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We don't like our Underground House

Updated on March 22, 2017
The house looks bare. We removed trees and plants with deep roots and shut down the sprinkler system. A morning glory now occupies the space by the gas meter where a Russian olive used to grow. Prickley pear and yucca grow in the former rose bed.
The house looks bare. We removed trees and plants with deep roots and shut down the sprinkler system. A morning glory now occupies the space by the gas meter where a Russian olive used to grow. Prickley pear and yucca grow in the former rose bed. | Source

Photos of house and setting

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A mama groundhog and her brood have torn up this flowerbed. We don't have the heart to evict them.Front steps leading to staircase off landing. Only bulbs grow here. This is off season.Our beautiful view. Back of the house showing greenhouse and decksBack of house in autumn. The hill is too dangerously steep to landscape.Snow scene with wood waiting to be built into third deckMr. BeJabbers building the third deck with hot tub.The Bentonite clay was installed into this leak in the corner above the atrium.Trying to find a source of one leak.Cold cat trying to stay warm while we dehumidify the house.
A mama groundhog and her brood have torn up this flowerbed. We don't have the heart to evict them.
A mama groundhog and her brood have torn up this flowerbed. We don't have the heart to evict them.
Front steps leading to staircase off landing. Only bulbs grow here. This is off season.
Front steps leading to staircase off landing. Only bulbs grow here. This is off season.
Our beautiful view.
Our beautiful view.
Back of the house showing greenhouse and decks
Back of the house showing greenhouse and decks
Back of house in autumn. The hill is too dangerously steep to landscape.
Back of house in autumn. The hill is too dangerously steep to landscape.
Snow scene with wood waiting to be built into third deck
Snow scene with wood waiting to be built into third deck
Mr. BeJabbers building the third deck with hot tub.
Mr. BeJabbers building the third deck with hot tub.
The Bentonite clay was installed into this leak in the corner above the atrium.
The Bentonite clay was installed into this leak in the corner above the atrium.
Trying to find a source of one leak.
Trying to find a source of one leak.
Cold cat trying to stay warm while we dehumidify the house.
Cold cat trying to stay warm while we dehumidify the house.

Our experience with this eighth wonder of the world!

Eighteen years ago we moved into an earth-covered dome home built on a hillside. We were so excited! It was really lovely inside, and surprisingly well illuminated with natural light. The house has approximately 2,500 sq. ft., including three bedrooms and two baths and an oversized garage. Outside is a 14’ x 14’ greenhouse and decks on three levels that overlook the south view of the Arkansas River and a line-of-sight view of the Arkansas State Capitol on the hill across the river. The large south-facing windows and patio doors of the great room lead out to the greenhouse and two decks. A half-dome third bedroom has a window wall that also shares the view. The third deck is accessed from the rooftop and was built on top of the greenhouse. The rooms are large and spacious, with 14-foot domed ceilings. We were in Hog Heaven -- literally, after all, this is the Razorbacks’ home state.

Our enthusiasm didn't last more than a couple of years. Our dream home was less than perfect and certainly didn't live up to the advertising brochures. This is our true story. I don't want to imply that all underground houses are like ours. I truly hope that they are not. Did we get a lemon? If so, we have not been able to make lemonade.

(As you view the photos, please bear in mind that this house is in the price range of typical underground homes. It is not a staged million-dollar display home that people admire in the advertising brochures and websites. It cost close to $150,000 to build and finish out in 1986, which was above the median price of a conventional home in our state in the 1980s.)

IT LEAKS! The domes and floor are built from concrete poured and reinforced with rebar. In front an atrium is accessed by stairs just a driveway’s breadth from the street. Large windows on the east side of bedrooms front the atrium and let in more daylight than a typical traditional home built during that time period. The garage is on the opposite side of the atrium.

I think the design of the house is part of the problem. The dome construction on a hillside may make the house more vulnerable. The problem began in what appears to be a bad mix of concrete at the west side of the dome that serves as our great room. A year and a half after our purchase and, wouldn’t you know it, during the Christmas holidays, a small wet spot appeared in the ceiling over the couch. Then another spot appeared, then another. We called the manufacturer, Terra Dome, and were told that house was built by a franchise in Oklahoma and that particular franchise was out of business. Just our luck! The remaining franchise was in Missouri and it assumed no responsibility to repair this house. They did “feel sorry for us,” and said they would send materials to repair the leak ourselves. They shipped us a box of Bentonite clay, the prime ingredient in conventional cat litter. We were naïve enough to dig up part of the house, install the glorified cat litter, and replace the dirt (see photo). Most people know what liquid-soaked cat litter is like, and we learned that it certainly is not advisable to put it on a roof in a wet climate.

After the cat litter experience, we called probably every concrete repair company in the yellow pages, and none were willing look at it. We gave up and tried to fix it ourselves by ejecting costly liquid epoxy into the holes and cracks from inside the house. That was a laughable experience. Our attempts merely rerouted the water farther along the dome and into the adjacent half dome, which contains the master bedroom and walk-in closet. We probably have the only house in Arkansas with stalactites on the ceiling. Honestly. Red earth from the house top runs down the ceiling and the living room wall. I’ve joked about building a waterfall in the living room to divert the water.

Despite all repairs, the leaks continued to spread. While making the repairs, we discovered that the house had experienced leaks before we bought it. The owner had jacklegged in repairs and smoothed them over long enough to unload the house on a naïve buyer like us. We consulted an attorney, but he said the discovery came too late to hold the owner or the realtor, who lived next door and must have known about the leaks, responsible or charge them with fraud. The realtor, by the way, could afford a fraudulent sale because he moved to Mexico immediately thereafter and died a year later.

Insurance fix it? Not with all the pre-existing problems that were hidden from us.

The specifications on the house tout that the skin is a “tar modified polyurethane elastomer that is applied as a liquid and forms a bonded synthetic rubber membrane… [that] will permit the membrane to span ordinary shrinkage cracks up to 1/16 inch.” We found it to be as effective as the Bentonite clay. An ordinary house settles more than 1/16 inch in its lifetime, so a glorified tar roof is basically useless. These same specifications contain a disclaimer at the end. In our case it appears to mean that the subcontractor would have been the one legally liable. Doesn't give an owner much confidence, does it?

In 2010 I found a roofer who made an estimate of $100,000 to repair the roof, but he said he wasn’t sure he wanted to tackle the job. We told him that we owned a backhoe and would remove the layers of dirt and insulation ourselves. But he died unexpectedly only two weeks after making the estimate. Around the same time, cracks began appearing in the floors, which are now spreading to the walls and ceilings. To repair the house would take our retirement savings, and at this point, I’m not sure it is repairable. We owe much less on it than the cost of repairs, so we are talking about paying it off and walking out.

WE REMOVED THE LANDSCAPE and the housetop is now plain and unattractive. The roof top and front area were landscaped when we bought the house, and we installed a sprinkler system to keep the areas watered. When the leaks began, the sprinkler couldn’t be used. Most of the plants died, including three large shrubs and the roses and hardy hibiscus. We replaced the shrubs with a bulb bed. We removed two beautiful pine trees, a golden chain tree, two crape myrtles, and a large Russian olive bush because we feared the root systems might grow into the roof and cause more problems. We would not recommend that you follow the latest trend and plant a rooftop garden in sod – ever!

EARTHQUAKE PROOF, HA! The house was advertised as “earthquake proof” but inside, we feel tremors that don't registered locally on the Richter scale. The house was old enough to be settled when we bought it, so we suspect mini-tremors may be cracking it apart. In the meantime we keep our fingers crossed for an earthquake large enough to register to occur so we can prove it is causing the cracking. I know I shouldn’t joke about earthquakes, but THAT the insurance would pay for.

THERE IS LIMITED OR NO ACCESS FOR SOME TYPES OF REPAIRS. The ductwork is made from ordinary materials that don’t hold up under the ground. The duct boots have rusted through and require replacing. We are not sure if we can get access to attach new boots to the ductwork. The plenum of galvanized steel rusted through after 12 years and collapsed into the hole taking the central HVAC unit with it. We replaced the plenum with one built of ¼ in. stainless steel. Since no sheet metal shop in the area would build a stainless steel plenum, we fashioned and built it ourselves. Then we installed a larger central AC and blower, completely forgoing the central heating unit. Fortunately, my husband’s repertoire includes those skills, so all that cost us less than $2,000.

WE FIGHT MOLD CONSTANTLY. The naturally high humidity in this state causes mold problems in conventional houses, but combine that with the water leaks and seepage problems and we have Mold City. We are bosom buddies with Clorox solution and copper sulfate, but soon we are going to have to replace some drywall. Very few days occur that we aren’t running the AC or the heat in an attempt to keep the humidity down. We installed a humidistat on our central AC so it will turn on when the humidity reaches a certain level. In addition we run a dehumidifier on days of especially high humidity or when we can get away with it comfortwise.

On a 75 degree day in April, the AC was running overtime and the temperature in the house was 67 degrees. I was bundled up in my Snuggie with my two cats trying to keep warm. We have a 19-year-old tabby, a skinny little bundle of bones, and that isn’t healthy for her. Anyway, the next day after work the temperature had fallen to 65 degrees and the humidity still hadn’t lowered to 60%. (Humidity in an underground house needs to stay at no more than 50%, but I get nosebleeds at that level and try to keep ours at 60%.) I told my husband to either turn off the (expletive) AC or turn on the gas logs. He turned off the AC. In the past we have found it necessary to run both simultaneously.

We find that during extreme temperatures, high or low, our heating and cooling bills run a little higher than a conventional well-insulated house of comparable size. My mother’s house of approximately the same heated and cooled space located 100 miles north of us actually showed a 30% savings in energy over our underground house. In the summer our large south-facing windows let in an abnormal amount of heat despite the roof overhang, and we use heavy shades to prevent taking on any more solar heat than necessary. We also found that in 90 to 110 degree weather the ground gets hot, which heats the concrete walls and transfers the heat inside. I suggest not believing the propaganda about being able to use smaller AC units because the house stayed hot all summer until we upsized our AC condensing unit and blower.

I don’t advise electrical heat in an underground house at all because it does not dehumidify the air. It might work in a dry state, but not here. We now use a ventilated gas heater in the greatroom as our sole source of heat. Yeah, yeah, I know, gas is a no-no in an underground home, but in our experience, electric heat was completely unaffordable. When we first moved in, we ran the electric system for two weeks, nearly froze off our tail feathers, and paid double what we had been paying for natural gas heat in our previous home of 1,000 sq. ft.

It is sheer fallacy that cold temperatures won’t fall below the human comfort zone in an underground house. Liquids have frozen and broken glass containers in our unheated underground garage, so no winter storage of canned goods there. Our unheated bedroom temperature has fallen as low as 54 degrees in the winter. We have considered installing a second heater in the guest room, but it isn’t a priority.

Due to the delay in heat transference to the soil and concrete walls, our heating and cooling seasons usually start about six weeks after the regular seasons begin. This is not a problem; just a fact. Guests are surprised to find us running heat in May or the air conditioning in late November. They do find it unusual and remark that we are “whipping the horse and hollering whoa” when we run heat and air at the same time.

So why aren’t we using solar energy, one might ask? When we first bought the house, we didn’t have the money to invest in solar. Now we don’t see the practicality of a retrofit to a house that is cracking apart.

DEPRECIATION. The depreciation is shocking! Our house depreciated faster than a mobile home or an automobile. We should have been forewarned when we were able to purchase the house for $45,000 less than it cost to build. During the housing boom, we watched the other houses in the neighborhood increase in value, many doubling in price, while here we sit holding the equivalent of rent receipts.

LOCATION MAKES A DIFFERENCE. I do not advise building on a hillside, but if you do, make sure that you have an oversized drain system. Water can’t flow underneath our concrete slab like it can a house built on a foundation, and the French drains will not handle a deluge. One particularly stormy night, a torrent poured into the front atrium from the street above the house and flooded the greatroom. We finally gave up mopping and opened the doors. We swept water out the back doors as a river poured through the front door. Luckily, the carpet had been removed years ago. It wasn’t any consolation to hear one of our neighbors say that the bottom floor of their two-story house flooded and they were forced to live upstairs for a couple of months until repairs were made to their house. We don't have an upstairs to move into. Who would have thought about buying flood insurance high upon a hillside?

WISH SOMEBODY HAD TOLD US TO KEEP OUR PEST CONTROL CONTRACT. Both our realtor and our insurance agent advised that we had no need to renew the termite contract after we closed on the house. “It is a concrete house, and termites don’t eat concrete,” they said. Ten years into the house, I leaned against a wall in the small bathroom and my hand went through the paneling. We discovered that the wall covering had been eaten away from the inside, leaving the vinyl sheathing on the outside. The next year the wooden wall under our kitchen window facing the atrium had to be replaced. The house was a magnet for termites, and they were happily gnawing away all the woodwork that touched the ground and the concrete. We replaced all damaged wood with treated timber and soaked it in creosote for good measure.

Other critters love it, too. We have more than our share of spiders and centipedes, especially in the bathrooms. On two separate occasions, a salamander was found swimming in the toilet in the master bath, and we are still mystified as to how it got there. Did the same salamander return or was it a different one? We have a septic tank, so how did it get there? I wish we knew. We have been invaded by fire ants inside the house, and troops of mice find us to be a haven. A groundhog took up residence on top of a bedroom dome, digging up my favorite flower bed in the process, and raised a family. Her children are now digging up the dirt floor in our greenhouse. We are going to have to buy a bigger live-trap or replace our late chow-pei.

PEOPLE INVADE YOUR PRIVACY. This was a surprise! Some people treat our home like a public park. The same people who would never invade your front yard or sit on your front porch without an invitation take for granted that they can walk on your roof! Nervy neighbors use our roof as a putting green – or a sand trap. We have a gallon bucket of golf balls they’ve lost, retrieved mostly from the woods below the house.

HAPPY THINGS. I don’t want people to get the impression that this hub is only a rant. I do dearly LOVE living underground. I am trying to warn people of problems that the advertisers don’t want you to know, so they won’t buy an underground home with unrealistic expectations the way we did. We enjoy so many things about living underground:

v The safe, secure feeling during a storm. We watch tornadoes from our back door as they follow their usual route along the Arkansas River. We are both trained weather spotters, so we are well aware of the danger of suction if one comes too close, and we do have a plan in case one ventures too near our house.

v We love the floor plan and would change very little about it. The plan allows for big windows or double windows in every room, which let in more light than most conventional homes. Most people are surprised that our house lets in more light than theirs do.

v The house is virtually noise-proof except for the guy down the hill who occasionally races his loud truck engine. Neighborhood parties and street noise from above never bother us.

v The cats really enjoy living here, and so did our dog that died at close to age 14. I think they actually relate to their ancestors that lived in caves and underground burrows. When they were young, they freely roamed the hillside, but after an invasion of coyotes between our house and the river, all pets were confined to the house.

Outside the house we have an atrium full of frogs. We enjoy them and some rescued box turtles so much that we installed a small garden pond for them. The turtles and the several varieties of frogs and toads share the pond with no problems. A pair of king snakes have taken up residence in our rock steps above the atrium. One actually allows petting. The groundhogs we could do without.

However, the good does not outweigh the bad. If we ever get rid of this albatross, would we ever again consider living in an underground house? Definitely, but we would carefully select the site and supervise the construction every step of the way. And, oh yes, it would be in a dry climate!

Spider lilies are the crowning glory.

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    • mactavers profile image

      mactavers 5 years ago

      Well written and interesting. In the 1980s in Arizona, there was a lot of interest in building rammed earth, straw bale and other types of houses, but the earth/rock layers out here would make it tough to build underground.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      MzBeJabbers...This is so SO interesting! I can understand why you would have gone for this in the beginning and been so excited. I believe I would have too.

      It's a shame you have had the isues you've had to deal with.....but I like your spunk, saying you would do it again under different circumstances.....and design it yourself. Having been through this, you could probably design a PERFECT underground house! UP++

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 5 years ago

      Mactavers, thank you for your nice reply. I have never lived in Arizona, but I do know it is beautiful there. I did live in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico for a few years and loved it. We visited often in the little town of Stanton, TX, where my first husband grew up. In the late 60s or early 70s the town built an underground school because a tornado completely demolished the elementary school there. It was a completely flat lot, and all that you could see was a playground. It was directly on top of the building. But I guess the terrain would be different from Arizona's. There is a lot of sand in that area, which is near Midland and Odessa.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 5 years ago

      fpherj48: Truthfully, I love this particular design. I would love to build it on flat land with my redesign. I would be willing to berm the sides but cover the top with a conventional roof. I have seen this house built above ground with a wood and shingle roof covering the domes, and it was very pretty. I would rearrange the bathrooms and do the heating and air a little differently, too. Thank you for your comment and your vote up.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi MizBejabbers, sorry to hear you had to go through this with your underground home. It is such a shame they took advantage of trusting people like you and your husband. Hope you can get it all worked out soon .

      Vote up and more !!!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 5 years ago

      I appreciate your concern, Kashmir56. We were just too eager buyers. Next time I buy a home, I'll go in with a poker face. Even with an underground house that lives up to the advertising as much as possible, it still has to be treated it differently from a conventional house. Thanks for the vote!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      What an interesting hub. I would never have expected that you would have had all of the issues you mentioned with your underground house. By explaining the pros and cons you will have potentially saved others from having these same problems. What a shame that you cannot at LEAST save on the energy bills. I would have thought that to be a plus. Voted up, interesting and useful. I'll stay in my conventional house now for sure! :)

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 5 years ago

      Thank you, Peggy, I don't want to discourage others from building underground houses, at least in dry climates, but I do want to warn them that a lot of the "wonders" is just advertising propaganda. I have noticed that several in Arkansas have conventional roofs, and the owners don't seem to be having our problem. One couple I spoke with, and was invited into their home, built their house on flat ground beside a lake. Only the sides and back are bermed because their insurance company refused to insure it with a concrete and dirt roof. They have a conventional roof and are very happy with theirs. So that may be the secret to this type of house in a wet climate. I still would never run the utilities beneath the concrete floor, though. I would put them above like in a loft apartment.

    • Jennifer Stone profile image

      Jennifer Stone 5 years ago from the Riverbank, England

      I found this information you have shared really interesting, and the lessons you have learnt will surely help others who want to try building or living in an underground home. Voted up and stuff and sharing!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Thank you Jennifer for the vote and the sharing. I'm really glad to try to bring some realism to underground homes.

    • profile image

      stessily 4 years ago

      MizBejabbers, This is an absolutely fascinating account of your experiences. It's engrossing, entertaining, and informative. You've packaged a disappointing experience with a subtle sense of humor, persistence, and ingenuity. I couldn't help but wish for more photos, though. The picture of your black cat under a blue blanket is adorable, even if the little dear is seeking warmth.

      It's nice that there are attractive aspects and that, with the knowledge you've gained, you'd consider another underground home. I hope that everything smooths out for you.

      My thanks to Jennifer Stone for sharing this hub.

      Kind regards, Stessily

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Thank you for your nice comments, Stessily, and my thanks to Jennifer Stone for sharing. Yes, sometimes we have to laugh to keep from crying. I had some more photos of the leaks, including the stalactites hanging from our bedroom closet ceiling, but I can't find them (must have gotten deleted from the camera). If I get a chance to take more, I will add them to this hub.

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

      MizB- yours is not the first sad story I've heard about undergound homes but gosh, you sure have had more than your share of problems. Reading your hub has somewhat diminished any thoughts I've had of living in an underground home. I've been fascinated by them for years. Great, informative hub!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      I wish I had heard other's stories before we bought this house. In fact, I would like to hear some of them. I know they aren't perfect, but I think we got a defective one, and the company just wouldn't stand behind it. But what do you do when you have a 15 or 30 year mortgage?

    • profile image

      redhouse 4 years ago

      Hello, most fail of this type of houses is water/termo insulation. Umbrella roof style can solve this problems and you will also save your money for heating/cooling with dry land behind concrete walls.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      redhouse, could you explain a little more in depth? I appreciate all the help I can get. I'm not familiar with an umbrella roof style. We have 2 inch styrofoam insulation between the concrete walls and the dirt sides as the engineers instruct to do. I'm not sure if the styrofoam was installed on the domes of the roof also. You are correct in that our problem is a failure of the waterproof "skin" on the roof. Thanks.

