Why We Don't Like Our Underground House

Updated on March 31, 2019
MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers is a writer who has lived in this underground house since 1994. She writes from experience, not advertising hype.

The front entrance to our underground home—an atrium that is accessible by a double staircase, one of stone and the other of wood.
The front entrance to our underground home—an atrium that is accessible by a double staircase, one of stone and the other of wood. | Source

Our Experience With This Eighth Wonder of the World

Eighteen years ago, we moved into an earth-sheltered dome home built in a hillside. We were so excited! It was really lovely inside, and surprisingly, well-illuminated with natural light. Our house has approximately 2,500 sq. ft., including three bedrooms, two baths, and an oversized garage. The rooms are large and spacious, with 14-foot domed ceilings.

The domes and floor of our underground house are built from poured concrete reinforced with rebar. Out front, an atrium can be accessed by a staircase that is just the width of the driveway 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.

Out back is a 14’ X 14’ greenhouse and decks on three levels with a 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 of the decks. A half-domed third bedroom has a window wall that shares the same views. The third deck can be accessed from the rooftop and was built on top of the greenhouse.

We were in Hog Heaven—literally. After all, this is the Razorbacks’ home state.

Our beautiful view.
Our beautiful view.

Pros and Cons of an Underground House

Pros
Cons
Protection from tornados
Leaks
Lots of natural light
Floods easily
Great views
Limited landscaping
No noise from the street or neighbors
Cracks during earthquakes
Pets seem to love it
Difficult and expensive repairs
Being closer to nature
Mold
 
Depreciating home value
 
Pest problems
 
People will invade your privacy.
These are based on our experiences living in the side of a hill. Before you buy an underground home, do your research and perform a thorough inspection. Trust me.

Why We Don't Like Our Underground House

Unfortunately, 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 hype from the advertising brochures.

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 you might see in many brochures and websites. Our underground house cost close to $150,000 to build and finish back in 1986, which is above the median price of a conventional home in our state in the 1980s.

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.

Here are some of the problems we've run into:

  1. Leaks
  2. Floods during heavy rains
  3. Limited landscaping
  4. Cracks during earthquakes
  5. Difficult and expensive repairs
  6. Constant mold
  7. Depreciating value
  8. Pests
  9. People invade our privacy

1. It Leaks!

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 on 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 our house was built by a franchise in Oklahoma that went out of business. Just our luck! The only remaining franchise was in Missouri, and it assumed no responsibility for damages to our house.

They did “feel sorry for us,” and said they would send materials so that we could repair the leak ourselves. They shipped us a box of bentonite clay, the primary 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, but 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 covered the master bedroom and walk-in closet.

Trying to find the source of one leak.
Trying to find the source of one leak.

We probably have the only house in Arkansas with stalactites on the ceiling. Honestly. Red earth from the top of our house runs down the ceiling and 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 even before we bought it. The previous owner had jack-legged the repairs and smoothed them over just long enough to unload the house on naïve buyers like us.

We consulted an attorney, but he said the discovery came too late to hold the previous owner or the realtor, who lived next door and must have known about the leaks, responsible or charge them with fraud. (By the way, the realtor probably couldn't have cared less about a fraudulent sale charge because he moved to Mexico immediately thereafter and died a year later.)

Would insurance fix it? Not with all the pre-existing problems that were hidden from us. The specifications for the house state 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, which renders a glorified tar roof basically useless. These same specifications come with a disclaimer at the end. In our case, it appears that the subcontractor would have been the one legally liable. Doesn't give an owner much confidence, does it?

We installed bentonite clay to prevent leaks from the corner above the atrium.
We installed bentonite clay to prevent leaks from the corner above the atrium.

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. Unfortunately, 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. It would cost our retirement savings to make the necessary repairs, and at this point, I’m not sure it is even repairable. We owe much less on it than the cost of repairs, so we are talking about paying it off and walking out.

Front steps leading to another staircase off the landing.
Front steps leading to another staircase off the landing.

2. It floods!

Location makes all the difference. I do not advise building on a hillside, but if you do, make sure that you have an oversized drainage system. Water can’t flow underneath our concrete slab like it can with a house built on a foundation, and the French drains in the atrium cannot handle a deluge.

One particularly stormy night, a torrent poured into the front atrium from the street above the house and flooded the great room. We finally gave up mopping and just 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 to buy flood insurance for a house high upon a hillside?

Spider lilies are the crowning glory of the entrance to our underground home.
Spider lilies are the crowning glory of the entrance to our underground home. | Source

3. We have limited landscaping.

The rooftop and front yard area were landscaped when we bought the house. We even installed a sprinkler system to keep the areas watered. However, when the leaks began, the sprinkler couldn’t be used. We removed trees and plants with deep roots and shut down the sprinkler system. The landscape is now plain and unattractive.

Most of the plants died, including three large shrubs, the roses, and the 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 would 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!

4. 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.

My husband building the third deck with hot tub.
My husband building the third deck with hot tub. | Source

5. There is limited or no access for some repairs.

The ductwork is made from ordinary materials that don’t hold up underground. The duct boots have rusted through and need replacing. We are not sure if we are even able to access the ductwork to attach the new boots. 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 with 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 of skills allowed him to handle the installation, so it cost us less than $2,000 total.

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.

6. 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 bleach 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 counteract the humidity. 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 comfort-wise.

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, our heating and cooling bills run a little higher than a conventional, well-insulated house of comparable size. My mother’s house—located 100 miles north of us with approximately the same area of heated and cooled space as ours—actually used 30% less energy than 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 reduce the solar heat. We also found that in 90-110-degree weather, the ground around the house gets really 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. We replaced the old 2-ton condenser and blower with 3-tons.

Our cold cat trying to stay warm while we dehumidify the house.
Our cold cat trying to stay warm while we dehumidify the house.

I don’t advise electrical heating 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 great room as our sole source of heat. Yeah, yeah, I know—gas is a no-no in an underground house, but in our experience, electric heating was just 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.

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 remark that we are “whipping the horse and hollering whoa” when we run heat and air at the same time.

You might be wondering, "Why aren’t we using solar energy? 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 falling apart.

And speaking of "retrofit," a fully concrete and rebar house is nearly impossible to retrofit unless the occupant wants to sacrifice a window or two to run hoses or wires and fittings through.

Back of the house showing outside greenhouse and decks
Back of the house showing outside greenhouse and decks | Source

7. Our house depreciated in value.

The depreciation was 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 the cost to build it. During the housing boom, we watched the other houses in the neighborhood increase in value—many doubling in price—while we sat here holding the equivalent of rent receipts.

A mama groundhog and her brood tore up this flowerbed, but we don't have the heart to evict them.
A mama groundhog and her brood tore up this flowerbed, but we don't have the heart to evict them.

8. I wish somebody had told us to keep our pest control contract.

Both our realtor and our insurance agent told us 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 later, 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 just the vinyl sheathing on the outside.

The next year the wooden wall under our kitchen window facing the atrium had to be replaced. Any wood on 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 our home 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.

Our home has been invaded by fire ants, 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.

9. People invade our privacy.

This came as 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 there is no visible property above ground! 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.

Snowy scene from our third deck.
Snowy scene from our third deck.

5 Things We Loved About Our Underground House

I don’t want people to get the impression that this article is only a rant. I do dearly LOVE living underground. I'm just trying to warn people of the problems that the advertisers don’t want you to know so they won’t get unrealistic expectations the way we did.

