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Why We Don't Like Our Underground House

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.

Our Experience in an Earth-Sheltered Dome Home

Eighteen years ago, we moved into an earth-sheltered dome home built into a hillside. We were so excited! It was really lovely inside, and surprisingly well-illuminated with natural light. Our house has approximately 2,500 square feet, 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

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.


Protection from tornados


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



Depreciating home value


Pest problems


People will invade your privacy.

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.

Problems We've Encountered

  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 invading 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 to 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.

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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 up on 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.

3. 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. Cracks During Earthquakes

The house was advertised as “earthquake-proof” but inside, we feel tremors that don't register 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.

5. Limited Access for 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. Constant Mold Problems

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 to 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 two-ton condenser and blower with three 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 square feet.

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 the 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 you 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.

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. Pest Problems

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 you 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.

Is it Worth it?

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!

Floor Plan of the House

Current floor plan with minor corrections in blue ink

Current floor plan with minor corrections in blue ink

Floor plan with changes in red that I would make. Moving doors and small wall would restore to original plan with master suite.

Floor plan with changes in red that I would make. Moving doors and small wall would restore to original plan with master suite.

Update 2020: Changes We Would Make to the Floor Plan

I have received requests to see a floor plan of our house. Then a reader requested to see the changes we would make if I built another house by this plan. The second plan contains the changes marked in red. When I first posted this floorplan, I failed to mark that the narrow structure off the kitchen area is above ground, and the former owner expanded it into a 14 x 16 ft. combo greenhouse/screenhouse. He kept the dirt floor and actually tried to grow plants in the soil. Today the trees have grown up around it and it is too shady to use for plants except for the winter. Our chickens have confiscated it for their abode, and do quite well in there, since we've abandoned our plans to make it into a sunroom.

First, we would move the HVAC system from the middle of the great room to one of the closets in the utility room between the bedrooms (arrow indicates). I would leave the closet in the great room for added storage that would be lost in the utility room. The reason I would relocate the HVAC unit is because noise of the fan and motor interfere with our watching television or carrying on a conversation in the living room part of the house. The only drawback to this is that in cold weather, the fan unit draws in warm air from the heating stove on the opposite wall and moves it throughout the house.

The second change we would make is to move the entrances to the bedroom and hall bathroom (red square). Our current plan has the bedroom door across the hallway right at the bathtub on the other side of the wall. The original door to the bedroom was actually at the hall end of the closet, making the two rooms into a private master suite. I'm not sure exactly how this was arranged since I've never seen the original plan. (Disregard the vertical line in the bedroom.) The closet door is also in the tiny hallway on the side wall. The original owner changed the plan to make the bath a separate hall bath. As the plan is now, there is no master suite in the house.

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

Question: 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?

Answer: 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.

Question: 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?

Answer: 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.

Question: Did you use clay top soil and 10% slope?

Answer: 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.

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

Answer: 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.

Question: It is nice to know that Terra Dome doesn't stand behind their name, franchises, subcontractors or anything else for that matter. After seeing their lack of customer service, I won't be spending my money with them. If you had to do it over, who would you go with?

Answer: I don't know that we would use any particular builder. My husband is an engineer, so he would design the home, then we probably would act as our own contractor and hire reputable local contractors and subcontractors. My son is building an underground home in Texas, and that is what he is doing.

Question: I see how your home has great views and lots of natural lighting that come from it being built on a hill with many large windows, but wouldn't any home built on a hill with many large windows have the same benefit of view and Light? Maybe I'm misunderstanding but you seem to be saying an underground home could offer that more than an above-ground home. Can you explain that more?

Answer: Actually, I was trying to state just the opposite. Most people believe that an underground home must be dark and dreary. The first time my mother walked into my living room, she exclaimed, "Oh, it's so light. I thought it would be dark and I was dreading coming down and visiting." I apologize if I didn't make my point clear in the article, but I was trying to state that my house could compete with any above-ground home in the area of natural light. I wasn't trying to make my house superior in lighting to above-ground houses. However, I might add, in case you are a young person, that many houses of the 1970s and 80s tended to have small windows because of the gigantic jump in the costs of electricity. Some of the older homes were remodeled to install small, sometimes tiny windows to cut down on heating and cooling costs. Since my house was built around the end of that period, in some ways, it may be superior in natural light to its "peers." My neighbors (I live in a subdivision in the county) on my side of the street overlooking the same view, have large glass patio doors in their homes, but most of them have smaller windows. So you see, although I didn't mean it that way, it really might be taken like that. Thank you for your question. I'm going to go back and revisit my statement. Maybe it needs rewriting for clarification.

