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soon i will be buying a fairly decent size piece of land with no house on it, i will be buying a small camper soon that i can do some traveling in, and my idea is to start by living out of this while i build something better on the land i purchase and i was looking for some new ideas as to what i should build

im not going to focus very much on having electricity or phone lines strung up.. i've actually been focusing on learning how to preserve everything in ways that do not require a fridge so i can get by without it if i have to, but at some point i will be developing my own power source, likely building a wind turbine, but ive also considered going solar (not by purchasing expensive solar panels, i have a better, cheaper, more long-lived solution)

so.. im not going to put myself into debt on a large house i neither want nor need just to be like everyone else, im going to live within my means and only build something i can afford as i can afford it, as far as i know since ive never used credit for anything, i probably dont even have a line of credit and refuse to deal with any kind of banks or lenders for anything i want.. im perfectly fine driving an older, more reliable vehicle vs a half plastic modern one that will fall apart from electrical failures in 3 years, and im just fine living in a shack if thats what it takes for me to remain financially independent

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some ideas i've come up with so far was to build a small cottage myself using lumber harvested locally from the piece of land.. using a chainsaw with a special attachment i can cut down a suitable tree, then using the attachment i can slide it into boards that i can season, and use for laying out the framework or even use for siding and shingles, a small cabin or a small cottage could work.. but i've also considered the more traditional timber framed option

some other very low cost ideas include shipping containers.. i can weld together as many as i need, when i need them and have an infinitely expandable house that allows me to add more space whenever i need it

and another idea is a tent, not a small camping tent, but the larger military style tents.. i could design one myself, shape the poles out of tube steel ahead of time, and create my own insulated shell with a chimney collar for a wood stove, and i can build this on top of a raised wooden platform giving me a hardwood floor to walk on.. it could easily be used like any single story house with the difference being my walls are flexible.. as if id care

another idea ive thought of that is very inexpensive are those round yurts, they are very inexpensive to make, using a wooden frame, a round shape, and often a fabric skin on the outside that can be insulated.. very unique idea, well within my budget as well and you can build additional yurts linked together for more space

and this last idea ive had may seem odd to some, but i've been considering a barn.. like the stall barns with the extra space above the main room, my idea for this would be to live in the top section and use the lower section as a workshop, since i do a lot of work with wood (used to run a business building musical instruments) and wouldnt mind having a machine shop as well.. one i may actually run on a wood or wood gas powered steam generator

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so which of these ideas do you like and why? any comments, questions, or more ideas to add? im very interested in getting more information before i start building anything
 

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Not knowing the area you are located in (seasonal considerations) If you are going to have a camping trailer, I would live it that while I built a more permanent structure.

What we are building is a 28 x 40 Timber Frame, it will have a double metal roof for heat exclusion (we live in Arkansas, temps in summer get to over 100, making keeping cool more important than keeping warm). We will be using an envelope system for walls, that way our timber frame will be inside for both protection of the timbers and good looks. The Timbers we are using are from our woodlot, so the cost is chainsaw oil and gas. I've looked at Yurts for our area and they don't last very long, about 6 years before the humidity has destroyed the integrity of the fabric shell.

Being a Martin Guitar Master Repairman, I like the idea of a barn/ shop/ house but for us that would not work (we have the bonus of an already poured footing on the site, so I'm going to work with that for the house).
 

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Discussion Starter #3
i dont know where this will be just yet, i havent decided on a location to settle, i will be living out of this camper in a variety of locations to see what i like the most.. locations ive been considering is where im at now (wisconson), but also considering the southeastern coast (maybe virginia, north carolina), the northwestern coast (washington, oregon, alaska), and maybe some areas in between (like montana, wyoming, etc)... top locations on my list that im considering is northern wisconsin, alaska, south dakota, or the wyoming/montana/idaho regions

im mostly focusing on the northern regions because we tend to have better game to hunt and fish, and im looking to begin providing all my own food a large part through hunting game such as elk, moose, and large white tails, but i've also been thinking of raising emus (they taste like awesome beef with few diseases and much lower cost per pound of meat produced)

but also im considering more northern climates because its been my belief that i can have a row of firewood trees that i can grow, offsetting every 2 or so hardwood trees by another year so i can manage what i harvest for the use of firewood, thus making my heating costs negligible.. i lived in arizona for a year which the desert wasnt bad at all, i just have an issue with spiders the size of dinner plates

for me to give more consideration of southern climates i would need to do more research on what i could do to effectively cool the place with very little energy usage.. id like to know how your double metal roof works
 