We enjoy so many things about living underground:

1. 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 a tornado comes close, and we do have a plan in case one ventures too close our house.

2. We love the floor plan and would change very little about it.

The plan allows for big windows or double windows in every room that let in more natural light than most conventional homes. Most people are surprised that an underground house lets in more light than their conventional houses do.

3. The house is virtually noise-proof.

Except for the guy down the hill who occasionally revs his loud truck engine. Neighborhood parties and street noise from above never bother us.

4. The cats really enjoy living here.

So did our dog, who sadly died at close to age 14. I think they actually relate to their ancestors who lived in caves and underground burrows. When they were young, they freely roamed the hillside, but after some coyotes invaded the area between our house and the river, all pets were confined to the house.

5. We have an atrium full of frogs and rescued box turtles outside.

We enjoy them 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—one of which actually allows petting—have also taken up residence in our rock steps above the atrium.

Final Thoughts

Do the positives outweigh all the problems we encounter? No. 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 have to be in a dry climate!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

  • Your house looks as though it isn't completely underground. Don't you think an earth-sheltered atrium would be better, maybe something more along the lines of a bomb shelter?

    Our house is completely underground as far as the roof and sides of the house go. We've thought about covering the atrium, but covering it like a bomb shelter would block any light coming into two bedrooms, one of which we use for our office, and block ventilation coming in from the front. It would have to be completely sealed, including keeping the outside door closed to keep the water from pouring down from street level. But then we would have to install French drains and re-route the water around the house. Right now at least the drains in the atrium do work except for sudden deluges.

    The cover option would be more feasible if the first owner installed a couple of skylights in the roof. It is too late to do that now because of the rebar frame. Also, the atrium is the only convenient access to our house. The long winding driveway keeps us from coming in through the garage. (I've slipped and fallen on my back trying to navigate the driveway on foot, and as I've stated in the article, we can't drive our cars out of the garage and up it.)

    We've also thought about building a shell of a building on top of the whole house, but that would be about 3,000 sq. ft. of roof alone if we covered the atrium, too. It is just a poor design, poor location, and shoddy construction that doesn't deserve to keep on existing. We were much younger when we bought it and just didn't think it through. Several friends warned us that underground houses were impractical in our area and would leak. We should have listened to them.

  • It seems like most of these problems are from poor design, poor construction, and poor ventilation. Have you thought about adding an air-to-air exchanger, or removing the dirt on the roof and sealing it with newer products?

    Yes, we have thought about all that, but it would cost more than the house cost. Please note that I stated in this article that we had one estimate for $100,000 to remove the soil and add a new skin to the roof. We are retired and aren't sure that we could afford to pay for it on our retirement income.

  • After reading your story, I did some research and found BBB complaints against Terra Dome. I also found complaints from other websites where Terra Dome had not paid for steel used in peoples homes and who were being threatened with liens by local suppliers. Would you recommend Terra Dome at all?

    Absolutely not! I did not know that, and thank you for telling me. But their refusing to stand behind my home and the discomfort that we've experienced in the 25 years that we have had to live in it would have made my answer the same even if you had not pointed this out.

  • Did you use clay top soil and 10% slope?

    I'm sorry, but your question is ambiguous. I would have to know where you are talking about, beneath the house or on top. I will answer that we did not build the house. It was six years old when we bought it, and the owner did not provide us with a soil report. As I stated in the article, the house was built on a hill that was measured at a 45-degree angle. Then a mound was built up to make a level building surface on which to build the house. I included a photo of the house taken from down the hill that shows the steepness of the slope and the back of the house with attached greenhouse. You might look at it for the slope. I don't know what the builder used. In our area builders use donafil, but I have no proof that it was used here.

  • Have you decided if you will stay or build another underground home?

    At this point, we haven't made a decision. We now have the house paid off, and the weather is just now getting cool enough for us to try to work on it. We have agreed to make one more effort to fix it within a budget. If we don't succeed this time, I think we will look for a home on a lake or somewhere with a level lot. At our age, I don't want to spend the rest of our lives struggling both financially and physically with trying to fix this one. I'd rather spend the money on a conventional home that we can easily repair or hire someone at a reasonable price if the job is more than we want to tackle. We've remodeled two conventional homes in the past for less than $40,000 each by doing the work ourselves. I think we both agree that we need to downsize.

© 2012 Doris James MizBejabbers

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    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      3 days ago from Beautiful South

      No, it was built by a Terra Dome franchise out of Oklahoma, which is now out of business. Today the Terra Dome Company is in Missouri. I'm not familiar with Monolithic Dome. I'll have to check them out. Thank you for asking.

    • profile image

      DenThey 

      3 days ago

      Was this built by Monolithic Dome of Texas?

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      5 days ago from Beautiful South

      Mary, I am totally glad to hear from you. I think it is wonderful that you have an underground home you can love and enjoy. Like you, we encountered some heating problems, but find that the natural gas is the way to go in ours. We did start out with a wood stove, but found it difficult to buy enough wood for a whole winter season. That part mystified us because this is a very woodsy state. And also, as we aged, carrying in the wood was becoming a problem.

      I think our problem is caused by three things, 1. the location, 2. the poor quality workmanship, and 3. the amount of rainfall we have in Arkansas. The last two seasons of rainfall have been much in excess of what they were when I wrote this article in 2012, so the problem is getting worse.

      We had hoped to start on the repairs this spring, but my husband has been in very poor health, to the point of having a pacemaker installed, so I don't know when he will feel strong enough to begin repairs. If only we could find someone locally, we have the funds to pay for them.

      Iowa isn't as wet as Arkansas, and now the tornado alley seems to be plaguing you there. If I lived there, I would not hesitate to build another one. I really love this house. I just don't like the conditions.

      I wish you would write your own article on HubPages about your house since you love it and are only having minor problems with it. I would love to see your house. Would you email me a photo of it, please? You can email me through my profile on HubPages. Thank you for reading my article and commenting on it.

    • profile image

      Mary 

      6 days ago

      Glad to come across your article. We live in an underground home in iowa. Our house was built in 1980 and we purchased it in 1998. We LOVE it. However yes it does have it's unique problems. Within the first two years we realized we couldn't afford to heat it with LP so we brought our old heavy wood burning stove in to the living room and have heated with strictly wood ever since. Very economical but a lot of work. Eventually as we age we will need to convert to something else a bit less back-breaking.

      We have had record rainfall in Iowa this year and have had a slight leak or two come out of the most random places but we know once the climate gets more normal that will stop. We have to run two dehumidifiers in the spring/summer - and always have water on the wood stove during the winter to humidify the air.

      A few years ago we decided to dig up the 'roof' down to the liner along the outer edge and replaced the tile that was up there as it had crushed under the weight and was causing water seepage into the outer rooms in the spring as the snow/ice thawed. This alleviated that problem but was a hell of a lot of work.

      About 10 or so years ago we received a letter from our insurance company (that we had been with forEVER) that said they were dropping our home coverage - totally out of the blue. They stated the reason that these types of houses were having too many claims for water damage. After contacting our agent we persuaded them to keep us as customers however they would not cover any water damage which was to be expected. We have since switched insurance companies and were welcomed with open arms, even despite the fact that we have a wood burning stove in our living room.