Question: 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?

Answer: 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.

Question: What is donafil?

Answer: Donafil is the most commonly used material in our area to stabilize a construction area on which a building is to be built. It is my understanding that it is ground up or broken up concrete. The donafil may be fine, or it may contain small or large chunks of broken concrete. An area that has been filled with only fill dirt is not as stable as an area with the donafil in it and would be more subject to settling or washing away.

© 2012 Doris James MizBejabbers


Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on July 27, 2020:

Pete, I'm very glad you did. Nobody should have to go through what we've been through with ours. Thanks for reading.

pete on July 22, 2020:

Sorry, you got a lemon. Mine's great!

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on July 12, 2020:

Jason, you are going to think this is ridiculous, but we own a backhoe. My husband bought one sight unseen, and it is too big and heavy to risk putting it on the house. I told him to sell it and buy a smaller one, but it has been sitting in the yard for the last 15 years.

I've lived in oil field country and there is no comparison to the humidity in Arkansas. No, I don't think that would work. Especially now that we have rain so hard that it looks more like a snowstorm than a rainstorm. We just don't need to be in an underground house in what has now turned into the tropics. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Jason Steward on July 08, 2020:

I work in the oil field and we use plastic liners below our seperator units and line our frac ponds with them. Could you not just rent a backhoe for a week, expose the structure, use some spray-on foam for insulation (we put that below ground to divert underground water in ditches and it's also used as insulation in attics), then cover the foam with one of these pond liners? Seems like an easy fix for leaks. Maybe you could help the mold by adding interior ductwork. Temperature differences room-to-room causes mold.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on June 26, 2020:

Dave, I had not heard of this building method, so I checked it out. I like this idea. Now, I'm still not so sure about building a permanent one here in soggy Arkansas. I grew up in the Ozarks, an area riddled with caves, and I saw the results of water running and dripping through stones, especially limestone. Water dissolves unfired clay, which is why we don't use adobe in wet climates. Even our fired bricks start to crumble in 80 to 100 years. I'm not sure what cob is. Cement, perhaps?

I lived in New Mexico for a couple of years, and I would definitely consider building one there. I had a neighbor who grew up in her grandmother's large adobe house near Carlsbad, and she said it was still in good shape after nearly 100 years.

I spent a lot of time on this website and saw some that said the bags were fired. I wonder how they did this. Those resembled mosaic tile and were quite beautiful. I do believe this method is a lot more practical than some of the alternative housing I've seen, like the ground-up tires. I've heard that the rubber deteriorates after several years. I also wonder about the permanency of straw bales or styrofoam blocks. Thank you for reading my article and acquainting me with Mr. Khalili's method of building.

Dave Huttner on June 26, 2020:

I think you are correct to conclude that underground houses are not appropriate for wet climates. In those climates you're fighting a continual war with the water and -- no matter what the design or construction -- the water will ultimately win. What do you think of the superadobe houses? Earthbag homes such as those built and designed by Nadir Khalily and CalEarth? Seems to me that they ought to be OK above ground, lots of clay in the bag mix and cob, on a slight elevation with French drain and lime over the cob. Right?

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on June 11, 2020:

You are very welcome, Lindsay.

Lindsay Haase on June 11, 2020:

Thank you for sharing the floor plan!! L

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on June 10, 2020:

Great comment, Damien. I especially love your idea about beeswax. LOL But I'm afraid we have enough bugs, and I'm not sure that beeswax wouldn't attract even more. And I think maybe we do need a pool builder rather than a roofer. Seriously, I think it was a very poor decision to locate an underground house on the side of a hill and then build up the soil to fake it to be underground. I'm not sure there is any solution that would be within financial reason. We just let our hearts overrule our heads.

BTW my husband's grandfather was a winemaker. I'll relay your suggestion to him. LOL Thank you for your humorous comment.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on June 10, 2020:

Lindsay, first thank you for your comment. I have posted the current floor plan (with changes the owner made that aren't reflected on it) and a second one that reflects changes I would make. I definitely would like a master suite instead of two bathrooms that don't connect to a bedroom. Second, the AC is very noisy and it is difficult to talk over it or to hear the TV set. Otherwise, I love the floor plan.

