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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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    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 2 weeks ago

      Kari, I never dreamed that an underground house could be so devastating to my life. I think I would love a properly built underground house in a dryer climate though. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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      Kari Poulsen 2 weeks ago from Ohio

      Wow, what a nightmare. I have always thought it would be great to have an underground house. Now I think I would stay away.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 6 weeks ago

      Thanks, John, you are certainly correct about that.

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      John 6 weeks ago

      I think living in any badly designed house can be a nightmare.

      I live in a house with rising damp, that causes mould in the upper floors.

      I have lived in houses where the sun just doesnt seem to reach due to trees etc.

      Design is important

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 6 weeks ago

      John, that's good to know. I wish I could get my husband to have the dirt removed and add a thick liner. He's determined to go the forced concrete route from the inside. I hope you don't have the amount of rainfall in your area in Canada that we do here in the South U.S.A. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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      John Savignac 6 weeks ago

      I have been considering building underground for some time. I personally will be getting spray on a 1/4 " bedliner material sprayed over the the project before the dirt is applied. I've talked to dealers up here in canada and the total cost will vary with the amount of square footage. These guys spray trucks but said the equipment can be portable. The one problem is warranty..there is none but I know this stuff and at a 1/4" it's darn near indestructable. And being a large job they said some discount could be worked out for the job as a whole.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 2 months ago

      Dave, thank you for a very constructive analysis. I agree with 99% of what you say. The only exception is the description of shoddy workmanship was done on my house with “plasticized” concrete and possibly unskilled labor in 1986. I also agree with getting a “grandma’s house” and living it and loving it. We own two of those, an 1880s Victorian in downtown Little Rock 2 blocks behind the Governor’s Mansion in the Quapaw Quarter, and a small 1950 bungalow in the main combat zone of the Bloods and the Crips (gangs). Both houses have hardwood floors. FYI, I abhor carpet.

      I bought the 1950 house in 1980 and finished raising my children in it. When I remarried, we lived in it until 1994 and the gangs ran us out. Then we bought the underground house, which was my husband’s dream. Later, I bought the Victorian home with the intention of our moving into it. We painstakingly rehabilitated that house ourselves, and then my husband refused to budge even after the housing market crashed. I’m still trying to sell it. Both of those houses are our rental property now.

      I wish we could have bought out my brother’s half of my mother’s 1978 ranch because it was well insulated and solidly built by a good contractor, a personal friend of my family. However, it is 100 miles away and I wasn’t ready to retire at the time. It was in very good shape but starting to deteriorate after being empty for four years, and it couldn’t wait five more years for me to retire. I’d like to find another similar to it.

      I am going to allow my husband one more try at fixing this one, which I don’t think will work, then I am going to use the rest of the money to buy a smaller house in the country, like my mom’s, and move. He can either move with me or stay by himself.

      We aren’t trying to be primitive or “lock ourselves away from a gaggle of misfits”. We live in tornado alley, so living underground makes sense because I’ve never felt so safe from the storms that rage through here. Our Quapaw Quarter property was damaged by a tornado before we bought it, but it survived the major destruction close by. It is still in a direct path and very vulnerable. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      dave dale 2 months ago

      Sorry to hear about your experience, sounds like a real bummer. Your attitude is good though, especially when you state you love living underground. I would assure there are those who do (trolls come to mind), for reasons known only to them, as they say.

      As an experienced real estate investor I have learned long ago to avoid any kind of synthetic building materials. Anything made of plastic I believe should be outlawed as a building material, and when you see the term "miracle polymer", RUN !!!

      Construction quality has generally declined since World War Two, with the skilled trades disappearing almost completely. Homes our grandfathers build were great, while new ones built today are basically pre fab pieces of crap slapped together frequently by untrained guys they got off craigs list two days before . Plastic windows, plywood flooring, and that frankly hideous composition roofing which is cheap, ugly tar paper inflicted on us to greedy contractors and untolerated in any other wealthy country on earth.

      It's no wonder you choose to go "underground", so to speak, and lock yourselves away from the usual unseemly gaggle of misfits, outcasts, misanthropes and semi-and under skilled construction workers that make up so the so called skilled tradesmen of today.

      My advice - RUN, and don't throw good money after bad. Buy yourself an old , light fixer built before the war that grandma still lives in, and only needs cleaning , painting, and some sprucing up in order to not shred your health and patience like some kind of red neck cheese grater. You will LOVE the old hardwood floors, plaster walls, RAISED foundation and clay tile roofs they put on 80 years ago and still going and, oh yea, stay away from gimmicks, they may sound as nifty as that set of foam injected ski boots I bought back in the 70s and the lasting style power of those pastel speedos Dad threw away years ago. Good luck , and let us know how you are doing when you come up for air!!!!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 2 months ago

      Ardelle, I'm glad to hear from someone who has an underground home that is problem free because I've heard privately from several people, all Southerners, who have similar problems to mine. I do have some questions for you. 1. How old is your house? 2. How many sq. ft. do you heat and cool underground, 3. You mentioned skylights, but do you have large conventional windows? and 4. In what state do you live? Bentonite just left us with a soggy mess.

      I've come to the conclusion that sometimes it is the luck of the draw or perhaps the skill of the builder. A person told me that her father and his three siblings live in four identical underground homes by same builder just 30 miles from me,. She said that two of them have never given any problems, but the other two, her father's included, leak and they've never been able to repair them where they won't leak. I would love to have one that doesn't leak. Our 2 T AC just wouldn't cool the house, but 3 T does just fine. Our climate is classified as “humid subtropical,” and the house can't cool until it is dehumified.

