Author Topic: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design  (Read 26707 times)

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Offline glenn kangiser

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As I mentioned in the Underground Cabin Update,    http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=151.msg117052#msg117052  I am building an underground structure for a friend.  

Since they wish to keep it quiet I will limit this to all aspects and considerations of the project except the who and where.  It is an owner approved and supervised project and we are considering it a root cellar for anyone who may inquire.  I cannot see wasting a good teaching opportunity though, as this uses improved techniques and skills I have gained over the years.

This project would not be possible without the work Mike Oehler has done in designing a safe structure in engineered repeatable modules.  Out of respect for his work and copyrights, I will not be divulging critical design information that needs to be obtained from his book and CD's.

Check out his site at www.undergroundhousing.com for more info.  If you seriously consider building one of these projects then I highly recommend both the book and the CD's.  Information only - I am not associated with Mike's business other than using his methods and teaching others his logical method of affordable, low cost, unobtrusive  housing.

There are designs out there by the concrete terrorists and if you have about a million and a half to start for a small structure call them.  If you want a way to do it yourself with safe untreated materials (Borate is not a problem - other treatments may cause you to sprout an alien....  [scared] .... ), then Mike's methods are the practical ones. "The $50 and Up Underground House" is not an exaggeration if you scrounge and do it yourself.  Even this project hired out will cost less than a regular similar sized structure.

As John points out, this is not for everybody for sure, but for some of us, there is nothing else. [waiting]

Note also that this is for areas where you can get around the permit requirements or none are required.  This is positively engineered safely and with enough hassles you may be even able to get it permitted - after you go through the good ol' boy system, pay the engineer associates of the system again to review a proven method and contract away your God given right to provide shelter for yourself and family by pulling a permit - your signature on that permit contracts away your rights-  and you come up with likely close to 1/2 million for a small structure if you do it yourself - their way.

We are not going to go there.   :o
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

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Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2010, 09:53:40 PM »
The first thing I had to do was find out what the owner wanted.  I got a verbal description and did a preliminary sketch then presented it to the owner for more discussion.  Upon thinking about it the owner decided they wanted a bit smaller place - around 600 sf with the design pretty well up to my discretion and aimed toward ease of building with most practical use of materials.

I did a rough sketch of the ridge building area - like a line on a TOPO map and fitted a practical design into that area.  I say "a practical design" because with Mike's methods there are hundreds of practical options.  For getting started we agreed an a shell design with openings to be discussed and added as we go along.  That allowed us to get started since I had a week off and the owner was anxious to get going.

For myself this would be in my head but for a customer, quantities for cost and design for their satisfaction had to be considered.  Where does it start?  Where does it stop?  How much for how much?  All important considerations and required up front so there are no misunderstandings.

Doing it on paper first saves having to make costly, time consuming changes later.

Here is the post plan and rough sketch of the work area. 

"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

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Offline bayview

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2010, 02:20:15 AM »


   Anxiously awaiting your progress with your knew project!   With plenty of pictures, I hope . . .     :)

/
    . . . said the focus was safety, not filling town coffers with permit money . . .

Offline John Raabe

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2010, 06:12:44 AM »
This will be great Glenn!

I expect this will, by necessity, be a more "organic" process of design/build/redesign/ than would be the case for a topside house.
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Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2010, 07:28:42 AM »
There is some of that, John as the owner is familiar with my place and wants me to incorporate some of my organic material from upstairs into the mix.  [ouch]

There is a bit of a difference though since it is for someone else in that I have to limit what I will do for how much.  While I intend on giving a good amount of creativity where it fits into the growth of the organism, it will also be tempered with limits based on whether things are going well or not so well according to budgeted amounts.  With this type of design though, many of the changes cost little to incorporate.  A couple foot taller pole here for a window view - an opening and no dirt there etc.

Note that when I estimate I use a spreadsheet and include every item.  Cost estimate for one of each item and estimated time to make and install it is figured then it is multiplied times x number of items.  That is the limiting budget I am talking about. 

It is easy to put an item into a job before you bid it but if you miss it, it is much harder to get in or impossible in the case of a contract for a complete item.  I left an opening here because I only priced out the shell, with openings and creative items to be added later - if they don't fit into the creativity allowance I have in the first part of the project.  I left a little room in some areas and an owner is always happy to get more than they paid for.