    • profile image

      redhouse 4 years ago

      You have house on top of the hill but still under road? Most cheap way to fix this problem is to cover whole house and few meters around the house with black plastic sheet (its heavy plastic they use it for pool covers). Where do you have water leaks on roadside near to main doors? You must make drainage from roof to side (away from house), you do that with plastic sheet and also on the road side you must make drainage so that water will leak away from your house. Send me you contact mail on my mail unnamed@volja.net i will send you one e-book where you can read much about it.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      redhouse, the problem is not that simple. If this were a flatroofed house, we could have the dirt removed, add IB roofing as a skin, and re-cover the house. It has to be a special kind of plastic that can exist without deteriorating under soil. IB has said that their roofing can be covered with soil. Please note from the photo that the house is in 3 and 1/2 domes, which are cracking apart. Just putting some plastic on top won't help. We have thought about building a conventional roof above, but it has to extend above the domes, so it would be almost like building a second story. My husband is an engineer and has studied the problem most extensively, and there is no inexpensive way out. Thanks for your interest and your comments. I do appreciate you.

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Very interesting story and a good warning to those looking for alternative housing similar to this. Voted up.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Yes, we should have heeded all warnings, but we thought we had done thorough research. I guess one can't cover all bases. We have to learn by experience and sometimes it proves to be very costly. Thanks for the vote up!

    • directlinemedic profile image

      directlinemedic 4 years ago from Portage, Michigan

      this is good information. I think a home in the side of a hill is better.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Do you mean hollowing out the side of a hill? That might work. The builder took a 45 degree slope and hauled in fill soil to build it up flat for the area on which the house sits. The atrium area encircled by three of the domes is a perfect basin to catch water draining from the street above. While there are two networks of French drains, the one in the atrium is not adequate to drain a deluge. I think that if the house were rectangular and not a U-shaped basin, it might work. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

    • profile image

      Shannon 4 years ago

      This is so interesting to read. My husband and I are currently planning to build an underground home and I have to admit this makes me a little nervous. We are in a much drier climate, however, and building at 8,000 ft above sea level. I am very very saddened by your temperature fluctuations though. Now I'm off to find other experiences and hope this isn't standard. Thank you so, so much for writing and sharing your experience!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Thank you, Shannon. I spent 8 years in Lubbock, Texas, and Hobbs, NM, both dry climates, and I would consider building an underground house there. I say "consider" because I would need to do more research because the lack of storm drains promotes flooding during deluges. One suggestion. Research the underground elementary school built in Stanton, Texas (I believe it was Stanton) about 40 years ago as a precaution against devastating tornadoes. See if it has fared well. I saw it right after it was built, and there was nothing there to be seen but a playground with stairs leading down to the classrooms. I wish I could have gone inside, but it was summertime and school was out. Some of our temperature fluctuations could have been prevented if we did not have such large windows facing South, but that does prevent the house from being dark. You might be OK where you are. I would never advise one not to build underground, but to check conditions and be cautious.

    • profile image

      Southernmapart 4 years ago

      Your preferred humidity requirements are interesting. I live in the Southeast and, without central heat and air, anything less humid than 80% is unusual. A lot of work and extra precaution is necessary to keep down the mold and mildew. I can't imagine how difficult this would be living underground.

    • trish1048 profile image

      trish1048 4 years ago

      This was a fascinating read. But, you poor thing! All that ran through my head as I was reading was, omg, I'd be outta there! Spiders, centipedes, salamanders, groundhogs, termites,,,,,eeeek! I wouldn't sleep at night. Not to mention the myriad of problems with heat/air and structural defects.

      However, I, like you, do find the idea of living underground fascinating, but I also think that even with solid research, I'd still be concerned about going forward with this adventure.

      Extremely informative, and I am thrilled to see an account of this experience put out for the public, so they are forewarned. Thank you for that :) Voted up and shared.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
      Author

      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      I don't know how I missed your comments and I apologize for taking so long to get back to you.

      Southernmapart: Sounds like your humidity is equal to or greater than ours in Arkansas. Please don't even think of building an underground house where you live! Thank you for your comment.

      trish1048: Yes, there needs to be more articles and information by people who actually live in underground houses. All I found online was advertising hype. I would like to see a hub by someone who lives in an underground house in a dry climate. Sometimes the critters who share our home do get interesting, but spraying can be more hazardous than our housemates. Now I would really be upset if I saw a black widow spider or a brown recluse. As a child we found stinging scorpions in our above-ground home a couple of times, but so far none have appeared here. Thanks for your comment, vote and share!

    • johndnathan profile image

      John D Nathan 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas. USA

      Thank you for writing this hub, MizBejabbers. I had found the concept of an underground home rather fascinating. Here in Dallas, due to the rocky soil, no one has basements. I guess if I'm going to do an underground home I need to make sure to get it built myself from a company that is experienced in making underground shelters, and I'm going to need a lot more money.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Johndnathan, the true underground houses really do cost more to build than they used to. My suggestion today would be to build a house on flat land and then earth-berm the sides. It would have a conventional roof with lots of insulation. If Sutherlands are still in business in the South, they used to sell a house kit of this nature, and they were very affordable. A regular construction company could build one of this style. I know of at least two of Sutherland's bermed houses in Central Arkansas. You might be able to get a loan if you built it that way. I believe I mentioned that I couldn't get a bank to talk to us about loaning money to a guy who was interested in buying the house and making the needed repairs. The bank had not seen it nor did they know about the problems. We were just trying to help him get a lead on where to apply. Thanks for your interest and your comment.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      After reading about your spiders I had to come and read about your underground house. So sorry to hear the problems you are having. Living in Arkansas I would worry about snakes coming into the house. I know for awhile here people were building underground houses. Here we have basements so they built them pretty much like an open end basement and that's where the only light came from. From one Razorback to another I enjoyed reading your hub. Voted uP!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Moonlake, so far we haven’t had any problem with snakes coming into the house, just a couple of salamanders in a toilet. We still don’t know if it was the same one coming back after we released it, or if it was another one. All salamanders look alike to me. We do have a king snake that lives under one of the rock steps leading up to the street. I don’t know if it was this snake or another, but a king snake tried to live in our atrium, and we carried it off to the woods. Either it or another came back to the atrium. This time it got carried miles from the house. We wouldn’t have cared, but it cleaned the atrium out of our frogs and toads that we enjoyed living there. It took about six years for the frogs to come back. I said that if this snake under the steps came down and ate the frogs again, it would have to go, too, but so far it stays above the house. It let me pet it one day, so it is pretty tame. I think it is a female because Mr. B. saw it mating with another king snake. I don’t know what the incubation period is, but we may have lots of king snakes next year, and they'd better leave our frogs alone. Thanks for the comment and the vote!

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Interesting, very informative and well written. I find those underground houses fascinating. You seem to have that positive outlook despite the mishaps, which is great. Sorry to hear about those unfortunate stuff and thanks for sharing the experience. Always good to know...we were warned.

      Voting up, interesting and will certainly share.

    • profile image

      Southernmapart 4 years ago

      Interesting stores about life in your underground house. I have a friendly snake living somewhere near the brick steps to my above-ground house. One day the snake had its head stuck in the crack of a broken brick and was thrashing its tail. Gently, I tried to help move it out, but no luck. Several minutes later, a little frog came out of the crack all glistening with saliva, then the snake pulled its head out and moved on. It had tried to eat more than it could pull back through the crack in the brick.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 4 years ago from Minnesota

      Wow, thank you for sharing your story! I would never have thought about some of these drawbacks....If it is any consolation, it looks like you really do have beautiful views and the decks look really nice. I also like that you seem to stay positive, even when faced with so many obstacles. I wish you the best of luck in the future!

    • crystaleyes profile image

      crystaleyes 4 years ago from Earth

      What an interesting read, Although your home has stunning views it must have been real difficult facing all those obstacles. Good advice for those who wish to buy underground houses.. and useful information for new house hunters.. voted up and interesting

    • NornsMercy profile image

      Chace 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      I've never even heard of an underground house. This is very interesting in many ways and helpful...I didn't really want one before but now I really don't want one! Voted up! :)

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      My thanks to everyone for all the great comments. Yesterday I talked to a man in the energy business who told me about a 6,000 sq. ft. underground house about 20 miles from me. He said this house is owned by a very wealthy man who has not complained of any problems. I assume the man has the money for the expensive upkeep -- or he has a better house than ours. And the snake story was great, Southernmapart. Thanks for sharing. To all, I appreciate the votes and the share.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Love your story about the snake. Maybe we need to start a thread to compare snake stories. I've heard a few good ones from fellow hubbers lately.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      The views are its one redeeming feature. Our neighborhood is affordable, but the people just across the river pay in the area of $1,000,000 for theirs. I call it my million-dollar view. Thanks for the votes

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Thanks, I do love my views!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      My son in Arlington, TX, tells me that he has a friend in Ft. Worth who lives in an underground house. He also rubbed my nose in the fact that it doesn't leak!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Well, we have to laugh to keep from crying. Our recent rain has left a small stream in the hallway, and it doesn't do any good to mop it up. It will keep flowing until the ground dries.

    • Armchair Builder profile image

      Michael Luckado 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Sorry about your experience. It sounds like an interesting house. At this point, maybe your best bet is to expose the walls and apply new waterproofing and drainage. As a builder I know it can be extremely frustrating to locate and solve leaks effectively. Thanks for sharing your story and I hope you get it corrected without spending a fortune.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      You are correct. The only way to stop the leaks is to uncover the roof and add more concrete and a new "skin", however, that is what the only person who would even consider the job wanted $100,000 for. Thanks for the comment.

    • Armchair Builder profile image

      Michael Luckado 4 years ago from Hawaii

      I would definitely keep looking...with the slow down in the construction industry, now is the perfect time to find a company to do the work at a modest price.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Thanks, maybe I can find someone.

    • Oscarlites profile image

      Oscar Jones 4 years ago from Alabama

      This sounds very much like Admiral James byrd's adventure to the south pole in which he was trapped through the winter inside the ice.. wow.. what an experience.. I knew a guy in north pole alaska years a ago who was trying to simply remodel a concrete wall and roof house.. not simple ! moisture and movement and problems... keep concrete where it belongs.. in structure and places it can expand and contract.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Oscarlites, sometimes I feel like Admiral Byrd. I think the fact that I have to go up a total of 20 steps and two small decks sometimes keeps me from going outside and walking in the front yard or on the roof. Our sloping hillside behind the house is so steep that we stopped using the back yard for any reason after a neighbor fell down hers and broke both of her legs. Our concrete expands and contracts quite well because it is a special plasticized concrete. Our problem is settling, mini-temblors that we can't prove, and very possibly vibrations from the street above. No poured roofing is going to take all that. I would be willing to bet that Terra Dome would never guarantee the roofing skin, although they brag about it. Thanks for the read and the comment.

    • Nicole S profile image

      Nicole S Hanson 4 years ago from Minnesota

      Very interesting hub! And very understandable that you feel the way you do.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Thanks for reading and the nice words, Nicole.

    • directlinemedic profile image

      directlinemedic 4 years ago from Portage, Michigan

      Good lord!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      A very succinct and appropriate comment! Thanks.

    • ZipperConstantine profile image

      Zipper 4 years ago from United States

      I feel you! What an impossible situation. The only positive thing I can think to say for this situation is hang on - maybe by the time you finish all the repairs that keep creeping up you will have rebuilt it.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      LOL. I have a feeling that the ruins of this place will be standing 2,000 years into the future, with water still pouring in. Actually, if we could get the roof fixed economically, the rest would be child's play. Thanks for commenting.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 4 years ago from South Carolina

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with an underground house.

      I live in a conventional house but have read about underground dwellings. The adds make it sound as though you can save a lot on enery bills and that construction costs are less- two things which aren't true in your case.

      Hope you're able to make necessary repairs and eventually sell.

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Well, we have started on the repairs, but I don't know how we will fare on the roof. Since these really bad storms are occurring, selling it may have gotten easier -- if we can get the roof repaired properly. I wouldn't want to unload it on someone the way it was unloaded on us. Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      Gary 4 years ago

      We have blue prints for an underground home but timing didn't work out for us. We looked at TerraHomes in Missouri and they were ok. We liked the builder and designs from Bastrop, Texas better though. (http://www.conradscastles.com/about.html)

      Don't have any suggestions about water coming down a hill but you could build a pole barn over the top of your home to keep it dry. Won't be the prettiest, but you could use a metal roof and make it look ok. Downfall is grass won't grow, but at this point, I wouldn't care if I had grass on top or not. We've seen numerous mobile homes with this so it must work. Good Luck.

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile image

      Kimberly Vaughn 4 years ago from Midwest

      Thank you for sharing your story. I've always thought living in an underground house would be cool. It's good to know the drawbacks.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Gary, I wonder how much a 3,000 sq. ft. pole barn would cost? It would have to be low to the ground to keep rain out. To heck with grass! Ours is one of the Terra Dome homes you looked at in Missouri. It was built by a franchisee (now out of business) who used subcontractors, and there is no one to hold responsible for the bad mix of concrete on the top. I'll check out the website you mentioned. Thanks for you comment.

      Kimberly, it really is cool to live in an underground house. We just weren't aware of the drawbacks. Thanks for the comment.

    • profile image

      Ironboots 4 years ago

      Great account... sorry for all your difficulties. Don't know if it's been addressed yet as I haven't read all the comments but "redhouse" was on the right track w/ the "umbrella roof".

      An "umbrella" in relation to underground structures refers to a waterproofing/insulation technique where the structure is back filled first, so that there's at least a couple feet over the top of the structure and at least 5 or 6 feet bermed around the sides. THEN the whole area is covered in very heavy plastic sheeting, with all the seams being glued (this must extend down past your house's lowest elevation by a couple feet). Then proper, below-grade insulation is installed over the sheeting. Finally, it's back-filled again to finish grade.

      This is how your home SHOULD have been covered in the first place. Would probably be an expensive fix after the fact.

      Other than fixing the leaking dome, the umbrella also creates a large thermal mass of DRY earth around your home and would help you with your temp/humidity problem.

    • profile image

      Ironboots 4 years ago

      I forgot to mention:

      Thought I read you saying something about your home being built on fill that was brought in. If this was the case that's ANOTHER big no-no that the builder is guilty of - these structures should not be built on fill. Judging by the other deficiencies you've described I doubt very seriously they were able to achieve the proper level of compaction. This defect probably lead to the extensive cracking you've experienced.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Wow! ironboots, I wish you had been around when this house was built. It sounds like a good way to build one. I don't think that method was around in 1986 when this house was built. I'm not sure that it would work on domes, but there is a roofing, IB Roofing, that is heat sealed down and would conform to any shape. It is made for commercial roofing, and the company says it will hold up under soil. However, it is costly, and I don't think we can justify the cost on this house. I think you hit the nail on the head about compacting the fill. I just noticed that a crack in the floor has expanded again. I just wish that we had not been so eager to buy. Thank you for your explanation of the "umbrella". I understand it now. BTW, the company is still installing the poured "skin", which doesn't hold up at all. I hope if anyone buys one of these houses, he will insist on a real roof skin. Thanks for your comment.

    • Jenn-Anne profile image

      Jenn-Anne 4 years ago

      Wow - great hub! This was an interesting and informative read. I'm sorry for all the troubles you've had with the house you clearly hoped would be your dream home. I have never considered this kind of home and would certainly do extra investigation and research before purchasing one. Voted up!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Jenn-Ann, sorry it took so long to reply. I've been off for the holidays, and we have been without power much of that time. All I can say is that it made me temporarily appreciate our underground house despite the puddle that formed in our hallway from the leak in the roof. We had heat because it isn't on a thermostat, and we cook with gas. We also have a small solar setup that allowed me to alleviate boredom by reading most of the day, so there are some good things about it. A few anyway. Thanks for the comment and the vote.

    • profile image

      jimmy cooper 4 years ago

      had you used spray foam closed cell on this home would have been waterproof and no mold

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      We didn't build the house, and it was built in 1986. I'm not sure that spray foam existed then. Back then they were putting thick foam panels against the side walls for insulation. If we had built it, we would have done a lot of things differently. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      Pamela 4 years ago

      My understanding from your article is not that you are miserable living in an underground house but you are miserable living in a badly built and poorly maintained house (which would be the case whether it was underground or not). We are getting ready to build an underground house. Completely underground, not bermed. Technology for this style of building has changed a great deal so I'm hoping we won't have the problems you've had.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Yes, Pamela, you understand correctly. I would love to have an underground house, properly built on flat, well-drained land, but we can't afford to ditch this one and build another at this time. After reading some of the comments about new technology, I think you are correct about good changes and hope you succeed in getting a house that you will love. However, regardless of technology, this house was shoddily built, i.e. not good fill underneath, skin poured like hot tar and not a thick film, and a poor concrete mix that lets water drip through the living room dome. Our house is not a bermed home either. Please check carefully about homeowners insurance and loans (if you must finance) because those are much more difficult to get and maintain on a completely underground home. Even without their knowing the condition of the home, we can’t get a mortgage company to be interested in financing this house for a buyer.

      We know a couple in another city 25 miles away who had to agree put a conventional roof on their house before they could get financing and insurance. They had planned to have theirs completely underground, too, but had to change plans. I was hoping that mortgage companies and insurance companies would be more broad minded by now, but I’m not sure that it is happening. Good luck with yours. Let me know how it works out. Thanks for reading.

    • ajwrites57 profile image

      AJ 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      OMG---so sorry for your sad experience. You guys must be saints by now to have withstood the trouble all these years. Here's to wishing good fortune in 2013.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      I seriously doubt that we could achieve sainthood after some of the language we've used over this house. Thanks for your good wishes and for stopping by and commenting.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      After spending 20 years writing all kinds of advertising and news propaganda and hype, I certainly recognize it when I see it. Too bad I fell for my own game, but like they say, what goes around comes around. Thank you Shapriya, for the read and comment. You have a good day.

    • Jeffn19 profile image

      Jeffn19 4 years ago from Boston, MA

      HA, underground homes a great! A completely GREEN roofing system. We have been asked to go to a few homes in South Boston that incorporate underground sections of the home and provide repairs to the roofing system. These roofs are of course not the typical roofs at all so come with a whole range of other leak and insulation issues. http://www.olympicroofing.com/south-boston-ma-roof...

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Jeffn19, you have aroused my curiosity with "incorporate underground sections of the home". Most homes' underground sections are a basement built under the house, so I can't picture these. If you come up with an economical innovative roofing system, please let me know. Thanks for commenting.

    • ajwrites57 profile image

      AJ 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Hhhmmmm...MizBejabbers, how about a very large tarp--tied down somehow. Maybe add few drainage pipes to direct water away from the house. Or huge wooden frame with a tarp and a drainage syatem? Might cost thousands not 10's of thousands. I'm no engineer or architect...maybe something like that would work??

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      AJ, the tarp would have to cover about 3,000 sq. ft. or more. We have actually thought about building a roof over the house, but it would be costly because it would have to extend up 6 or 8 feet and have sidewalls to keep water from going under it. The house is in domes and there is a French drain system on the top, but apparently the concrete is like a sponge in some places. We have also thought about building a second story on top, but we would get into the same expensive problem. There are solutions to our problem, but the question is whether the house is worth the money if it is sinking into the ground and cracking apart. As always, thanks for your suggestion.

    • ajwrites57 profile image

      AJ 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Oh...3000 sq ft--ouch. Did you ever think to pose this question in Hubpages? Maybe someone would have an idea? :ol

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      No, I haven't. I have received so many good ideas from commenters on this hub that I haven't felt like I needed to. Truthfully, we have checked the products and already know how to fix it. As I stated in the hub, to fix it right, it would be very costly, and since the house is cracking apart we have decided the house is just not worth throwing good money after bad.

    • ajwrites57 profile image

      AJ 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Okay--good luck with it all. Sounds like you are survivors and have adapted as best you can.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Thank you. I do appreciate your interest and comments.

    • profile image

      Dale 4 years ago

      There is a Foam that will fix this easily. We uwe this foam on dun buggys for the front end. Its water proff and it insalates. It applys like a liquid foam them exspands largly. 2 tubes after exspnding fills the front end of a dunbugy. It very durable and last forever. I Cannot recal the name but if you visit any dunbuggy shop they sell it there. It WILL FIX THIS EASILY, YOU CAN DO IT and be happy once again with your home. I will try to find the same of it. They use it also to go around gas tanks to stop and leads. Who would of thought to use this for your home can't wait to hear your response after u try it. My email id dwrjr123@gmail.com

    • profile image

      DALE 4 years ago

      Its called Molding foam look it up on utube it will fix your leads and you will be so thankful. I have 150% faith that this will solve your ptoblem.

