Glenn's Underground Cabin Update

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

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QuoteI see I still haven't convinced you yet, PEG.  I must try harder.   :-/

I know-- You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.  :'(

My buddy Bob in Texas is kind of a big guy. He used to say that. "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink, but you can darn sure make him wish he would have."
Haven't had any time to get things moved to the mountains yet Glenn. Took a 10 day trip to Montana to visit my failing mother. Was back for a week and had to make another trip to attend her funeral. So I have been MIA from normal life. I am back now and the AZ weather is heating up so I suspect after a little rest I will be back to where I left off in the mountains.
Looks like you are making some good progress in the underground world! Keep it up!


Sorry to hear about your mom, desdawg.  We missed you here but some things are more important than a forum.  

I forgot if you had any internet available in the mountains, but hope that you will check in with us here every so often. :)

I got the saw cuts made in the slab tonight as we didn't have time to get any crack control joints in it yesterday.  What an improvement for shop working conditions though -- no more rolling around in the dirt.  I may have to go out and do it once in a while just to remember what it is like.  Actually with equipment there will still be plenty of opportunities to do that. :-/


QuoteGee Glenn, great site!  Stumbled on it after reading Mike's book and I am really excited.  I plan on ordering the dvds as I am not very good at looking at individual pictures and putting it all together in my mind (thankfully dh is).  I was wondering how much of your house is actually underground, how many are offset rooms, what did you use the strawbales for, etc.  I am so intrigued by what you have done and I also have to buy one of the signs like you have on your property!

Welcome to the forum homemom1fl.  Glad you like the site.  We have lots of good helpful members here.

Lets say it's all under dirt except the entrance to the great room and front 4 feet of the great room. It pops out of it in several places.  The North side is against the mountain and roof level peaks even with the driveway that goes into the shop we concreted in the pictures above.  The greenhouse goes up about 15 feet above ground. The house goes 15 feet below ground from that point but the peak is level with the greenhouse floor, and it slopes in various directions from there.  The bedroom roof pops up another 4 feet but the bottom of it is 4 feet below ground level.  All roofs have 6 inches to 1 1/2 feet of dirt on them except the porch is about 2" of cob. and the entrance area and front 4 feet of the great room have roll roofing at this point.  Probably going to a couple inches of soil and succulents as suggested by Ken Kern.  

Are you thoroughly confused now? :-?  

I know I am. ::)

The shop roof is salvage steel decking.  

The strawbales are for insulation of the back wall of the greenhouse and pop up portion of bedroom wall- It must be near 100F in the greenhouse in the day now.  No green except plants right now.

Here is a link to the sign - Copy the picture then print it and have it laminated.  I think I blew it up to full page size.  A copy place could do that.  Check out the rest of Bill Munro's site also.

Bedroom is offset - 2 bathrooms are offset - front porch is offset - entries are offset.  Then much of it is on different elevations also.  Floor elevations = entry is -6" great room is 0'0" , studio apt type area is 4'6" - bridge is 4'6" to 8' to bedroom at 8' - down to master bathroom at 6' greenhouse and shop are at 16' .  Ceilings vary from 6' in storage area to 15' in the great room - 10'6 inches in the kitchen - 12' in the bedroom high side (high side on most measurements mentioned).  It is near 30 feet from the great room floor to the top of the greenhouse above the uphill patio.  You can see all the way up in the window under the bridge.

Sunscoop is about 16 feet to the top from great room floor..  Hollywood wing in bathroom is about 12 feet to the top from bathroom floor.


So -- what do you do if you have a problem in the underground complex. :-?

While nearly none of the posts supporting the roof have any problems where they are pinned above the ground surface, sitting on a thin vapor barrier and a couple inches of concrete, there are 3 posts that do have a problem.  

In trying to stay away from preservatives, Mike suggested charing the bottoms of the posts and putting plastic garbage bags around them to preserve them.  This may have worked without the bag, but it will get a break in it and once it does water can enter or the water in the log will drain to the bottom and wet the bag inside.  This begins an apparently long cycle of decay as the moisture can't leave and more enters staying in the bag.

In 5 years I noticed the doors at that post begin having alignment problems.  My first thought was diagonal bracing and that I didn't have enough, but that wasn't it.  The post was decaying in the bag and getting shorter - I would estimate about 3/4 of an inch in 5 years although I think this loss will start increasing  soon.  With the design of the Underground complex repair is not a problem.  Only the affected post(s) need be repaired.  The rest of the entire structure is hinged through the rebar pins holding the logs together so can move up or down freely.  Mis-alignment does not show in the garden on the roof as it would in conventional housing.

The post can either be jacked up and the footing repaired or replaced.  Only the bottom is damaged so I chose to jack it up and repair the footing.  I welded up a bracket to support a sufficient amount of the post and allow the repair work to be done.  I used a Harbor Freight 20 ton air assisted jack ($69.00 on sale) but used it manually as there was only about 8 to 10000 lbs on the post and I didn't have far to go up.  Total time so far is about 1 hour.  Probably a couple more to complete the repair.  The post went right up and the doors are back in alignment.

Note that this post is in the corner under the bridge near the kitchen.  Doors affected were 1 French door and the door going from the kitchen to the uphill patio.


Water's always the devil.   >:(   Handy little lift bracket there. Slot by chain saw? I'm waiting to see what you do about the bottom end/support.

(gotta go back outside and do more painting. )


Yup - I extended the plate into the wood a couple inches to get plenty of meat in case the lag bolts wanted to stress the wood fiber more than it wanted to be stressed.

