Thursday, September 13, 2012

B-POD

B-POD
The Bison Pit Of Doom, B-POD, is on its final leg of construction.  The only thing left to do is caulk up the wall cracks and install a few windows and for all intents and purposes it is done.  Oh, it needs a lot more work.  I ran out of money before I could get a big pane of glass and construct a solar heater for boosting the winter temps inside.  But if the sun shot a solar flare up Obammy’s ass tomorrow, frying the White House and crisping the Congress-critters, the country descending into chaos and rioting and looting commencing ( before the celebratory party could start ), I could grab a bunch of camping equipment already on hand and live comfortably in the pit as it is.  And despite the many problems with the completed project, I’m still proud as a papa over my creation.  Let’s start from the beginning.
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I’m sure most of you remember my initial foray underground, the trial pit.  When I first moved here I lusted after an underground house along the lines of the classic “The $50 &Up Underground House”.  After a winter or two I not only lusted after one, I knew I couldn’t survive here without it.  I dug a 8x8 pit as a trial balloon, not sure what kind of soil I was dealing with.  I was out of shape and using the wrong equipment ( a pick instead of a Maddox ) and by five feet I was done.  The pit stayed uncovered through plenty of weather and there was nary a grain of dirt falling in.  Convinced I could forego shoring, I knew building underground here could be very cheap.  I bought about $200 worth of lumber and plastic sheeting and constructed a covered dirt wall pit.  I dug a center post hole, placed a trio of two by four sticks nailed together as a post, quick cemented it in, then ran a center beam from that.  I ran 2x4’s from the beam to either side.  Those rested on a layer of pallets.  Plywood, then two layers of sheeting, then an inch or two of dirt.  Not as insulation but to cover the plastic from UV degradation.  Periodically I cover an exposed patch.  That is all the maintenance required.  The entrance is a trapdoor and on two sides I have a length of PVC pipe as vents.  It was far from perfect and it did teach me what to do differently next time, but it also showed how no dirt on top and no insulation on the roof still kept a temperature of 45 in the winter when it was in the teens or below.  Of course, I was sidetracked by the need to dig a trench and try out the earth pipe concept.  That was a bit of a failure, but there were too many variables such as length, elevation, number of pipes or lack of a fan that I had no idea why.  I chose to abandon that project because it was $200 for the pipe every 100 feet, plus I would need far more solar panels and batteries to run a fan all night long.  It was too much money for too inconclusive of results.  I felt my money would be better spent on a tried and true underground shelter, rather than bringing the underground temperature up into a dwelling.
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It took me a year to dig a ten foot wide, twenty foot long, six foot deep hole.  I didn’t dig every day.  A lot of times it was below freezing, or it was already dark after work, or the wind was blasting dirt around.  Plus, I wasn’t in as good of shape upper body strength as I am now ( not because of the digging but because I am slinging a heck of a lot more in weight- increased donations- at work than I used to ) so the process was pretty slow but steady.  If I was to start today I’m sure I could be done in a single season.  I finished digging just about the time I’d saved up enough money for lumber ( $1200, plus another $100 to rent a truck to transport it.  $400 plywood, $300 2x4’s, $300 insulation and $200 for the door and nails and whatnot- as far as I can recollect ).  Let me tell you, as suck ass as the digging was, going five months without buying one single book as I was saving money was far, far worse. 
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The construction was pretty straight forward.  Build a box ( six by sixteen ) in the center of the pit, then lay an insulated roof over that.  I should have done post in cement block, but instead I did walls on cement block ( nailed to the inlayed wood ).  As a result, the walls are as crooked as can be and the whole thing is on a slight slope.  When I put the plywood on the inside the gaps were varied and many.  When I placed the doors in, they fit like the truth on a lawyer.  I ran out of 2x4’s so there isn’t a lot of support on the edges, just sheets of plywood hanging from the box to the dirt.  There won’t be any leaving snow up top, it will have to be cleared after each storm to avoid accumulating weight.  The “porch” is the six foot gap between the front entrance to the box structure door.  I can cook there, or store equipment or whatever.  That part has dirt walls.  The sleeping/lounging area is inside the structure to stay away from spider and insects.  It is glorified camping, but it is safe and warm and frugal.
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Below are pictures.  The first picture is the test pit, the rest below that are the current state of the art hovel within a pit. 


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15 comments:

  1. Holy sh!t, you did some serious digging by hand. Experiment and learn is the best form of education. Still, the walls look suspect to me. Not trying to be a critic, I just want you to be safe.

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  2. I might be warped by all my years in Arizona but I think you've got a pretty nice view there.

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  3. I like it. Not the dream underground yuppie lair, but it'll do.

    You might want to consider increasing its load bearing so that you don't have to shovel off the snow. Snow is actually pretty good insulation. What if something happens and you can't shovel the roof off? How about if you'd just rather hunker down with a good book rather than haul your butt out into the cold?

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  4. I'm guessing you're happy with it so I won't make any comments on your construction methods. Hopefully you are aware that this structure possibly won't last too long and very possibly could be fairly wet making it uncomfortable.

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  5. I should add that the two sides aren't shored up, but the two ends are. Not shown is a side vent pipe and the skylight which will have a straight up vent pipe. Still a bit damp but hopefully that should help.

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  6. It looks servicable. Is some sort of drainage needed for the rare hard rain?

    I agree, a very nice view.

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  7. Looks like a good project. I trust it remains water tight and does not collapse and entomb the inhabitants. It reminds me of one of my favorite SHTF movies DefCon 4. (see YouTube link below) I can picture you muttering the best line in the movie when offered a female in trade. "Are her aereolas pink or brown?" LOL

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgXZtWArGtA&playnext=1&list=PLB8B8556BF364B308&feature=results_main

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  8. For an encore how about digging another pit and just placing an RV/Trailer/Step van or such inside. Instant livable quarters with insulated weather protection. DOH!

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    1. I've already thought of digging a trench for the new $400 trailer and roofing it over. Whether I go ahead or not...

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  9. I think it is excellent Jim. Damn fine job. I think instead of Bison, everyone should call you Digger. Should stay warm in there burning a candle.

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  10. What about those folks who claim to use a shipping container? Could ones of those be dropped in a similar hole then finished with some flimsy wood and paneling to make it feel more like home? Maybe the metal is too difficult to work with for making openings for vents, doors, and windows. I'm not sure what one of those costs then there is the issue of someone else coming on your site, with wood you can build privately without anyone talking or reporting you.

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  11. Very cool project - underground shelter in desert makes a lot of sense to me too. Will there be any clerestory (high on wall) windows for natural lighting ? Two litre cola bottle roof light (remember - bottle cap of bleach in water filled bottle poking through roof / wall)?

    Regardless, that looks like a lot of friggin' work - I'm sure it'll pay off in the long run.

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    1. Well, duh, I just noticed in last photo you are nearly complete with the design. That is very cool - a few well placed shrubs and that entry (at least from close range) is all but disappeared.

      I remember many years ago, someone showed a plan of similar design, only the pickup camper was supposed to drive right into it and hatch / garage door closed over it. Your design required far less digging than that though.

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  12. If I had a pit that big I would just drive a school bus into it and then fill it in. School bus roofs are near impossible to crush.

    Congrats on all your work. A great accomplishment without power excavation equipment.

    One piece of advice: I would dig a small sump (square hole) in one corner so if water gets in it will be easy to bail just the 'lowest spot' with a bucket.

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  13. Nice job. I'm jealous.

    -DSM

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