      Please let me know im excited her hear

      Dale dwrjr123@gmail.com

    • profile image

      DALE 4 years ago

      The best stuff is called PRIME FLEX 900 XLV

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Dale, I will check this out. We have tried Great Stuff on the leak around our kitchen door and the seam between the garage dome and the greatroom dome, but it just pours around it and eventually washed most of it out. Are you saying that this Prime Flex will fill all the cracks and not wash out? I can see it holding in dry use like a dune buggy. We might try an area like redoing around the garage seam and the kitchen door. I think we have proved that anything we apply will have to be from the top of the house, and that will require digging it up. The epoxy pressured in from the underside worked great until the water rerouted around it. I appreciate your enthusiasm, but this is such a big project that it can't be attempted in this weather. Repairs have to be postponed for warmer, drier weather. Today it is about 42 degrees and really stormy. That has been our weather pattern this winter. Cold and ugly. Thanks, we will check it out. It might work well under a new skin.

    • ketage profile image

      ketage 4 years ago from Croatia

      Really sorry to hear about your troubles with your home, I do not know much about underground houses or waterproofing ceilings, so I will not comment on that, but I have had experience with mold in my home, and clorox did not really work that well. A more effective way of getting rid of that pesky mold is either a borax solution or just pure distilled white vinegar.

      I personally prefer Vinegar, but my neighbor used borax and he says that worked just as good. I wish you all the best and hope you find a cost effective way to solve your problem.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      I don't know if we've tried Borax. We've tried Clorox, vinegar, and copper sulfate which is used commercially. It is very harsh, leaves a blue stain on some surfaces, and doesn't keep the mold away any longer than bleach or vinegar. I suspect that the heavy vinyl wall covering on our dining area wall was put there to cover up mold. If so, the mold hasn't come through in the 18 years we've been there. We may try it on more walls. but it would be difficult to apply on domed ceilings. It is the heavy paintable embossed vinyl. And, oh yeah, a steamer works as well as anything we've tried. It seems to be an unending thing, like dirty laundry. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Eric Calderwood profile image

      Eric Calderwood 4 years ago from USA

      Wow! This sounds like a nightmare. I have been interested in living in an underground home, but this has made me reconsider. If I do, I will have a lot of information now to help me make my decision. Thanks for one of the more unique and informative hubs I've read.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Eric, I’m glad you like my hub. I wrote it to let people know that living in an underground house isn’t all nirvana. I don’t want to discourage people from living in underground houses, but to let them know that there is a downside, too. I want them to go into their projects with some knowledge of what they could face and try to take preventive action. Before I wrote the hub, I searched the web and all I could find was advertising hype, and naturally they are going to play up only the good side. Thanks for reading.

    • profile image

      Richard 4 years ago

      Hey, very sorry to hear of your problems. I believe your only permanent solution will be applying epdm to the outside. U will never keep out water with inside treatment. You may try hydraulic cement in cracks prior to epdm - personally, I would use hydraulic cement and then epdm. Also if layer next to concrete is not porous, that will need to be corrected. You could consult an underground architect - google architects from 70s the movement was big then.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Richard, you are right that we will never fix it from the inside. When we used the epoxy, we wanted to use hydraulic concrete. It must have just come out then because we couldn't find it anywhere, not even online. We found articles on it, but not a place to purchase it. The largest contractor supplier in town had never heard of it. Now it is available at Lowes and Home Depot. Kind of ironic. I'm not familiar with epdm. I will look that up. I wish some of you folks could give me an estimate of what it would cost to use these suggested projects on a 2575 sq. ft. house with dome roofs. I studied how to figure the surface of domes in college algebra, but I have forgotten. Thanks for your help, Richard. I appreciate all the suggestions coming from readers.

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      I have thought it would be cool to live in an underground home, but you have brought up a lot of things for me to think about if I ever decide to look at them. What a nightmare! I especially wouldn't like having the a.c. on cold. Brrr! And mold and wet spots are terrible to deal with, especially when there is no easy way to fix it. It sounds like you have had some frustrating experiences!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Yes, and I'm still having them. This morning I discovered a bookcase is collapsing in the front bedroom from the moisture that has soaked through from the last rain. I think it is coming through between the windows and the floor. Anyway, I am going to have to replace the bookcase with a metal one and hope I haven't lost any books. Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      Lynn Moore 4 years ago

      I appreciate the owners honesty. I really do. And I would still much rather have something like this than a traditional home. Or 'especially' a mobile home.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Hi, Lynn, thanks for your comment. I would really prefer this to a traditional home if it didn't leak so. As far as a mobile home, I rode out a hurricane whose tail-end hit Arkansas many years ago. The mobile home was by a cotton field and I thought my family and I were goners. No storm cellar and we couldn't even make it to the house next door. Never again!

    • profile image

      Liz 4 years ago

      My parents have lived in an underground home for 30 years (also in Arkansas). Their house also leaks. The leaks have become more prevalent as the years have passed. About 2 years ago, they removed the dirt from the sides of the house and hired a company to come "waterproof" it. The house still leaks every time it rains. They have replaced the floor three times. In many locations in the house, the sheetrock has had to be cut out in order to find the source of a leak so that it can be patched. However, once a leak is patched, the water just finds another hole somewhere else. I feel your pain.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      OMG, Liz! Where in Arkansas do they live? I assume from your posting that they still live in it. Are they completely underground like we are or is their house earth-bermed on the sides with a conventional roof? We are going to have to rip out several walls of sheet rock because of mold after we get the roof leak fixed. If we ever do. Our interior walls between the domes are concrete, so they can be restored easily, but the walls delineating the rooms in the domes are sheet rock. The bad thing is that once you close on a home loan, you are stuck with the place. Now lenders in Little Rock won’t issue loans for underground houses, so we really are stuck unless we walk away from it.

      I am curious now about your family’s house. If you want to email me privately, please feel free to do so. Thank you for your informative comment.

    • profile image

      Liz 4 years ago

      I would love to email you and discuss the matter further but I am new to this website and can't seem to locate your email address!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Click on my name on this hub and go to my profile page. Underneath my profile in blue letters it says "Send Mizbejabbers an email". (Thought I'd never find it myself!)

    • profile image

      Simon 4 years ago

      Great article... I laughed about the comment where you said you were not a saint;^)

      I am nearly a year late, but I also agree with the umbrella suggestions. ;^) It needs to go enough "upstream" to keep the water from flowing under the ground to your house... It could block off the whole "U" shape and prevent ground water from flowing under your house and undermining it. Even if the ground was packed to start, the constant below ground flow could be causing you great problems that you can't even see. Surface water proofing doesn't stop that, but an umbrella might, it should also provide better thermal properties, etc.

      I am building my own earth shelter this summer (Lord willing), but expect to have a better experience at the top of a hill (above the rd) with permeable soil and an umbrella. We won't be able to say we were not warned though. Thanks for sharing...

      For those who are interested, I setup my site "homeintheearth dot com", I will be linking to this post when I get a chance. It should get interesting about June or July when we get a hole in the ground ;^)

    • profile image

      John Stehlik 4 years ago

      From books I have read, it seems to me that these types of homes are best in northern climates. I have also read that in any house, if you have windows with an area that is greater than 12% of your square footage, you will have problems with heating and cooling. Summer will be hot, winter will be too cold, etc.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Simon, thank you for your great comment. I will check out your website. We seem to be having some underground seepage, too, but right now we are checking it out. It could be a leaking pipe, but with the pipes under the slab, we can't be sure. If this house had been built on top of the hill rather than into the hillside, I don't think we would be experiencing some of the problems. Yes, I just hope bad language doesn't keep people from going to heaven! Good luck with yours!

      John, you may be right about the Northern climates. We put insulating blinds on our South-facing windows, but the former owner didn't have any. If he did, they were removed before we bought the house. We haven't had nearly as much problem with heat since we installed a 3 ton AC. The original was definitely undersized. Thanks for commenting.

    • profile image

      riggerjack 4 years ago

      Im sorry to hear about your problem. A roofer is not gonna fix it for you. You need an excavator/foundation Guy.

      Goggle foundation waterproofing for the drainage details. You need to take a bit off the top of your covering layer, then trench around your house, ideally to below your footing, then cover in epdm or other liner material. Then set up your drainage. You know how important that is to you, size it up. Back fill with drainrock and sand, using geotextiles as needed. At that point, the only way to get water into your house will be an underground spring under your floor.

      You will still have humidity issues, but nothing more serious than your nieghbors. There are heat pumps specifically designed for running a dehumidifier cycle, but fixing leaks comes first. Also, there are chemical dehumidifying techniques using calcium chloride, which can be reused, on a budget.

      The elements you want to look into is a pondliner, as what you want, is a pondliner in reverse. This will keep you dry, and while not cheap, should be far cheaper than moving.

      Good luck!

    • profile image

      riggerjack 4 years ago

      Wow, spellcheck and my phone aren't getting along today. Googling should be far more effective than goggling, and the contractors you need quotes from are excavators and pond making landscapers. The elements or other liner materials should be available thru a piping supply house, think of places that sell truckloads of culvert, or other big piping. Pondlining is a specialty profession, but folks have been doing it for decades. This is established tech, the drains are established tech, this should be straightforward. Your husband is an engineer, he should be able to come up with some prints to submit to your local planning office. They will want to be involved with anything going on next to the road, and probably with that much dirt moving.

      Thee only complications I'm seeing is getting a trench between you and the road, and having the room to move the dirt about...

      Oh, and the settling can be addressed by a technique called pump jacking, where high pressure cement is injected under your slab and lifts the structure. Look to specialty contractors and house movers for quotes.

      You mentioned having a backhoe, and lots of dirt will move in this fix. If you decide to go for the heat pump for dehumidifying, look into ground source heat pumps. I know climatemaster makes a Geo system with a dehumidifier setup. If you do go that route

    • profile image

      riggerjack 4 years ago

      oh, if all that is outta reach, look into a product called crackpak from simpson. that's the way to deal with concrete cracks. it won't fix your problem, as water that used to leak through crack X will eventually find crack Y, but if fixing from the inside is the only option, that's how i'd go, and look for a quantity on ebay, or something...

    • profile image

      riggerjack 4 years ago

      another budget option: dig down a foot or so throughout your property, add the pondliner and drain system, and then bury and landscape. then add a sump pump in an out of the way utility room. The point being to reduce water entering the soil, and then drop the water table as far as you can. I wouldn't even consider this if the slope you are on continues to go up the hill on the other side of the road, though.

    • profile image

      riggerjack 4 years ago

      http://www.boomenviro.com/drainaway/panel_drains.h...

      Trench lining should be something like that. your liner would cover the house side and bottom of trench, and then the drain pipe and then the sand/drain rock with geotextile filter. something that allows the water to quickly drain down to your drainage pipes and flow to downhill of your house.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Riggerjack, I really appreciate your comments. My husband is having to give up any kind of manual labor because of AAA surgery and now knee replacement surgery. We haven't been able to get the concrete basement builders in our area to work on our house because they say they have more business than they can handle. At the time the roofer gave us the estimate, Mr. B could have worked with him to remove the dirt and install the roofing that can be placed under the soil. I just think it's time to give up and stop throwing good money after bad. I basically wrote the hub to warn people that underground houses aren't always what they are cracked up to be. (Excuse the pun, but it was intended.) Thanks for commenting.

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      Lawrence 4 years ago

      I really feel for you guys, I live in India for 10 years and saw what rainy season did to shoddy concrete work. It sounds like the builder made so many mistakes you should just move. First no structure should be built into a hill without a french drain surrounding the foundation. Plus if underground the entire dome should have been sealed in epoxy, but I doubt they had the tech and materials available today when this was built. My only suggestion that you might try is placing graven and french drains around the base of the dome and make sure they drain at a slope from the house and try to seal it as best you can.

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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Lawrence, I’m sorry, I didn’t describe my house very clearly. The house has conventional square walls with domed roofs made of concrete. The house was poured in 3 ½ units. Where each unit joins, there is a seam and on each seam is a French drain. However, the seams are cracking below the French Drains. We are hoping to pay off the loan soon and dig this up and seal the cracks beneath the French drains and install a new skin IF it isn’t too costly. Otherwise we will have to abandon the house. We’ve tried epoxy, but it hasn’t helped. Thank you for your comment and suggestions.

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      MercenaryMan 4 years ago

      Hi MizBebabbers, there is a lot of good information (and product) on http://www.enduroseal.com - There are other very good products in this same category if you shop/google around. IMHO (with my construction background) you would need at least two layers of sealant, one for the concrete and a barrier (mastic, etc) designed/tested for underground use. Dale mentioned Prime Flex but I don't know if they recommend using it underground. Sealing concrete is not that expensive if you have the structure totally excavated/exposed. I do understand/sympathize with your situation and I acknowledge that it's much easier to type a solution not to mention the cost. Also, I agree with RiggerJack that external grading and drainage is critical. It's the old plumbers rule, "water flows downhill", so make sure your landscaping is graded/slanted away from your house on all sides. From your posts it seems that vast majority of leak problems you have are from rain/surface water and not because of high ground water levels, so if you address the grading and surface drain issues then you'll eliminate a lot of your leak problems. Last note, I would stay away from plastic sheeting for underground use, it's too easy to puncture and just doesn't last that long unless you are using an expensive membrane sheet like the ones they use to line landfills. Note, if it's any consolation, above ground geodesic domes built with a series of triangles are notorious for leaking, simply too many joints/angles... many sad stories about them out there. I hope be building an earth sheltered home within the next year myself. Best wishes to you and your husband. MM

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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Mercenary Man, yes it is true, water flows downhill, right into my atrium. Please see the main photo to illustrate what I mean. The idiot who designed this house put a concrete bottom in the atrium. It is a catch basin, so we have in essence a bathtub in which our front door is the escape when the French drains won’t handle a deluge. There are no water problems to the sides and back of the house. In the photo see where the domes meet—they separating, and to have all this tonnage jacked up and the ground built up underneath would be cost prohibitive. We were very foolish to buy this house and I keep hoping it will slide down the hill in a small earthquake so we will be rid of it. Thanks for your comment.

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      tiredofbs 4 years ago

      All homes have issues, and it seems that you have a home that has more than its' fair share due to unethical subs. However, you appear to be part of the problem as well. You state that you dropped pest control, which created visible problems but also would have created problems invisible to the naked eye. Then you state that the humidity should be maintained at 50% yet you choose to maintain at 60% due to nose bleeds. Did you also follow ALL routine maintenance on your home or did you let things 'slide'? A lazy homeowner mixed with a subpar build = the problems you have. After 30 years in remodelling and new construction, we have found that the majourity of issues are caused by the homeowner. Stop whining and either fix your home or sell it and rent somewhere so you don't have to worry about maintenance.

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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Pretty harsh aren't you. My whole point of writing this hub is that I was tired of no one publishing the truth about underground homes. Ninety-nine percent of what you find online is that they are Nirvana, the answer to the world's ills, sheer heaven. I was just trying to be realistic and set out some of the real facts. What routine maintenance? These houses didn't come with instructions. Yes, we mow the roof and we clean the French drains. We were advised by the insurance company to drop pest control. Nobody told us that humidity should be maintained at 50% when we bought the house. What kind of maintenance do you do on concrete buried 4 ft. underground? If someone had alerted us to these problems in a realistic manner, like I'm trying to do for others with stars in their eyes, we wouldn't have bought an underground house in the first place.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 4 years ago from San Diego California

      I've never really heard about living underground, so this is good information. Your house must keep cooler than if it was above ground, doesn't it?

    • mercuryservices profile image

      Alex Munkachy 4 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      Just like living in a cave.

    • healthmom profile image

      healthmom 4 years ago from Ohio

      Very interesting reading. Well written and informative hub. My husband and I built our home ourselves and I enjoy reading about unusual homes as well. So sorry this didn't turn out to be the home you dreamed about. Thanks for sharing.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      @ Mel Carriere Most of the time the house is cooler than an above-ground house. When we had the old undersized AC, it really wasn’t because the ground does get hot and that heat was transferred into the living area. After we replaced the AC, the house is much cooler in 90-100 degree weather and the AC doesn’t have to work as hard. Thanks for your comment and question.

      @ Mercuryservices Yes, it is. The pets really enjoy it, so much that we used to call it our “carpeted cave”. That was before we removed the carpet in most of the rooms. Like us, the cats don’t fear storms in this house, and that’s a blessing. Our late dog (may he RIP) used to get a little nervous during tornado weather, though. Thanks for the comment.

      @ Healthmom Thank you for the complimentary comment. We had planned to build one ourselves and were in the process of looking for land when this one came on the market. I wish we had gone ahead and built our own. At least we could have blamed ourselves if the roof leaked.

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      I've always been intrigued by underground houses, but your article is certainly an eye-opener. We have some of the same problems with our tornado shelters. When the clay soil bakes solid, it busts the concrete and the shelters leak.

      Too bad your house was a lemon, the design was artistically beautiful, especially with the roof top garden. I hope you find a solution, and if you go on to build again underground, let us know how it goes!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Sharkye11, I'm not sure what we are going to do. I guess we will decide when I retire, which shouldn't be too many more years from now. That is interesting about your tornado shelters, and I'll keep that in mind when we consider what to do. Thanks for the read and comment.

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      Dennis 3 years ago

      I would see if you can locate Jan Hornas, who wrote the book years ago about concrete being the perfect form for dome homes if done correctly - I have always wanted to hear how his/her creations fared over time -

      Also, maybe you could get an engineering school or similar take this on as a project, perhaps even with a fundraiser as with gofundme? This is something many of us want to see succeed - I love the idea of a dome home with the inner "loft" as many have -

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      hannelierambo 3 years ago

      wow, what a experience. Here in South Africa underground houses are unknown. I can not imagine how it must be living underground with my five dogs, four cats, and four children. Besides all the difficulty you had, I think you must have quite a lot of fun and good times. I was just thinking. We live in a conventional house above ground, with cavity walls. A double brick wall with an empty/open space about the size of another brick (maybe 22cm) in between, that works as an air vent for the damp on the walls. Your house; Adding another wall from the inside with a suitable and inexpensive material, and leave an opening at the top above the ground for the dampness to escape. (Having both walls extending a bit above the ground.) Covering it with a steel grid with small holes preventing small animals to fall in. Much like a box in a box. I do not know how much rain you get, what your weather is like and if something like this could work. It is just a suggestion. I hope that somewhere someone or you can solve your problem and you can live many more years with the great expectations you had for your house.

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      John Penrod 3 years ago

      I can look at the picture and in 2 seconds tell you that it would have water issues from the lay of the land. Both water and shit flow downhill.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Dennis, I have never heard of Jan Hornas, so I will be sure to do some research on this. It would be interesting to see how the concrete domes have fared. We considered a dome home at time, so we love our domed ceilings. We, have no attic, but we do have a loft over the bathrooms, laundry room, and the end of one of the bedrooms. We use it for storage. Thanks for your suggestion.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Hannelierambo, greetings to South Africa. Living in an underground house with your brood would not be a challenge, since you don’t realize that you are underground if you have the windows that we do. Believe me, your pets would love it because the “cave” is natural to them, and I’ll bet your children would love it. With the exception of a few weeks of the year, our climate is Zone 8, which means that it is usually moderate (we have seen 60-70 degree Christmas Days, but can reach 100 degrees in summer and below freezing in winter), and we get heavy rainfall. Frankly, I love the climate and I love being safe from tornadoes. Our house doesn’t like the rainfall. Thanks for the comment.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      John Penrod, you are soooo right. Even the neighbors in their conventional houses have flooding problems during a deluge. I guess we pay a price for our view. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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      Peasant daughter 3 years ago

      Hi!

      I'm a bit concerned that the public reading this may get totally turned away from earth-sheltered homes as a result of your nightmare experience. A well built, well designed earth-sheltered home really is superior for heating and cooling and the fact that yours is worse than conventional only underscores how poorly designed and constructed your particular building was.

      I'm really sad that you can no longer sue for damages, as you certainly deserve at least the cost of repair. You are certainly victims of real estate fraud, poor specifications and inadequate or non-existent construction administration or due diligence on the part of the designer/manufacturer, and malpractice on the part of the general contractor. This breaks my heart!