Damien Ramos on June 09, 2020:

Thanks for your truly excellent article on the realities of an underground home. Despite the hype, it makes so much sense. Sounds like instead of a roofer, you'd need a pool builder to do repairs ...or someone who understands the water, humidity, ventilation, and drainage issues of an indoor aquatic facility (no pun intended).

Aside from all the pool repair solutions out there, something I've found in dealing with constantly wet cement would be sealing the walls with beeswax (needs to be melted), the same way that winemakers seal cement urns ...natural. You could always raise honey bees if you need both beeswax and an effective way to keep people off your property--lol. ;)

Stay courageous--thanks again for sharing your daring adventure in the eighth wonder of the world!

Lindsay Haase on June 09, 2020:

Hi! You mentioned that you "love the floor plan and would change very little about it". Do you have any images of the floor plan that you would be willing to share? What would you change if you could? Thanks! L

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on May 27, 2020:

Yes, you make sense, Michael, but remember that our house is now considered "an old house" and many improvements and changes have been made in the design and materials used in building underground houses. There really were not "earth-sheltered housing circles" when it was built. There were a few little "pop-up" houses in the 1960-1980s, like this one.

Also I wrote this article nearly 10 years ago, and it was how I felt then. I don't have the ambition to rewrite it to fit in with today's norm. In fact, I don't even know what today's norm is since I don't run in these "earth sheltered housing circles" of which you write. Where are they, anyhow? HubPages changes the date on the article any time I make any kind of updated comment so it might appear to be a new article but it isn't.

Michael McKinley on May 26, 2020:

All or most of the issues you discuss are widely known in earth-sheltered housing circles. All are easily engineered for prior to building. The 2 biggest problems are lack of solid bedrock under the foundation. And poor drainage control measures. None of which you knew about. If the tone of your article was "beware of these potential issues" it would be more honest than what you wrote. And frankly most buyers know that drainage is key and an engineer should know which way water flows, and an atrium level with the floor is called a lake in most circles.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on March 16, 2020:

Two factors cut down on our energy efficiency: 1. huge southern facing windows and patio doors that work like a magnifying glass and let in heat in the summer. Replacing these with new modern glass might remedy the situation. 2. Central heat. We have already remedied this by removing the electric central unit and using a Vermont Castings heater in the greatroom. Of course we don't have even heat throughout the house, but that's a sacrifice we were willing to make. We converted this former wood stove to gas, and since it is ventilated, we haven't had any problems with it. We weren't able to find enough wood to get us through the winter.

Centerpoint has had some price increases in the last few years. Last year was a very mild winter, so our gas bill to heat, cook and run an on-demand water heater ran from $90 to $110 a year. This year is cooler and wetter, so it is costing more. I think our last bill was about $160. We run dehumidifiers most of the time except when we were running central air, and our costs for electricity usually run from $125 to $300 a month. Electric costs never run less than $120, so it is our main utility expense. We heat and cool about 2,000 sq. ft. of a 2,576 sq ft house. Hope this helps.

Anthony Bucci on March 16, 2020:

Hi, we live in Arkansas as well. How energy efficient is your underground home? Thank you!

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on February 13, 2020:

Charles, your success would depend on where you live and the quality of the work of the contractor who built it. I'm not familiar with Formworks, so I can't comment on that. But if you live in a wet area like we do, I would suggest building something above ground. In a dry area, I would say, "go for it!" Thanks for the comment.

Charles on February 13, 2020:

I appreciate you posting this. I once considered a Formworks home down the road. I have considered that moisture may not remain outside of the living space. Someone recently stated that concrete always cracks. So many things can go wrong during construction. Sorry, you had this experience, the concept is great though.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on January 21, 2020:

Thank you, Stefan. I'll take a haunted house any day over this nightmare because it only gets worse. At least I know how to send a ghost to the light. I appreciate your comment.

Stefan Seville on January 20, 2020:

Wow ! Don't know which is worse! A haunted house or your real

Night mires!!!! I normally would have good answers to bad homes but

Your situation stuns me!!! Anyway all the best for you and your family.

But it does help me and others ! Thank you! My prayers to you!

