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Fire in Florida Options
#1 Posted : Saturday, December 13, 2008 3:08:29 AM
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Hello Nathaniel and welcome to the forums.Does sound like you've hit a bit of hardship your way pertaining to the trailer,I'm glad everyone got out ok.Well,if I may add a suggestion I do believe a pole barn would most suffice for your needs.They go up quick,use all natural materials, are stronger than a stick-built building,require no foundation,don't blow away or apart like a trailer,can be built either tight as a drum or open as you would like ;pole barn construction is the oldest type of construction known.They work great either in a swamp or on a mountainside.To describe what they are,basically the building 'hangs' on poles driven/dug into the ground.There is no foundation.I am in the process of building a 26 x 26 pole barn to house my equipment.It consists of 14 4 x 6 pressure treated poles dug 4 feet into the ground and the framing structure 'hangs' off those poles.They are accepted pretty much by every BOCA and national code today and have also been known to be  earthquake proof too because there is no foundation to crack.Poles are stilts so this makes them very hardy in hurricanes which I know on the beach is the only form of construction allowed down there(and up here in New England too,here they call it pole-platform construction.)If you're interested the best book(and the one I'm going by is 'Pole Barn Construction'by Monte Burch) What I guess you could go by as an example for where you live is an old tobacco barn or cow barn ,those were all pretty much pole barns back in the 1700s Ya..construction methods ifrom the 1700's are still very much the same current building standards of today,even more so with pressure treated materials being the norm.They are also the cheapest to put up too..shhh,,lol.

#2 Posted : Saturday, December 13, 2008 1:07:01 PM
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Are they really that sturdy??  I've watched a couple go up here.  They really are quick and relatively easy; my neighbors set up a polebarn garage with 4 guys in about 2 days (not counting pouring concrete floor).  I'm not casting dispersions on their sturdiness, more like suffering a flood of incredulous something-like-optimism.

Do they really work as residential structures???  What happens if you try to build a second story in one, as that's the only way I'm going to be able to provide "the bread" with private space w/o a really huge footprint???  How are they to insulate; I'm sick of shivering my butt off somewhere in the neighborhood of R12. 

If they're really that stable, remodeling this darn thing might be a viable concept...

I gotta get that book!!!  

#3 Posted : Sunday, December 14, 2008 2:57:02 AM
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Well,if comparison is what sells an idea then I think age  is one that would  suffice because here in northern New England we have pole barns that are getting up to 300 years old.Back then they used to literally build the buildings on the trees where they stood and put poles,bark and all in the ground (usually cedar or oak).If it stayed dry rot was'nt too much of a problem so long as the ants and mositure did'nt get to them,my fathers barn was like that.Cedar (one was a tree,I was the lucky one who got to dig it out,lol)and chestnut poles with chestnut post and beam const.,wooden pegs and all.His barn is 248 years old,built in 1760.Still there,they built a stone foundation under it with it standing.I know this because the foundation holds no weight and there is no sill to rot out which was (and still is)why they're popular.For residential structures what's done is to build an exterior wall with studs between the poles,build a skirt around the bottom(looks like a sill but it is'nt a true sill,it holds no  deadweight,it hangs off the poles)and fasten the floor joists to the skirt.The poles then hold the whole weight of that floor.Oh yea,are they sturdy!Once the top plate(from top to bottom)wind braces,wall girts,plywood and most of all the bottom skirt are in and the poles form a solid structure they're just as if not more sturdy than stick-built and certainly far more than any trailer.My poles are spaced 8 feet apart and are sunk 4-5 feet in the ground butt encased in concrete.They're 3 1/2 x  5 1/2  poles.As I said there are steel pole barns and wooden ones,usually the wooden ones last longer if they're treated though the steel poles are stronger.The vertical grain of wood in poles can hold many many times their weight,though it always varies by species.Insulation's not a problem,beauty of poles is,you can build the false stud wall any thickness you desireto handle any thickness insulation and still fasten them to the poles.Oh another thing too,one can insulate under the crawl space of a pole building floor without too much trouble.As far as our barn is concerned it is a total of 2 stories with a foundation dug after it was built with a full(now..lol we put the attic in)attic.It hangs off of 18 (I would guess them to be a foot or so thick round chestnut)poles.The skirts ,braces and beams are pegged.As I say they can be as sturdy as you want to be,if my Dad could run a commercial woodshop and park his truck in the shop on the 1st floor,have an art studio on the second with an attic above that full of junk plus a 50#/ft  live snow load on top of that and it has'nt come down yet it being 248 years old having gone thru myriad nor'eeasters and hurricanes I'd have to say that most likely it won't,but I suppose anythings' possible.
#4 Posted : Sunday, December 21, 2008 12:02:21 AM
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Its possible to build a house without a mortgage.  It will take years.  Your marriage will undergo stress like never before.  You will undergo stress like never before.  But its entirely possible.  I built my log home/log garage from start to finish without a mortgage.  I estimate the cost in excess of $80,000.  It took 6 years of my evenings, weekends, and whenever I had spare time. 