In line with the above, and unlike things I do for myself, I also drew up a basic plan to describe better what I am and am not including, which I am already modifying slightly to make a cooler place.  Same footprint at this time though.  Just edited for the coolness factor.  [waiting]

Here is the dimensioned floor plan and cut 2 from page one.

"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

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Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2010, 07:36:22 AM »
The above cut "a" is including my method of using Mike's engineered design spans but safely getting a nearly clear open room without a post in the center.

This is not in his book.  It takes half the span and transfers it over to each side leaving only one full span per design in the center and gives the cabin additional diagonal bracing.  Earthquake bracing is provided by the backfilled earth at the sidewalls.  The above span is 16 feet broken into 4', 8', 4 feet.

"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

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Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2010, 07:46:10 AM »


   Anxiously awaiting your progress with your knew project!   With plenty of pictures, I hope . . .     :)

/

Pictures have started but not in the computer yet.... coming soon. :)
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

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Offline John Raabe

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2010, 07:53:01 AM »
cut 2 ref 1 is a right to left section at the upper part of the plan, right?

This will be an earth covered roof I expect. How much of the wall area will be bermed or underground? Are you going to do cut and fill calculations?
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Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2010, 11:56:30 AM »
That is correct, John as I had originally put the cut on the first sheet as shown then put the detail onto the second sheet and expanded from there.

There will be around 16" of earth cover plus or minus going from Mike's later recommendations of reduced loading from his engineered design of 2' of soil and a foot of water.  He recommended reducing to 18" of soil.  In this case I would say we will end up with 75% of the wall area bermed or underground.  I am having a bit of a hard time talking the owner into putting what I feel is a necessary amount of windows.  The owner wants it to look much like the original mountain ridge with nothing to indicate that it is there.  While it will easily support the weight of a vehicle, I plan on adding boulders or landscape items to prevent driving on it.  Cuts nearby indicate that this is a self supporting shale mountain so pressure against the sides will be minimal and there is no water from uphill to cause problems since this is on a ridge.

I want to get light from four sides so am thinking of making the gable roof poke up a bit through the ground as a bit of a higher hill rise.  Wall height at the highest point of the cut will be 8 to 10 feet.  None of the structure will be on fill - all cut into the natural soil, but the berms will be fill.

I estimated moving around 250 to 300 yards of earth plus or minus but that will expand about a third when broken loose.  I may do it in two phases since loose dirt storage is uphill.  

We are going to use some to fill a larger downhill yard area minimizing fire danger while still leaving the trees for cover and shade.  Since I own the Bobcat equipment cost is not enough of an issue to get tighter on calcs.  I also have a Jackhammer for it but it does not look from the surface and road cuts that its use will be required.

Here is my current roof framing plan, which at this point shows the entire roof at one level roof line.  Gable roof with water shedding downhill on soil  to both sides of the roof.  I think I may raise the 10'6  x 32' section or the center sections to a steeper pitch as we are sawing 14" square girders at this point and they will look too cool to have a minimalist design in there. [ouch]





Note that I don't get crazy with a CAD program for my design.  I am just using Paint from the Accessories in Win7.  It is pretty good for this as it is extremely simple and has a grid which can be turned on for measurements.  I don't really need much more than that.  It is good enough to use quickly and get decent drawings I can show to the owner or send on the net.  Mike offered to review my design and add suggestions on it so I can easily send it to him too.
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Offline HomeschoolMom

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2010, 12:16:07 PM »
I look forward to watching this unfold   [cool]
Michelle
Homeschooling Mom to Two Boys
Married to Jason, Self Employed

Wanting an earth bermed hybrid timberframe...just need some inheritance  ;)  Will never have another mortgage again!

Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2010, 12:27:20 PM »
Thanks, Michelle.  I'm glad there is so much interest in it.  Makes me feel better about taking the time to document it for teaching others. :)
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Offline John Raabe

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2010, 02:01:45 PM »
This is great. I feel involved already! :D :D :D

I like your idea of light on all four sides. That's hard enough to do when you build above ground.

Is the central 16x16 area likely to be the great room? It could look a bit like a NW Indian lodge with a higher roof there and a band of windows all around.
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Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #12 on: June 16, 2010, 03:09:09 PM »
That is what I would call it, John.  I wanted them to have one area without a post in the center.  It is now officially the Great Room.

