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underground home roof Options
#1 Posted : Saturday, April 28, 2007 3:20:47 AM
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Try putting a piece of sheetmetal over the roof,there's not too much other than the sheen on metal that'll keep the roots from adhering to it.Good luck...
John Stiles
#2 Posted : Monday, April 30, 2007 10:49:43 AM
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If the yucca are a recent problem after 20 years of use and the roof is still good: Try killing off the yucca by depriving them of light. Use black plastic to cover your roff to kill off all growth then repalnt prefered vegetation.

 If not removing the soil and placing a layer of metal roofing might work if the roots didn't get between the sheets.

#3 Posted : Wednesday, May 02, 2007 7:38:24 PM
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Interesting thread. I really like the idea of living roofs and living walls but I think there is still lots of room for development. As a mechanical engineer I tend to have an affinity for metals also, but since I've had an opportunity recently to teach a materials science course a couple of times, and from participating on forums such as this with all their links to the web, I've grown increasingly interested in ceramics.


The nice thing about ceramics is they tend not to oxidize, because they already are. Metals on the other hand, with the exception of some precious metals, tend to want to return to a more natural state. On the other hand, I can see how plants such as the Yucca might really dig ceramics, like concrete, because they are more natural. As for polymers, we tend to think of them as being unnatural but we need to remember that the natural world creates its own polymers, and even petrochemicals are derived from once living plant material. Of course they are very complex. Whether natural or unnatural they can be very friendly or very unfriendly. They will also break down sooner or later like everything else, by various mechanisms such as sun, heat, cold, water, chemical or biological attack, often in combination. Some plastics absorb water, most just fall apart.


I know this hasn't been very helpful. What I would suggest though is that we don't try and design our living walls and living roofs to last forever. Instead we might design them to be maintainable. In this sense the entire structure becomes a living thing, in the sense that it is periodically replenished incrementally rather than wholesale. So if there is a way that you can build it so that you can more readily detect local leaks, and then repair those efficiently and effectively, and do a little of that every year for 100 years rather than replacing the entire roof every 20 years, that might be worth considering. Just an idea. Perhaps a combination might be better, like a corral reef, where some components like the ferrocement shell might live 300 years, but the surface of it is resealed every 40 years, with cement or metal or rubber or whatever, and then whatever is over that is maintained as needed on a more regular basis. I guess this is where you are at now already. I'm just providing a different way of thinking, and managing your expectations.


I would look into a combination of rubber and plastic or metal, but perhaps reseal the cement itself first with some sort of a hard cement that is the best combination of ceramics and polymers. Or perhaps with the right concrete to begin with they might not want to go through. Maybe a different sand in the aggregate. Probably not, but perhaps the best place to start is with the Yucca itself. Talk to some people that study Yuccas and find out how their roots can grow through stuff, and how they might be prevented or at least detered. Who knows, they might also have some more desirable qualities that might make you want to have more on your roof.

#4 Posted : Saturday, April 05, 2008 4:20:07 AM
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It's an interesting problem.  I'm building an earth home and so this is of interest to me.  We plan on having 3 feet of dirt over most of the roof (it might only be 2ft in some places).  I have the same concerns and so I'm being real particular about the type of plants I'm going to allow to grow on the roof.  Essentially nothing with a woody root system or one that goes very deep, will be allowed.

As for your particular problem, if it were me, I'd attack it from multiple angles.  First, I'd cover them and deprive them of sunlight to kill them.  I'd probably also use Roundup on the foliage to kill them.  And, I'd dig up the bigger ones and try to get all of the roots.

My personal opinion is that if you have a leak, you're going to have to dig up the area where the leak is anyway.  Dig it up.  Get rid of the problem roots.  Redo the membrane (overkill is always preferred).

Take the time to make sure you have good drainage so water wont just pool up there, but will flow away.

Cover the whole mess up and make sure not to allow those types of problem plants to return.

Earth Home Project:


Pat Miketinac
#5 Posted : Sunday, March 15, 2009 4:41:55 AM
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I decided to go without dirt on my Rob Roy style earth shelter roof when I noticed that the inside temp. had stabilized at 72 degrees after backfilling. He has an update on green roofs in his newer earth shelter book that may help you. See cordwoodmasonry.com. My home is in central FL, ground temp. drops as you go north.

#6 Posted : Sunday, March 15, 2009 4:41:55 AM
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Posts: 134,494


We moved into a 20 year old underground home about 2 years ago.  The roof is concrete with a rubber membrane and then about a foot of soil on top.  We have a problem with yucca plant roots tearing through the membrane (those suckers are tough!) and then causing a leak in the seam of the concrete.  We try to kill the yuccas as soon as we find them, but some of the are so small and still have amazing roots.  I'm wondering if there is anything that can be put on top of the membrane to prevent the yucca from reaching the membrane.

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