Any Thoughts On Underground Houses???

STROBEJuly 13, 2006


I have been reading about underground or "earth sheltered" houses online for the past couple days after watching all three lord of the rings movies in succession...

I have found lots of advantages to building underground:

-less materials (but lots of concrete)

-stable temperatures year round

-uses less energy to heat and cool

-blends in with landscape

-tornado resistant, fire resistant (built mainly of concrete)


The only disadvantage I've read about is controlling the humidity and moisture levels inside the home. A few sites I visited claimed this could be controlled by ventilation tubes going up to the surface...

The first issue I was hesistant about was how to have great natural light in all rooms.

Ta Da: Skylights!

I am beginning to think this would be a great way to build "green" and have the least impact on the landscape.

Any opinions, thoughts, experiences welcome!

I would really love to hear from someone that has built a home like this or even visited one.



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I saw one at the New York Worlds Fair in '63. It was ghastly. Like living in a basement. Great bomb shelter.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 1:12AM
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If you have a large family or like to bake it would probably be a good idea to run some copper tubing out well away from the house and run water through it for more temperature interface between your house and the groundwater temp when you need it. check the temp of the ground water and if its not what you are looking for insulate your house fairly well with rigid foam because it won't be cheap to heat a house if all the heat is wicked away by groundwater or cool it if you have to cool the water around it aswell (generally not a problem in the US). Also, trees will help the ground stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter but will interfere with natural light and you do have issues with roots if you choose the trees poorly(in zone 7B I would choose shallow rooted fast growing sitka spruice, but thats just me and my lifelong love affair with the Emirald isle of Kodiak). If you listened to the directorsa commentary on the LOTR triloge extended edition like me than you know that peter jackson owns the lifesized hobbit house set and if you were to write to the correct people I'll bet you can either get more pictures of it or even a tour if you can really schmooze. I also remember seeing a rudamentary plan somewere in one of the dvd box sets. Be sure you use good vapor barrior too, 12 mill poly sheets, overlap the tyvek well, and save a bundle on siding, roofing, and painting for the rest of your natural life, But don't skimp on the water proofing ( maybe even place an EDPM sheet over the entire top of the building before you pile the dirt back on). Also, a hillside is probably the place to do it, if not a hill top, a french drain around the entire perimeter exiting to daylight would keep you fairly dry.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 1:14AM
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I looked into it a bit a long time ago . . there are certainly some inherent advantages. The issue of light is a no brainer with light tubes etc . . and as far as energy consumption goes; if you think about it; the "outdoor" temp to your living space is for the most part a pretty constant 55 - 70 degrees; depending upon where you live. Building "into" a hill is probably ideal from water drainage standpoint; and yes you need to pay a lot of attention to waterproofing. As far as insulating goes; you should use lots; but rigid foam on the outside is not a good solution in much of the country . . ants LOVE the stuff; it's an ideal home for them. I'd use it on the interior, not the exterior.

I also seem to remember reading about code and insurance issues . . . they're very "different" structures, and just like straw bale homes, geodesic domes etc; you may well encounter some code resistance . . intentional or not. I also remember reading that insurance can be difficult to obtain; again because of being of "unconventional" construction.

I finally built my own log home; if I ever build another place I would seriously like to make it an earth-sheltered one . . . Good luck . ..


    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 6:14AM
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I wouldn't do it. If super-insulation is your goal, it's far cheaper to do in other ways. Build an above-ground house of ICFs or SIPs or straw-bale with few windows, if you want to simulate the advantages of earth-sheltered construction.

The result will be cheaper to build, easier to sell if / when it comes to that, not subject to the same issues with drainage / water infiltration, and easier / cheaper to repair.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 8:43AM
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Financing will probably be very difficult to obtain as you would be building a non-conventional home. IF you can find financing, they will probably require a large percentage of the building cost to be paid out of your pocket and expect a higher rate of interest. There is also the possibility that you will have to finance the house 100% to make it happen.

The bank will have a problem getting an appraisal as it's unlikely that there is nearby comparable properties that have recently sold.

Banks don't really like non-conventional houses because if the house goes into foreclosure the bank has a difficult time selling the house.