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on January 09, 2020:

Goodness, Glennis, 1767! Very few buildings exist in the U.S. that are that old. It's probably because most of our buildings are made of wood and can withstand only so much aging. I really envy her.

This article was written several years ago, so since then, people have finally stopped trespassing. We don't have the problems that we had the first few years we moved in, at least I hope not to see anymore.

It's tornadoes that we don't have to worry about. I don't think this house would withstand an earthquake very well, perched into the side of the hill that it is.

Currently we are having to rip out the false wall behind the cabinets in the main bathroom because the 33-year-old plumbing has failed. I'm just glad it's a false wall. I don't know what we'd do if the pipes were in the concrete. I'll really be glad to get that bathroom back.

I didn't realize you were having widespread floods where you live. We are certainly having our share of them here. My sympathies go to everyone experiencing them since I have first-hand knowledge of the consequences. Thank you for reading my article and your interesting comment.

Glen Rix from UK on January 06, 2020:

Oh, my goodness. What a woeful tale of back luck. The property must be a constant source of worry to you.

Here in little England, land for private build is quite scarce and expensive - adding this to the cost of architects fees and building costs would make such a home unaffordable for all but the very well-heeled. But at least the occupants wouldn't need to worry about earthquakes. Water ingress would be a worry - we seem to get so much more heavy and prolonged rain nowadays - you may have read about the recent widespread floods.

I can't believe that people have the cheek to use your roof as a putting green - have you tried a No Trespassing sign?

My sister has a house built into a hillside and has had a lot of problems with damp, and occasional torrents of water streaming down the lane in front of her frontage - but the house was built in 1767, so I'm guessing it will outlive her.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on November 02, 2019:

John, we haven't done anything yet. After I retired in 2016, we thought we'd get right on it, but health problems prevent our doing so. We are about ready to start again. My husband still wants to first try forcing concrete into the holes, but the next step would be doing what you're considering. Your house is about the size of mine. I have some questions for you, please. Would you put the soil back under a conventional roof after you've sprayed on insulation? Is it a rectangular shape like most houses or a U shape like ours? Do you have any estimates of what the cost would be of a turnkey job? And would you share the figure with me? You can email me if you prefer. Surely it can't cost more than the $100,000 estimate that roofer made to us just to remove the soil, add concrete around and into the leaks and put the soil back. It was off the top of his head, and I think he was just blowing smoke. I can go $100,000 if the job includes a conventional roof.

I am really happy to hear from you because your climate is so similar to ours. Thank you for your comment.

John on November 02, 2019:

We currently live in an underground earth home also, in Missouri. We had all of the dirt removed two weeks ago. Our home is 2500 sq. ft., we are considering putting a conventional shingle food on top and having spray foam applied on top of the concrete roof for insulation purposes. Don’t know what else to do. Would love to hear what you ended up doing with yours. Hope all is wee. Sincerely, John

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on October 27, 2019:

Well, I had to laugh at your reply. Not at you, but with you, but I will say that once we stopped those ants that were invading the dog's bowl, we haven't had anymore problems with them. The termite problem was with the same general home materials like paneling, wood facings, and drywall that termites eat on conventional homes. I was just warning people not to drop their termite policies just because they had a concrete house underground. The termites don't eat the concrete or any of the other materials they shy away from in conventional homes. But I take your point. At one time these homes were cheaper to build, but now they can be more expensive, at least in the short run. And a big problem is obtaining financing for one and also insurance. Thank you for your great comment.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on October 25, 2019:

This is remarkable. Like you, I thought at one time that I would love an underground house. The only thing that stopped me was finances. Still, I live in California where it is much dryer but we do have problems with termites and fire ants here. No thanks.



Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on September 29, 2019:

Thank you Deborah. Readers like you are the reason I wrote this article. I hope to alert people to possible problems so they can eliminate them before they happen. I don't want to discourage anyone from building an underground house.

Deborah Demander from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on September 29, 2019:

This article was fascinating. I've considered living in an underground house, built into the side of a hill. Now I know what to look for and what to consider before I commit. Thank you for writing.


Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on September 15, 2019:

Thank you for your comment, Ed. The street already has a nice curb, but it isn't present to allow us access to our driveway, which we do park in. I don't know where you live, but with the deluges we get in Central Arkansas now, the water probably would leap the curb anyway. I like your idea of raising the atrium walls by 2 ft. We have actually considered the greenhouse option. So far, we haven't ruled it out.