      We had also refinanced our home for a better interest rate several years ago and had a bit of difficulty in that the appraiser did not have anything comparable in our area to do an evaluation - but given our history they proceeded anyway. I would think that if we were to go to sell and a potential buyer had to go to the bank for a conventional mortgage they might have trouble securing one.

      There are many more weird things we've dealt with that I'm sure I'm forgetting - but the good far outweighs the bad in my eyes. We love our home and the open concept layout and no basement. All the windows are wonderful too and support a terrific view. (We've also replaced most of the windows and patio doors since we've been there.) We've also replaced the cedar siding with metal siding - was quite a project siding a cement house but looked great when we were done.

      We take for granted that when people come to our home who had never seen an earth home they are just amazed at how 'big' it is in the inside.

      I have enjoyed reading the comments - good luck!

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      13 days ago from Beautiful South

      DOn, thank you for reading and commenting on my article. I really don't want to discourage anyone from building an underground house, but I do encourage them to be careful. If you bought a hill, I would advise building the house in one of two places, either on top of the hill and not on the side of it like our house is or at the bottom of it if it isn't prone to flooding. Right now with all that water from OK flooding into Arkansas, I'm not sure I would build one at the bottom. Perhaps I should have explained in my article that the hill where we live was nearly concave, and that's why they built up the hillside so steeply to accommodate it.

      The house next door to ours is built in the style you are considering, and it is very practical. It looks like a one-story ranch from the front, but it has a full bottom story walk-out basement. The former owner once did ask if they could borrow our dehumidifier during a rainy spell. We didn't have one at the time. But being on this hill, they do not use their backyard either. That's a shame because we both have 1/2 acre tracts.

      New technologies are making it possible to build better, more waterproof underground houses today. I would consider building another if we were 20 years younger.

      Also, unless you have the cash to build, please note that it is almost impossible to get financing on an underground house now, and insurance is a problem. The mortgage companies may have to reconsider this because with the increase in violent storms, everyone may have to go underground in the future. As far as insurance goes, those companies may find it cheaper to occasionally repair an underground house leak than to replace a conventional one lost in a storm.

    • profile image

      DOn 

      2 weeks ago

      Thank you very much. I had looked at doing this in Oklahoma but after reading you post I will have to rethink what I want to do. I bought my land with the hill just for that but may build a an ICF lower section with a walk out basement instead. Very enjoyable reading and incite. I am very sorry for your troubles

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      4 weeks ago from Beautiful South

      Helaine, thank you. I hoped to present a very real side to these houses. The advertising presents only the upside.

    • profile image

      Helaine Cassarino 

      4 weeks ago

      You’ve done a very good job conveying your passion with accurate information.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      4 weeks ago from Beautiful South

      Kirk, I looked at the website and I can tell you that our house can't be retrofitted like that because the former owner built it right on the property line on the west and the east side contains the driveway and the garage. The north nearly abuts the street. We could only go south (if we could go at all), and that would block out all the light to the greatroom and a bedroom. That looks like a good idea if we decide to build another. Thanks.

    • profile image

      kirkdickinson 

      4 weeks ago

      Here is a short write-up of the concept of Passive Annual Heat Storage. Scroll down to the bottom to see a small diagram of how it is waterproofed and insulated.

      http://earthsongfarm.com/PAHS.html

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      4 weeks ago from Beautiful South

      I'll look the book over. I thought the "umbrella" was just a waterproof cover over the roof and walls of the house. Sounds interesting. We have the money to do only one of two things, fix this house or buy a new one, so we must make a wise decision. I love the floor plan of our existing house, and we could never afford another house this size. And just in the time since I wrote the article, I've learned to love this neighborhood.

      I sincerely thank you for the suggestion.

    • profile image

      k.dickinson@texaslonghorn.com 

      4 weeks ago

      There is a book called: Passive Annual Heat Storage: Improving the Design of Earth Shelters, by John Hait. He has some very different ideas for waterproofing and insulating underground houses. Many of his ideas could be applied to an existing house like yours.

      Basically he waterproofs and insulates the ground above the house in an area extending 20 feet past the house in every direction. That creates basically a huge umbrella that prevents water from even coming close to the walls. The insulation equalizes the seasonal temperature ebb and flow.

      The book is only $9.99 on Kendle. It might give you some new ideas that are cheaper to implement.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      4 weeks ago from Beautiful South

      Thank you, Kevin for reading and commenting on my article. I think your idea for an Earthship house is a capital one. We don't know what kind of weather climate change is going to bring, but I do remember that Gordon Michael Scallion predicted that the area I live in would be covered by the Mississippi River at some point. I think my underground house will be on the hillside bordering the river, but it may not be high-ground enough even for that.

      Even if you live in desert country out west, like I did at one time, heavy seasonal rains flooded the streets because the cities didn't build storm sewers. I think you are most generous to make your plans available free. I'll give your website a look.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      5 weeks ago from Beautiful South

      We would not have considered them either, unfortunately. Because of the flooding of the Arkansas River into our area just below our house, we are seriously considering spending more money on waterproofing this one than we had planned. The house by the lake seems to be just a "wet" dream right now as those homes are being swept away. We are having to take a detour around the valley to get to the road up our hill right now. Thanks for reading and commenting, Pamela.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

      This is a bit of a horror story. Being retired at a time where life should be easier, you have multiple problems with this house. An underground house sounds like a good plan in an area that has frequent tornadoes, but the problems you have encountered are horrible. This is such an interesting article about an underground house, and much about your problems I would never have considered.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      5 months ago from Beautiful South

      Michael, I am not a realtor nor am I wealthy. I know nothing of trends of the finance market. Where did you get the figure $150K? We couldn't have gotten a loan for that amount either. You sound like a bitter person full of sour grapes (or just full of shit).

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      5 months ago from Beautiful South

      Sam, I don't know what happened to my answer to your comment, so I'll post a new one. We did buy this home from a previous owner who claimed to be a city engineer. We later found out he wasn't. By the time we discovered that he'd jury rigged and covered up the poor construction, the attorney said it was too late to take him to court. I'm glad you are having good luck with yours.

    • profile image

      Sam 

      5 months ago

      I designed and build a Terra-Dome home and had none of the problems you noted. In my case I am the owner and engineer. Building this type of home comes with many challenges. I got the impression you purchased this home from a previous owner who contracted Terra-Done to build the superstructure. The original owner was responsible to ensure all of these problems weren't going to happen. This is quite common when people that aren't qualified to meet these challenges of this type of construction.

      All the problems have simple solutions. The problem is you don't have the resources to facilitate the required modifications.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      6 months ago from Beautiful South

      Mr. Butcher, where were you when we needed you! You have accurately analyzed it all in a nutshell. You are especially right about the street entrance to the house, which I frequently describe as a "giant bathtub". I have no idea why we didn't notice that before we bought the house. It was beautiful then and we were so much in love with it. I have no idea who designed the house, the owner or Terra Dome. I know that he was an engineer of some sort, or at least passed himself off as one. But I have to say that we were so starstruck that we have to shoulder the blame, too, for falling for their line.

      You hit the nail on the head, about the agent, too. They were an older couple (husband and wife realtor team) retiring in their 70s and knew exactly what they were doing. I'm sure they would never have lied for the seller if they had not been planning to move out of the country. (They lived next door, forgoshsake!) I just wish we'd found proof that we'd been duped in time to file a lawsuit against the seller even after the realtors moved. I would have been content for the court to have forced him to buy it back at the same price we paid for it. We could have gotten another VA loan and bought another house immediately.

