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Thread: Placeholder for a long discussion on Semi-permanent Shelters.

  1. #11
    Citizen, Patriot, Ranger bellson's Avatar
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    Thank you all for your widely varied responses to this thread. Wow. Just when I thought that a technical thread would draw a rapt audience.....

    Special Thanks to Tanvil for his inclusion of the e-book on Strawbale construction. I have read this in the past, and found it to be a very worthy guide to building with bales. We should all treat this as the detailed guide, and I will focus on the poor mans methods.

    So, on to the thread subject:

    Chapter 1: Strawbale construction.

    I am going to skip most of the past experience, and concentrate on the fundamentals of building a very low cost strawbale domicile that will probably outlast three generations.

    For simplicity sake, I am going to confine the building type to a simple loadbearing design, where the roof structure bears directly on the bales that comprise the wall structure. With that in mind....

    Foundations

    There are many types of foundation that are suitable for strawbale structures. For our purposes, the foundation needs to provide the following:

    1. It needs to carry the load of the structure like any other foundation.
    2. It needs to be cheap, and easily constructed without a great deal of skill.
    3. It needs to elevate the structure at least 6 inches above grade.
    4. It needs to incorporate the ability to have "tie-downs" run through it that strap the completed strawbale wall to the foundation.
    5. It needs to be suitable for the building site, and it needs to shed water, not retain it.

    Given these needs, I have focused on a centuries old method that has been used even by noted architects like Frank Lloyd Wright. This method is called "Rubble-Trench".

    A Rubble-Trench foundation is simply a trench, between 2-6 feet deep depending on soil and grade, and environmental factors such as annual precipitation and temperature. The Rubble-Trench should end up being 25-50% wider than the finished wall that will sit on top of it. The width of the Rubble-Trench is determined by factors such as soil composition, shear resistance, seismic activity, and wind load.

    Practical example of a Rubble-Trench foundation

    Location: Grass Valley, California.
    Structure: Ranch House.
    Grade: 6-12% incline.
    Soil: Silt and sand
    Average Temp: 68f
    Low Temp: 21f
    High Temp: 110f
    Annual Precipitation: 8-10 inches
    Average wind: 4-12 mph.

    This project was both my first Strawbale, and my first Rubble-Trench foundation. According to the best information I had, the composition of the rubble trench is based on all of the above factors. So, my design started with the dimensions of the strawbales that we intended to use. These measured roughly 16-17 inches high x 23-24 inches wide by 42-47 inches long, weighing about 75 pounds each. Since the bales were being sourced from a family friend of the property owner, we were able to ask a number of important questions before the straw was ever baled. We learned that the bale machine operator (a contractor) had a great deal of control over the end size and density of the finished bales. We also learned that we had a lot of choices available for the tie material as well. An extra $100 for our choice of tie material, and an extra $300 to the bale machine operator and crew provided us with very tight, very uniform, and very heavy bales of rice straw.

    For the purposes of design, and getting the local building inspector to relax, we made the trenches 38 inches wide, and a minimum of 48 inches deep. Since the building site had a significant grade, we decided to top the rubble-trench with standard reinforced concrete caps, poured in place, and anchored to the rubble with long rebar j-bolts, tied into the rebar reinforcing in the caps.

    We began filling the trenches with 1-1.5 inch river rock, poured over drainage fabric which extended all the way up to the top of the trench, this layer was filled to a depth of one foot. The next two feet were comprised of a mixture of large (6-10" stones, broken concrete, "rubble", etc.) infilled with sand-gravel to lock the rubble in place. A 4 inch deep bed of the sand-gravel was poured over the river rock and tamped / vibrated to allow it to settle into the first layer. Once the trenches were filled to within 6 inches of grade, the forms for the concrete cap were built, and the cap poured. The finished product created a 36" wide footing for the strawbale walls to rest on.

    Next, we will discuss an important set of concepts:
    1. Pre vs. Post Apocalypse construction.
    2. Permitted vs. Non-Permitted construction.
    3. Good Enough vs. built to last construction.

    We can condense these concepts into When to build the structure.

    Pre Apocalypse, Permitted, Built to last construction is what you essentially have to do now, while there are laws in play.
    Post Apocalypse, Non-Permitted, Good Enough construction is what you do when there is no law in play.