      Advice I would have (degree in Architecture) to anyone wanting an alternative dwelling is to build new, build custom, with a designer who specializes in that type of home. I would be very careful about prefab and modular construction being contracted out to construction companies unfamiliar with them: in-house or design/build would be better. Like computers, cars, or anything manufactured, it is best to wait and not purchase the first generations that have not been tested in the field.

      When purchasing any used home please hire an experienced building inspector prior to signing. They are trained to spot inadequate systems, incorrect assemblies/materials, safety hazards, masking of problems and the pathology behind repair work, etc. It could save you many tens of thousands of dollars.

      Earth-sheltered homes, especially the PAHS umbrella type mentioned earlier, have the potential to eliminate all or nearly all heating/cooling costs and are virtually maintenance free. To my mind, they are the way to go in the future, and these horror stories are hopefully a thing of the past.

      Blessings to you. I hope you find a working affordable solution soon.

      (have you looked into ferro-cement, which is used for boats? That, covered with EPDM and proper storm water management should take care of it)

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Pleasant daughter, I think you have given some excellent advice, especially about custom building a new home of any type. I also think that building materials have improved since we built ours. And I think we have learned more about where and where not to build these houses.

      I don’t think one hub will influence enough readers to turn the public away from underground houses. When I wrote this, the only information I found online, including a couple of hubs, was nothing but advertising hype and how-to videos. I wish other people who live in underground homes would write about their personal experiences. I am a journalist, so I think it only fair to present both sides of the equation, although both sides may be polarized.

      Thanks for the read and your comment.

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      ogre 3 years ago

      Hi,building one w/similar construction. have you contacted the company named in your original letter? there are other companies that use the same form systems + they use newer methods of waterproofing,such as what they call a blanket that covers all. The wall mastic has faults due to the thousands of air bubbles on the concrete surface. My wife + I spent a lot of time Repainting more mastic over the original to try to fill them then we applied dimple board over that. No leaks yet but we're still building. Explore the net a little + you'll find others that build w/the "mod" system. good luck.

    • profile image

      Bob Watt 3 years ago

      I have so many questions. I too live in NLR and have seen your house before and went by it today to be sure it was the one. I am so sorry you have all these problems. And yet I really want to build or buy an underground house. I love your location and there are so many lots available in the area. I would really like a much smaller home possible down to under 1000 sq feet. May I ask what you would do differently if you were to build today?

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Ogre, yes, we contacted the company and they said that they didn't have any responsibility for their franchises, but they would "help" us. Their help was the box of Bentonite clay (cat litter). That is why I don't recommend having Terra Dome build your house (of any kind). We know that materials have improved since then, but now the problem is finding a contractor willing to scalp the house and install them. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Bob, I'm glad to hear from you. I am having trouble with my DSL today. Let me think about your question and get back with you. Thanks.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      OK, Bob, I’m back. If I built one today and know what I know now, I don’t think I would build up here unless it was on the other side of the street. It doesn’t have a view, but it is more stable. I would never build into a hillside like this one. The other side of the street has percolation problems, so I would try to build west of Mountain Pine Rd. in the city limits so it would be on the sewer. Our house is in the county and on a septic tank.

      As much as I love high ceiling of the domes, I would not build another Terra Dome home. As I’ve said, they don’t stand behind their subcontractor’s construction. They also use a “skin” on the roof that is heated and poured on, so I doubt if it is consistent. It is advertised to be 1/16 inch, which they say will withstand settling. It won’t. I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo of when we had the roof exposed by the atrium. I would check out the various roofing skins available and I would make sure I got a good one. Don’t listen to the advice of people who say to use pool liners. After all, they have to be replaced every so often from chemicals and sunshine, and minerals underground might cause them to deteriorate. Also the domes are very hard to mow, so if I built another with domes, I would put gravel and cactus on top instead of grass. I might do that to this one anyway.

      I would make my ceilings a little taller and run plumbing, electrical, and AC ductwork through the ceiling warehouse-style so they could be accessed in case anything needed to be replaced. There are very attractive ways of doing this. Years ago there was an erroneous idea that underground plumbing, ductwork, etc. would not deteriorate. We have since found out otherwise.

      The size house you want to build, 1,000 sq. ft., has less chance of being defective than a larger one, so don’t let me discourage you. Carefully consider what some of the commenters have to say because some of them have some good ideas. Keep me posted on your progress!

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Great article. I'm glad you commented on my hydraulic repair hub and mentioned your underground home so I could read this. I have some friends who also live in such a home. They have had good luck with their underground home with no leaks thus far.

      They did think they had a leak once and called me to check it out for them. I found and repaired a leak in the plumbing and they were very relieved. I sympathize with you on your problems and advise everyone thinking about building such a home to hire a contractor who has experience in doing so. This way one may talk to the contractor's previous clients about their homes.

      Voted up!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Thanks for the read, Randy, and your comment. I think that is some great advice. I’m glad your friends’ underground house doesn’t leak. I would like to see a hub from someone who lives in a well-built one that doesn’t leak. Maybe you could interview them and do one. Thanks for the vote.

    • profile image

      Bob Watt 3 years ago

      Thank you so much for your time giving me this information. I need to get up there and see the area on the other side of Mountain Pine Road. I’m concerned that area may be very expensive and have building regulations I may not be able to overcome for an underground house.

      Have you thought about having the yard closer to level with a slight angle down on both sides and to the rear of the house to have water runoff easily? Just level enough for easy mowing. I like the idea of running the utilities near the ceiling inside. I assume they ran some of yours outside the domes and in the dirt. That is what really scares me. It is so much harder to have things hold up underground even compared to out in the open.

      I have an idea to have a dome inside a dome so the inside dome has about a 2 ½ ‘ walkway around it. This would leave an area of air that might act as insulation to help the humidity problem inside the house. This is all speculation on my part and probably so expensive it would be out of reach to do.

      I like the idea of the umbrella roof. It seems that if I had an area of relatively dry dirt around the house it would help lower the possibility of leaking and maybe lower the humidity some. I have flirted with the idea of a regular shingle roof but that seems like I would lose the possible advantages of being as tornado resistant and possible loss of the coolness I could get from being underground.

      Do you thing some of the cracking could be caused by fill under the foundation or does it all seem to be because of the tremors you have felt? That really concerns me. I love animals but I’m not so sure I like bugs and salamanders that much!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Bob, thanks for your questions. There used to be a covenant that required homes to be at least 1,800 sq. ft., although I don’t know if it has expired. If so, you might check to see if it has been renewed. It may not even apply east of Mt. Pine Rd.

      The yard can’t be leveled because the domes rise at least 6 ‘ above the 8 ‘ walls. That would put too much weight on top of the house. There are French drains in the crevices where the units connect, but that isn’t the problem. Wet dirt is like draining something in a colander. Eventually the moisture comes down to the bottom, and when it does, it seeps through the bad concrete mix and the cracks that have opened between the domes. Try punching holes in a straw and putting it under a bunch of wet peas in a colander. You will see what I mean.

      Our leaks are all in the roof, not in the sides of the house. Many of the comments I’ve gotten seem to be aimed at wall seepage. We haven’t had that problem with the concrete, so far. We are going to have to replace whatever the builder used under the windows. It isn’t concrete.

      Yes, we have had to dig up and replace two water lines that ran into the house, but that happens with any house. Our inside problems have been with the plenum rusting and collapsing with the HVAC unit on top and the duct boots rusting out. That may be how the water gets into the ductwork. Re: your last paragraph, we think it is caused by both. We felt some earthquakes in the house, especially during the Enola quakes. After that we noticed some cracks in the greatgroom floor. We still have two carpeted rooms, so I don’t know how they are faring.

      I think your dome inside a dome might be a fantastic idea, but I know we couldn’t afford it. If you build a shingle roof, you would lose some tornado protection. If you insulated it quite well, I think you would be ok as far as efficiency goes. My kids and I lived in a bermed basement apartment many years ago and the utility bills were very low.

      But I also think if you built a home with a flat roof, properly graded for runoff, and used a very good skin (not a poured) you would be fine and just love your house.

    • profile image

      Bob Watt 3 years ago

      Thank you for all the information! I am surprised that they say the domes wouldn’t hold the additional weight if it was leveled off on top. The new weight would be almost all on the walls which being vertical should be much, much stronger holding the vertical weight.

      I certainly see the problems with the water leaking in thru the bad concrete and the cracks in the junctions. I can’t believe that wonderful contractor used something other than concrete under your windows! Like you said I defiantly need to use a contractor familiar with underground houses and then be there as it is built.

      I’m really leaning away from an above ground roof of any type although that may be what I have to do. Do you know of other methods besides domes that have been used underground? Also other ways that have been successful waterproofing them or the domes? Could you tell me roughly how deep is the earth on top of your house?

      I know I ask a lot of questions. I feel like Rosanna Rosannadanna! Love that character and Gilda Radner.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Bob, sorry it took so long to get back to you. Sometimes I have to think about an answer to you. 1st. paragraph, the extra weight would be covering the seams where the units are cracking apart. We don’t think the extra weight would be advisable there. Besides, that is where we will be digging to make repairs. 2nd paragraph. Nuff said, you got that right.

      3rd paragraph. I’ve known of other houses built with flat roofs, but I don’t know how they are building them. I’m sure they are using lots of girders and rebar. There used to be a couple of websites where the person was building the house himself and kept a running diary. That was several years ago, but if they are still there, I’m sure their descriptions would be very helpful. I honestly don’t know what waterproofing is best now, since so many new inroads have been made. My only advice would be to check them out, and DON’T use a poured skin. Thanks for your questions, Rosanna (loved them, too) I’ll answer any that I can, but I don’t have any answers that aren’t expensive to execute.

    • marion langley profile image

      marion langley 3 years ago from The Study

      What a nightmare! Thanks for opening my eyes to things I need to research should I go that direction. The spider lilies are lovely!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      We had people warn us not to buy underground in Arkansas, but we didn't listen. Wish we had. I look so forward to my spider lilies each September. They are beautiful and absolutely carefree unless you accidentally mow them down. Thanks for the nice comment.

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      unh 3 years ago

      waterproofing

      concrete is porus and suceptiable to cracks and breaking.

      a water proof coating may be used like latex or plastic, as long as it is very strong and smooth and wont wear away or become damaged.

      stainless steal might not be rust proof so you might need a coating.

      metalic glass is so far my favorite because its smooth, not likley to rust or deteriorate, and as a thick dome its pretty strong

      undergound houses should be built submergable-submarine grade waterproof

      humidity

      instead of turning the ac on higher, get some more dehumidifiers or a central dehumidification system, some central heating and cooling systems can include a humiditiy control.

      good ventilation helps reduce humidity, as long as its not too humid outside.

      temperature

      underground homes are better insulated than above the ground homes, the ground is an insulator. houses on tall hills may be subject to more extreme temperatures because they are closer to the atmosphere, closer to the sun, and close to space.

      the underground house should be dome shaped, set on top of flat ground, then put about 10feet of earth covering the whole thing (in a little hill that slopes down on the sides so it looks natural), or bury it into the side of an exsisting hill, so its less likley to leak or flood, plus dome shaped helps with temperature control.

      the whole house should be earth covered, exsept the front door.

      the house should be preferably at least 1 foot thick this helps with temperature control, waterproofing, and less likley to be damaged from small earthquakes.

      the sun should rise from the back of the house, not the front, so it wont get so hot. unless you live in a cold area where it doesn't get above 80F-then you wuold put the front of the house where it will get sun rise sun.

      exerciseing inside during the winter helps heat up the home in a cheap way.

      it depends on the area for what the temp will be in your underground home.

      maybe 50feet deep you might be able to find where the temp is constant 75F, building a house so deep its kinda unpractiable and unafforable.

      according to some, temp is about 70 10ft underground when its 90out, and 20degrees underground when its 0 out. this isn't factoring in trees and the insulation of a house.

      trees for temperature control

      large trees should be put over the house for shade. preferably food trees, a net could be placed under the trees to collect fruit/nuts.

      trees help with shade to keep moisture in if you live in a dry area, and they help soak water up if you live in a wet area to help prevent flooding.

      trees help slow down wind to help prevent damageing winds and cold winter wind drafts, helping to keep it warmer in the winter(especially pine trees for winter)

      trees insulate to help keep the temperature cooler in summer and warmer in winter(espcially pine trees for winter)

      temp and pests

      make the house very tight

      put in a 10foot entry tunnel connecting the front door to the door of the main living space-this helps control the temp in the main living space and helps keep pests out.

      put a tight screen on the front door and the door to the main living space, to keep pests out and to be able to let fresh air in when its nice outside.

      size

      a house with interior 7X8 feet is a comfortable affordable option for up to 2 people.

      this size is great for temperature control

      privacy and noise

      building your house not too near to a road, preferably about 50ft away, then surrond your house with food trees, then between the road and the house, put in some large pine trees(great for winter privacy), and other natural foresty type trees so it will blend in and look natural.

      it's a bit longer drive down your driveway when your trying to go somewhere, its worth it when you factor in the privacy and reduction in noise.

      noise

      pine trees can help with noise exspecially if you have a lot of them, normal looking trees can help with noise too only in the summer when they have leaves

      when they said it was eathquake proof they pprobly referred to large earthquakes.

      dry wall is not recomendend, it is suceptable to mold and some pests might eat it.

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      nnn 3 years ago

      waterproofing

      concrete is porus and suceptiable to cracks and breaking.

      a water proof coating may be used like latex or plastic, as long as it is very strong and smooth and wont wear away or become damaged.

      stainless steal might not be rust proof so you might need a coating.

      metalic glass is so far my favorite because its smooth, not likley to rust or deteriorate, and as a thick dome its pretty strong

      undergound houses should be built submergable-submarine grade waterproof

      humidity

      instead of turning the ac on higher, get some more dehumidifiers or a central dehumidification system, some central heating and cooling systems can include a humiditiy control.

      good ventilation helps reduce humidity, as long as its not too humid outside.

      temperature

      underground homes are better insulated than above the ground homes, the ground is an insulator. houses on tall hills may be subject to more extreme temperatures because they are closer to the atmosphere, closer to the sun, and close to space.

      the underground house should be dome shaped, set on top of flat ground, then put about 10feet of earth covering the whole thing (in a little hill that slopes down on the sides so it looks natural), or bury it into the side of an exsisting hill, so its less likley to leak or flood, plus dome shaped helps with temperature control.

      the whole house should be earth covered, exsept the front door.

      the house should be preferably at least 1 foot thick this helps with temperature control, waterproofing, and less likley to be damaged from small earthquakes.

      the sun should rise from the back of the house, not the front, so it wont get so hot. unless you live in a cold area where it doesn't get above 80F-then you wuold put the front of the house where it will get sun rise sun.

      exerciseing inside during the winter helps heat up the home in a cheap way.

      it depends on the area for what the temp will be in your underground home.

      maybe 50feet deep you might be able to find where the temp is constant 75F, building a house so deep its kinda unpractiable and unafforable.

      according to some, temp is about 70 10ft underground when its 90out, and 20degrees underground when its 0 out. this isn't factoring in trees and the insulation of a house.

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      mmm 3 years ago

      the underground house should be dome shaped, set on top of 5foot raised flat ground, with entry tunnle slightly slopeing down by about 1/2foot,

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      OK, I get it, whoever is posting these, unh, unn, and umm is cutting and pasting these straight out of advertising hype or out of someone's guessing game and obviously has never lived in one. I suggest doing your own hub, since you have posted hub-length comments. I am sorry to say that some of these suggestions are so impractical that they are ridiculous.

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      Michael J Paoli 3 years ago

      I wish you could see the design I have made for an "underground" house. I started working on it when I was about 16, and I'm 60 now. There haven't been a lot of changes. It has a conventional roof, like you desire, but it is super-insulated. The heat gain problem is theoretically solved with a combination of awnings, insulated coverings, and air circulation. I wish I could build a prototype. I'm in Utah though, so it is very dry here and many of your problems seem humidity related.

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      Michael J Paoli 3 years ago

      I thought about your main problem, moisture; i.e. leaky roof structure and condenstaion. Have you looked into putting a Steel Building roof or pole shed structure over it? These are often relatively inexpensive, and you wouldn't need the walls, just the roof. That way you could also have some above ground covered open space, and perhaps cover your entryway. It might keep your golfing neighbors off your roof. You could put a chain link fence around it to insure that. If the structure were placed right to reduce the angle of the sun in the summer it would reduce overheating. Other than that, super-insulating the interior in order to prevent condensation and overheating is about the only thing I can think of for that problem since your climate is humid. If you can get the walls to be the same temperature as the air coming in, that should solve most of the problem. Any time the outside air temp. is higher than your wall temp. the wall will act like a glass full of ice and condense water out of the air. It only takes a few degrees difference. If you get the walls warmer than the air it will stop. This might be why you get so much condensation when running the AC unit. I lived in Ireland for two years, and it doesn't get any more humid than that. Insulation is the most effective measure the Irish have come up with to prevent the problem, and boy do they have a problem. They call it "dry lining" but it really just amounts to insulating all of your walls and ceiling. What they do is "fir in" the interior walls of a stone cottage, and then insulate it really well before they apply the sheetrock. It sounds like you just have bare cement on some walls, and just sheetrock with no insulation on others. Insulate the floor too if you have to. Then, if you could switch to an airtight wood burning stove and get that puppy hot it will drive the moisture right out of the place. I often wondered why the Irish had their windows cracked open in the winter, but then it hit me, to dry out their homes. It's unfortunate that you already replaced the termite damaged walls because you could have insulated easier then. Blow in insulation is a very good product though, you don't have to tear out walls, and you can really bump up your R-values. I think it would help, if not cure the problem. You could try just a test area first to see if it works. Say a bathroom wall, since it's usually the most humid in the bathroom or the kitchen. Then if it doesn't, forget it. Double paned windows also help if you don't have those. I would pick the absolute worst room for the test. I'm sorry that you have been plagued by so many problems. It's too bad the architect didn't plan for access to important parts of the structure vents and HVAC. You did mention putting a building on top, but that it would be too expensive. I would look into the steel buildings. You might find something that would solve many of your problems for a reasonable cost. I don't know what the footprint of the structure is, but perhaps some type of tent-like structure would even work, and it wouldn't add a lot of weight. I'm sorry this post is so long. I just wanted to help if possible.

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      I really appreciate your suggestions, and we have already been thinking about several of them. When I spoke of a building on top, we would actually like to add a second story, but ruled it out because it would be too heavy under the circumstances. However, we were considering a lighter weight structure like you mentioned (metal building, pole barn, etc.) It can’t have open sides because the rain would blow in. We do have double-paned windows and patio doors, so there is no problem there.

      I mentioned a crack in the living room floor right at the entrance to the hall. This goes into the half dome. We are afraid that physics is setting in. The half section has a flat roof instead of a dome and has a different pressure ratio than a full dome. We are afraid it may be breaking off. If so, this changes the picture a whole lot. We will just have to wait and see.

      I am, however, drawing up some plans as to how we may go about rehabilitating this house, and we are checking into some of the great suggestions that I have gotten from readers of this hub. Thank you for yours.

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      Arn 3 years ago

      This is really the only article I've seen so far that addresses the negative aspects of living underground, so I'd like to thank you for your frankness and honesty. When my father noticed me looking into the subject he told me underground housing was a really popular idea in the 70s and 80s, and apparently my great-uncle was considering building one himself back then. They visited several underground homes to get an feel of what living in one would be like, and he told me that ALL of them were dank and leaky. Needless to say, my uncle built an above-ground cabin instead.

      But I'm still sold on the idea. From what I hear there's been plenty of improvement since the 80s and I think an underground house now would work out quite well if built in the right location. The advantages are numerous, and I really enjoy the idea of being relatively safe during tornado season.

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      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I had a best friend with an underground house when I was about ten and I loved it. It was open on one side with lots of windows looking out on a long meadow. I have always thought I would love to live in one, thanks for all the info.

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      I will check it, Altie. I think that all interested will appreciate a good source of underground homes, and I do think that they should have improved with modern building materials and methods. I still may consider another in the future. However, I still think that building one in a wet state like Arkansas or Louisiana is very risky. I also would advise using caution in building a concrete house of any kind in an earthquake zone. Thank you for your comment and the weblink.

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Jackie, I'm sorry it took me so long to reply, but I had a virus on my computer. Your friends house sounds like what I wish I had. Thanks.