Another problem may be finding a homeowner's policy. These days it can be difficult to find a homeowner's policy on a conventional house but even moreso on a non-conventional house. Insurance companies may not insure over concerns of mold and structural integrity. If they do insure you may pay a much higher premium. If you have a mortgage the bank will require that you have a homeowner's policy.

And finally selling the home is difficult. It's not what buyers are looking for. It will generally take much longer to sell and you may not recoup your investment. Most houses increase in value over time but this type of house may not increase in value or increase a much smaller amount.

Be sure to consider and check-out the financial implications of building this type of house. It's not something I would do for these reasons but it may work out fine for you.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 9:05AM
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It would seem that all the above posts are resistant to the idea, based no doubt more upon personal opinion than personal experience. Here is W.PA hillside construction is becoming very poplular, in fact, In sharpsville,Pa the town hall and police station are built into the hillside with earth surrounding three sides and covering the roof. Humidity control requires a bit more engineering than a conventional structure but it certainly is not a major problem, otherwise the town hall record archives would not be in that structure.

I recently helped complete a 3BR house for a friend and i am now in the process of building my own 2br retirement home in the same manner.

In general appearance as you approach the front of these structures they appear the same as any other brick house and once inside you never notice a difference.

For my house I have a corner projecting forward so I will have normal window natural lighting on two walls in the great room area.

In regard to maintenance, interior maintenance is no different than any other structure and exterior maintenance is limited to cutting the grass occassionally, certainly much cheaper and easier than painting a house.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 9:45AM
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Thank you all for responding so quickly.

About the bomb shelter resemblance, I was also planning on having a corner of the building stick out so I could have light on two sides.

I haven't gotten far enought into researching the concept to think about what to use for water barrier or insulation yet, so thanks for the suggestions. And it will be at least 10 years before I could possibly start building. but I will continue reading for all ten of those years.

Maybe by the time I start building, homes like this will become more common, and financing wont be such a problem. I live in Alabama, in Jefferson county. I tried to locate underground homes around here, online, and I got no results. There probably isn't anything for the banks to compare.

About resale, I never plan on selling. My father owns what I think to be the perfect piece of property for this. It is all wooded, and mostly hilly, and the site where I would put the house would be into the side of a hill that is south-facing. There is a river at the foot of this hill. Would that be a problem since I'll be digging back into the hill instead of down??

One of the reasons I like this idea is I am also very interested in homesteading. If any of you have any comments or experiences about that, my email is:

Thank you all for your suggestions!!!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 10:59AM
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Thank you all for responding so quickly.

About the bomb shelter resemblance, I was also planning on having a corner of the building stick out so I could have light on two sides.

I haven't gotten far enought into researching the concept to think about what to use for water barrier or insulation yet, so thanks for the suggestions. And it will be at least 10 years before I could possibly start building. but I will continue reading for all ten of those years.

Maybe by the time I start building, homes like this will become more common, and financing wont be such a problem. I live in Alabama, in Jefferson county. I tried to locate underground homes around here, online, and I got no results. There probably isn't anything for the banks to compare.

About resale, I never plan on selling. My father owns what I think to be the perfect piece of property for this. It is all wooded, and mostly hilly, and the site where I would put the house would be into the side of a hill that is south-facing. There is a river at the foot of this hill. Would that be a problem since I'll be digging back into the hill instead of down??

One of the reasons I like this idea is I am also very interested in homesteading. If any of you have any comments or experiences about that, my email is:

Thank you all for your suggestions!!!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 11:00AM
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There are several berm homes in our old subdivision and there is a subdivison of earth homes (with earth roofs) near us--all of these homes were built in the late 70s and 80s. I don't think that the energy savings are that great when compared to a well built home using new technology windows, heating, etc., and taking advantage of passive solar features in the north, or whatever is done in the south to keep places cool. The berm houses have fared better than the earth homes. Humidity and ventilation are problems, but can be controlled. In the earth homes with earth roofs, leaky roofs are problems. You can get natural light with skylights, but skylights aren't the same as looking out a window, and some people feel claustrophobic in rooms with skylights only. The houses I like best are the ones with only one earth wall--so you can have windows on 3 sides. One acquaintance of mine had a berm house and the berm was on two sides of the master bedroom so they only had skylights--kids would sneak up on their roof (you could just walk up to the roof from the berm) and look at them in bed at night through their skylight--LOL!! They had to put a big fence around their yard with a gate to try to keep kids out! If you like fresh air in your bedroom at night, then you need to keep the window coverings on the skylights open, so window covering on teh skylight didn't help. The earth homes I have been in have used lots of mirrors to make them lighter and to get views of the outside into the back of rooms, where possible.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 11:25AM
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I think it's a great idea, but remember, NONE of us building our dream home plan on selling :)

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 1:29PM
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I guess it would be Ok as long as a giant dog dosen't come along and dig you up?