Involved already?... You are - you are already giving me ideas and I see this growing in different ways as we speak.  As I mentioned above, very cool changes can cost very little with this type of construction. :)

Mike has information on his CD's and design booklet that comes with it that teaches ways to get light from all four sides into an underground structure.  He likes to see it but does not totally insist on it.  What he does insist on is that you know how to do it.  Mike was impressed that I had light on 4 sides in most of my cabin.

It would be quite easy to make an undulating roof there by raising a couple of the center roof beams on top of the girder with short posts and putting glass in.  The EPDM would simply divert the water to both sides of the raised section off onto solid ground downhill per Mike's design rules.

Mike's book has sizes for round or rectangular/square cut logs.  For my place I used round, but for ease of construction and tree availability here I am using rectangular, but allowing wain in lower loaded areas such as sides, (half load) for a rustic cabin look.  Mike mentioned that there is a big safety factor in the designs so the wood does not have to be perfect.  That combined with the reduced loading makes it safer yet. 

Just a thought - logs continue to dry for a couple years or more so the occasional pop of a check or crack forming is not a cause for alarm.  Even expensive commercially sawn lumber and beams do that.

Here we are using bug damaged trees that would soon die and become a safety or fire hazard.  One friend has the trees.  My renter has firewood, so I trade firewood for some of the tree value and take it off the rent, then the tree owner gets something for his trees and gets them away from his house, my renter gets a lower rent payment, and I get logs which I am constantly lusting after every time I drive through a pristine old growth forest... [waiting]



I already have some of the trees from here and will soon have 8 more. :)
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Offline speedfunk

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2010, 04:04:32 PM »
So cool  ;D
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Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2010, 05:20:49 PM »
Whitlock helped me log the first bunch of trees from the above location,  and I suspect he will be around for the second stint of logging, as well as to lift the occasional 8x16 x 16 foot cant off of my leg when we failed to get it properly rolled over. [ouch]

There it is folks... a story complete with suspense, action and danger.  We were flipping a cant by hand to make 2 8x8's x 16 feet when the bottom half of the log shifted in the mill dogs.  That allowed the cant to tip and flop over getting my leg stuck between it and the sawmill carriage.  No pain to speak of as the peavy (cant hook) was stuck under it stopping it from smashing me.  I just couldn't get out, so Whitlock lifted it off long enough for me to get clear.  Reflecting on the safety aspect, we decided, it was dangerous in a way, that the two of us together lost it, but working alone I would have had to use the crane so wouldn't have been under it.  Estimated weight about 600 lbs. [noidea'

The owner asked why I would take this project on when I am already working pretty steady... "Do you just like to do it?"  That is it...I have wanted to make someone else an underground cabin for a long time....  that and the idea that I can help others in the community with extra work, barter and deals that benefit many of us,  while giving the clients a cabin they have dreamed about for years.

Here the logs are being lifted from the cold deck to the mill, but we load them on the trailer the same way. Click the next two pix for short videos.




The crane can be operated manually or by remote.  Note that all of the procedures I do with the machines can be done by hand -probably using round logs, if you were building the $50 version of a smaller shelter house.  Note that even one or two of the above modules can be a complete shelter.  It just depends on your situation.  The cheap version could use just a roll of polyethylene, salvaged boards and logs cut with a crosscut saw by hand.




After the logs are placed on the carriage and the dogs are set, cuts are made to square them, make posts and beams, cants or lumber.  Whitlock told me about spraying diesel on the blade occasionally to remove the sap, lubricate and make the blade last longer.  A stream of water is also running on the blade from the water jug above for lubrication.  The amount of diesel sprayed is so small that you never even smell it on the wood.



After the cut the caps are piled behind the mill and lumber is put into stacks with stickers to dry and prevent mold from growing.

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Offline ScottA

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #15 on: June 16, 2010, 06:17:20 PM »
Get-R-Done! Glenn you get the coolest projects. I'm jealous.  ;)

Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #16 on: June 16, 2010, 07:44:47 PM »
Thanks, Scott.  I'm hoping this will be fun.

The client was a bit upset when I told them that I was rather swamped with work and they mentioned that I was swamped a couple years ago the last time they asked too.