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Arn, thanks for your comment. Sorry it took so long for me to reply, but as I've said, I've had a virus on my computer and was not able to comment on some of my own hubs. I'm glad I've addressed some of the issues. I don't want to scare anyone off, but I just want them to know the negatives and work to keep them from happening in their own houses.

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      Kol Drake 3 years ago

      As Michael J Paoli stated above... 'home domes' installations and expertise has come a ways since the 1980s. My folks originally thought about a 'solar cell and solar water heating system' since they had a huge east/west facing roof here in Arkansas but back in the mid 80s, there really wasn't anyone who really *knew* how to work with and install anything 'solar'. Would have been super expensive and more of a 'I once did the plumbing under the sink so how hard can this be?' situation.

      Afraid 'back then' a concrete shell for a dome home would have fallen under the 'it's just like pouring a slab only curved'... without thinking about long term 'underground' exposures. I'm surprised they didn't have to dynamite the site to get below the rock in Arkansas. I know trying to dig down more then a few feet with a shovel (or small backhoe) can be a challenge... let alone an entire structure. Bet the water 'path' which is along the shale layers is probably feeding right into the side or near top of your dome.

      As noted above, 'just concrete' is no different then a glass when it comes to insulation. Today's builders insulate outside AND inside before they ever get to running electric wires/pipes inside. Not counting newer sealing materials too.

      Plenty of nice 'semi above ground' floor plans though with some incredible interior wordwork ceilings. Pricey but beautiful.

      Sorry you've had such a series of woes in your dome. Hope you can find a nice new place to settle into that does not give you such grief.

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      LJ McCloud 3 years ago from Indiana

      I'm glad you told your story. Please tell more about unconventional living. I'm interested in the tiny home movement too. I really had been planning to build a totally green living home one day. You have opened my eyes.

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Hi, Kol, I think you’ve made some astute observations, especially about “if I can do this, how hard can that be?” I don’t think the fad of building underground homes of the 1960s got off the ground, so there weren’t that many around to note and correct the problems when the fad rolled back around in the 1980s. The reason they didn’t have to blast to build our house was because the site was almost concave from erosion in the hillside to begin with. They actually built it up and used a poor quality fill. That is why the hill is so steep directly behind our house that we can’t walk down it. We have to exit our property and go around to get down the hillside to the last 1/3 of our property where the septic field lines are located. There used to be some fruit trees, grapes, and other domestic plants growing there, but it became too difficult to access the area and take care of them.

      Most of our neighbors have walk-out basements in their homes. I haven’t heard if they have any problems with theirs. Thank you for reading and commenting. I found your comments very interesting.

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      ljonesmccloud, what would you like to know about unconventional living? I'm not sure I know much outside my own underground house. We do keep 3 solar panels with a small battery bank to keep our lights and phone running during a power outage. This is a recent acquisition and came in handy when we last had a 24-hour outage. It is too small to run an AC unit, though, so we are thankful that it happened in cold weather. It ran a couple of lamps, kept our landline phones charged, and charged up our cell phones, MP3 players and my Kindlefire. It was nice to have.

      I'm glad to hear that you are interested in new types of living. The tiny home movement wouldn't be practical for us do-it-yourselfer packrats with all our books and tools. We would have to have a 2,400 sq. ft. barn to house our stuff. Thank you for stopping by and reading and commenting.

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      John L. Beiswenger 3 years ago

      Miz, I'm a published writer and you write very well. In addition, your article is full of the kind of information we need - the negatives of building underground homes. Our organization, City of God Villages, is focused on an above ground Village, however, we have conceptualized a Village developed from replicable earth homes and we are studying the possible problems you wrote about so well. The first may be in Arkansas where land is available to us. Take a look at what we are considering on http://www.cityofgodvillages.com/newcityofgod/ozar... In fact, on Monday my wife, Kim, and I will meet with a major modular home manufacturer, and although the meeting is primarily about our above-ground Village, we are also going to ask him about the feasibility of sliding modular home units into our RCF (removable concrete forms technology), 70% underground, shells. I'd love to hear your thoughts. John

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      John L. Beiswenger 3 years ago

      I'm sorry, the period at the end of my URL causes it not to work.

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      JBeiswenger, I am a former journalist-turned editor, now turning writer again. I still edit and do rewrites for the state law books, but I'm having to reestablish myself in everyday writing during my spare (?what's that?) time.

      I am so happy to hear from you because I want to learn more about what you are doing. I clicked on the link you provided, and it wouldn’t work. When I cut and pasted it into my browser, it said the site wasn’t there. I was disappointed. I also tried a search and came up with nothing. Is the website temporarily down?

      A friend of mine is involved with an organization building a similar village in Tennessee. I think she called it “The City of Light”, but I’ll have to look it up again. These villages really interest me because I have had hopes of living in something like that someday.

      A 70% underground shell makes sense to me, especially if the attic and roof are well-insulated. I don’t think it matters whether your roof is concrete and sod or wood and shingle, you are going to have trouble down the pike, and something is going to have to be replaced or fixed. The other thing is financing. I couldn’t get a very liberal bank to talk to me when a buyer was interested in my home. I may try again now that the recession seems to be letting up.

      I really want to visit your website and see what you propose. Please let me know when it is back up again. I’ll view it, and we can talk more later. Thank you for stopping by and informing me of your plans.

    • JBeiswenger profile image

      John L. Beiswenger 3 years ago

      Miz, I suspected you were a professional writer and you are. I'm sorry you had trouble with the link. The website has not been down. HubPages truncated the link. If you Google City of God Villages you will see all the links to our website. I would very much enjoy hearing from you. Perhaps we should start a new Hub. John

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      I see what I did wrong, I just didn’t type Villages into my search. I looked over your website and I hurriedly read your blog site. I’m surprised that Hubpages only truncated the link. They have removed several of my comments because I referenced something they didn’t like. I haven’t put any links into mine, but they did it anyway. What did you mean, “perhaps we should start a new hub”? I’m afraid anything we say may be truncated or deleted if they think we are promoting anything. Anyway, I find your ideas interesting. I’m very afraid I can’t get my husband to live in anything that isn’t surrounded by a 40 acre field because he is so sick of society, but he’s a Vietnam veteran. We’ve been in this underground house for 19 years now, and some of the neighbors aren’t too fond of it. This includes people who moved in after we did. Of course, my opinion is: “If you don’t like my house, don’t move In next door or across the street.”

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Thanks, Samita, glad you enjoyed it.

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      Ted 3 years ago

      I am also dreaming of an underground home and have been researching all the variables and so I enjoyed this real experience. I feel your pain and as an engineer/physicist I feel compelled to help your address your root problems (These will be useful to those who wish to build a home properly). Root problem #1: your shell is sinking and cracking. Shell homes act as a cookie cutter and dig into the ground with all the added weight that can be placed on top of them. Shell can't be placed on traditional slabs because of this and thus it must be modified to account for the greater wall pressure. This has bee compounded by the fact your shell was placed on fill. An earlier comment suggest high pressure concrete fill injected under your house. This is probably the best approach to try and stop the settling (that leads to concrete cracking). So I'd look to fix this issue of house settling first as it makes the problem of water management worse.

      Root prblem #2: water management. That leads to the other problems such as mold, cold, humidity, and flooding. This will be most completely addressed by retrofitting the approaches in the book Passive Annual Heat Storage, Improving the Design of Earth Shelters (see earthshelters.com for overview of the umbrella concept). The umbrella differs from the pole barn roof suggestion in that the roof is underground and water flow is controlled underground to go around your entire house. If the dirt surrounding your underground dome is allowed to drain out because no more water can get in, then the cracks in the shell only need to be sealed to keep the critters out not the water. Granted this will require a lot of labor, but the cost of material shouldn't be that high. I highly recommend reading this book and it is sold as an ebook online. Water also causes hour house to be colder since the water is a heat conductor and flowing water is how you cool nuclear reactors (as an extreme example). So control the flowing water in the vicinity of you home and you should see the most of your other complaints melt away too.

      If you have space to partially unbury your home then rebury it properly. I would. But learn what makes the problems right (don't just take my word above as I'm sure there is something wrong) read the book whose designs have been tested and verified for over 30 years. Take the words from people who have experience then supervise whoever does the work to do it the way you know it should be done and not how they are used to doing things (on above ground structures).

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Thanks, Ted. You make a lot of sense. Mr. B is an engineer, so he should have known not to buy a house built on fill on a hillside. I didn't know anything about such as that, so I didn't know any better. I think his "but I want it" gene kicked in and overrode his good sense.We bought the house before there was a big rise in home prices, so I'm afraid it will cost much more to fix the problems than to walk away and build another one. I am about to pay the mortgage off, then we will know what kind of funds we have to work with.

      Do you know what your suggestions might cost? Ball park estimate?

      There is also another problem, the one we seem to keep running into, and that is, nobody around here does, or even knows how to do, that kind of construction. Mr. B will check out your website because he is very interested. Thank you for your suggestions.

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      jandsford 3 years ago

      My apologies if this has already been recommended, I did not read all the comments. I know someone talked about an umbrella using plastic. Have you thought about excavating, back fill with 2 ft of gravel, the rest with sand and then use a pit liner (lasts forever, used by oil industry for drilling pits) as the umbrella? The pit liner would be more than enough and can be ordered in sizes that would cover the entire house. Just food for thought.

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      No, in fact I'm not familiar with a pit liner. I have received so many good suggestions, and I appreciate them all. We are looking for a solution that won't bankrupt us in our retirement. Would this be expensive?

      Thanks for the read and the comment.

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      jandsford 3 years ago

      A 60 mil pit liner (or pond liner) for a 36'x120' will run around $2500.00 to $2600.00. I have installed them before and they are the most durable liner I have ever seen. They last longer than you will need. Just google pit liner or pond liner.

      http://www.justliners.com/BTL40pricing.htm

      I was going to use one when I was looking at building underground. Good luck, I hope you get your problem resolved.

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      That isn't expensive compared to other materials we've considered. Another material we were looking at would be about $6,000 or $7,000 just to cover our roof. Two of these liners would be about $5,200, and then there would be enough left over to do the west side, which needs covering, too. The other sides don't seem to be having a moisture problem. especially the south side, which is nearly all windows. Would you cement this down or just lay it, seal the edges and put the dirt back on it?

      I spoke before I went to the website. I see they come in various lengths, and that's even better.

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      Robert again 3 years ago

      look into earthbag houses you build them above ground but they have similar insulating properties and would be much dryer, 2,000 polypropylene sandbags will build a house, just get big enough bags because when you fill them with preferably an adobe mixture the bags start looking pretty small, a cheap price could be 5 cents a bag for used rice bags or as much as $1.00 for new bags, you can make the walls two bags thick or 1 bag thick, the thicker the better, a round wall is the strongest, some put earthbag roofs but I think better would make round walls out of earthbags and then use a geodesic dome roof or "a dome silo roof", cement is porous so any underground or above ground cement covered earthbag house is only as good as the waterproof roof/walls shield it has on top of it, I think waterproof it with a rubberized paint then layers of polypropylene tarps then a one piece rubber tarp, then if underground 2 feet of sand then another rubber tarp then more sand, all built on the top of a hill not below the hill, water seeks the lowest level

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Just got your email. I'll read it after work. Thanks!

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      Robert again from Minnesota 3 years ago

      Look into Google "20 mule teem Borax laundry soap in Wikipedia for all the uses", 1 cup Borax to 1 gallon of water (better than bleach) to kill black mold and mildew use in a Hudson sprayer or use in your mop bucket or use with a rag - I used it with no gloves and it got rid of my dry skin on my hands - also I added "1 cup Borax powder to 1 gallon of latex paint" to kill black mold and mildew for the future

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      Robert again Minnesota 3 years ago

      be sure to rinse out your sprayers after using Borax water (1 cup borax to 1 gallon water to kill black mold) because after a while the borax will recrystallize and plug up the sprayer nozzle, remember also some things have to be removed like mold infested wood because the mold is so deep, bag it to take to the dump

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      Robert again Minnesota 3 years ago

      1 cup Borax mixed with 1 gallon water with small amount of liquid dish soap to treat Log homes and anything wood or porous from mildew/rot/bugs/mold, I also used it on my pine wood picnic tables for 3 years now and the water beads up, be sure to rinse the Hudson sprayer after woods because the borax recrystallizes and will plug up the nozzle, it is also a good soak for feet and hands to get rid of chronic dry skin on knuckles and feet, the PH is 9 base skin is PH of about 5 so maybe that is why it works, do not breathe the borax dust and do not put borax powder on skin, use only after the proportions indicated in the article in Wikipedia 1 cup borax to 1 gallon water are mixed, there it stated that it used to be used for a food preservative but not now

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      Jim 3 years ago

      I would not cement the liner. That could damage it.

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      Robert again Minnesota 3 years ago

      also the Atrium could be completely covered to keep out more of the rain, when I waterproofed my basement in my 1895 house (after doing many other things) I thought I was done but a lot of rain ran off the roof valleys in 3 spots right into the uncovered window wells and then seeped into the basement walls/floor, I covered them and that was the last thing I had to do to waterproof the basement

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      Robert again Minnessota 3 years ago

      I found a web site that explained the possible negative effects "Black Mold" can have on your body but here it said I cannot include HTML's so maybe you can research it on your own, the following Items were possible from "Black Mold":

      Toxic black mold causes serious symptoms and health problems such as mental impairment, breathing problems, damage to internal organs and sometimes even death. The main groups of symptoms toxic black mold causes are:

      •Mental and neurological symptoms

      •Respiratory symptoms

      •Circulatory symptoms

      •Vision and eye problems

      •Skin problems

      •Immune system problems

      •Reproductive system problems

      •Tiredness and discomfort

      •Other illnesses and health effects

      and you said you have had nose bleeds - maybe from the "Black Mold"

      I hope this has been some help to you.

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      I'll review your comments when I get the chance. Thanks Robert. Right now my husband is in the hospital in ICU.

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      We are quite familiar with 20 Mule Team Borax except we've never used it for mold. Mr. B said he would try it and he bought some before he went into the hospital. We've talked about covering our atrium, but we don't want to for several reasons, including if we use dark material, the house will be too dark and we can't keep our plants there, and if we use clear material, it will get too hot. He really likes the idea of trying borax in paint. We need to repaint our bedroom and we may try it there first. We have to get him well before we can do anything. Thanks.

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      Robert again Minnesota 3 years ago

      De nada (You're welcome)

      The atrium could be covered (large roof overhang) greenhouse with many screened in windows that could louver up for fresh air and that would keep out the water for that area without any loss of light, I built a house with many louvered windows and I could leave them open all summer and listen to the white water rapids on the river below the hill.

      The reason I previously said the whole house could be leveled and a new one build on the compacted rubble is that it might be a lot cheaper, goggle "build a $300.00 house", believe it or not they actually exist, not that you would build one that cheap but it points out that a new above ground house could be built very much cheaper than repairing the one you have possibly.

      I am concerned about why your husband is in ICU, hope he is ok, after reading your writings and what other people wrote, I am sure it makes many care about both of you and if you guys are ok, Dios the Bendiga (God Bless You) - Ten cuidado (Take care).

      I am innovative and am willing to be of any informational help I can be to you guys, Robert from Minnesota

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      Robert again from Minnesota 3 years ago

      Why pagodas don’t fall down

      entire distance from bottom to top Center unattached pole / tree - each floor loose not attached - large roof overhang to keep water away from the foundation (Roof overhang up to 50% of overall entire width of entire building)

      Earthquakes aside, the biggest difference between the Japanese archipelago and the mainland to the north-west is the amount of rainfall. Each summer, the Japanese islands get battered by a couple of dozen typhoons that swirl up from the Philippines. Having to cope with more than twice the annual rainfall of China, Japanese builders have long learned to extend the eaves of their buildings much further out from the walls. This prevents rainwater from gushing down the walls and into the foundations, softening the soil and causing the building eventually to subside or even collapse. Pagodas in China and Korea have nothing like the overhang that is found on pagodas in Japan.

      Using a novel arrangement of staggered, cantilevered beams to prop up the eaves, the roof of a Japanese temple building can be made to overhang the sides of the structure by 50% or more of the building's overall width

      how have Japan's tallest and seemingly flimsiest old buildings—500 or so wooden pagodas—remained standing for centuries?

      Mr Ishida finds that the one with a central column anchored to the ground survives longest, and is at least twice as strong as any other shinbashira arrangement.

      What the early craftsmen had found by trial and error was that, given a hefty sideways shove, a pagoda's loose stack of individual floors could be made to slither sideways to and fro independent of one another. Viewed from the side, the pagoda appeared to being doing a snake dance—with each consecutive floor moving in the opposite direction to the ones immediately above and below. But if a big fat shinbashira ran up through a hole in the centre of the building like a very loosely tightened bolt, each storey would then be constrained from swinging too far in any direction by banging internally against this central fixture. Better still, each time a storey collided internally with the shinbashira, it would dump some of its energy into the massive central pillar, which could then disperse it safely into the ground.

      In short, the shinbashira was acting like an enormous stationary pendulum, which the puny shoves from the separately oscillating floors were futilely trying to make swing. Though they had none of the mathematics, the ancient craftsmen seemed to have an innate grasp of the principles behind what today is known as “tuned mass damping”. This is the mechanism which allows the Kasumigaseki building to ride out a violent earthquake.

      And what of the extra-wide eaves with their heavy tiles? Think of them as a tightrope walker's balancing pole. Because of inertial effects, the bigger the mass at each end of the pole, the easier it is for the tightrope walker to maintain his balance. The same holds true for a pagoda. “With the eaves extending out on all sides like balancing poles,” says Mr Ueda, “the building responds to even the most powerful jolt of an earthquake with a graceful swaying, never an abrupt shaking.” Here again, Japanese master builders of a thousand years ago anticipated concepts of modern structural engineering: stiffness, moment of inertia, and radius of gyration.

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      Robert again from Minnesota 3 years ago

      You have a minus roof overhang with the atrium so the water comes in

      usually your kind of underground Earthship house is for low rain places like a desert Az or Nazca where average rainfall is 10" to 20" for the entire year

      and then they are built in the side of the hill with "One" open side on ground level to let in the "Passive Solar"

      It appears your house did not have enough drain for water to leave and the roof was not sealed

      Being built in the bottom of a bowl of soup it would be hard to waterproof the Structure

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      hannelierambo 3 years ago

      well wishes from us in South Africa to your husband

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Robert – We already have a greenhouse, and I would like to put louvered windows in two sides of it. I haven’t seen louvered windows for sale in years. Where are you buying yours?

      Robert, are you a soul mate of my husband? What you wrote about the pagodas and the Japanese buildings is exactly what he has been showing me and telling me all about for years. He lived in Japan for two years. That is what he wants to build. However, if we can’t get rid of the rental property we own, we won’t have the money to build anything.

      To answer our questions about Mr. B., his gall bladder nearly ruptured about a month ago. The VA installed a drain tube and scheduled surgery for Nov. 8. Then they called on Nov. 7 and rescheduled for Nov. 18. On Nov. 17 he was taken to the emergency room with 103 degrees of fever and out of his head. This was a complication from postponing his surgery and letting it go too long. He's had two surgeries as a result. They did one surgery on the 18th and the final one Monday. They have assured me that he “is out of the woods” and is being kept in ICU for observation now. It is going to be a long hard pull to get him back to health because he is so depleted. Thanks for asking.

      Hannelierambo – Thank you for your good wishes. I so appreciate them

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      Robert again from Minnesota 3 years ago

      Yes Ma' am (Polite form of address for women - The term was borrowed from the French Madame which means "my lady")

      Its Robert again, thank you its nice to have your Husband for a soul mate, age mine is 64 and your Husband maybe a little older but age does not define friend, I rent two apartments out in the house I fixed up, one Family has a little boy age 5 and he is a friend, last Spring for several days I was doing yard work to dry up my yard (the French drain system I installed in my yard "like someone wrote to you about" and a small Dam along the edge of my yard to keep water out) and the boy helped me dig / move rock and sand / and fill sand bags. To the boy it was play and the same for me. I think every boy no matter how old he is likes to dig in the dirt. I had given the Boy a nice toy plastic trailer to put his toys in that held about two grocery bags in volume and whenever I worked in the yard he came out to join me pulling his wagon. Then I have friends older than me that share other things (Knowledge).