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 9:01PM
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I didn't even think about subteranian insects, not a problem here in AK, sorry.

In ground construction has considerable advantages, advantages that super insulation and straw bale do not, namely stabe temps even without good insulation, its were that temp stablizes that matters. Alabama is a good place to do it in my opinion, while the ground water temps are a bit high it should really help to combat the prolonged summer heat.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 5:53AM
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If you go to the MLS link below you will see the MLS listings for two berm houses that are for sale near where I live--just search for MLS # 1443832 and MLS #1432695. Both of these houses have a berm across the back and then on part of one side. I think it is interesting that neither description mentions the berm. It's hard to tell from the pictures that they are berm houses. In one of them, if you look through the living room window you will see the berm coming down. And on the other, when you look at the picture of the garage you will note the berm. This is Wisconsin where you want heat and both of these houses have passive solar features. The people I know with berm houses have not have trouble selling them, or at least difficulty selling was not due to the berm. The people I know with earth homes (i.e., berms on 3 walls and then usually dirt on the roof too) have had trouble selling them. There was an earth home next to the one of these home that was recently demolished. However, I think it was because it was very poorly built (and it had a flat front so it didn't get very much natural light) and not because earth homes don't work. A friend of mine used to live in a house between these two houses. However, she moved two years ago so I haven't paid attention to how long these houses have been for sale. Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: berm house MLS listings

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 9:25AM
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I currently live in an underground apartment while my house is being built.

It is VERY mildewy and the air is damp.

Would that be an issue with these types of houses?

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 9:51PM
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The one underground house I was in, had a lot of mildew spots on the lower parts of the walls. It smelled a bit mouldy in it too. It was open on one end with a wall of patio doors, otherwise all underground. Seemed to have several ventilation pipes sticking out here and there. I felt trapped in there, and would never want to live there, and couldnt wait to get outside again. This was in northern Mn where humidity is not a real problem.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 10:06PM
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I am currently rehabbing an underground house. Three sides are buried and the Southern face is exposed for passive solar. Moisture is definitely an issue (I am addressing it though) and I am unearthing one side to bring in more light. My house was built 25 years ago and we have learned a lot about underground houses since then. An excellent, I cannot stress how excellent website, to look at is Included is tons of information about design and decision making, live tracking of energy use, feedback from/to readers, and I believe a forum. I think their design is very well thought out, much better than the earlier prototypes. Feel free to email me if you have any questions.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 10:37PM
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jcal, you make me laugh :)

Strobe- aka "Peregrin Took"- aka Pippin.....
what's the difference in building a home into a hill or having a basement? They're both underground. Since both are encased in concrete, do underground basements have subteranian insects too?

My only suggestion is... before you start building Hobbiton you might want to watch the movie 50 or so times to make sure you don't end up feeling like you built Moria by mistake.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 1:48PM
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I went to elementary school in an underground building. I HATED it. It was a brand new school, very bright and clean, so no mold or mildew problems. But it was horrible being underground all the time. I am a nature lover and I missed looking out the windows. :) Some mornings you would go to school with the sun shining bright, and come outside at noon and it would be raining or snowing. You never knew what to expect when you walked up the stairs to the outside. I realize your home wouldn't be built completely underground, but I don't think you'd like it. You couldn't give me an underground house! I don't even want a basement now because of my experience going to school in an underground building!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 12:43AM
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If you build completely underground skylights are a good idea.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 5:36AM
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There are a number of useful sites on the 'Net. Try googling such terms as earth home, earth shelter, underground home, green homes, etc. My husband & I recently toured the home for sale in Union City, PA. The listing is accessible thru link below, lots of photos. They are holding an open house tomorrow (Aug. 19). It really has nearly all we are looking for in a home (and the land with it is exceptionally nice). The owners have a photo album documenting the step-by-step construction. We would have bought it except that when we retire in a couple of years, we want to be nearer to our daughter & her family in the Columbus, OH area.
I am visiting my daughter now, but when I get home, strobe, in a couple of days I'll get in touch with you. I have more info in my home computer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Earth homes info