      When we bought the house I did ask my husband what we were going to do when we got old and had trouble negotiating that double staircase. He said he would build an elevator (He is an engineer and was a darned good mechanic). Well, we are old now, and I still don't have an elevator.

      Thank you for reading and your long, very informative comment. Best of luck to you, but it sounds like you don't need luck because you know what you are doing.

    • profile image

      L L Butcher 

      6 months ago

      My wife and I are getting ready to build an earth home, and I've been researching and planning for years to build it, while we looked for the right property. I'm so sorry to hear this story (and a bit unnerved, too!) What a shame! Mostly on the seller and realtor. In southeast Missouri where we're at, it's against the law to not reveal known problems, and if anyone were still around, they would be held accountable legally. But, first thing I noticed wrong, among the many, is the street entrance into the house. It may as well be a giant funnel directing rain and snow down into your atrium! As well as the small berms that would direct water from their apex into the atrium, also. Severely flawed design from the word go! BTW, who WAS the designer/architect on the house, anyway? No one who had ever designed an earth home, for sure.

      I've read Building Underground by Herb Wade, one of the most informative and helpful books ever written on the subject, and checked out Terra Dome, but the conventional super-sealed 'basement style' is what we're going for. Not only does this book tell about site drainage, wall (outer) and slab (under) drains, but also goes in depth on sealing techniques. As a retired Ironworker on large industrial and commercial jobs, I've watched waterproofing companies seal foundations on corporate buildings. I've watched them use bentonite, but it is always sprayed on, much like the concrete is sprayed onto dome structures like yours. Though bentonite clay is used in cat litter do to it's absorbing qualities when dry, it's initial uses were on sub-surface structures and also on ponds to seal the dam. I can't imagine someone sending you a box and expecting good results that way. No wonder it didn't work.

      Our plan is to first make sure the concrete is the proper type and mix, because some mixes (and additives) can cause concrete to absorb water rather than deflect it. Also, rubber water stops placed between the slab/floor where the walls sit on it, are another safeguard. Then we will spray bentonite to seal, followed by construction grade Styrofoam insulation, and cover it all with elastomer heavy rubber roof roles that will be vulcanized (melted at the seams) to insure a good seal. One of the biggest rules in building underground is to have as few holes in the roof or walls in order to keep water out. Then 3' of soil over all to insulate. I'm sure by now you know all this, but I can't help but think that these problems all were the direct result of a list of things done wrong by the designer and the builder. Especially the concrete boss. Maybe the concrete boss would not be so much to blame if he weren't informed by the designer/architect/inspectors that underground concrete work is VERY different than your average basement. The type of concrete, the pouring, or in your case spraying, of the concrete, and the admix of the concrete are all critical in getting it right. When we build our home next spring, I will be out there EVERY day making sure that every detail is done correctly to avoid mistakes that ignorance (or laziness, cost cutting, etc) can produce.

      Anyway, I'm so sorry for the hassles I've read here that you've endured with your home. So much money. So much time. So much inconvenience! It's bad enough that you couldn't trust a contractor that you didn't even know, but absolutely appalling that the previous owner basically lied to you to make the sale, and even more that the realtor, who obviously knew everything, still made bucks off the deal in which he should be held accountable for not revealing the facts. It doesn't surprise me that he not only moved, but moved out of the U.S.! I'm betting that your house wasn't the only one that he pawned off on unsuspecting innocents. I just hope people understand that, when built correctly, earth homes can be great places to live. Good luck with your troubles, and may God bless you all no matter what happens with it.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      6 months ago from Beautiful South

      Nell, I'm not sure what the locals in old Buckinghamshire would think about it. Probably the same thing the neighbors here think about it. I have had a couple of them hint they would like to visit during tornado warnings though. LOL

      I love the floor plan of the house and size of the house, 2,676 sq ft, and I've learned to appreciate the neighborhood. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 months ago from England

      For all your problems I do love it! Not sure if it would go down well in little old buckinghamshire lol! Hope you have sorted out the problems and are happy there still.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      6 months ago from Beautiful South

      Thank you, Poetryman, for your comment. Since you didn't say where you live, I don't know whether to encourage you to stay away from building an underground house.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 

      6 months ago

      Wow. So this is what REAL house problems look like. Thanks for the lessons. We will not be doing this.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      6 months ago from Beautiful South

      Hi, Gary, I checked out your Uba website, and it looks interesting. Your comment makes a lot of sense because a lot of new products have come on the market since our house was built over 30 years ago. Years ago we were in the HVAC business ourselves, but some of the things we would have liked to do to this house would be difficult or impossible to retrofit onto it.

      The land slopes away from our house, too, but I think I failed to make clear in the article that the flooding problem comes from the atrium, which acts like a giant bathtub with a too-small drain. Also, since I wrote the article, the West side of the house has developed some leaks in the concrete walls, and now I have a problem of mud seeping into a bathroom. When this house was built, builders didn't use an envelop or umbrella of moisture barrier over the walls. They just put a skin on the roof...except for Terra Dome, who to this day still uses the obsolete thin poured stuff that won't hold up between the domes to settling of the house.

      My son is about to start building an underground house near Tyler, Texas. He thinks he can do a better job than Terra Dome did with ours, but that isn't saying much.

      You are very correct. One cannot have too many layers of moisture protection. Thank you for reading my article and your very constructive comment. ~ Doris

    • profile image

      Gary Uba 

      6 months ago

      Colorado tends to be a dryclimate and our underground house is functioning well so far. It is 7 years old. Moisture can be a problem though so we have a continous flow of external air. We minimize the heat loss by running the fresh air though underground pipes surrounding the dome so the dry backfill heats the air before it comes in. It's 17 degrees outside now but the air coming in is at 68 degrees.

      Moisture was a major concern before building our house so we made a conscious effort to make sure the land slopes away from the house and provide a waterproof envelope over the house between backfill layers over the waterproof membrane applied to the concrete domes. I don't think you can have too many layers of moisture protection. I hope things work out on your moisture problems.

      Google: Uba Dome House

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      7 months ago from Beautiful South

      LOL, I love your comment, Lex. These people would wait until we were not at home to walk across the roof and putt or to do whatever reason they were trespassing. After a while, the trespassing did stop in the daytime, but I still can't put anything like yard ornaments on the lawn or roof. We had a windmill set in concrete at the front of the yard for several years. In 2016, a riot occurred at a water theme park on a main thoroughfare a couple of miles from us. We saw it on the 10:00 news that night. Then the next morning we discovered the windmill missing. They'd ripped it out of the concrete and stolen it while we slept. We assume it was the same people involved in the riot. Too much of a coincidence.

    • profile image

      Lex 

      7 months ago

      Nervy neighbors using your roof as a putting green? I'd go out there with a 9 iron and tell them to get the Hell of my roof. Respect my property or I won't respect them and their property.