      Louvered windows can be large, each one 48inches wide and 24 inches high, the ones I used were name brand (Andersen) but ones that I salvaged from a Christian Girls Retreat group of Cabins on Lake Minnetonka just west of the Twin Cities, you were thinking of the narrow ones only about 6 inches high. Any Window can be made to louver up - make a frame - pair of hinges - think out of the box, especially since you want the air to move. Just think large roof overhang and the windows become less important.

      In response to your budget for your Home, one time I bought a Motor Home, I decided to make it like new condition, the Engine people did not do a good job, the Engine repair company would not stand by their warrantee, I sold it at a loss after also repairing many other things, with the purchase price and repairs I spent $31,000.00 and sold it for $9,000 approximately. It was not good business to buy it and repair it BUT it was a good decision to sell it at a loss because then I moved on to good business decisions.

      If you have rental properties you might have to dump them also even if at a loss so you can concentrate on just one thing - your Domicile (A dwelling place : place of residence)

      Previously I wrote to you that I think the best thing you can do is to demolish your underground house and build on top of the compacted ruble, It sounds like your house is not healthy to live in and too expensive to repair, so "TAKE THE LOSS", "CAVE THE HOUSE IN" - compact the ruble - have an "Engineered Concrete Slab Built" - then build a small nice open airy one level wood frame house and enjoy your days in your beautiful Garden. A good house can be built very inexpensively - get a house kit from Men.... - you be your own contractor - you hire temporary labor for the different jobs / tasks, THEN LIVE IN A HEALTHY HOUSE WITH GOOD AIR AND SUN SHINING IN.

      Hope your Husband recovers, you can both be my friends if you want.

      My Wi Fi was not working for a few days (About 3 or 4) and I was surprised at how much I missed it.

      Let me know if you need any suggestions / here if you need me.

      Robert from Minnesota

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      Robert again from Minnesota 3 years ago

      Hi Ma' am

      I have another good idea / option for you if you demolish the underground house and compact it

      then you could covert the Garage into your Domicile / home by:

      get a building permit

      possibly increase the size of the Garage

      improve the Garage cement foundation if needed

      even add a second floor to the Garage

      add windows and doors

      add partitions

      Possibly take off the roof and install a steep one with large roof overhangs for covered porches to keep the rain away from the foundation - with a steep roof there would be room for a massive Master Bed Room in the upper level including a Bath Room.

      add decks

      the conversion could be done in stages with cash

      add fish ponds to the yard

      Japanese wooden walkways

      A new idea add "Vertical Gardens" (Google it) some use 2 liter plastic pop bottles and go vertical 6 feet high - 8 feet high - 10 feet high 12 feet high so even a small yard has plenty of room, some vertical gardens go many stories now covering whole apartment buildings and businesses.

      also Google hydroponic gardens for ideas

      where the old demolished house used to stand put your garden there

      anything is possible

      Robert

    • profile image

      Robert again from Minnesota 3 years ago

      Hi Ma' am

      I Googled "convert the garage into a house photos" and there are some good idea photos also not useful photos when it opens

      Robert

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      Robert again from Minnesota 3 years ago

      Hi Ma' am

      Arizona Statewide annual rainfall average about 10 inches a year (Highest city 22 inches annual - lowest city 3.3 inches annual)

      Arkansas annual rainfall average about 50 inches a year (Highest city 58.82 inches annual - lowest city 41.83 inches annual)

      Some parts of Peru only get .4 inches of Annual Rainfall

      So Arkansas is not a good place for an underground house with an Atrium

      unless the house was built in the "Side of a hill with a walkout the same level as the floor where the slope of the hill drops off lower than the floor" and no Atrium

      and everything was built correctly with many drains inside the walls of the house below the footings and outside of the walls of the house below the footings

      then all water can be drained away with gravity and sent to a drain field that is lower than the house where the water would seep naturally into the ground, then no sump pump is needed

      Robert

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Robert, please, I know you mean well, but any of your ideas would cost too much to work on this site. Have you ever tried to demolish plasticized concrete interlaced with rebar? Please look at the photo of the back of my house. It may look flat, but a human has to walk on all-fours to get up this hill. Any gardens would be like the hanging gardens of Babylon. Sure, there are many ideas we could use to fix up this place, but we have to consider our age, our (soon to be) retirement income, and $$$! Besides, you are forcing me to say it, I really dislike this neighborhood!

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      Carl yi 3 years ago

      Hi, try Xypex, I used that and works well. They have many products for concrete. For me works very well on a tank full of water just painting on the exterior. Hope works in your roof.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Hi Carl, can it work inside as paint or under paint? It seems like a good coating inside would help also, as soon as we can get the roof done.

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      dee 3 years ago

      Grout???

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Not sure what you mean, but water seeps through grout. Thanks for the comment.

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      Silva Hayes 3 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      I read every word of this hub and all the comments. Thank you for writing a "cautionary tale" for those who are considering an underground home in a wet climate. I was amazed at all the knowledgeable people who came here to offer such support and tried their best to help. How is your husband? I hope he is recovering nicely. Please let us know what your final solution to this house problem turns out to be.

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Silva, thank you for your appreciative comment. At this point Mr. B is recovering nicely and I hope he regains his strength by spring. I will definitely keep everyone clued in about what our final solution to the house problem is. At this point we have decided to pay it off and try to fix it up ourselves. My son works in construction and says he will help. What we haven’t decided yet is whether to keep it or try to sell it when we get it fixed.

      I want to sell it because I slipped on ice and broke my leg the day after New Years. It is all I can do to get up the stairs on crutches just to go to the doctor, and I have to have help doing that. This is no place for the geriatric set. Mr. B wants to keep it if we go to the trouble to fix it. The problem is, after his knee replacement, he was able to walk when was released from the hospital. I still can’t walk without aid. It is very frustrating when I look at all those stairs just to get to my car.

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 3 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      Oh no! I am sorry about your leg! It sounds to me like the best plan is to fix it up and sell it. I'm all for houses being easy to get in and out of -- so many of them are completely inaccessible to wheelchairs and one never knows when one might need handicap-accessible housing, whether it be temporary or permanent. Good luck on healing and I will be interested to hear what y'all decide to do.

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      mizbejabbers 3 years ago

      Thank you.

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      Joyce 3 years ago

      It’s a pity to hear that you had big troubles with this underground house. Many people have to make huge improvements to make the house livable for people. I think it’s not the first time when the advertising says one thing (as a rule that it’s a wonderful opportunity that you can’t miss but in reality it’s a house in bad condition that needs repairing). Sure underground houses are a good alternative to traditionally built above-ground properties, especially for people who are looking to minimize their negative impact on the environment. It’s safe from hurricanes, tornadoes, hail, fire, earth quakes and other natural disasters, that’s really amazing. Moreover you can save your money on energy and tax incentives. But there are also pitfalls that owners can face.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Hi, Joyce, thank you for your insightful comment. While I think that underground houses are still an excellent idea, I believe that there are some places where they should not be built, and ours is in one of those places. Also, it is another fallacy that they are earthquake proof. I believe that is a major factor in our domes splitting apart.

    • repetidorwifi profile image

      Jorge 3 years ago from Seville, Spain

      especially for people who are looking to minimize their negative impact on the environment. It’s safe from hurricanes, tornadoes, hail, fire, earth quakes and other natural disasters, that’s really amazing.

      http://mybichonmaltes.blogspot.com.es/

      http://repetidorwifi.blogspot.com.es/

    • profile image

      Katherine 3 years ago

      Wow! Thank you so much for writing this!

      My family and I live in Lubbock, Texas currently, and have recently considered a subterranean home. I dislike the ready built "done homes" and now have even more reason to dislike them!

      I figured here, where it IS very dry would be a good place to build one of these homes, although you still have to allow for the storms when they do come.

      I guess my question is, is there a way to be safe from storms with an exposed (non dirt covered) roof, if the rest of the home was under ground?

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      I have wondered that myself. There are several of these houses built in Arkansas that have been 1/2 to 3/4 bermed on the sides and the rear, but they look more like they were done that way for insulation rather than safety. I know of one that was built into the side of a hill and it has a conventional roof. This couple said they built it that way because they were refused insurance if they covered their roof with dirt. Their house looks safer than those with just partial bermed sides and back, although their front in uncovered. (Well, the rear of our house is, too.)

      Just one word of caution, does Lubbock now have storm drains? I used to live in Lubbock, and my oldest son was born in Methodist hospital there. (I assume Methodist is still around.) My ex's family lived in what was the western part of the city back then, and one time during excessive rain, the streets near theirs flooded heavily. I used to have a newspaper clipping of a motorboat going down the street (36th st. I think). I would hate to have that kind of water pouring into my underground house, but it you built it right for runoff, you would probably be OK. Just keep in that in mind. Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm sorry I don't have a definite answer for your question.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      repetidorwifi, they are safe from everything you mention except earthquakes. In fact, I think mini-temblors are a major cause of ours breaking apart. Thank you for your comment.

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      Katherine 3 years ago

      No storm drains! And it baffles me how many people don't think about our rain storms. I guess if you haven't lived here your whole life, you just think it's dry, but I had already considered the flooding that can happen, I just haven't decided how to address it.

      Yup, The hospital is still there, although it merged with St. Mary's and the whole thing is now called Covenant Medical Center. The city is GROWING in leaps and bounds!

      Thank you for your reply! I may consider something with just an extra large basement...those tornadoes scare me to death! :-)

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 3 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      We always think of west Texas towns as "dry" and they are most of the time; however, when a heavy rain does happen, they sometimes flood. I lived in Abilene, and once it flooded so badly that water came up inside my car and almost floated it away. My grandmother called those types of rains "gullywashers."

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Katherine, they scared me, too. First we lived just two blocks from Methodist hospital and had a small basement, then we bought a house on 66th St. It didn't have a basement, but the neighbor had a storm cellar, which we used once. My husband is going to install a sump pump in our AC ductwork because we have a problem there. A good sump pump might be your answer if you build the house underground.

      Suggestion: Is the underground elementary school still in Stanton (about 100 miles South of Lubbock)? My ex is from Stanton, and when we lived in West Texas, that town built a school completely underground because tornadoes blew away its original one. Thank goodness, school wasn't in session at the time. The campus was completely flat with the playground on top, and the kids went down stairs into the building. If it is still there, you might want to talk to some people in Stanton about how successful it has been. If it isn't there, then there is your answer.

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Silvia, that is so very true. Once in Lubbock the water was high and my brakes got so wet that they failed. I had the kids with me, but fortunately I was able to coast to a stop. It was definitely a gullywasher! Thanks for bringing back some memories.

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      Nancy 3 years ago

      I love living in the underground house too but I myself should know about every detail of the construction of that house. So there's no regret in the end.

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      That is so true. We should have known that something was wrong when the realtor -- who lived next door to the house -- kept answering "I don't know", when we asked questions. The owner had moved to another state. Thanks for the comment.

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      LifelongStudent 3 years ago

      Greetings from Arlington. :-) I've read your fascinating account of the (potential) pitfalls of an underground home, and I'm so glad I did. I figure I've got one more move in me, and I'm looking to relocate to the Austin area. I've been looking for an affordable green housing solution, and I was exploring this as an option. I haven't found a builder I can afford yet anyway (someone above mentioned the firm in Bastrop, but they are out of my price range). Other than your leakage problems, which are of enough concern, my primary goal is to become more self-sustaining and significantly reduce utility usage, and based on what you have experienced, I wouldn't meet that goal. So thank you very much for sharing. If I'm lucky enough to find an affordable builder, I will certainly heed your design warnings. My best to you and your husband.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Lifelong student, I am not trying to discourage anyone from building an underground house, but just cautioning them to be careful. The company that built this house also puts conventional roofs on the same house, which would prevent our most of our problems. Since I don’t know what price range you are looking in or how much “sweat equity” you can put into a house, I don’t know if this house would be in your price range. I say that because with a few modifications, like a conventional roof, I would love my house. I love the footprint and the size of the rooms. Good luck to you in your search for affordable green housing. Thanks for stopping by.

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      Plastics Tekkie 3 years ago

      Dear Mrs. B,

      Thanx for sharing this wonderful, eye-opening post. My then girlfriend saw the underground house at the World's Fair in NYC in the 60s. She dragged me there the next weekend, and I was hooked. We have been planning our underground retirement home ever since. We bought a beautiful hillside in Pennsylvania in 1974, and have gone through 3 major revisions of our plans. Your website was a comfort, actually, because we anticipated most of your problems, and I can now address the ones we overlooked (I, like Mr. B, can claim to be an engineer, but chemical, not structural).

      We plan to leave our South side exposed and mostly glass, but will put a greenhouse along the front to buffer the weather. Home is presently in Indiana; so I am erecting a pole barn now (experienced folks there to put it up with minimal input from me). That will become construction headquarters when we start the home, and I will be on site daily as general contractor overseeing folks who 'never done this' before.

      Your view is spectacular, and I know why you moved in, disregarding any suggestions otherwise. I'd suggest a greenhouse like roof over your Atrium to reduce that water issue. Leave off the sides to avoid heat accumulation. After a couple of those decks, a glass roof should be duck soup to Mr. B.

      Hope you and Mr. B have full recovery. Getting old is not for sissies. At 75, I am finally considering retiring. If we actually do go thru with the underground house, it may be my last big endeavor; 3600 square feet and no steps.

    • profile image

      Plastics Tekkie 3 years ago

      I meant to say glass Pagoda like roof.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Plastics Tekkie, what an interesting story. You say hillside, so my advice is not to build up the hillside to put it on, but put it at the bottom of the hill into the hillside and you should be OK. When you build up a mound like ours is on, the heavy home will do more than average settling. I’m sure it was built that way so the family could have some view of the street.

      Our South side is the main exposed side and is mostly glass. We finally had to get some good shades for summer. Our dining room sliding glass doors open into the greenhouse, so we already have a greenhouse. Another deck that we never use is on top of the greenhouse, and we used to try to put a garden in pots there. The plants burned up in the Southern sun.

      You are very lucky to have land on which to put a pole barn. Our half acre has no such place, nor a place to plant a garden, which we would love to have. The seller of our house has offered to sell us the lot next door, but he wants too much for a piece of hillside dirt. He has abandoned it to become a jungle and even his trees are falling down from storms. It would also cost too much to rehabilitate it.

      We have considered a greenhouse-type roof over the atrium but abandoned the idea because of the summer heat in the south. However, because of the EF3 to EF5 tornadoes that we are experiencing, we may decide to keep the house and rethink some of our previous ideas, including maybe a green fiberglass roof over the atrium. I hate to say this, but if we do, I hope it isn’t vandalized. Every time we’ve put out pathway lights along the rock steps, someone has come along and stomped them.

      Your house sounds marvelous. It will be about 1,000 sq. ft. larger than ours, but the shape we are both in, I don’t want a larger house to keep up. My very best wishes to you, hope your house turns out as beautifully planned. Keep me informed on your progress.

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      Donna Brown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri

      I saw that you mentioned this article on billybuc's site and I had to take a look. I live here in Missouri and have been looking at this idea of underground housing. I have been reading that it is better to build your underground house on level ground and berm up around it thereby avoiding many of the pitfalls you mentioned. A number of things have to be done differently here where humidity is higher than where many successful houses are built in the west.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      I certainly agree with you. I don't know why we didn't realize that in the first place. (Springfield, huh, I have some friends who live there.) Thank you for reading and commenting.

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      micheal 2 years ago

      Read ur story seems tough am curious if u ever contacted an engineer that does structures instead of contacting concrete people. I've been to Arkansas and know a lot of water there and with any structure under ground u need to make sure and have water moved away from home. Like adding waterproofing to the outer concrete and even that needs to be updated like replace tiles on a roof and adding layers of rock and the piping that take water out of ground and moves it away from home and depending on house settled some people add sump pumps to when water accumulates around foundation it moves water fast away from the home. And the entrance way looks like would accumulate water most under ground homes I've seen the entrance is a square building with vents would think about losing the fencing and build up making new entrance with a roof and gutters and pipes to move the water away and not sure if have from the photos don't show should have venting stacks on both sides of house with the air and from the time frame of the house being build and the time it is now the building materials they used then and now are way different most structures build in those days required waterproofing around pipes cracks in concrete if lucky ones or twice every 5 years compared to today's stuff that claim to last a lifetime which is only around 20 to 25 years but engineers are best way to go could check with the university maybe get some free redesigns from students and other problem solving issues

    • Sally Lundsten profile image

      Sally Lundsten-Sanyang 2 years ago from The Shire, (one of them, anyway!), England

      Hi,

      I did not read through all the comments left here, but did read your entire hub.

      The odd albatross or turkey flies through everyone's life, however, sometimes these things refuse to move on and, instead, cause endless misery for a chosen few.

      I wish you all the best and hope you have been able to resolve as much as possible.

      Sal

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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Michael, you must be replying from a cell phone because I had a little problem understanding some of your sentences. But let me comment on this one especially:

      “I've been to Arkansas and know a lot of water there and with any structure under ground u need to make sure and have water moved away from home.”

      It is the water coming straight down and soaking into the soil from rain that is giving the most problem. We have a French drain system both on the roof and in the atrium, but when it soaks into the soil and doesn’t get to the French drains, it does cause leaks in the roof seams and any bad mix of concrete. Ergo, we need a new roof of some kind.

      Also, changing weather patterns are causing deluges that even the best of French drains can’t keep up. This design of home with an atrium forming a bathtub should have never been built on a hillside, and the atrium should never have been built with a concrete bottom. This is poor design, and it does accumulate water. In our ignorance we bought it. We do not have a problem with drainage around the sides of our house, thank goodness. Thank you for your comment. I always appreciate constructive suggestions.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Thank you, Sally, for your good wishes. The problem with an albatross of a house is that you are usually stuck with it because when all the flaws are revealed, nobody else if fool enough to take it off your hands. Since I wrote the hub, we have had to replumb the house, but the other issues aren't resolved yet.

    • profile image

      Roger 2 years ago

      We built our earth-sheltered house into the side of a southeast-facing hill with a 20% slope. The floor of our house is about 16 feet above the bottom of the hill. The hill is solid yellow clay, which minimizes water percolation into the area around the underground structure. Backfill over the house slopes northwest to a swale at the base of the hill 20-30 feet from the house. The swale carries all water from the house and hillside southwest and northeast away from the structure.

      We installed drain tile 4 feet below floor level around and under the house and at footing level to take all moisture to daylight. Davis Caves used 2 to 3 pallets of powdered bentonite and 4-foot-wide rolls of bentonite-coated HDPE on the roof to seal against all moisture leaks. To eliminate water leakage from hydrostatic pressure, we installed dimple wrap on all walls adjacent to soil, and at the base of all walls we piled one-inch gravel four feet deep and covered it with ground fabric before backfilling.

      These preemptory procedures cost much less than fixing one problem. John Hait, in his famous book on Passive Annual Heat Storage (PAHS), describes four methods of heat transfer. Most people mention just three. The fourth method, most important to earth-sheltered homes, is heat transportation. Heat transportation occurs primarily when water, usually cold, flows near the structure's walls and roof and sucks up your rooms' precious warmth. Then you must continually add more heat and remove more moisture if the roof and walls leak as well.

      If you don't have any underground water sources to transport heat, then the next frontier is landscaping to direct surface water away from the structure. If the surrounding soil is porous and water sinks in like on sand, then you are in big trouble. Get a dozer and remove a foot or two of soil from over and at least twenty feet out from the structure. Then get two or three pallets of bentonite, which is not kitty litter, and spread it uniformly and generously over the exposed surface. Also, if you have the budget, cover the entire area with rolls of bentonite-coated HDPE. Then backfill with clay or the least porous soil you can find. Make sure that the backfilled landscaping slopes everywhere away from the structure out twenty feet or more and that there are no low spots for water to collect in and seep into the ground.

    • profile image

      Roger 2 years ago

      If you have water running underground around the walls and under the floors, you have a big heat-transportation problem. There is no inexpensive solution, but I would hire a hydraulic excavator with a long boom to dig a trench out ten to twenty feet from the exterior walls all the way around the house, and the bottom of the trench would be at least four feet below floor level. Drain tiles would be laid in the bottom of the trenches and brought out to daylight. Then the trenches would be backfilled with one-inch rock except the top few feet, which should be nonporous soil. These trenches will intercept and drain away all water flowing toward the structure.

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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      I'll bring your suggestion to my husband's attention. Our main problem is the house is built in four sections, all of which have the capacity to cause a leak at the seams. Then this is compounded by a bad mix of concrete. The concrete company was sloppy or too hasty in mixing the concrete. We are always interested in finding a good cover for the house. We removed the paneling from a bathroom wall and discovered that a bad mix of concrete had been hidden under the paneling. After removal, water started leaking from a 12 or 13 inch long space that had little cement in it. It was just dry rocks. Thanks for reading and making your suggestions. They are always appreciated.