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 8:08AM
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Back in the late seventies, i worked on a sample drilling crew around the yellow aster mine in randsburg,ca. It was a jumping gold mine in the late eighteen hundreds. The geologist took us down in some of the multitudes of tunnels. The temperature was between 68 - 72 degrees constant year round. The air shafts were designed genious at best, as they not only provided fresh air to the miners, but were instrumental in controlling moisture issues as well.It amazes me that we struggle to duplicate what was done in them days with our technology of the present day.Some cabins in the area were built into the ground as heating was not a problem,(wood stoves), but cooling was,and in the summer, an in the ground cabin was nice and cool.
Recently, a builder/developer/rocket scientist pal is working on a heating/cooling system in the ground using solar pumps to circulate air and water to provide the constant temperature range the earth provides year round ,in the ground.In our area, the mojave desert, that range is attained around 30'.
There are a few homes in the area that have "daylight basements" where three sides are earthbound and require no heating or cooling in that immediate area. Surprisingly there are no earth homes in our area that take advantage of the deserts low humitity and moisture, although it does get wet in the winter, and moisture issues would still have to be addressed.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 12:47PM
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Soooo many factors: in huricane/tornado country, it would be great [so long as you are high enough above the floodplain]. Equally useful in the desert [free cooling] or far north [practicly free heat].

The better designs feature window walls on the southern exposure and have very advanced air exchange systems to keep things dry and comfy. In the worst designs, you feel like the lonliest tuber in the potato cellar.

The site for my next home has amazing views in 3 directions and a hot spring for practically free heat, so earth shelter isn't even on my radar screen.

But I wouldn't write them off too soon: who would have thought there'd be such a market for hybrid cars, literally out of nowhere?

    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 5:18AM
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My husband built an underground home in the late 70's (this is before we got married) 2 small bedrooms, living room, small kitchen, 1 bathroom, and utility room. Then in the mid 80's he married me with 2 teenagers so he built an above ground level with 3 bedrooms, living room, bathroom, and enclosed porch (that is how we got from the underground through the garage up stairs to the above ground level. We had a large air conditioning unit but we used it as a Dehumidifier and still had to have 2 small units for one bedroom and the utility room. One thing I did like was our bedroom was dark with the door closed and that was a great place to be when I was having a Sick Headache. North Central Ohio is very humid and I do think that was part of the problem. There were some other homes modeled after ours but they added skylights and had major leakage problems. Our home had windows on the south side and a 12" concrete roof with dirt on top of that. Our heat source was a wood burning stove. We did not have to use it until November and some times December but had to use it until May and some times June.

In 2002 we decided to move from Ohio to Wyoming and the realtor did not want to list our house--she said she would have to list it without a kitchen because she considered the underground part--Just a Basement. My daughter and son-in-law bought our home so we did not have any problems selling it. My 3 year old grand daughter loves this house when they are having tornado watches or warnings.
I have a friend here in Wyoming that built an earth berm home and she does not have air conditioning and of course does not have any humidity issues. They also have a large wood burning fireplace. I hope I have helped with my post.

Sue in Wyoming

    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 9:16PM
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I too live in Alabama. SE area and my husband and I are looking into an earth sheltered or underground home. There is one located about 6 miles from us and I spoke with the lady that lives there today. Her husband built it in the early 80's. Virtually no maintenance in 30 years. No leaks, no bugs and no problems. She has a beautiful house and has put us in contact with some builders in this area. Please feel free to contact me with an email @ and I can pass on this information to you. My husband will retire from the military in about 1 and 1/2 years and we are looking at building then. I am still doing research on this. Thank you

    Bookmark   February 22, 2007 at 6:50PM
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We looked at one in Colorado a few years ago that had been lived in for five years. It was awful, although I don't think they had skylights; can't remember. But it was dark and dank and moldy. Hated it, after expecting that we would really like it. The Geico caveman would probably think it was great, but if you like a lot of light I wouldn't try it, unless design has improved considerably in the past few years.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2007 at 7:01PM
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This idea keeps returning like a bad penny. This a forum for people building a house, not an underground bunker or a cave.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2007 at 9:20PM
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i spent three days of my life in sheffield, england. it was cloudy and dark and dismal. i'm a north eastern girl so i don't need sunlight 24/7 but i do require some indication that the sun is indeed shining. just me though. maybe do some happier reading?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2007 at 11:17PM
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I think it's really cool to be building a house you really want, no matter how unique.