      I also am acquainted with a family that lives in one that is underground except for a conventional roof. They don't have roof leaks either. We've thought about putting a conventional roof on ours, too. Thanks for stopping by, and I'm glad you are happy with yours.

    • profile image

      Ardelle 2 months ago

      I live in an underground home and do not share your problems. Our home is warm, we used radiant in floor heat, all duct/ plumbing goes through pvc pope with adapters at 2 foot above ground. We have 13 solar tube sky lights. One began leaking and we dug it out and poured bentonite around the piping and problem solved immediately. When built, Our home was sprayed with bentonite, warped with a thick (pool liner stuff). We watched the water leave the concrete...this took approximately 18 months for all the water to exit the walls (this is normal). The exterior was further wrapped with layers of styrofoam. The interior also has a layer of styrofoam. Sheet styrofoam was used under the concrete floor. We have a 2.5 ton air conditioner, used primarily to pull the moisture out in the summer.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 3 months ago

      Leigh S. Amen to your last statement. Terra Dome claimed it had no responsibility to fix ours. I recently looked at the specs of their houses, and they are still using the poured skin of some kind of rubberized or plasticized stuff and say it will withstand 1/16th in. of movement or settling. That is a joke. A house settles or even moves with the earth movement more than that.

      You didn’t say where you live, but it has been our experience in Arkansas’ moderate climate that you can’t heat an underground house with electricity, nor can you undersize your AC like they advertise. When we upsized our 2 ton AC to a 3 ton unit, we had the peanut-sized electric central heater completely removed. We use a Vermont Castings cast iron stove with a built-in fan in the living room. We started out with wood, but we can’t buy enough wood for the winter here, so it was converted to natural gas. The heater faces the AC blower intake across the room, so we turn on the AC blower while the stove is in operation. It isn’t as even heat throughout the house as a conventional home with central heat, but it is much better than the electric central AC that wouldn’t heat the house. Our gas bill runs about $100 a month, and we use electric heaters in the baths and occasionally in the bedrooms, which cost about $50 a month to use. However, we like our bedrooms cool while we sleep, so those don’t run all the time.

      We also make sure that our smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are in good working order.

      Thank you for your comment.

    • profile image

      Leigh S 4 months ago

      I would completely agree. We had a beautiful home that was 2 years old. First of all it is COLD. Really cold. NOT energy efficient at all. Our electric bills are sky high. But the worst was yet to come!! The house leaks everywhere. Our insurance company said there is nothing they can do- all water damage. The Terra dome company said they would not fix any of the problems. DO NOT purchase a Terra dome.

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 months 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.

    • profile image

      Klarimore 4 months 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!

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 4 months 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.

    • profile image

      MizBejabbers 6 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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      Sharon 6 months ago

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

      Thank you for sharing

    • MizBejabbers profile image
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      MizBejabbers 8 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.

    • profile image

      Matt H 8 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

    • profile image

      Mizbejabbers 8 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

      hmanehold@yahoo.com 8 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 9 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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      Uba Dome House 10 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 10 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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      MizBejabbers 10 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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      Selwyn Gossett 10 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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      calle 12 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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      MizBejabbers 15 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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      Sherri 15 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 15 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?

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      MizBejabbers 15 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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      Mary Melcher 15 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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      Remon Gorkis 18 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

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      MizBejabbers 18 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.

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      MizBejabbers 19 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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      Missy Smith 19 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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      somethgblue 19 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.

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      MizBejabbers 19 months ago

      Watergeek, a wise person would certainly consider the locale.

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      watergeek 19 months ago from Pasadena CA

      @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 19 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.

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      somethgblue 19 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 19 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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      yecall 19 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 19 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.

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      MizBejabbers 19 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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      somethgblue 19 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.

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      Shauna L Bowling 19 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?

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      MizBejabbers 21 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.

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      Whatabunker 21 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.

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      MizBejabbers 21 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.

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      whatabunker 21 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.

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      MizBejabbers 22 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.

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      MizBejabbers 22 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 22 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.

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      MizBejabbers 22 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.

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      MizBejabbers 22 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.

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      MizBejabbers 22 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.

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      Ronald E Franklin 22 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.

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      nicomp really 22 months ago from Ohio, USA

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

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      Jackie Lynnley 22 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.

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      rmcrayne 22 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.

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      Barbara Badder 22 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.

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      greenmind 22 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.

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      Bill Holland 22 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.

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      Usmanbhatti 22 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.

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      Cori 2 years 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!

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      MizBejabbers 2 years 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.

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      Cori 2 years 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 2 years 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.

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      Nadine May 2 years 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.

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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?

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      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 :)

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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.

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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.

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      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.

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      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.

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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.

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      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!

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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.

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      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.

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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.

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      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.

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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.

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      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.

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      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!

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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.

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      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

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      MizBejabbers 3 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.

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      MizBejabbers 3 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.

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      RG Scott 3 years ago

      search "livingwithmotherearth" We built and have lived here 39 years.....The Engineering behind your house is "MORONIC" .....From what you say and the few photos available, I 'd say you didn't stand a chance of success from day one...SORRY......RG Scott

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      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

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

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      watergeek 3 years ago from Pasadena CA

      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 3 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.

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      watergeek 3 years ago from Pasadena CA

      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 3 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.

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      ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

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

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      Johnd966 3 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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      MizBejabbers 3 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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      thomas 3 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 3 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.