I made a similar bracket with a 1" jackscrew and put it on the near side.  I think I will probably end up concreting around the bottom and building the post into a rock foundation.  I think I will try to support it from both sides after the jack is out and separate any fungal growth from it's source of moisture - It will then dry out and remain solid above the damaged area.  After it is stable i will put a reinforced footing under it.  It will have to bridge the original hole.


Hay gang!! Long time no see. Just started "stalking" the site again yesterday. Alot of nice pics going on here!
Me, I'm still dreaming  :'(  Recently moved to Wisconsin....don't ask me why....must be love, sure isn't money!
Haven't been on the internet much looking at all the alternative building sites. May be buying a house for the time being. Looking into buying an old barn and turning it into a house. New boyfriend is into all the same things I am, so it is great. Not sure he is convinced of some of my ideas, but at least he listens.

Well, good to see you all again. I will be more attentive to my forum....I promise...  8-)



Great to hear from you again, Sharon.  Just be sure to look us up once in a while - :)


Don't worry, I will be here often. How else can I get back in your good graces, so I can come and see your
place in person.... 8-)......sucking up going on here....

So, tell me, exactly how many people did you end up getting into that tub?  


Didn't get to the big tub party yet --
BTW - you are welcome to drop by any time - even if you have been ignoring us for a while. :'(


Sassy made me work today. :-?

We made rock garden walls approximately 10 feet x 12 feet in an oval 18" high and another one about 15 feet long.  Average weight was about 200 to 300 lbs per lineal foot so how many lbs did I place by hand?  Looks like it works out to 10000 to 15000 lbs.

Good thing I had the Bobcat there to get them close. :)

Sassy and I then shoveled in around 5 yards of topsoil mixed 50% with horse manure compost.  She has part of it planted already.


Suns up so got pictures to prove I actually did some work.   It was dark on completion last night.

Sassy wanted walkways and raised beds so here is the walkway.  Wall on the right is about 24" to 30"  tall.

I used a timber peavy on the biggest 5 or so rocks to help roll them or stand them in place.


Forgive my ignorance but I have a question.  What did you cover your uphill patio with and what are the dimensions?  I read Mike's book and see that there is a variety of material that you can use.  I think you have made some really intelligent choices and am not one for reinventing the wheel, especially when others more knowledgeable have gone before me!  Do you get rain coming down your stairway and into the kitchen?  When time allows, could you post more pics of your outdoor patio?  I sure love this site!  Thanks for sharing it with us so we may glean from your experience.  I always wished Mike's book and site had many more pics.  I will get the videos when I can.


No problem on the questions.  The uphill patio is approximately 12x30 and has a greenhouse over the entire area.  I used tempered door glass that the local glass shop pulled out because the dual panes were leaking - we separated them then used the single panes over a 2x6 frame at about a 60 degree slope.  Even the stairs into the kitchen is under the greenhouse.  No water into the patio except when I need to recaulk the glass.  Glazed surface is approximately 15' x 34'.

I'll try to get some more pix for you.

Here is one that shows the greenhouse with the uphill patio below..



Glenn, I am so sorry.  I have been going back through the many pages here and see that I have made you repeat yourself regarding the glass and dimensions.  You are a patient man, I sure appreciate that!  I will try to re-read everything before I ask anymore questions!


No Problem.  Some of it takes a couple of times to sink in.  Heres a little video from the bottom of the stairs looking around and up. :)


Wow, thanks Glenn!  The video certainly helped, I appreciate it>


My pleasure.  It's hard for people who are visiting here sometimes to figure out where they are.


This picture shows  some of my solar panels lying on the roof of the green house.  There are more farther back - 5 feet or so on the shop roof.  I know they would do better properly oriented but I just bought more rather than do it right so I would have more of a buffer when i really need it -- then I'll do it a bit better.


Here is a rather poor shot of the inverters from the above video clip.


The white blob to the left of the inverters is the controller for the Bergey XL1 - 1000 watt wind generator.  The batteries are under the controller for the wind generator - haven't found the pix yet but there are 12 - L16's -- 375 amp hour 6 volts  series'd in 3 groups of 4 to make 24 volts at 1125 amp hours  - so about half of that usable on drawdown.

I have most of the solar panels on a Trace 45 amp controller.


Here is a bit better shot of the inverters

2 - 4024 Trace sine wave inverters stacked for 220 v - about 35 amps so I can run my pump which pulls 220 @ 10 amps , a small wire feed or stick welder and whatever else I feel like within reason. :)

Here is the Trace PWM controller.  There are better controllers out there.

This is my relay setup using 2 Ford car relays in series to get a 24 v coil then they control another 110 v relay that can be triggered from either the overcharge dump load on the wind generator or from a cheap 15 minute increment timer to turn the pump on and pump water to the storage tank.  We pump about 500 gallons per day for the garden drip irrigation system and a sprinkler.  This uses excess power for pumping rather than burning it off with a heater and wasting it.  The wind generator cannot be taken offline or it will over speed  - excess power must be used or burned off.


The first set was more interesting , sort of a Startrek jumble of space junk that Kirk would have to squeese Enterprise thru.

Maxium sheild's Suelew, steady helm!! Etc etc  ;D


I have avoided showing you the real jumble of space junk that keeps this place operating, PEG.  Really messy and I didn't want to scare you.  It is really interesting though and you would wonder how I ever keep it working without the whole thing going up in flames. :)


QuoteI have avoided showing you the real jumble of space junk that keeps this place operating, PEG.  Really messy and I didn't want to scare you.  It is really interesting though and you would wonder how I ever keep it working without the whole thing going up in flames. :)

 Humm lets hope Sassy miss's this post eh :'( ;D  

 I'm sure that would not be very reassuring to have in the back of the mind as she falls asleep :-[