I once had a babysitter whose parents lived in an underground house. It was very spacious and filled with light. I know for a fact that they are very inexpensive to heat in the winter and cool in the summer. But I bet being in Alabama it could really help with the humidity?

Good luck with your build and I hope you keep us posted.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2007 at 2:41AM
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My new husband and I are considering building a home underground here in Iowa. Surely it would be tornado proof? Anyone live underground here in Iowa? Hubby thinks he could do much of the work himself. Any wise advice would be greatly appreciated.

Karen in Iowa

    Bookmark   May 28, 2007 at 12:37PM
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As you've seen [or soon will], there just isn't much info on them round here.

I'd google 'alternative house' or 'earth shelter house', find a forum more focused on the off beat.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2007 at 7:01PM
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hi all!

I'm a single mom with 4 sons.. 3 still at home.. and the last two are ages 12 and 10.. so I'll be at this for a while yet! lol
Our home it too big. Sucks me dry with costs of running it.
So.. I've decided to build an earth-sheltered home. I appreciate all comments on this thread.. and I'm thankful for all who offered advice, knowledge, and opinions.
I'm just starting on my quest for knowledge, and would like to share my favorite plan for an earth-sheltered home.
I have also considered having the front of the house be about a foot 'underground' as well.. to help with the regulation of indoor temperature.
The plan is almost too fabulous to be true, as it would work soo very well for my family. Karen from Iowa, have you built your home yet? How 'bout any others? Experience is the best teacher.
in peace,
Elle Jaye

Here is a link that might be useful: Earth Sheltered Home Plan

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 1:57PM
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I've been in more than one...alternative building methods aren't that uncommon around here (outside Austin, TX) and they were actually quite nice...very quiet and comfortable as far as temps, apparently the energy efficiency was really good (humidity problems can be dealt with by installing a good whole-house dehumidifier, btw.) The main living areas (LR, kitchen and DR) had big windows looking out from the hillside the house was built into; the bedrooms and baths etc. had solar tubes and recessed lighting around the ceiling which actually was nicer than I thought it would be. I think no windows in many of the rooms would bother *me* but I'm a light freak and it seems that so many times when I am in other people's houses....they don't even bother to open the blinds or drapes in the bedrooms and bathrooms most of the time anyway. Sure, underground houses aren't for everyone, but then neither is straw bale construction or domes, or concrete walls...all of which can be found around here without too much trouble (adobe doesn't work well here because it rains too much, LOL.)

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 7:47PM
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Before you consider an "Underground" house, please look at these sites:

Mike Oehler wrote a book called the "$50 and Up Underground House Book". His ideas and designs turn traditional thoughts about underground houses on their heads. It's well worth it to buy this book.

The countryplans link shows a house built using some of Mike Oehler's methods.

Yes, it will be difficult to impossible to build an underground home with a mortgage. Perhpas the only way I could think of you could get away with it is to build a Monolithic Dome home and put it underground. But it would cost you a lot more money that if you do it Mike Oehler's way.

Getting an underground home to code will also be a challenge.

I am planning on building one on some acreage I have in the mountains, so I can avoid the code inspectors and do it piece by piece, debt free, so that I don't have to worry about "resale value" or getting a mortgage. This is a recreational retreat, perhaps a place to retire to after our kids are gone.

Mike's simple designs allow for plenty of natural light and ventilation so you never have issues with dampness or feeling like you are in a cave or in the dark.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 12:25AM
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I guess I don't understand why it would be difficult to be code-compliant with an underground home?????