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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Roger, we don't have problems with water running around the sides or the back of the house. It was built on a 45 degree hill, which was built up to more than that to flatten out and have the house built on top. The U shape of the house makes it a natural water catcher. I know that there are some products out there that are greatly improved over what was used on this house. However, if you read the specs on Terra Dome's website, they are still using the same old stuff from the 1980s. Again, thanks.

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      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      Thanks for education. People need to read and heed. For those who don't know it, you probably don't want a swimming pool either. They have to be maintained constantly. Also, a neighbor with a dog run near by might not be as good as you think. Some dogs and their owners think anything near a dog run is a doggie toilet.

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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Poetryman, I certainly agree with you about a swimming pool. I'll go to a rec. center and let them keep it up. I live in the county, and the whole street is a dog run. Oh, well, at least they fertilize my yard. Thank you for your comment, amusing but true.

    • profile image

      thomas 2 years ago

      This has been very interesting & informative. Thanks for sharing this.I had been thinking about getting a underground home,but I am apparently in a bad location.Again thanks for the heads up.

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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Thomas, since I don't know where you live, only you can judge that. I still love the whole idea, I just don't like this one. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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      Johnd966 2 years ago

      Im genuinely enjoying the style and layout of one's website. Its a very uncomplicated on the eyes which makes it a great deal much more enjoyable for me to come here and pay a visit to far more typically. Did you hire out a designer to make your theme? Excellent perform! afabakeeaacb

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      ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

      You could probably write a book about your experiences living in an underground house. This is truly a unique perspective.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Ologsinquito, yes, I probably could. Unfortunately it is a continuing thing, and I could turn it into a series. I do intend to continue with some short hubs on our experiences beyond the crazy spider. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 2 years ago

      Your hub is amazing, and the problems you've had . . . ! A couple of years ago a friend and I visited the Earthship demonstration house in New Mexico. Similar to what you describe, it's built half underground out of recycled materials. It operates completely off the grid - collects its own electricity via solar panels and its own water. My background is in water conservation, so I was intrigued with their rainwater collection and filtration system, took lots of photos, and wrote a hub about it when I came back. I imagined myself living there and loved it.

      Like many buyers, though, I saw the awesomeness and didn't consider the downside. Now after reading your hub I'm thinking a lot more cautiously. And I'm wondering why the builders of your house didn't waterproof it better AND build in an automatic water rerouting system, given that you're living in such a wet environment.

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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Watergeek, I used to live in Hobbs, NM and I love that state. I left there in 1972, so nothing like that was there then. I will have to check out your hub because what you say is fascinating.

      Our house was so beautiful on the inside when we bought it. People were just amazed at how lovely it was. Even my mother couldn't believe it. But that only lasted a year, and she was the first to discover the first leak (in the living room ceiling). It went downhill from there.

      After reading your last paragraph, I agree with you. I wonder why the subcontractors did such a shoddy job and the owner let them get by with it. Then he covered up the leaks and unloaded it on us. Thank you for your insightful comment.

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 2 years ago

      Oddly enough, I just wrote an article on another crowdsourcing site about underground water tanks. I used the information in your article to point out that concrete water tanks will crack and leak . . . and leak . . . and then leak someplace else. So, thank you for that info! ;)

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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      I am honored! I'm not an expert, just a person of experience. Thank you.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      RG Scott, you are soooo right! The franchise of the company that built our house is out of business, and no wonder. But the mother company is still in business in Missouri. If you read the specs they publish online, I don't know how. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      R.G. I got a little time during break to view your website and your photos. Your house and its setting is just lovely. Our house is about 1,000 sq. ft. smaller than yours, but we had envisioned something like this outdoor landscaping when we moved in. We could make ours a little more attractive, but we are subject to so much vandalism that we don't want to call attention to it. We seem to be singled out for vandalism, and I'm not sure why. I think it is out of prejudice because the house is unusual.

      Your setting is just beautiful, and your landscaping is very attractive. You can obviously walk around in your yard, which we can't.

      I especially like your skylight. Is that over an atrium? My husband has talked about putting something like that over ours. It would solve the problem of grass and weed seeds and more dirt blowing into ours, and if we ever get the leaks fixed, I may consider it. I would miss the little frogs and critters that actually fall in and occupy ours, though. That is why we have a little pool for them in the atrium.

      I have a battle going on with my husband right now. We know it has to be fixed, but he wants to customize our remodel for us to keep it, and I want to make it generic so we can sell it. I want to be able to walk out our front door without going up 20 steps. He wants to put in an elevator, but one will be hard to place with this design. So we will see what the future holds. Again thanks for commenting and alerting us to your expertise. I will check out your book.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 2 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Oh Lord! Tears are running down my cheeks and my sides actually hurt after reading this. I apologize for laughing at your distress, but your wry writing style just made me crack up.

      Years ago (20 or more?) we had looked into building just such a home. And, a lot of what you describe as going bad, were mentioned in one place or another during my research.

      We ended up being transferred to another state and never went any further with our underground home.

      From what you have described, this type of construction needs a very savvy designer.

      Thanks for a great read.

      DON

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Thank you, Don, I think. Sometimes you just have to laugh to keep from crying. I would say be glad you didn't build one, but it would depend on the state where you lived. As I say, I would love to have one in a dry state, or even a watertight one if there is such a thing where I live. If I lived in this house centuries ago, I think they would call me "Miz Underhill". Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      ideasman 2 years ago

      hi, i've been researching underground/dome houses and other related techniques on and off for years. Maybe one day we'll be able to build a home. Thanks for writing this up, your struggle is not in vain because you are helping the next generation. It's refreshing to hear someone say "this worked, but these things didn't. they were catastrophes". If only the permaculture world had more people like that.

      Several people (redhouse, ironboot and others) have already mentioned the umbrella idea. It's something that John Hait espouses. Here's a link:

      http://www.norishouse.com/PAHS/UmbrellaHouse.html

      I understand your disagreement with your husband about doing work to make it generic and sellable vs doing things that he might want want, but wouldn't help the sell and move on option. I am the same as him, having started a bunch of things that wouldn't be appreciated by the general market. My wife has argued that since we're going to have to move in a few years, it's best to think about marketability. And I'm coming around to seeing she's right, although slowly because I'm stubborn and I think my ideas are great. Seeing it in someone else's situation helps me realize that, so thanks again!

      I think it might be worthwhile investigating the umbrella idea. Just dig down the dome areas (making everything flat), cover with the umbrella, (except for the atrium, put a greenhouse over that) cover that with topsoil (I've been able to get topsoil dropped off for free from construction companies), and then plant grass on top of that. But please read the page I linked to. There are many benefits to the umbrella system. I think that it would allow an underground dome house in even wet climates, since your home would be surrounded by tonnes and tonnes of superdry earth, which should suck any moisture (from people breathing, showers, ventilation, cooking etc) from the house!

    • Easy Exercise profile image

      Kelly A Burnett 2 years ago from United States

      Fascinating. I have never known anyone living in an underground house. I never would have thought about the water. As a consolation prize, we are fighting with our roof to rid our 1929 home of moisture. My husband's priorities were elsewhere but my number one goal is always to rid a home of water problems.

      Water is so damaging, perhaps more so than anything else.

      Your lilies are beautiful.

      Thank you so much for sharing.

      Wishing you a dry home and blessings to you and your family.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Ideasman: I'm glad you read and commented. I'm sorry it took me so long to to get back to you. I will check out the website, and then I may reply further to you. I do see from our budget that I am going to have to stick with my son's contracting crew, so we will have to work within their abilities. I am going to give my husband one concession on the decoration, and that is the Mexican tile in the bathroom. I'm a real sucker for that if it's done right.

      Easy Exercise: I didn't think water would be this kind of problem either. I was warned not to buy an underground house in our very wet humid state, but neither of us realized what a problem it would be. We also have as rental property an 1885 house in the Quapaw Quarter (the old district) of Little Rock. It had a new roof when we bought it in 2004, and I hope we get it sold before the roof gets old enough to have problems. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      Loren Pechtel 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      I can see two big problems in the construction of your house from here:

      1) It was built on fill. If you do this you have to be very careful about compaction or you'll get crack city like you're experiencing.

      2) You need a layer of drain material around the house that goes down below the house and then drains somewhere. From the looks of your house the only way that could even be done is with a pump and you mention no such layer in talking about uncovering it.

      I suspect you also need a heat exchanger and fan setup to move air into the house and humidity out.

      It sounds like your builder cut corners badly. That's bad enough with an ordinary house, it's even worse with an underground house.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Loren, you are so right on all points, but we bought hurriedly because our old neighborhood had turned bad nearly overnight with the demolition of a "Sin City" just 1 1/2 miles from us. I don't know about drainage outside the perimeter, but the french drains are too small, and if they used a good donafil, they didn't compact it properly. The house had an electric central system that didn't heat the house at all. We find that using dehumidifiers and the Vermont Castings heater that has been converted to gas is more efficient. We pull the heat from the living area into the outer rooms with the air handler that is on the AC and the rest of the house stays comfortable except when the weather falls below 30 degrees. Right now we haven't turned on the heating stove because an electric infrared heater in the living area is enough to remove the chill. We didn't have one of those when I wrote this hub. So far the outside temp hasn't fallen lower than 26 degrees, but tonight is supposed to get into the single digits, so we may have to light the fire.

      I have been begging my husband to install a gas heat exchanger (we had an HVAC company 25 years ago) for use during our couple of months of coldest weather, but he won't even talk about it. Underground homes aren't supposed to use gas, but we do have a gas range and water heater, so that the heck.

      Thank you for your response. I am about to pay off the house and do some rehabbing and remodeling. I intend to take into consideration some of the many wonderful tips that I have gotten from readers.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 2 years ago from West By God

      Wow! That was quite an adventure. Too bad they couldn't have built the door or front side jutting out from the hill instead of right inside the hill.

      There is a house that is underground that we see lots. It is actually inder ground, the whole thing except for the front door. I was always wondering how that worked with the rain and other weather related things. They actually buit up the ground so that there would be run-off from the top. Then again I do not know about the other things that you mentioned like leaks through the cement and stuff like that.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Lady G. I would love to see that one. Email me a photo if you can. I've thought about that door business, too, but the way the hill is built up to place the house on it is such a drop-off that a person has trouble coming up it except on all-fours. My dogs and cats had no trouble though. LOL they also situated it so the rooms overlooking the hillside are mostly a glass wall. I think the owner wanted all that light coming in instead of turning the house around. Thanks for the read and comment.

    • Melissa Orourke profile image

      Melissa Orourke 2 years ago from Roatán, Islas De La Bahia, Honduras

      Thank you for writing this article. My husband is a Builder/Remodeler and we have restored some antique homes. We like homes that aren't the "norm' as well. I am sorry you are having all these problems! I hope some are solved by now! I am sure writing about your experience will help others!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Melissa, we have remodeled two old houses ourselves, one an 1880s bungalow that was converted to a duplex, which we still rent out, and my 1950 post-WWII cottage that my son now lives in. Dealing with them was a pleasure compared to this house. While we haven't solved any of the problems yet, we have learned a lot about how to solve them, which will help when we do tackle the rehab job. Yes, I wrote this to try to enlighten others that underground homes were not a panacea for the energy crisis. Thank you for your comment.

    • profile image

      Martae 2 years ago

      I'm pretty sure waterproofing the concrete in an underground home is not the way to go. The system that I would go with is to cover the dome with earth, to the point you have a gentle slope, and cover it with something like landfill liner. Then cover the landfill liner with earth. Avoid plants with tap roots, like pine trees above your home. A grass lawn with flower beds, or even a rock garden would be best.

      Choose a design that allows enough dirt over the home to take advantage of the thermal properties so you won't have to heat or cool much. Since your cooling load will be small, you might need a dehumidifier, or a system with a multispeed distribution fan. With the fan on low, less air will be cooled, but it will get colder, so more water will be removed. In other words you will get more humidification for the same amount of cooling.

      If your home is designed with an open floor plan, you may not need a conventional air distribution system for heating, and cooling. Consider radiant heating, since you will probably have a concrete floor anyway. You can run cool water through the piping for cooling in the summer, but if you do, you will need a dehumidifier, and ceiling fans to avoid temperature stratification. You can get the cool water from a well, if it has enough capacity, or a chiller. If you have a chiller, it can also power the dehumidifier.

      You might be able to get by with a wood stove for heat, but consider something called a masonry heater. I prefer the ones that are walls, between two rooms. You build a large fire in them for a half hour or so, the masonry absorbs, and retains the heat, and they will heat your home for a day or so. In very cold temperatures you may do it twice a day. One thing, with a masonry heater, you need a damper at the top of your chimney as well as the bottom, to hold in the warm air after the fire goes out.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Revisiting this hub and you have certainly gotten loads of interesting comments! Hope you can walk away from it someday without losing too much of your money.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Martae, the masonry heater sounds very interesting and would probably work. I saw some of those in palaces in Russia. We are already using dehumidifiers and a wood stove (converted to gas) for heat and do not have a forced air heating system because they won’t heat an underground house without constantly running. Then they must be coupled with a dehumidifier in our climate. Apparently you have never lived in an underground house because people who have not experienced one underestimate the cooling load by a damsite. The ground gets hot, and it takes at least 3 tons to cool our house. Our house was fitted with a smaller unit that had to be replaced.

      Also in this climate, the skin has to be placed under the dirt and against the surface of the house because of osmosis. We have thought about putting a second skin in the middle of the dirt also. The amount of dirt on top of the house has to be limited or its weight will crack the concrete. We are thinking about removing some where the owner put it four feet thick. I appreciate your commenting.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      I sure have, haven't I, Peggy. Some of them are about interesting new products that might actually work. I'm about to pay off the loan and we will see what happens after that. Even if it is totally fixed, I want to sell it because it was ridiculous trying to walk up 20 steps with a broken leg last winter. Thanks for the revisit and the comment.

    • profile image

      barbaroo 2 years ago

      hello :)

      try contact guys on earthship.com

      this architect is really wise and is building houses for a long time. maybe he could give u some tips, how to remodelate your house. my friends are living in an earthship for two decades now and its still mindblowing :) hope it ll help u, wish u luck, :)

      ps: i used to live in 250 years stone house (used to be brickowen), very wet, dark, small windows, floors, roof,... for me the best day of my life was to realise that i dont have to live in that, so we used the material and build a new house :) maybe u could do the same :) better live for a year in a wheels house and remake from the ground, than live like this for ever and keep repairing :)

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      I checked out the website, and wow! I am going to investigate this more. I love what I saw. I'm on a limited budget and don't know if I can afford anything like this, but I love it! Thank you so much for your suggestion. You don't say where you live. Would this work in an area that averages 50-60 inches rainfall each year?

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 23 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      What an interesting read. Ive always liked the idea of an underground home, but now I'm glad to have read your post. We do know about having damp and water problems. Our home is build against a mountain. In winter the sun gets to our roof at 11 in the morning, so our house is very cold. We have a great view over False Bay, we are 5 min walk from the beach and I love my garden and our front deck. I really should write another article about our renovations. That will now be on my to do list.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 23 months ago

      Nadine, against a mountain, that sounds interesting, but I would have thought it to be warm. I have always liked houses nestled against mountains, but not on top of them. Mine is half and half. We've had an unusual amount of rainfall this year, but we have kept the atrium pumped out and have only had water coming in through the roof leaks. We've rehabbed and/or remodeled two houses. I keep saying I'm going to do a hub on the complete rehabilitation of our 1880s house that we use for rental property. Thanks for reading and your comment.

    • profile image

      Cori 21 months ago

      Very interesting read, been looking into doing something like this in Alaska, but the permafrost is a major issue with cement homes. However building it above ground and earthberming it would possibly work. Your experiance is a great help in that decision. Thanks again!

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      MizBejabbers 21 months ago

      Cori, glad I could help. It might work. If you are in a very rainy, snowy area, I would advise a conventional roof with lots and lots of insulation. The berming on the sides would help tremendously. Years ago my children and I lived in a basement apartment that was bermed on two sides. Our heating and cooling bills were 1/3 the costs they were in a house of comparable size and no insulation. Good luck to you, and thanks for taking time to read and comment.

    • profile image

      Cori 20 months ago

      Is there any other sources you could site for me that could help? I am looking but not finding out much for colder Permafrost areas. If you don't have the links then thats fine too. Thanks for the help!

    • Usmanbhatti profile image

      Usmanbhatti 18 months ago

      we don't have problems with water running around the sides or the back of the house. It was built on a 45 degree hill, which was built up to more than that to flatten out and have the house built on top. The U shape of the house makes it a natural water catcher. I know that there are some products out there that are greatly improved over what was used on this house. However, if you read the specs on Terra Dome's website, they are still using the same old stuff from the 1980s. Again, thanks.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 18 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I've never known anyone who lived in one of those. Fascinating and interesting accounting and since I know you to be brutally honest, I know this is truthful. Thanks for the facts, MizB.

    • greenmind profile image

      greenmind 18 months ago

      I love your voice and the way you choose your words. Sorry about the underground house! Looking forward to reading more of your hubs.

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Kay Badder 18 months ago from USA

      I'm sorry to hear you got stuck with a house with so many problems. I did enjoy reading this hub and hope you have a happy future once you do move.

    • rmcrayne profile image

      rmcrayne 18 months ago from San Antonio Texas

      MizB this sounds high anxiety. What a money pit. I remember driving by a few underground homes when I lived in Southern Illinois. I'm surprised to hear about all the natural light in your home, and the views are really nice, but too many buts.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 18 months ago from The Beautiful South

      When I was preteen I had a friend with an underground house and I so loved it. It was not boxed in like yours but one whole side, the length was open but unless you went over the little knoll to the back you did not know the house was there! It looked out onto a massive field and then woods and deer grazed there often.

      I always thought I would want one but after reading your story I may would think twice. Thanks for all the info and hope all the problems are solved by now if you are still there.

      I had a slug in my shower once I never figured out how it got there and I still shiver thinking about it; my least favorite creature on earth...well...besides snakes that is.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 18 months ago from Ohio, USA

      A wonderfully interesting read. Thank you for sharing. I do appreciate your positive attitude despite your trevails.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E. Franklin 18 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      What an interesting account. It's great to be forewarned by someone with first hand experience. If I ever get the yen to buy an underground house, I think you've cured me of it already.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 18 months ago

      Usmanbhatti, you are quite correct. I check the specs from time to time, and these are the same specs used to build our house. Pitiful, isn't it.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 18 months ago

      Bill, I did a search and didn't find one single article about anyone's experience living in an underground house. I found articles written by people building them, but they don't come back and write about how wonderful they are. I wonder why (she says dripping sarcasm)? I'm trying to get the message out that living in an underground house isn't always Nirvana like the ads say.

      After writing this article, I find it being stolen quite a lot. I still don't find anyone else writing on the subject. Thanks for reading and commenting, my friend. Like Arkansas, you certainly don't want one in Washington.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 18 months ago

      Ron ElFran, thanks for the comment. I’ve never been in PA, but I have relatives there. Maybe your state isn’t as wet as mine. It might be ok there.

      Nicomp, thank you for your nice comment. I have to laugh to keep from crying.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 18 months ago

      Jackie, I think it depends on where you live. Since you are from the “Beautiful South” chances are that it is wet there, too. Your friend’s house sounds like something I would like to live in. I have the woods with the deer and other interesting animals, but getting into the woods is really a hassle. We used to keep rock salt for the deer, but neither of us is in any shape to fight the hill now. Our area really is beautiful. I just wish the house were more user-friendly.

      Thank you for sharing your friend’s house. I like to hear success stories about underground houses.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 18 months ago

      Greenmind, thank you for reading and for the nice compliment. With a name like that, I’ll have to check you out.