      There be assholes everywhere but this is going over the line, I'm sure they know it's your property, they're just screwing with you.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      7 months ago from Beautiful South

      Julian, I have never visited the Philippines, so I don't know what kind of situation you will have with your home. I don't want to discourage anyone from building one, but my aim is to make the person aware that there are certain climates and building sites that are not conducive to underground living. I wish you the very best with yours and hope you have many good happy years of living in one. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      7 months ago from Beautiful South

      Dex, I really enjoyed your reply because it was so fitting. I don't know where you live, but if a person lives in a very dry climate, then I would say nothing to discourage him from building one. Arkansas is a very weird state. In the Ozarks and the Ouachitas, you are either on a mountain or down at the bottom in a swamp. Really. In the Grand Prairie, I believe one would be too close to the Mississippi River or in other Black Bottom land, so I don't encourage it here. Thank you for your entertaining comment.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      7 months ago from Beautiful South

      Poppy, I don't know what happened. I approved and replied to your comment right after you made it. This niche site is so spastic that I never know when a comment "takes" or not. Anyway I'll try again. Thank you for your compliment. And yes, it did surprise us that people would just walk across our roof or continue their putting practice when we weren't home, but after my husband had a few little chats with some of the neighbors, those did stop. I think he dropped some hints that he was ex-CIA (true) and then people were a little wary of him. We did get a gallon of golf balls out of it, though. That's how many we found on our back lot. LOL I'm sorry my first reply didn't come through.

    • profile image

      Julian 

      7 months ago

      I aim to build a house when I get my early retirement in a couple of years to the Philippines. I bought a small plot of land on top of a hill and I am focused to build an underground home because I’d like to preserve the view and the natural landscape. Very educational post for a novice like myself. Than you.

    • profile image

      Dex Carter 

      7 months ago

      Yes. What a great story. I find I particularly enlighting of all the reasons you wouldn't or might not want to buy an underground house. I think after about the second reason. I, think it was about mold. No wait a minute. I think it was about flooding. No, wait. It was about climate. At that point I'm just like I DONT want to buy a underground house. No No. Score one for the team.....i can't wait to Google. Reasons why I should bye a "Under Ground Home.

      DexCarter!

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 

      8 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I just love your writing style! It's light, fun, and easy to read. What an amazing story about your underground home. I don't think these would really take off in Japan since they aren't earthquake proof. It's shocking, too, how strangers thought it was OK to invade your land. It's the last thing I would expect from a house under the ground, and I know people in the USA can be very protective of the land they own. Thank you for this fun read.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      8 months ago from Beautiful South

      Rajan, once you are inside mine, you actually can't tell it from any of the conventional homes built on my street. It surprises visitors because of that. I do enjoy the peace that I feel riding out a bad storm while others are sitting around fearfully. Our area overlooking the river serves as an alley for tornadoes. I hope we find a good solution to the problems, too. Thank you for reading and commenting on my article.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      9 months ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      I have not seen any underground houses in India. Maybe this concept has not caught on here. However, after reading about the problems you are facing, although these seem to be due to faulty/ substandard construction, I would never be able to live peacefully in an underground home. I hope you can find some solution to this.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      10 months ago from Beautiful South

      I think it would depend on how wet a climate Michigan has. I would never buy one on a hillside again. I think that a bermed one on level ground would be the way to go. I see photos of some that look like they were built at the foot of a hill, but none on the hilltop like ours. I'm sorry you had a hidden problem with your home. I believe that it is easier to hide problems with an underground home than a conventional house. Thank you for reading my article and your nice comment.

    • Marsha Musselman1 profile image

      Marsha Musselman 

      10 months ago from Michigan, USA

      There are two underground homes here in my area in Michigan, but they both are even with the ground which might help a bit with flooding. I've always wondered about them but now I don't think it's ever consider buying one.

      Yours sounded lovely until it began falling apart. I understand how previous homeowners hide problems as that was done with our home. Although the problems aren't in the structure of the house. Ours was minimal compared to your situation.

      Great hub, by the way.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      10 months ago from Beautiful South

      Kirk, yes I have. I think that was what the roofer who quoted me $100,000 had in mind. I've recommended that method to my son who is building a smaller underground retirement home in Texas. Thank you for the suggestion anyway.

    • profile image

      kirkdickinson 

      10 months ago

      Have you looked into the Umbrella methods of underground house construction? It might be something you can do to retrofit your existing house.

      https://www.homeintheearth.com/tech_notes/basics-o...

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      10 months ago from Beautiful South

      I know, aside from the bad concrete mix in several places, nobody in his right mind would buy a house with an atrium designed in such a way that it would catch street runoff. But then, we wanted it so bad that we just weren't thinking. The realtor assured us that the French drains were adequate. Isn't that kind of like "the check is in the mail"?

    • profile image

      G. Frazier - General Contractor 

      11 months ago

      Very simply put, your underground home was not properly built. From the ground drainge and concrete sealer and waterproofing to the open entranceway etc.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      11 months ago from Beautiful South

      Thank you, James. At this point the recommended product (by the people who repair government underground bunkers) is epoxy resin. Do you know how these compare?

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      12 months ago from Beautiful South

      Donald, I really appreciate your comment. I do try to be fair, and I would love to live in a good dry one. I really think that underground houses have a much better chance today than they did when mine was built in the 1980s. It's a pity that Terra Dome has not modernized its building methods or materials since then. There have been a lot of folks like my husband and I who have analyzed and reported the problems so engineers and architects have known what kinds of improvements to work on.

      My son and his wife are just starting to build one in the hill country of Texas. I hate to say it, but some of the methods he is telling me they are going to use will not work. But very few kids listen to their parents until it's too late, do they?

      It sounds like you are going about building one the right way. I'm sorry about your sister's house. If people knew that Bentonite clay was the chief ingredient in most brands of cat litter, I don't believe they would use it. We used to live in Eastern NM where it occurs naturally, and when it rained, one could not walk through the sticky muck. Who thought up that crazy idea anyway? Thank you for mentioning a couple of products that we may check in to.

    • profile image

      Donald Hartley 

      12 months ago

      Thanks for sharing your experience. We have talked to the Terra Dome people and saw a video of them installing insulation on a curved surface. It made us shudder. Although domes can be very intriguing, I don't think their whole procedure was very well thought out.

      We are building a poured concrete underground house on our property in southeastern Ohio. It is the second one on our property. They were both designed by the architect, Malcolm Wells (now deceased). The first one had flexicore roof and EPDM water proofing. It has been lived in for about 2 decades without a leak. The second building is much larger (2 stories and over 8,000 sq. ft.) and has a poured in place roof (pan joists) We are just in the process of waterproofing it with a product called Tritoflex, which I believe to be the best product on the market today.

      My sister and her husband built an underground house in Oklahoma. They water proofed it with bentonite clay. The problem they had was not continuous wetness of the soil, but being too dry. The clay dried out and cracked. Then sudden rains caused leaks in the building before the clay could swell and seal the water out. They ended up using EPDM for waterproofing.

      Living underground has many aesthetic and environmental advantages. I appreciate your being so fair with the good and the bad. We have designed our buildings so that leaks, humidity and other problems you mentioned have not been issues so far.

      Don

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      12 months ago from Beautiful South

      Catahoula1, I'm so sorry to hear that you are having a similar problem with your underground house. I am surprised to hear that you are having the problem in Oklahoma. I thought that state was much dryer than Arkansas, but I may be thinking of the western part of the state. I think you are wise to remove everything before you begin to work on it.

      I've suggested that to my husband, but he doesn't want to fool with that. We even have another place to live while we work on this one (an empty apartment in a piece of rental property), so I have to say I think he is being either unreasonable or impractical, or both.