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 8:01AM
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OO makes me think of the Morlocks in the time machine. LOL

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 10:26AM
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"Any thoughts on underground houses"

yes, don't step on one or those bees will sting the crap out of you.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 9:16PM
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jasonmi7- "the difficulty with codes" is that building codes were written for "stick-built" houses. Most include specifics for building a house so that it is fire-resistant, won't fall down in [high] winds, is correctly plumbed/electrified and is otherwise reasonably safe to dwell in. The majority of the specifics re structural support don't apply to properly made strawbale houses or to in-ground homes, however, many inspectors 'fulfill the word of the law' rather than considering what the law meant to do. When strawbale first became acknowledged, it took formal labratory tests to "prove" that a properly made strawbale wall was nearly fireproof; more lab tests to determine the insulating value; engineering degrees to verify stress safety, and so on and on. In the past few years, strawbale and earth dwellings are becoming more public with reports, tests, and verified data putting the pros and cons into legalese instead of guesswork. Nevertheless, unless you get amazingly lucky (most likely to happen in Arizona or Nevada), the building code inspector is going to be difficult to deal with. Get prepared BEFORE you start to build, and have lots of published scientific and lab tests to uphold the validity of your plans. Most inspectors are good guys who want you to be safe in your house; that means that if you can prove that you are going to [or have] done something not in agreement with local code, you have valid support.

I get exasperated every time I hear about "dark rooms" ~~ basic common sense is to have a natural light source, whether window or solartube; and mildew/mold/dankness is the result of poor planning and worse building just exactly as it is for basements under a stickbuilt. You don't really have to worry about light in earthhomes: good planning will give you a window, and otherwise you'll find that solartubes or sun tunnels can supply far more natural light than most stick-built houses. Mildew/mold/dankness should be taken of at the designing stage by providing superb drainage all around and under the house, and by being sure that all rooms are well ventilated. If you ever walk into an earth home that smells musty or worse, you can be sure that it wasn't built properly.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2007 at 11:27AM
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Follow your dreams. My wife and I are following ours.

Here is a link that might be useful: Stockton Underground

    Bookmark   April 6, 2008 at 9:23AM
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My father in law has a relative who built one thirty or forty years ago in Kosciusko, Mississippi. The man who built it couldn't get his wife to live in it, so it has never been used. Empty since built.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2008 at 10:07PM
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the only disadvantage you've found is humidity control?
wow... i must obviously be verrrrrrry picky.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 8:30AM
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as a builder i have found that we always have to be mindful that we dont build a white elephant. what might be cutting edge to you might be a total turnoff to most people. you never know, you may have to sell it to someone else someday.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 10:32AM
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Standard home building involves enough research/development as it is to get a decent home.

Out of the box homes would require quite a bit bigger effort.

In the gold rush days here in the mojave, underground cabins were fairly popular although crude. As a friend of my wifes stated that she grew up on dirt floors and her mom kept them spotless!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 10:57AM
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Well, this weekend I went to Kosciusko, MS, for my wife's family reunion and had a chance to see the underground house. It's built from a 32x 80 foot Quonset house and was built only 12 years ago. The owner built it as a bomb shelter and showed over a dozen of us the home. We were all pleasantly surprised.

After the Quonset house kit was assembled (from the thicker 14 gauge steel if memory serves), concrete was poured over it about eight inches thick minimum and 14" thick in the deeper parts of the corrugation. Then a membrane of some sort was draped over it to waterproof it. Then dirt was bulldozed over it about ten feet thick. It's not underground in a sense; it's just basically an artificial hill.

The entrance door is some sort of thick, bomb proof door and there is a heavy duty generator at the far end of the building. It is tall enough for two stories and has a living room on both floors. I think there are eight full sized bedrooms and a full kitchen that is open to the bottom living room.

What was amazing was how nicely finished it was, not high dollar, just paneling, and cabinet's and such, but NO MUSTY SMELL. No issues of any sort.

There were interior knee walls that were about eight feet tall that hid the sides of the Quonset hut from the living areas. The space created provided a narrow utility corridor that provided unfettered access to electrical and plumbing along both 80 foot sides.

There are no skylights as this is a bomb shelter. To give an illusion of "above groundness" frosted glass panels are set as "windows" in the knee walls and when lit from inside the utility corridors, do suggest naturally lit windows.