      Barbara Kay, I’m just trying to warn other people that these homes aren’t always what they are cracked up to be. (Pun intended) Thanks for reading and commenting

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      MizBejabbers 18 months ago

      Rmcrayne, it does cause a lot of anxiety. Underground houses in Illinois? I would like to learn more. When you say “too many buts” do you mean the house or my writing style in the hub? Seriously, I would appreciate knowing. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      whatabunker 17 months ago

      I'm interested in building an underground house/bunker made of reinforced concrete build monolithically buried around 12 foot deep. I've gotten many great ideas from this hub and want to thank you. As I said I'm interested but not yet committed. I've also thought of building the concrete structure above ground and I'm constantly back and forth as to whether it should be above or below ground. After reading this hub I'm even more confused as to the best option. The structure will be around the Grand Lake area of Oklahoma which is close to where you live so I have similar issues with humidity. There are steep 100ft+ hollers that surround the location site and it is at the top of a hill. I'm starting to lean more toward the above ground approach again using a similar method as the clever version found here. http://buildingscience.com/documents/insights/bsi-...

      The main reason for me wanting to go underground is to reduce temperature extremes but as your hub has pointed out it's not quite as easy as theory would lead you to believe. I think if underground homes were perfected through construction techniques they would be nearly impossible to beat. On a positive note at least you don't have to worry about tornadoes sneaking up on you or a stray bullet going through your walls. Thanks again for the info.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 17 months ago

      Whatabunker, check out the yearly rainfall in your OK area as opposed to those of central Arkansas and go from there. I'm not sure how they compare, but if they are above 35 in. Or so, my advice would be to build above ground. We've just had a new concrete washout spring in a bathroom outside wall. I can tell by looking that it is another area of bad mix.

      My son and his wife, against all advice, have just bought some acreage in the hill country of Texas and are starting to draw up plans for an underground house on that property. He thinks he knows how to build one "right". I'm sure that in theory he does. But most people don't realize that concrete deteoriates with age. Well, he might just get lucky.

      As I think I mentioned earlier, it was more economical to hear and cool my mom's well- insulated ranch house. You don't heat or cool an underground house! You dehumidify them, and they stay close to the temperature of the earth. Ours has ranged from 54 to 90 degrees. Whatever you decide, good luck. Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      Whatabunker 17 months ago

      MizBejabbers, great advice from someone who knows. We get 40 inches on average but this year has been extremely wet. I've been thinking of this entirely too long and believe that is the answer, if 35 inches or more then its not the best option. I appreciate your input very much. Now I can rule this out and move forward. I'm sorry for all of the trouble with your home but at least now we have some true life experiences out there on the web instead of propaganda. Best of luck to you and your family.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 17 months ago

      I'm glad I could be of some help, but I don't want to discourage anyone who really wants to live in one. I just want to alert them to the possibilities of calamities so they can avoid them. By the way, did you notice that one of those propaganda hubs on underground houses got an Editor's Choice. The author apparently had never lived in one and showed photos of the expensive ones. I guess the HP editors don't like people who tell it like it is.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 15 months ago from Central Florida

      Although you've gone into great detail, I'm having a hard time picturing your house. Would you consider adding some photos from the inside, MizB?

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 15 months ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      MizBJ, I'm glad I came across this article, it is a real eye-opener, considering I have been toying with the idea of building my own underground home here in Tennessee.

      All of the trouble shooting advice will come in handy, if I ever do decide to go for it and I was seriously thinking a hillside location, so maybe I will rethink things.

      All of the companies I have talked too use the concrete-rebar method which isn't what I want, so I guess I need to keep researching. I want to use CEBs (compressed earth blocks), do you know anything about them?

      Have you read my article Underground Earth Sheltered Homes, Past, Present and Future, I wrote it about 2 months ago?

      I have some friends that live near your, it would be cool to meet sometime, that might be weird. After all, reading some one's articles online is safe but actually meeting somethgblue would take all the mystery out of me and I like being mysterious.

      Anyway it sad to think about your situation and wish I could do something to help, short of rebuilding your house your in a tough situation.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 15 months ago

      Bravewarrior, my house is in such a mess that I don't take photos now. We've lost three closets due to water leaking, and the stuff is sitting around on the floor and in piles. I lost one precious quilt to dryrot, so my family quilts are in trunks, causing me to have too many trunks; things like vacuum cleaners (my husband collects old Kirbys) are sitting around and one is being used for a coat rack in our bedroom. Tell you what, if I can find the photos of the house before all this tragedy happened and scan them in, I will display them. How's that for a plan? Thanks for asking.

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      MizBejabbers 15 months ago

      Something blue, I’m glad you got something out of this article, but please don’t think I’m telling people not to build underground houses, but just to be very careful of where and how the house is built. I think a hilltop location would be just fine if you put it on the top. Another workable situation would be to put the back of the house into the side of the hill and let the front overlook the hill. (My house might have worked if it had been done this way, but apparently the owner wanted the entrance to fact the street.) You would need a driveway coming down to the front side of the house and enter the garage from the front to make it really work. Even with a proper drain system, a side-loading garage could still catch water. Check your yearly rainfall before you consider building, though. If you get as much rain as we do in Little Rock, I wouldn’t advise it unless you do a complete “umbrella” wrap like some of the commenters are saying.

      I don’t have any information on the CEBs, but if they are anything like adobe or bricks, I wouldn’t advise using them in TN. Are they just compressed or are they fired after compression? Even bricks absorb water. Concrete absorbs less moisture than bricks, I think, but we still have to run dehumidifiers, and in Arkansas many concrete basements require sump pumps. That is why you don’t see adobe homes east of New Mexico. They melt.

      I would build another home like ours if (1) we put it on flat ground and (2) we used a conventional roof on top of the domes. I love the “U” shape of my house and its floor plan, but it just isn’t practical on a hill.

      Yes, I did read your article. I didn’t comment because it has, how can I say it, information that I disagree with because I’ve live in one. For one thing, underground homes built in the U.S. won’t withstand earthquakes. Only those carved out of hard cliff faces like the Anasazi dwellings will do that, and I don’t think they’ve gone through a 7 or 8 on the Richter Scale. Even mine was not advertised to withstand earthquakes, and I think that mini-temblors are part of the cracking problem.

      Yes, it would be cool to meet, but that would take the mystery out. Kind of like online dating, you meet and, ah Jeez. LOL Thank you for reading mine and commenting.

    • yecall profile image

      yecall 15 months ago from California

      I like the idea of an underground house despite the problems. They say they are safer in the event of attacks. Very informative article, thank you.

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      MizBejabbers 15 months ago

      Yes, but sometimes I fear that since we are close to the convergence of two interstate highways, a fugitive might seek out our house as a place to hide. I think building materials have improved since ours was built. Thanks for reading and commenting, Yecall.

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      somethgblue 15 months ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      You can comment if you disagree, us artist call that constructive criticism and we bear it well, it's the obnoxious and rude comments that are tough to deal with.

      There are many things to consider but my plan was to build into a hill with the face (entrance on the downslope) with more of an open garage or car port, to catch rain water.

      I have friend that uses only rain water for all his water needs including drinking water, he invented a filter system that allows him to keep all his water in underground tanks, all from rain runoff.

      He lives completely off the grid, supplies his own power, food and water and his house is really nice . . . he built himself, so it can be done.

      I think the biggest consideration will be the runoff and what to construct it out of. CEBs can be fired and sealed, maybe a combination of both. I would like to see the problems you've had to deal with but your article was very descriptive . . . perhaps a follow up article with pictures of the problems, kind of a does and don'ts could be useful and garner so interest.

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      MizBejabbers 15 months ago

      I don't disagree with you at all at this point. I like what you wrote about your friend because my son and daughter-in-law just bought about 20 acres in Texas and are planning to do just that. Right now the land is totally unimproved, and my DIL is clearing a stretch to build a road onto the property. The pictures I've seen of it is just beautiful, so I'm wishing them luck. We had planned to do something like that ourselves, but our healths (both of us) took a nosedive, and we've had to give up those plans. My DIL is a wonder woman, by the way. She has rebuilt her VW bus engine twice and does a professional job of home repairs while my son works a federal agency job and takes classes in blacksmithing.

      Now, I would really be interested in how those CEBs work. If they prove to be a success, I would certainly like to build a new house out of them. I just don't want to be a guinea pig.

      I agree with you about the house facing the downside of the hill, but did I misunderstand you about the garage: "with more of an open garage or car port, to catch rain water." I don't advise building anything that will trap water. Look at the photo of the front of my house. I was standing in the driveway near the street when I took it. See how the water runoff from the street makes it like a giant bathtub with a slow drain? Let me know how things go.

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 15 months ago

      @somethgblue - Does your friend live in New Mexico, perchance? I visited the demo Earthship there, took lots of photos, and wrote a hub about the water filtering system. I love those homes! And the fact that they are totally off the grid. But I totally see what MizBejabbers is saying about underground homes in TN. Living in Southern California near the foothills, the first thing I thought of when I read this article was mudslides.

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      MizBejabbers 15 months ago

      Watergeek, a wise person would certainly consider the locale.

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      somethgblue 15 months ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      No, my friend lives in Tennessee but the rainwater collection system goes through a filter-system directly into a huge underground tank and then through several more filter systems, actually I think he has three massive tanks built underground.

      He has wind and solar panels for power plus all kinds of backup, he really is an intelligent guy and we often have long conversation on the spiritual nature of humanity.

      He won't commercialize his filter system because he knows the Powers That Be would just bury it and wouldn't let anyone use it, so he just gives it away to whom ever needs it.

      The man has a lot of money but doesn't use it except for his lavish recording studio and spending it on his wife.

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 14 months ago from Florida

      Oh wow! I'm sorry for all your troubles with your lovely home, MizBeJabbers. And it does indeed look lovely from the outside looking in, doesn't it? I'm sure that was a good reason you bought it.

      I don't know many people who live underground. Well, actually, you are the only one I know. However, with all the headaches of the house you have mentioned here, I still admire your unique ability to want to live in this type of dwelling. It really seems like a good idea; a great shelter from storms.

      It is ashame that you got dooped by the sale. It's not that the concept of living in an underground home would have so many problems; that part is an excellent idea in my mind. I think it was who was hired to build the structure. Properly built and sealed, it's a really great house.

      I hope you have found some solutions to the issues. Well, now you have to deal with those pesky groundhogs though, right?

      I wish you the best, MizBeJabbers. If it's any consolation, I do think it's a lovely and unique home. :)

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      MizBejabbers 14 months ago

      SB, I'm so sorry. Thanks for your answer. I answered this comment when you first made it, but it didn't appear. I don't know if there was a computer glitch or if I said something HP deleted. Can't be too careful nowadays. My son and his wife just bought some land with future hopes of going off the grid. He wants to build an underground house, but I'm not recommending it to him.

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      MizBejabbers 14 months ago

      Thanks, Missy. We still haven't completely made up our minds whether to move or fix it. It will have to have an elevator if we stay. If I could talk my husband into buying the lot next door so we could have a small garden, I wouldn't mind fixing it up.

      I agree with your assessment of living underground and also your statement that it was the fault of whomever built it. Definitely problems with the subcontractors, but the company is still building these same houses using the same 1980s specs. I would love to have another one just like this one, but because of that, I wouldn't contract with this company to build one on flat land.

    • Remon Gorkis profile image

      Remon Gorkis 14 months ago from Australia

      Proper waterproofing is a homeowner's first line of defense against gradual structural weakening caused by water seeping into a house from above and below. As a result, waterproofing should be one of the first improvements a homeowner considers, as it is far better, and more cost-effective, to avoid rather than endure a catastrophe in the future.

      I am the owner of one waterproofing service.....I can provide you the service details....U just check the details....

      60

      Oakhurst, NSW 2761

      Australia

      http://www.tightsealwaterproofing.com.au

    • profile image

      Mary Melcher 11 months ago

      The first order of business when building any home especially something like this is to GET AN ARCHITECT and engineer---doing it on the cheap never works. I have lived in a wonderful rammed earth home for more than 30 years--passive solar, comfortable quiet beautiful. Underground structures are difficult--the design must be by a pro.

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      MizBejabbers 11 months ago

      Remon, I tried your link, but it didn't work even when I copied and pasted it into the search engine. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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      MizBejabbers 11 months ago

      Mary, I agree wholeheartedly. Believe me we are, or at least I am, sorry we ever heard of Terra Dome. They are supposed to be PROS at building underground houses. The biggest mistake was for them to agree to build this house on a hillside like they did. Their second mistake was using sub-par subcontractors. Architects had nothing to do with this. They've been in business now for at least 30 or 40 years, and I don't recommend using them. You can google them and read their specs. Their building methods haven't changed in all these years. I'm surprised that someone hasn't sued them. We couldn't because it was a franchisee who didn't stay in business long. Our mistake was in not researching them. The house was beautiful, and the owner was skilled at covering up the problems.

      I would like to see photos of your home. Also, is it in an area of much rainfall?

    • profile image

      Sherri 11 months ago

      Wow!! Not an experienced I would have enjoyed, but it is nice to see you have not lost your sanity. I hope you get it paid off and can move to a place where you don't have to deal with the issues of those who do not inform. Though, we live in above ground house built in 1992 and the contractors did a horrible job. We bought this house in 2008, the windows were rotted (nothing like the Windows in my former house that was over a 100 years old). The furnace had already been replaced, the roof had been replaced and the septic system was redone. The bathroom is sinking into the basement, they used oak and pine together on the stairs. The list is endless. Many blessings...

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      MizBejabbers 11 months ago

      Sherri, I've been out of town, sorry for the tardiness. Since I wrote this hub, we have paid off the mortgage, and my husband got in contact with a person who works on underground structures (retired). This man told us how the professionals repair them, and just as we were preparing to order the materials, my husband had an accident that injured his arm and shoulder. So now we are waiting for him to heal before attempting the project. We are optimistic about the prospects of repair.

      I'm sorry you had to go through the issues of a defective house, too. I hope you get yours squared away ASAP. BTW, I'm afraid to buy a new house after reading that Merle Haggard died of cancer from Chinese drywall in a home he bought brand new. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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      calle 8 months ago

      Mis Bejabbers,

      I fear for your health with this mold.

      Mike Ohlers who died of late had an Underground house book.

      We wanted to underground as we are wilderness and fear fires.

      We only have an annual rain fall of about 13 inches. And we are located in a High dessert area.

      Our problem is everyone around here charge 14 legs and 22 arms for any earth work.

      We could never afford to hire, and we are DYI people.

      Drainage is king. Putting in drain tiles like farmers do and routing water away is the first step.

      So sad for you to have to battle in your own home.

      We had started an earthbag cellar but had a fire and it ruined it.

      So will rehab some steal structures and see what happens.

      Best of all, wishes, so glad I found your post.

      I would have thought that there would be a FB site or a pinterest site for underground houses.

      Calle

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      Selwyn Gossett 6 months ago

      It's a rough story you've lived. I am sorry for your troubles.

      But I appreciate the details you provide.

      And I cringe at some of the well-meaning posts giving you advice they themselves haven't tried.

      I am also amazed that you are still there.

      Best wishes to you and yours!

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      MizBejabbers 6 months ago

      Calle, I'm so sorry that I missed your post when you first posted it. My son passed away just before you posted and I haven't been very attentive to my articles.

      If you are in a low rain area like 13 inches per year, I highly recommend an underground house because I really love them. Just not a poorly built one like mine. Mine was built by a franchisee out of Oklahoma who went out of business (N0 wonder!). The parent company is still in business, and to pour this house (abt. 2500 sq. ft.) probably would cost about $130,000 today, including wiring and plumbing. I wish I could have another on flat land, but I don't think we can get financing in my state anymore. You might be able to where you live.

      My older son is getting ready to build an underground house on some land he bought in North Central Texas east of Dallas. I'm not sure it will be dry enough for him there.

      Good luck to you, and I hope you succeed. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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      MizBejabbers 6 months ago

      Selwyn, I know what you mean about some of the well-meaning posts. I wrote this hub because I couldn't find any articles on underground houses besides media hype, and I wanted to inform people of what they might be getting into. There are people who live in them and love them, but most here in my state have water problems because of our high rainfall.

      We are still here because we basically were stuck with this house until we got it paid off. Now that it's fully paid off, the question is, do we use our money to try to fix the place right or do we walk out and lose a large investment. It would be like having 22 years of rent receipts, and then we would still be responsible for taxes and insurance. We haven't decided what to do. Thank you for your comment and good wishes.

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      Uba Dome House 5 months ago

      I just found your site and I am sorry to hear about your situation. We designed, built and live in an underground house in Denver. Waterproofing, ventilation, orientation, natural lighting, energy use, egress and cost were all part of our design criteria. Our house was built in 2011 without a furnace or air conditioning. The thin shell concrete walls were coated with fluid applied waterproofing, backfilled and then layered with a recycled reinforced waterproof membrane (reused vinyl billboard banners) and then topped with another layer of dirt and top soil . We also have a french drain system. I think the keys to keeping it dry are to apply a good coating of waterproofing to the concrete, a good compaction around the walls and a water proof membrane over the backfill to keep this dirt dry. The dirt provides a better thermal bank when it is dry and helps condition the air coming into the house from our perimeter air tubes. Hope this information helps.

      For us, so far so good. It doesn't get hotter than 78 degrees in the summer and less than 58 degrees in the winter (with no furnace or heater and no sun for several days and with the temperature outside never rising above freezing - yes, I was using my family as human guinea pigs). I am planning to build a passive solar green house and utilize solar panels for air/water heat and heat storage. Our current domestic hotwater and power needs are handled by our 17 photovoltaic panels. Net metering turns the table on the utility company. They send us a check every month for around $20. Not bad for a 2,700 square foot house. - Gary

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      Mizbejabbers 5 months ago

      Thanks for this input, Gary. Sorry it took me so long to read it, but I was off the computer for a couple of weeks and missed it. Your house sounds interesting, and I would welcome it if you emailed me photos. It is about the same size as mine if our attached greenhouse is figured into the square footage.

      Ours is old now, and I would love to have one built from new materials and plans that are relevant today. From what I understand, Terra Dome hasn't modernized its plans, ever.

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      hmanehold@yahoo.com 4 months ago

      hello MizBejabbers,

      This is an interesting article I am sorry your having such problems has anyone ever talked to you about dry wells, if not then you should look into building dry wells all around the foundation they aid in water run off the water dissipates before it has time to soak through because of air gaps created by rocks

      http://www.phillywatersheds.org/whats_in_it_for_yo...

      here is a link we used to just use rocks we found in our yard but dry wells help manage water very well

    • profile image

      Mizbejabbers 4 months ago

      DUH, there's no such thing as a foundation at my underground house. It is poured straight up from a poured slab. My water complaint, other than the leaky roof is the water pouring off the street into the atrium. Look at the photos and you will see what I mean. Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      Matt H 3 months ago

      The solution for all the leak problems may be as close as EPDM pond liner. It's inexpensive and just roll the seams together. Just put a foot of sand over it to prevent rocks from working there way in and puncturing it

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      MizBejabbers 3 months ago

      Matt, I've been advised to use pond liner, and I've been advised not to use pond liner, all by the "experts". I'm not sure what to do. Thanks for your comment.

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      Sharon 2 months ago

      So glad I read this, Gives me a better insight to underground homes in a wet climate.

      Thank you for sharing

    • profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 months ago

      I'm having some problems posting comments to my own hubs, so I hope this one goes through:

      Sharon, hopefully materials and even designs have improved since my underground house was built 30 years ago, so I don't want to discourage anyone from building. However, I do want people to know what they may be up against and plan accordingly. They need to know that nearly all underground house websites are advertising hype, but this one is pure honesty. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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      MizBejabbers 3 weeks ago

      Patty, very interesting, especially the 70 degree year round. I'll check this out. To do this we might have to install new windows because we do have large 1980s windows in the house. Thanks for the advice. BTW I can't get the approve button to work on your comment.

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      Klarimore 24 hours ago

      Misbejabbers,

      We are in the same situation as you! We would love any information you have on repairs... or even where to start! I am at a loss- like you, we feel that we bought a lemon! Help!

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      MizBejabbers 16 hours ago

      Klarimore, I'm glad that you read and commented on my hub. I feel for you and I wish I could help you more. I'll answer your email privately, but I will say that my husband talked to a man who was a professional who retired from repairing and waterproofing underground government bunkers, and he said the only real way to fix one was with pressurized applications of liquid epoxy into the interior leaks. He said our mistake was not using pressure and blowing the epoxy into all the channels of leaks. He said that our living room leak could be originating anywhere, a bedroom at the other end of the house, for instance. We are going to try this again. Other solutions such as digging it up and "umbrellaing" the house with a rubber liner are too costly for us to try. This professional didn't recommend that anyway. Please feel free to read some of the comments recommending products and check them out. I haven't tried any of them, but you might want to.

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