With the economy being so shaky right now I decided, What the Heck, lots of work currently or not, let's do it.  :) 

Who knows if there will be other work tomorrow? [noidea'
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Offline Ernest T. Bass

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #17 on: June 16, 2010, 09:08:24 PM »
I like your attitude--so glad to see you have another hole to play with! What with all of our alternative-construction projects, I understand how building unconventionally can be so addicting. This project will be so much fun to watch as it progresses!

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Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #18 on: June 16, 2010, 10:02:17 PM »
Thanks, Andrew.  I'm looking forward to it.  Still waiting for Bobcat parts so we are working on the lumber and timbers first but that's a good idea anyway.  Once the hole is done and the French drain in we will be able to start standing timber.

I plan to lay out the post locations, drive stakes in the centers, put a concrete pad with vapor barrier under the post end, laser set to grade, then we can use premade posts, beams etc., that is if the ground cooperates with my thought process.
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Offline Freeholdfarm

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #19 on: June 17, 2010, 04:03:39 AM »
This looks like a great project!  I'll follow as I can -- my summer is going to be extremely busy, starting about two weeks ago, LOL!  (Family and work)

Kathleen

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #20 on: June 17, 2010, 04:05:21 AM »
Glad to see you in here, Kathleen.  You always make good contributions to forum topics. :)
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Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #21 on: June 18, 2010, 12:05:38 PM »
OK, talked with the owners today.

This is to be thought of more as an underground medieval castle.  Some type of  turret is desired. I am working on getting them to allow me to add more windows and their concern is the heat we have here.  I think I need to differentiate between sunlight and light for them then it may be easier to add windows without the great heat concerns.

I also notified them that I am posting this as a discussion and teaching topic, in a non-identifying way and they are happy with that.

I am thinking of an artificial natural looking hill toward the property entrance for privacy and  to allow us more creativity.  The structure is to be invisible from the drive entrance area and fairly invisible in most viewpoints.  I will have massive amounts of excavated dirt with which to make the hill.  This area is rough country with hills, mountains, brush, trees and canyons all around.
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Offline John Raabe

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #22 on: June 18, 2010, 12:46:25 PM »
The idea of a mound between the parking/drive and the house is intriguing.

I was seeing low slope earth covered gable or shed roofs with big exposed timbers.  Maybe the roof over the great room would pop up 3' or so for a band of light and ventilation windows (they would not let in much high summer sun and could  be used for stack cooling in summer).

A spiral staircase turret could rise above the main structure and end up on a watchtower open or covered deck looking over the whole place. (Watch the budget on that one!) Is there a long view from an attainable height?
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Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #23 on: June 18, 2010, 01:14:57 PM »
The side of the mound toward the house could have a landscaped retaining wall for a neat garden effect.  It would be on undisturbed soil toward the parking/drive area.

Big exposed timbers would be 6x8 beams and 12x12 girders in that area.  The 10'6 wide section gets 14x14 girders and 6x8 beams.  Elevation changes are OK'd.

I think there are great views available if I can work out the hill for cover behind.  Then the turret above the structure could be a possibility.

The wood spiral stair case from the USDA plans in Ken Kern's plans are very economical as well as strong.  I am using them in the Underground Complex.  The handrail could get tricky.
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Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Underground Cabin - Techniques - Thoughts - Methods - Design
« Reply #24 on: June 18, 2010, 09:43:19 PM »
Cutting boards and timbers for this project, this log yielded about fourteen 2x25sx16' and three 6x8's x16' (about 5 of the 2x's were cap cuts and narrower}.



Here I am cutting the 2x25s from the log.




 I have been having a few blade problems and studied up a bit today.  I learned something I wish I had learned about 8  years ago.  My saw came with a water lube system.  Timber Wolf blades recommended reading their six rules, so I did.  It says water is not a lubricant and never use it on blades.   [ouch]

Whitlock already had me using a bit of diesel with the water.  Timber Wolf says use chainsaw bar oil lube mixed 50% with diesel.  It is such a small amount that it is not noticed on the wood - spray it on from a spray bottle every few minutes - they said 4 or when blade noise gets louder.  I can now say they are right.  http://www.suffolkmachinery.com/six_rules.asp

We hit 2 nails inside the log - put there around 35 years ago.  As if that wasn't good enough, I tried to cut through a backstop on the back side later.  Three blades dulled but re-sharpenable.  [waiting]



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