My Mother's House Part II: Building Our Earth Sheltered House

While the summer sun was still high, we made progress on our earth-sheltered house.

| September/October 1981

  • 071 earth sheltered house part 2 - 7 partially finished house
    The earth sheltered house as it stood during summer seminars at MOTHER EARTH NEWS' Eco-Village.
    PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 071 earth sheltered house part 2 - 1 central beam
    An 8 x 16 beam was stacked on the 6 x 12 timbers to leave head room in the center of the house.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 071 earth sheltered house part 2 - 2 notching a beam2
    All of the beams were notched, with an adze, to key them to the posts.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 071 earth sheltered house part 2 - 5 hammering down homasote
    The 2 x 8 sections of Homasote being hammered together and nailed down.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 071 earth sheltered house part 2 - 4 homasote and thermasote
    The Homasote and the Thermasote sheets were piled up on the front roof prior to their application.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 071 earth sheltered house part 2 - 3 second story frame
    The stud frame second-story front wall is eight inches thick.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 071 earth sheltered house part 2 - 6 living room under construction
    Inside the future living room .
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • 071 earth sheltered house part 2 - 7 partially finished house
  • 071 earth sheltered house part 2 - 1 central beam
  • 071 earth sheltered house part 2 - 2 notching a beam2
  • 071 earth sheltered house part 2 - 5 hammering down homasote
  • 071 earth sheltered house part 2 - 4 homasote and thermasote
  • 071 earth sheltered house part 2 - 3 second story frame
  • 071 earth sheltered house part 2 - 6 living room under construction

In the initial article about the construction of our earth sheltered house, we discussed the basic design concepts behind the planned structure, and we described the methods used to erect the dwelling's reinforced outer walls. Of course, our workers were anxious to get a roof on the building as quickly as possible to keep the rain out and the summer sun off their backs. And, as a result of their enthusiasm to get a little weatherproofing on the job site, in this issue we're able to tell you about the assembly of the internal roof-supporting-framework and the laying-on of the sheathing and insulation.

Post and Beam

While designing MOTHER EARTH NEWS' earth shelter, our team considered several different means of supporting the sod-covered roof on the front half of the house: precast, pre-stressed, and cast-in-place concrete, trusses, and even steel beams. But after hashing out the advantages and disadvantages of the various approaches, we finally chose to go with a wooden post-and-beam arrangement, because it could be economically built from local materials with basic hand tools and since we felt that the huge timbers required would be attractive additions to the dwelling's interior decor.

The vertical members (or posts) are 8 X 8 hemlock pine, which we acquired from a local lumber mill. Our original plans specified 6 X 8's, but the sawyer had only 8 X 8's on hand. So rather than wait to have the smaller timbers cut, we decided to widen the central wall thickness to 8" (instead of 6") to accommodate the larger members. Each post was secured to the slab with a 10"-long piece of 1/2" rebar that was pounded into holes in both the concrete and the wood. In addition, the posts at each end of the building were tied to exterior walls with 3/4" bolts.

A total of four more uprights were then positioned at 6-foot intervals from each end of the building, and the remaining quartet of vertical members was arranged so as to make room for a stairway and to provide additional support for a long central spanning beam.



Since an 8 X 16 kiln-dried Douglas fir timber would span the middle of the living area, with 6 X 12 hemlock beams as the remaining shorter crosspieces, the posts had to be longer beneath the big beam in order to raise it far enough to provide adequate ceiling height. (The 6 X 12's would become part of an internal partition, so their clearance wasn't important.) We allowed for this necessary jog by using longer posts and by setting the 8 X 16 atop the ends of the 6 X 12's. For added security, the beams were notched to a depth of 1 1/2" so that each post could be keyed into the horizontal timbers. In addition, all the posts and beams were joined with 1/4" steel plates and 1/2" bolts, nuts, and washers.

The rafters for the front half of the house consist of 4 X 12 sections of hemlock, spaced 36" on center. These 12' 10" and 13' 6" crosspieces span from the central beam (where the long ones were set on the 6 X 12's, and the shorter timbers were butted against the central 8 X 16 and suspended from 2" angle iron hangers) to one brick width short of the outer edge of the thermal mass wall. Then more brick was laid around and against the ends of the timbers.






Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: February, 16-17 2019
Belton, TX

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE






Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard
Free Product Information Classifieds

}