It really was kinda neat. It seems to be lived in and due to the number of people viewing, I couldn't ask all the questions I'd have liked.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 12:47AM
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I would suggest the yahoo "alternative housing" group as a likely better source of information. Underground houses can be great, well lit, comfortable and energy efficient. Also look into passive annual heat storage if heating is at all require in Alabama, I am guessing your winters don't get too cold. We considered an underground or partially underground house but our building site is relatively flat and that makes water drainage difficult so instead we are building a strawbale house (also considered a "bad" idea by many on this site). I would just be sure to do a lot of research visit earth homes and talk to whoever you can find who has built them.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 1:23PM
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Here's a link to source for some info on underground houses. (With apologies to Mighty Anvil):

Here is what Home & Garden Network (HGTV) had to say about Mike Oehler's underground house, on a special called "The Subterraneans":

"This guy literally wrote the book on subterranean housing and sold more than 90,000 copies of The $50 & Up Underground House Book. He lives in his own creation. It's a little snug but it's custom built and has all the creature comforts. You can barely see it, a dream get away nestled deep in the mountains of scenic Northern Idaho on 40 acres of land. Imagine it, all yours for $500. That's what subterranean pioneer Mike Oehler created when he... built one of the nations first underground houses in 1971... Today his little house in a hillside is a rustic gem... It's like having an underground log cabin... and somehow eight feet underground there's still lots of light here. Mike has developed what he calls an Up Hill Patio, a cut behind the house and into the hill, where plants can grow and light and air flow through the house. MIKE: "I think I've got the only system in the country, maybe the world where you get light, air and views from two or three directions in each and every room in the underground house.'
"A beautiful mountain side, custom design, self-sufficiency and plenty of natural light even though you're underground, and all for $500. And maybe best of all, tranquility. MIKE: 'Its easy to heat, easy to cool, It's easy on your ears because it's much more soundproof in there.'
So what's next for Mike Oehler? Well, he's writing a new book and he's designing and building a new (1800 sq. ft. underground) home. It's got a patio, and a tree house, and an underground pool and jacuzzi. And how much for this super house? $15,000.

Here is a link that might be useful: undergroundhousing

    Bookmark   June 28, 2009 at 12:20PM
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Ido live in an underground house- sort of...
I live in an earthbound house- earth on 3 sides, 1 1/2 sories deep. The south is big windows. There are skykites in the roof. I live in the upper desert/prairie, northern Wyoming, and it is NOT musty or damp. It has 6 inch solid concrete walls. We don't have tornadoes here, but it would be a good house to be in if there was one, I think. I don't have AC- it remains cool all summer except sometimes a week or so in the summer if we have 100 degrees continuously- then I go into the downstairs bedroom where it is cool. I do not have a furnace- and it is bitterly cold here in the winter. I used to heat with just a wood stove, but now that I have a severe back/neck injury I use a pellet stove and a Cove Heat on the lower floor. I don't need any heat upstairs due to heat rising.
I would like someone to invent windows that really ACCEPT heat in the winter! Iwould do it again if I were going to build this big again. Now I want to downsize greatly!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 2:03AM
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Here is a link to just one of many sites with all kinds of energy efficient homes.

While I personally wouldn't build underground, I would consider doing at least a partially earth-sheltered home.

Mighty Anvil, I know you are highly knowledgeable and therefore respected, but I really disliked your comment. This forum is actually called Building a Home, who are you to qualify that for others?

    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 10:32AM
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my husband and i want to visit some underground houses before we make a final decision to build one. we live in mobile, al. does anyone know where we can visit underground houses???

    Bookmark   January 18, 2011 at 8:10PM
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Jean Moore in Mobile,AL---My husband and I built an earthsheltered home in July of 2002. We love our home. We have almost 4,000 square feet. We do have a game room above ground that is about 500 square feet. We built this home because of the tornados that hit on Palm Sunday in the late 90's. That tornado hit about 4 miles from our stick built home. Then this year we had the outbreak of tornados again, these two that hit in our area, 1 was 1.5 miles from our old house and the other hit basically the same area(5 miles) away from our old house. My mom, sisters, aunt and uncles still live in the areas hit by the April 27 tornados. If you would like I can send you photos of our earth sheltered home. We customized our home to fit our needs. While we did have some problem with financing. Some of the independent banks will finance and alfa will insure them. Our walls and roof are 18 inches thick reinforced concrete. We have had no problems with moisture or leaking. Building this type of house is really no different than building a stick built home. You just need to make sure that your builder follows the guidlines specified. A great resource that I found was on a web site from Davis Caves Construction and the magazine Mother Earth News. Hope this was helpful. Any questions just e-mail me.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 11:47AM
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