Ed on September 15, 2019:

Personally I would run a high curb next to the street to devert water running down the street away from your property. I would have the atrium walls raised 2 feet all the way around and then put a greenhouse over it with a door facing the street. The inside stairs would have to be raised and raise the out side ground level around the atrium and slope it away from the atrium. Good luck.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on August 11, 2019:

Yes, James, that is my opinion. I don't know why an underground house would depreciate like a vehicle or a mobile home, but that was our experience. Perhaps it was because of the potential for leaking or maybe because most people don't want to live in one. However, a well-built home underground should actually hold its value over a conventional home that deteriorates rapidly due to weathering. Thank you for reading and commenting.

James on August 10, 2019:

Thank you for sharing your story/experience. From what I gather, building new is better than buying a pre-existing underground home (UH). But the long-term loss of appreciation value with most/all UH is deal-breaker overall. Keep striving hard. God bless.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on August 04, 2019:

Tent camper, you are 100% correct about the main entrance. That is something that we should have realized before we bought the house. I don't believe it would be physically possible to slope the earth away from the entrance because of the design from the top of the hill. The sides would have to be built up taller than the domes and faced with a concrete wall to prevent erosion. Even if we did that, there would still be a hole at the landing unless a waterproof gate and a levy at each side of the landing were installed. Then the gate would have to remain closed at all times because of the popup deluges we are having right now. Thanks for your input. All suggestions are appreciated.

tent camper on August 04, 2019:

Besides the poor original construction issues it is obvious from the photo of your main entrance that rainwater would just pour into your sunken entrance given the poor landscaping design. If you raised the walls a few feet and then had the earth sloping AWAY from the entrance that might help keep the rainwater out.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on July 13, 2019:

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.

DenThey on July 13, 2019:

Was this built by Monolithic Dome of Texas?

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on July 11, 2019:

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.

Mary on July 11, 2019:

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!

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on July 03, 2019:

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.

DOn on July 03, 2019:

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

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on June 19, 2019:

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

Helaine Cassarino on June 19, 2019:

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

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on June 18, 2019:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on June 17, 2019:

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. on June 17, 2019:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on June 16, 2019:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on June 06, 2019:

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.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 06, 2019:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on February 14, 2019:

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).

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on February 14, 2019:

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.

Sam on January 24, 2019:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on January 04, 2019:

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.

L L Butcher on January 04, 2019:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on January 02, 2019:

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 from England on January 02, 2019:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on January 01, 2019:

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 on January 01, 2019:

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

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on December 29, 2018:

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

Gary Uba on December 29, 2018:

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

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on December 14, 2018:

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.

Lex on December 12, 2018:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on November 23, 2018:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on November 23, 2018:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on November 23, 2018:

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.

Julian on November 23, 2018:

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.

Dex Carter on November 22, 2018:

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.


Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on November 07, 2018:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on October 22, 2018:

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 Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on October 20, 2018:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on September 04, 2018:

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 Musselman from Michigan, USA on September 04, 2018:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on August 23, 2018:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on August 21, 2018:

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"?

G. Frazier - General Contractor on August 19, 2018:

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

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on August 17, 2018:

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?

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on June 28, 2018:

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.

Donald Hartley on June 27, 2018:

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.


Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on June 24, 2018:

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.

Catahoula1 on June 24, 2018:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on June 18, 2018:

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.

Pat on June 12, 2018:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on April 18, 2018:

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 from Canada on April 18, 2018:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on April 02, 2018:

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.

M Arant on April 02, 2018:


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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on April 01, 2018:

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.

Shannon Henry from Texas on March 31, 2018:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on March 31, 2018:

"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.

ScottP on March 27, 2018:

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.

M. Arant on March 26, 2018:

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)

Mizbejabbers on January 23, 2018:

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.

Densie on January 22, 2018:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on January 06, 2018:

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.

Deli man 9 on January 05, 2018:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on January 03, 2018:

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.

Deli man 9 on January 03, 2018:

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.

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on December 27, 2017:

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.

patrick on December 27, 2017:

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

Doris James MizBejabbers (author) from Beautiful South on December 15, 2017:

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.

Jeff on December 14, 2017:

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) ?