    I will short hand these into the following:

    1. Permitted
    2. Not-Permitted





    Stay tuned for the rest:
    Imagine whirled peas

    Peace, Love, And Superior Firepower






    Bellson

  2. #12
    GuncoHolic BBill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coils View Post
    Your on the left coast, aren't there a bunch of hippies in that area making mud houses?
    I remember seeing an article they were mixing straw with a clay/dirt mix to build the walls.
    There was another that used old tires, he'd put down a row then pack dirt into them, add another row and do it all over again
    I saw the show on old tires-the guy was building a mansion! Had his kids and wife filling tires and stacking them. Also bulding long sweeping terraces.

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    Gunco Member DoubleTap308's Avatar
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    I'm following along, think it's very interesting! Thinking I can make a homemade deer blind with this method!

    Hell they may come to snack on it and I can take them out with the .45 LOL

    DT308
    "Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead"

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    Citizen, Patriot, Ranger bellson's Avatar
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    So, Thread continued. Sorry about how this is coming out slowly. Just the work load I am under right now.

    Where we left off:

    What you have to do, based on when you build.

    I am going to continue to simplify this, and rely on folks to post questions, otherwise this will end up longer than War and Peace....

    So, I will lay out a typical scenario...

    You have found your nice chunk of land. You have water and septic taken care of. BTW, these are the most important things EVER.

    Now, you want to put something habitable on your dream property. Like many folks, maybe your dreams are champagne, and your wallet is beer. The answer is to start your design as a "workshop" that is NOT intended to to be inhabited. Fast forward a year or two, and this structure becomes your garage, and gets incorporated into the larger design, or is a self standing unit. There is nothing that says that a garage can not have a bathroom, etc. Start with that. Also, I am using the term "rebar" all through this discussion. The term can mean any of the following: Hazle branches, Bamboo, Any wood that is long enough and strong against domestic pests and toxins.

    Now we return to the Foundation discussion. As you have already read, you have a design (lets just say it's a detached garage), you have culled your acreage for rock, dug your trenches, and laid your foundation footers to within 6 inches of grade, set your j-bolts, created your rebar mess, built your forms and you are ready to pour. Great, this means per-apocalypse and all is permitted. Go to town.

    Post-apocalypse, you will not have concrete. You will not have rebar. You will not have nice lumber for forms. What you should have are Polypropylene woven bags. You will use these to make earth bags. Literally, bags filled with earth. Having some cement to add in to the earth mix is great, but not required. I have found that double or triple bagging is a good precaution.

    The steps:
    1. Fill bags with earth mixture. Lay them around your foundation until you are ready to place them..They weigh a lot, 110-130 lbs. each.
    2. IF your lot has a grade, you may want to consider "stepping" your rubble trench to allow you to lay the earthbags flat. This will help your end structure to be level and not have sag points in the walls.
    3. You will need to drive rebar pins into the rubble trench to a depth of about 18". These will keep the earthbags from shifting, and those pins need to extend above the rubble to a height of at least 12", and perhaps as high as 24". Using a set of pipes that allow the pins to be driven into the rubble helps. Best case is that you place these before you fill in the rubble, and each pin should have at least an 8" leg that extends at a 90 degree angle. Bend it around to keep it plum, more or less as you fill the rubble trench.
    4. Once the rubble is flattened out to a level bed, cover it with gravel and pound it out as flat as possible. You want to have about 4" of gravel on top of the rubble, but still have the level of the rubble about 8" below grade.
    5. At this point, you cut and lay out pvc pipe sections that are at least 2" wider than your actual earthbag foundation. These will become conduits to allow wire, or strapping to pass underneath your footing that ties the soon to be built straw bale wall to the foundation. These pipes should be placed at 6-10" intervals, so there are a lot of them. Once your walls are built, you will "sew" through these pipes and tie / compress the wall structure down to the foundation in much the same way that boxes are strapped to shipping pallets.
    6. Lay the bags end to end on top of the rubble trench, and impale them onto the rebar pins. Use a big sledge hammer to get them to cooperate.
    With each course of earthbags, use a 16-24" long rebar pin to drive through it like a big nail to lock it to the course of earthbags below.
    7. Get your entire foundation / kneewall / earthbag stack level. This takes persuation, and sometimes emptying out some of the earth to get things to work out.