      May I offer you one little tidbit of advice? Install an AC with more tonnage than the size the "experts" recommend. It really helped our humidity problem, except for nearly freezing me out, that is). Our problem is all those roof leaks where the dome roofs connect. I have very little wood inside mine, but the whole house was skimmed (drywall and walls) with drywall mud, which is bad to mold. I'm really curious as to why people build the floors so close to the ground, or at least dig out from around openings. We are still having problems with water coming under the front door from the walkway to the door despite digging out from around the front.

      Thank you for your comment that supports what I've said in my article. I think some people think I'm exaggerating, but they don't know the half of it. Keep in touch with me and let me know how things work out for you. We "groundhogs" need to support each other.

    • profile image

      Catahoula1 

      12 months ago

      I am sorry to read about your troubles. I sympathize. I bought my underground home in central OK 15 years ago. It was built in 1980 by a professional woodworker for his retirement. At first everything was fine. The house really is well insulated by the earth, but humidity has become such an insane problem that all the wood inside (there is A LOT) has mildew damage as does much of the drywall which is sloughing from the ceiling in a few places from leaks and the front has flooded numerous times during heavy rainfall. I have just spent the last week taking everything out of the house and will soon commence to removing drywall looking for the leaks' sources. Like you, I have had no luck finding contractors who want to work on an underground house. I am afraid I will have to patch it up myself. I may try to find someone to inject epoxy like you had mentioned was recommended to you.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      13 months ago from Beautiful South

      Pat, when we need ventilation, we open the windows or doors, of which we have many windows. Ventilation should not be a problem for you because there are many ventilation systems on the market that you could install in your home or basement while building it. Just look online or check with a good HVAC dealer.

      I don't know what the average yearly rainfall in Idaho is, but I think it is one of the states without a lot of rain, which would make it ideal for an underground home. Please don't be discouraged because of my problem in a high rainfall state. I would love to live in one out West where the use of "swamp coolers" to cool the air in homes is the ideal method. I don't know if they are used in CA, but in dry states, they cool the very dry home air by adding badly needed moisture. They also work by blowing outside air throughout the home which is exhausted as fresh air comes in. The HVAC units with condensers like we use in wet states cool by removing moisture, so I think you might encounter the exact opposite problem that we have here. Years ago my kids and I lived in a basement apartment that was about 3/4 underground in this same city, and we didn't have a mold problem. But we also didn't have water running and seeping directly into the area either.

      I encourage you to do more checking into your area on things like yearly rainfall, and with other people who live underground or partially underground. Materials and techniques have improved by a long shot since our house was built, or so other commenters tell me. Just one more word of advice. Don't use a company called Terra Dome because they have not changed their methods or materials since my house was built in 1986, not do they stand behind their work. They are online. Look them up and view their online specs to make sure you avoid any company that uses their methods, especially the skin they pour on the house.

      I really don't think you will have the mold problems in Idaho that we have in Arkansas. Good luck. Let me know how you fare.

    • profile image

      Pat 

      13 months ago

      I'm so sorry to hear of all the problems with the home. I thought it would be an ideal way to live underground and avoid tornados. I live in CA but have been searching online. It seems ideal, to avoid the wind, and the heat in the tornado states. But air circulation has to be bad. I am looking at large homes in Idaho now, but wondering if I will have mold problems because of the basements, which are halfway underground. Still seeking the perfect home, but it seems underground won't work either. Seriously how you get ventilation?

      Arizona is too hot. I wish I knew where I was going! I only know CA is not the place anymore.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      15 months ago from Beautiful South

      Hi Redelf, thanks for visiting with me. As for underground homes being dark, some have skylights installed that really bring in the light. Ours didn't come with one, but I wish it had one in the center of the greatroom dome because the kitchen is more dark than I would like. The attached greenhouse blocks some light that would otherwise come through the patio doors into it. When my mother visited the first time, her reaction was, "Oh, it's so light. I told my friend that I figured it would be real dark."

      We use a ceiling fan cleaning apparatus on a long pole. However, we do need to replace the light fixture on our ceiling fan. To do that we will have to bring in our scaffolding. P.S. I really love the geodesic dome houses. There is one near us. It was built about 1975 and is fully above ground.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 

      15 months ago from Canada

      Friends of ours had a geodesic dome house, but above ground. And they had to use scaffolding to clean their ceiling fan. I've seen some nifty underground houses on the television but always thought an underground home would be dark, so this was a very educational read. Thanks.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      15 months ago from Beautiful South

      M Arant, I just realized that I didn't reply to your comment, and I apologize. I gather that you've read the specs on the Terra Dome homes, but for those who have not, the house is reinforced with rebar and we were told the concrete was "plasticized," whatever that means. I believe our walls are 12" thick, and I suppose the roof domes are too. I believe our problem stems from two things: a very sloppy concrete contractor and the poured "skin" on the roof. Also aiming the atrium on the north side toward the street creates a bathtub filling effect and sometimes overloads the French drains from the atrium to the outiside that let the water drain down the hill. There is no, I repeat "NO" water problem on the outside of the house because a natural runoff is created.

      You were very wise to vet your contractor very carefully. You don't say in what part of Texas you built your house. If you are in West Texas, where I've lived before, you don't have the excessive rainfall that we have here.

      Our house is now 32 years old, and building materials have improved considerably in those years. We have found that the plumbing and electrical are reaching the end of their natural life spans. We've already rerouted new plumbing through the ceilings in a warehouse style and will soon have to do the electrical likewise. Retrofits and repairs with new materials are quite costly. It is possible that we could build a new house for the cost of repairing and updating this one. Thank you for your comments. I do enjoy hearing from people who actually live in one, especially if they have successfully built with new materials.

    • profile image

      M Arant 

      15 months ago

      ScottP

      I agree with you. We used rebar, fiberglass strands and admixtures in the concrete mix. Our builder had a lot of experience and was on site every day. When the concrete trucks arrived he tested the mix to be sure it was what he wanted. A little more expense, but well worth it in the long run.

      Wish I had some suggestions for corrective measures, but I do not.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      15 months ago from Beautiful South

      Shanmarie, we never considered them either. We swallowed all the hype about the wonders of underground houses by feature and commercial writers who had never lived in one. We never anticipated these problems and discomforts either. Some of them are caused by building in a very humid climate, so I'm sure people living in them in deserts will not face them. Thank you for your comment. I find it enlightening.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      15 months ago from Texas

      Years ago I worked for a gentleman who had two buildings on his property, both built underground. One was his home, which I never saw the inside of but heard was quite nice from coworkers who had been to Christmas parties there. The other building was his mini call center. What we did was call candidates to screen them for possible hires in various restaurants. Those who answered a set of questions according to specifications of the companies were passed on for an actual interview with the company. If hired, m6 boss received payment. In essence, we were restaurant management recruiters.

      So anyway, I can understand the appeal of an underground home, but I would not have considered some of the problems you have had ahead of time. Very informative article. Interesting to think about.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      15 months ago from Beautiful South

      "Often times building on a hill can be a god send if you strategically create the swales that route the water rushing down the hill around the house. "

      Scott, as I've written many times, we have NO problem routing the water around our house. Our hill is so steep that the water routes itself. The house is built on a 45 degree slope, but the knoll the house sits upon is so steep that a human cannot walk up or down it. I've crawled up it on all fours like a dog before. The problem is that water runs down into our atrium and out the French drains. However recently we seem to be having 500 year monsoons, and nobody would have thought to prepare for those.

      The rest of your post has some sensible answers.

