the growing season.

The gal I buy plants from will start her thousands of tomatoes in a small greenhouse (two-layer polycarbonate, with phase-change solution in a couple of drums to spread the heat out, IIRC) attached to their house after Christmas.  In the winter they blow the excess heat from that into the house with a thermostatically operated blower--I've been in there on cold December days with the fan roaring.  Rarely if ever has to heat that greenhouse, although she may use heating pads under her flats.  Then after she starts transplanting them, the whole operation moves down to the big greenhouse (poly over hoops), which does have to be heated--all the dead trees on their property may go to that effort.  It uses many more times the effort and materials for heating that they put into their house (which in a mild year is nothing more than the blower into the spare bedroom and their rather aggressively south-oriented, earth sheltered location, and quite a bit of baking).

In the summer that greenhouse is pretty well opened up.


Wish I had a greenhouse right now!  Had a snow day from work today as we are getting 6-8" of snow right now. :'(   Winter in MN does not allow for much sunshine and if we do get sun, it only means that it will be a lot colder outside.(the clouds keep the warmer air down)

I am hoping that in southern MO where my land is, that it is at least  more temperate and has more sun days than here in MN. [smiley=huh.gif]


Now that you mentioned it I remember that the last year in Oregon was in the Cascades in the snow - Mill City - I was so cold I had to warm my toes with a cutting torch flame -I'm tough-- I mean with my cold wet boots on--thats why I left the snow.  Here I can drive to it if I want to see it.  Right now I don't want to see it.  We usually get about 4" of snow a couple times a year.  That's plenty. :-/