    TAKE YOUR TIME WITH EACH STEP. KEEP EVERYTHING AS LEVEL AS POSSIBLE! One mistake can be amplified to 2-4 inches as you complete your structure. Just ask me how I know that...

    So, to review:

    1. You have found your paradise, and you have a design for a structure.
    2. You have water and septic done.
    3. You have dug your trenches to the depth and width required by your climate, soil type, building code (or not), bale size, etc.
    4. You have properly lined your trenches, and filled them with all of the proper layers to create a stable rubble foundation / footing.
    5. You have done all of the proper concrete work (Pre-apocalypse) or done a lot of manual labor to use earthbags (post-apocalyse).

    Now, you are ready to set up your walls. This is the fun part. It goes fast if you have 3-5 guys. I did a 680+ Sq. ft. bungalow alone, but that was a lot of work! 2 days, and a lot of sore muscles.

    Now, onto the wall raising:

    The Steps:
    1. Layout (with spraypaint) where your doors and windows are.
    2. Build the proper wooden bucks for the doors and windows, label them, and set them where they need to be to remind everyone what is going where.
    3. Start your first course (layer) of straw bales in any corner. But! That corner becomes your prime-corner. Every course begins and ends there.
    4. When you come to a door or window, the bales that butt up to that opening may need to be custom sized. Take a look at Tanvils book for methods of doing that. Generally speaking, this means tying off a bale to a shorter length, and then removing the original ties. Set the remainder aside, you will need it later!
    5. Build up the walls until you reach you desired / designed height. This can / will be up to 3 inches higher than the design calls for. This is because the straw may need to settle. Remember the pvc pipe under the earthbags? This is it's purpose.
    6. You will now build a box-beam that sits on top of the strawbale wall, and gets tied to the foundation with either steel braided wire, or Polypropylene strapping material.

    Crap! Phone call!

    More later.
    Imagine whirled peas

    Peace, Love, And Superior Firepower






    Bellson

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    Gunco Good ole boy tanvil's Avatar
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    ...btt

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    GuncoHolic 2ndAmendican's Avatar
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    Speaking of which, I haven't seen Bellson on here in a week or two. I hope he's alright.
    Enforcement, NOT Amnesty!!!!!!

    "If they’re going to come here illegally, apply for & receive assistance through a corrupted Government agency encouraging this lawless behavior, work under the table & send billions of dollars each year back to their families in Mexico, while bleeding local economies dry, protest in our streets waving their Mexican flags DEMANDING rights, while I have to press ’1′ for English, then they need to be shipped back to where they came from!" -Chad Miller

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    jrs
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2ndAmendican View Post
    Speaking of which, I haven't seen Bellson on here in a week or two. I hope he's alright.
    Yeah, he's alright, just buried in work. I drug him out of his office Tuesday morning for breakfast. Other than he's still uglier than me, he's good.
    jrs
    --
    "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.", Will Durant

    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.", Edmund Burke

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    Gunco Good ole boy tanvil's Avatar
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    Being buried in work is a good thing.

    Maybe bailing straw.(?) Keep your fingers out of the haybaler, I know it's temping to have it powered while working on it. Have a helper turn the pto shaft by hand. Most of the guys that I know who are missing digits, lost them in a baler.

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    Citizen, Patriot, Ranger bellson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tanvil View Post
    ...btt

    Hi Tanvil....

    A little ignorance on my part. What does btt mean????

    Regards,
    Imagine whirled peas

    Peace, Love, And Superior Firepower






    Bellson

  10. #20
    GuncoHolic 2ndAmendican's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bellson View Post
    Hi Tanvil....

    A little ignorance on my part. What does btt mean????

    Regards,
    Back To Top- BTT

    Glad you're ok.
    Enforcement, NOT Amnesty!!!!!!

    "If they’re going to come here illegally, apply for & receive assistance through a corrupted Government agency encouraging this lawless behavior, work under the table & send billions of dollars each year back to their families in Mexico, while bleeding local economies dry, protest in our streets waving their Mexican flags DEMANDING rights, while I have to press ’1′ for English, then they need to be shipped back to where they came from!" -Chad Miller

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