    • profile image

      ScottP 

      15 months ago

      Often times building on a hill can be a god send if you strategically create the swales that route the water rushing down the hill around the house. At that point you only have to deal with the water that might fall directly on your residence during a rain storm. Once again the only basic law in water proofing is that water almost always runs downhill.

      (other than capillary action) Be sure that water is captured and routed strategically out of and away from the house.

      Today's material science can offer us solutions never available before but it hard to find credible info about the longevity of materials.

      For instance, there are extra supplements that can be added to concrete that make it stronger and more waterproof and less prone to

      shrinkage as it cures etc. Add to the concrete the different methods such as rebar and the latest fiberglass strands that can help to prevent concrete from cracking. Next we have choices today in liquid applied sealants for the outsides of concrete up top and for subterranean applications. Plastics, and polymer technologies are all over the map.

      You can usually be sure that anything with TAR or natural stuff is going

      to dry out, shrink and form cracks and definitely not be stretchy enough

      to cover cracks should they occur in the concrete walls or roofs or foundations on which they are applied. We have to do some research

      to find out which products are expected to last 100 years or forever

      such as maybe silicones, EDPM sheet materials, Urethanes etc etc.

      The last house I built for myself I troweled on Neoprene that was the consistency of peanut butter and on top of that I embedded some fiberglass mesh cloth in case a crack occurred in the concrete foundation on which it was applied. The Neoprene came in about

      thirty or forty 5 gal container just like drywall mud. Remember that should cracks occur in poured slabs whether on top, bottom or walls

      it is the embedded rebar that minimizes the crack open size by holding

      the wall pieces together even though they are cracked. It seems to me that the Pond Liner materials ( EDPM I think ) would be the best stuff

      to create a layered umbrella effect over an earth covered shelter but still

      buried under soil. I would NEVER use anything with VINYL in the name because Vinyl ALWAYS dries up, becomes brittle and cracks no matter what it is used in. If all the proper choices are made and there is documentation and proof of these "forever" construction techniques

      then these properties should appreciate far more than traditional structures. Let me give you an idea. We had an old cabin/farmhouse type property that needed a new steel roof. I was able to procure stainless steel materials which last longer than copper and along with

      stainless steel fasteners the appraiser now says the value of that roof

      will forever add to the appraisal because it will NEVER depreciate.

      The roof is expected to last 350 years he said.

      It does cost extra but do the research and you will find for concrete extra "admixtures" that make concrete both more flexible, stronger and water proof than ordinary concrete used in regular construction.

      All of the problems did not have to happen but when you get a builder and contractors who want to cut the price to the bone shortcuts will be taken that will last just long enough for them to be gone when the problems begin to occur.

    • profile image

      M. Arant 

      15 months ago

      Just a few notes to show that earth sheltered is not the issue: Quality, method and integrity of the builder are.

      We designed and built an earth sheltered home in TX. Before we got started we decided upon our builder based upon reputation and techique. We chose Ralph Smoot, whose son now builds homes as Conrad's Castles. They use a different method than Terra, and I understand have built over 50 homes all around the country

      Once we knew the basic requirements I designed a home to qualify. It took me a year and over 100 versions, but we are really pleased with the result. It is made up of 4 24' square modules, with 12' domed ceilings. It is really a berm home, exposed to the south and west (a mistake it TX, but we were moveing from OR.) Walls are 9" concrete, poured in a monolithic pour. The roof is, of course, concrete also, but I am not sure of the thickness. With the rebar and concrete it is rated at 50,000 lb/ft. (The blog shows a backhoe distributing the dirt on the roof).

      There is a lot to it, more than I should probably go into here. There is a blog of the build, start to finish. Just google 'arant earth' and it should come up without a problem.

      To address some of the issues in the OP post:

      We have had no leaks, period.

      We do have a french drain around the buried sides, but I have never seen any water drain out of them.

      It is very efficient, though it did take about a year to stabilize.

      We have an electric heat pump, with works well in the summer, but not when it drops to the 30's in the winter. We use a propane fireplace then to keep the living area warm (72 degrees). Electricity costs less than $100/month average, propane for fireplace, cooking, hot water and dryer about $40/mo.

      Our builder advised ceiling fans in each room, which run 24/7. We have no mold problem.

      Re: Landscaping the roof. We xerigraph landscaped with Texas purple sage, lantana planted through commercial grade weedcloth. There is a parapet around the top which I am presently planting to pink Gulf Muhley, which should be quite attractive when mature. There is no irrigation on the roof (or elsewhere on the lot other than drip for the citrus trees and garden).

      I would be happy to answer questions if anyone wants to contact me.

      (If you go to the blog please leave a comment)

    • profile image

      Mizbejabbers 

      17 months ago

      Densie, your story sounds so very similar to mine. Right now we are recuperating from very cold temps in the 9 to 10 degree range, and it's taken the house over a week to warm back up. Our Vermont Castings stove is going and so are two dehumidifiers. Only last night were we able to turn down the heat. Our bedroom is cold, and we use an electric plug-in heater in the bath next to it. Brrrr. Last night I discovered that the pipe bringing the water into the house had frozen and burst underground, probably under the house. Today we are still out of water until the plumber can repair it. It is a family business and the son came today and said that it was a job for his father. Underground houses are too complicated! My husband is an engineer in poor health. If anything happens to him, I'm outa here!

      At least you have a roof that can be repaired by a regular roofer. I know you're thankful for that. I really appreciate your comment. I wish I could get more comments from people who actually live in these things.

    • profile image

      Densie 

      18 months ago

      What a nightmare. We live in a berm home in rural So Illinois, our roof and southwest wall are exposed. Other 3 walls are concrete. Our 2nd winter in the home we installed a wood stove after a ridiculously large electric bill. The electric furnace ran constantly and I sat around wrapped in a quilt. With the wood stove I have to add humidity via a kettle placed on the stove because a humidifier just will not keep up. Summertime is great, the AC is usually set at 78 and sometimes the quilts are used then too. Earthquake. We had one a few years ago that did measure on the richter scale although I dont remember the magnitude. I cant say if it was the rumbling noise or the vibration that woke me but others in my area slept through it. All the glass in my home clanked, pictures on walls were no longer straight and a few items on shelves were thrown to the floor. Moisture. The master bath is cold year around as it sits in the back north corner of the home. This is the only room I have noticed moisture and it only occurs in the transition between winter with the windows closed and when the humidity rises in the summer with windows open. Turning on the AC always solves this problem. The home was wall to wall carpet when we purchased the home, except for bathrooms and kitchen. We have since pulled the carpet and layed ceramic tile or hardwood in all but 2 bedrooms. This improved air quality considerably. The carpet always felt damp in the winter although there was no mold when pulled it was crunchy. Just nasty. I've often thought about how nice it would be to have a living room as you, I think I'll stick with the metal roof.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      18 months ago from Beautiful South

      No, they did not do the best they could. The company that built the house, Terra Dome, specializes in underground houses and is still in business today. The franchise hired substandard subcontractors, or their contractor did, and the house suffers from a poor mix of concrete. The owner lied to us and revealed only one repair when there were at least two more. The real estate agent lived next door, but he knew he was moving to Mexico, so it didn't matter. Our lawyer said we discovered the deception too late. Laws don't matter when people move out of the country.

      "McDonalds has its place in the steak world." McDonalds sells hamburgers, not steaks, and that was my point. Go there if you want a hamburger, but don't expect to get a steak.

