Thursday, March 29, 2012

Building Your Own Home Cheaply

I am going to continue to tell you more in this post about Mike Oehler's underground home building methods.

Mike built his first underground home in the 70s and has continued to build more since then. Others have also built using his methods. Mike is in continuous demand to lecture to students about his underground home building methods. He is even invited to lecture and teach about his methods in architecture schools in other countries around the world.

Fortunately for those of us who are interested in using Mike Oehler's methods, he wrote several books and published a set of videos about his building methods.  The title of his book is, "The $50 & Up Underground House Book". He also wrote one on building underground greenhouses.

Mike Oehler does not just tease you with the propect of having an affordable, comfortable home that you can build yourself. He takes you step by step through the process from planning and designing through landscaping afterward.

Mike's method of building an underground home is so well thought out that he helps you to do it so that you will never have to push a wheelbarrow full of dirt uphill. When you use Mike's method, you prepare a site for a terrace when you begin your project. You push your wheelbarrows of dirt that will be more than is needed for walls and roof on level ground or downhill and fill in your terrace. The terrace will make for easier entrance and exit to your home when it is built and make gardening more convenient as well.

Mike provides a numbered list of the steps that you must take in your building process to make the work flow smoothly. His list also saves on your labor. An example is the way he uses the dirt in the building process. You wait to dig out the uphill terrace in front of your windows until your roof is ready for dirt to be placed on it. That means every shovel that you take off of the uphill terrace goes right onto the roof. It is an easy shot to the roof and  you don't have to move that dirt twice. I was in awe at that trick.

There are lots of black and white photos and diagrams in Mike's book about building your underground home. They make it easier for an amateur builder to understand what he is talking about. Since the biggest project I have previously tackled is a large shelving unit, I appreciate the liberal illustrations.

I will give you some links to videos about Mike's underground homes, so you can see for yourself how nice they can be. Mike's own home was built in the 70s, so we know they last at least 30 years or so. He is quite frank about problems that he has experienced. He also tells us how to avoid the same problems. 

An example of this is his drip boards along the eaves edges of the eaves. He got a leak because he failed to correctly place a drip board along an eave. Once the drip board was done properly - no more leak.

Since earth is used for heat storage Mike Oehler's methods will probably require some modification for permafrost areas like Alaska. There is a somewhat different approach to underground home building that will probably work better with permafrost. I will post about the other underground home method that is better for permafrost.

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