Its possible to build a 2 bedroom house for $10,000.  I know people that have accomplished the feat. 

But get realistic.  That 2 bedroom house which is built for $10,000 isn't even close to being up to code.  There will be outside plumbing.  Heating is a used woodstove.  No electricity.  No septic system. 

I'm convinced the fastest, quickest, least expensive building method is regular old 2 x 4 (or 2  x 6) construction.  House framing is a mere fraction of the total cost.  The real cost of building a house comes from all the "stuff".  Things such as excavation, building permits,  roofing materials, insulation, soffitt, electrical service & system, lighting system, water delivery system, septic system, bathroom fixtures, heating system, A/C system, doors, windows, trim, floor coverings, kitchen cabinets, sinks, paint, stain, decks,  etc etc etc.   The list is lengthy. 

John Edward Mercier
#5 Posted : Sunday, December 21, 2008 4:42:18 PM
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Alternative construction is more a matter of available resources.

Masonry is the preferred method in Florida due to the factors you listed.

Climate factors will generally be overcome by design. High ceilings and air flow.

So I might suggest an unusual method... if the codes will allow for such. A masonry foundation wall up to about four feet then a metal quonset for a roof.

#6 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 2:48:53 PM
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I am sorry for your loss,we lost our log home in Ohio to fire last March,I am now living in a modular in N.Fla. near Lake City.I don't know what the codes are like in your area,but here they are stacked way against the owner builder especially if you try alternative building methods.Here you can build a pole building without a permit,as long as it doesn't cost more than $4,000.However,if you put plumbing in,you may get away with it,but chances are they will probably fine you and start complicating your life.In Florida you can't even set a mobile home up for yourself without taking the state mandated school,and passing the test for state licencing.If you hire MH setup dont it will cost you from $2-$6 grand.I just bit the bullet and bought a used larger modular and am remodeling it,to make it a little  homier and less trailerish.I wish you luck in whatever you end up doing.I have a few skills,and we are neighbors of a sort,so if there is something you need drop me a line and I will do whatever I can to help.
Nathaniel Emmert-Keaton
#7 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 2:48:53 PM
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We live on five wooded acres in Northern Florida (near Tallahassee) where the weather runs from maybe 100 degrees with high humidity in the summer to only occasional light freezes in the winter.  We had planned on spending the next three years researching building techniques, but our schedule was moved up after a house fire Friday.  Everyone's fine and we will be able to recover most of our belongings, but the trailer is a loss.  This has lent a certain urgency to our studies.

We would like to build something modest, energy efficient, and healthy for its occupants and surroundings.  We'd like to do as much of the work ourselves as possible and if it's inexpensive enough we might escape having to find a mortgage on an alternative structure in this economy (new construction loans are pretty iffy around here for even traditional structures).  We're very 'outdoor' people and prefer fresh, natural air when the weather is acceptable, so lots of airflow through the house would be desireable.

We were thinking 2BR/2BA with a large great-room for teaching/meeting space and a kitchen.  Boring insects and humidity are a continuous challenge and we're understandably concerned about fire safety.  Hurricane resistance is a big concern, as well.  Concrete domes are attractive for some of the reasons, but I haven't seen many examples with much airflow.  Wooden domes are wonderful for light and airflow, but it seems like a lot of exposed wood for carpenter bees.  Cobb housing hasn't been approved for Florida as far as I know.  I'm finding lots of good info for house construction in the Minnesota wilds, but I'm really struggling to find information pertinent to the swamps of Southern Georgia.   I suppose what we need at this point is a supportive guide as much as anything.  If anyone has any sources of information or builders that specialize in alternative construction, we'd really appreciate the help. 


Overwhelmed in Florida 
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