    • profile image

      Deli man 9 

      18 months ago

      the people who built your house did the best they could with what they knew, then sold it to you to unload it after they saw the results. Real estate has laws against that.

      McDonalds has its place in the steak world.

      Branch river plastics makes eps like you need. EPs has no environmental damaging gasses like other foam insulation uses.And it can cost a fraction of other foam types.I was surprised at the uses for EPs in modern construction. Oh, I just gotta say it, but don't drive the equipment on the house or the septic system.

      You probably don't want the heat storage of Haits system, just the waterproof umbrella of sheeting and a couple layers of foam would give 3 sheeting layers and you'd be golden. Good luck with this.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      18 months ago from Beautiful South

      OK, Dell man 9, that sounds like some good advice. I would be interested in what John Hait has to say because materials have improved considerably since this house was built by a franchisee and its inferior subcontractors. I guess good advice would be not to go to McDonalds if you want a steak. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Deli man 9 

      18 months ago

      Hello, sorry to hear of your house troubles. I have been interested in earth sheltered homes for years, and have read all I can find on this subject..In a book by John Hait named Passive underground houses, which I have, he gives great advice on your issues. His homes have a french drain all around the place. Then they are covered with earth shaped into a dome, then plastic sheets arranged like shingles to shed water. Then 1 inch bead board, then plastic sheet again, for 4 layers total. The bead board doesn't get wet, so it is good here. The 4 layers prevent water intrusion. Buy it from a manufacturer, not retail.He also stores heat in the earth under this cap. Water is the carrier of heat, out or in. He also points out the waterproof qualities of 8 bag concrete mixes, a super strong mix. concrete mix company's are known by local contractors for their quality or not. In your case, excavation and plastic sheeting and insulation retrofitting would be the only fix. You have a backhoe I read. So rent an excavator machine of good size or you will be forever. You have the skill. When your place is inside a dry dome of soil, you will have a much better place. And see to it yourself, or get burned again . Get that book, this will make more sense.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      18 months ago from Beautiful South

      The perimeter isn't the problem. The water flows downhill around the house without needing French drains. Look at the photo of the house. The atrium is like a bathtub. There are French drains on the roof, but they don't keep the holes in the bad concrete mix from leaking.

    • profile image

      patrick 

      18 months ago

      Do you have a french drain or 5 around the perimeter?

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      19 months ago from Beautiful South

      Jeff, to answer your last question, I don't know. The house is made up of independent squares with dome roofs, and the seam connecting the garage to the greatroom may be structurally coming apart. The trouble is that nobody locally is qualified to rule on that one. Just since I wrote this article, we removed some paneling in the bathroom revealing a gash (more than a crack) which pours in dirt and water every time we get a decent rain.

      The south side of the house has a very nice overlook. In fact that is one of the attractions the house held for us. Drainage isn't the problem. Everyone keeps misreading that. It is the design. When you fill a bathtub it is full of water. Look at the photo of the front atrium. It is built like a bathtub. It has a drain, but the slab floor is poured too close to the ground. You know how some houses with slab floors are built tall enough for steps? This one is even with the dirt. We have removed some soil from the atrium which has helped some, but the walkway is even with the threshold. We are going to have to take out the whole walkway and lower it.

      Thank you for reading and your interest.

    • profile image

      Jeff 

      19 months ago

      Thanks for a really interesting and informative article.

      Its sounds like the whole southern side of your house opens out to above ground level on the hillside, overlooking the river. This actually sounds really nice and great spot for an underground house. Good drainage should be achievable in that case. You did mention cracks a few times.

      Just wondering can you actually see them in the walls and are they of structural significance (not just leak causing) ?

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      19 months ago from Beautiful South

      Robert, MO is just due north of us, but I'm not sure of the yearly rainfall or the terrain there. I've been through your state on the way to Chicago, and I notice that it does get flat somewhere above the boothill I love the idea of more underground houses, but I do advise putting them in an area that is well drained and making sure that they are waterproofed inside and out. If you supervise the building, I'm sure you will do fine. Let me know how it turns out. Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      MizBejabbers 

      19 months ago

      Robert, MO is just due north of us, but I'm not sure of the yearly rainfall there or the terrain there. I've been through your state on the way to Chicago, and I notice that it does get flat somewhere around the IL border. I love the idea of more underground houses, but I do advise putting them in an area that is well drained and making sure that they are waterproofed inside and out. If you supervise the building, I'm sure you will do fine. Let me know how it turns out. Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      Robert J Raabe 

      19 months ago

      If you need any future help im more than willing. Just purchased land in elkland MO, and def plan to build an earth home.

      robertraabe@yahoo.com

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      21 months ago from Beautiful South

      Russell, Missouri is pretty wet, but if you put it on flat land instead of a hillside and did a thick waterproof liner type skin on the house instead of a sprayed on thin coating like we have, it might work. Also, I would be sure to know that my concrete pourer had a reputation for good work and the integrity to stand behind it. I don't want to discourage anyone from moving underground. I just want them to know what they could be getting into. As for as an underground dome house, I don't recommend using Terra Dome. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Sorry, but I've had to delete and repost my answer to your comment. Again I'm having trouble signing in and posting to this article. Miz. B.

    • profile image

      Russell 

      21 months ago

      Thank you for your comments on your house. I was thinking of purchasing a monolithic dome home and put it on some land in Missouri and yes I was wanting to put it underground. I think I will re-think that plan.

      Thanks

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      21 months ago from Beautiful South

      Thank you, Sam. I appreciate your reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      Sam 

      21 months ago

      That was fascinating and illuminating! I think lots of folks fantasize about underground living and your experience certainly illustrates the potential pitfalls. I wish you the very best of luck in surviving your experiences down there.

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      21 months ago from Beautiful South

      Nicholas, I've never visited your country, so I don't know that much about your climate, rainfall, etc. I don't know any books to recommend, but I believe that there are some very valid and helpful comments here. One of the reasons I would be afraid to recommend a book would be because most of the books are theoretical and written by people who have never built or lived in one, and that was my point of the article. You might look up the website on Terra Dome houses and learn what NOT to do. I'm sorry that I cannot be more helpful. Check out Amazon for any books, but be sure to read the ratings section from readers before buying the book. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      Nicolas 

      21 months ago

      hi MIZ

      i am living in france

      and i don't find so much information to build mine house like you did, i was afraid reading your post, but reading a bit of some comments here, i can see some idea, from then, did you find the "good" way to build the wall and the roof avoidind at 100% the water leaking?

      if you have some website, or books about suceeding a underground house, i'll take your advice

      cheers

      Nicolas

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      22 months ago from Beautiful South

      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.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      22 months 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 imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      23 months ago from Beautiful South

      Thanks, John, you are certainly correct about that.

    • profile image

      John 

      23 months 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 imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      23 months ago from Beautiful South

      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.

    • profile image

      John Savignac 

      23 months 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 imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      2 years ago from Beautiful South

      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 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      2 years ago from Beautiful South

      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 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      2 years ago from Beautiful South

      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 

      2 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      2 years ago from Beautiful South

      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 

      2 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      2 years ago from Beautiful South

      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 

      2 years 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.

    • profile image

      Sharon 

      2 years ago

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

      Thank you for sharing

    • MizBejabbers profile imageAUTHOR

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      2 years ago from Beautiful South

      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 

      2 years 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 

      2 years 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 

      2 years 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 

      2 years 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 

      2 years 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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