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you know what? im strongly leaning the military tent idea.. solid wood floor, wood stove, i could construct an insulated shell.. itll also allow me to move easily if i need to and i like the option of being able to pack up everything and move to a new location if i choose to.. if i dont go that route i'll probaby build a small simple timber framed place from locally harvested lumber

i can always build a small workshop separate, theyre not very demanding structures
 

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For what you would spend on a tent, I would build a "bunkhouse" style shed. Very inexpensive, and the solid walls will be nice.

Check out the MI Upper Peninsula, where we are. We just moved there from Northern Wisconsin, and your dollar goes much further with land cost. Also, since hunting is important, try to find property abutting the National Forest. You get a much bigger back yard.
 

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For what you would spend on a tent, I would build a "bunkhouse" style shed. Very inexpensive, and the solid walls will be nice.

Check out the MI Upper Peninsula, where we are. We just moved there from Northern Wisconsin, and your dollar goes much further with land cost. Also, since hunting is important, try to find property abutting the National Forest. You get a much bigger back yard.
ill consider that location.. but the cost of a tent wont cost much since id be fabricating it entirely myself.. i would design one on my computer first, probably a tube steel frame i could shape, cut, and weld at one place and then transport with an insulated shell and a wooden floor

but the bunkhouse or even a long house idea could work, or something like a simple timber frame could work too.. or something based on a simple pole barn which is a variation of the timber frame

but have any of you look at the yurts?.. i also like the shipping container idea.. $500 each, buy two, weld them together on top of concrete posts and you have a house

 

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Our property has a lot of excellent trees, suited perfectly for a nice log home. We are living in a motorhome, while DH is building us a utility log cabin. This upcoming Spring, DH will begin construction on a Butt and Pass Log Home (using green logs). I have a thread that is currently showing DH's construction of our utility cabin. Here is a site that explains the log building method and also has posted a new class for Feb, 2015:

http://www.buildloghomes.org/
 

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There are all sorts of construction techniques you can use to build your house. Generally speaking, the more sweat equity you are willing to put into building the house the cheaper it will cost you.

I am considering building in north central MN. I like the idea of using thermal mass to smooth out the temperature fluctuations. I am looking at earth bag construction and dry stacked cement blocks. A house built like this would have to be insulated on the outside.

Other construction options are straw bale, either timber framed with straw bale infill or load bearing straw bale walls. Straw bale is super insulation.

These are the cheapest and hadn't been mentioned yet so I thought I would throw them into the mix.

Another consideration is you could greatly lower your heating bill by building to take advantage of passive solar.
 

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The yurts I found to be way over priced considering the outside has only 15 year warrantee. There's a bunch of hidden costs they don't mention on the websites. For the price you could have a decent wood shell framed up.

I'd just buy good lumber and hire some help to frame up a simple structure with metal roof. ( what I did) Metals very reasonable and last your lifetime. Then you can take your time with inside while you live in it. Wood stoves are good hot heat.

I love those military tents but northern climate will be tough. I did a camper parked inside my barn for a year and insulated n wrapped etc and it was still quite cold. Couldn't imagine how it would have been outside the barn.

I know people who bought a decent cheap camper and just added a room and installed a wood stove. That was warm.

Find land that has free gas rights. Love my free heat.
 

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if i go with a yurt i wont be buying any kits, but designing and constructing it myself with a hardwood frame and a canvas shell.. now one idea to increase the life span of the shell of a yurt, or a large tent you didnt intend on moving is to coat the canvas or skin material with a resin to harden it into a solid shell to make more durable, if you did this and while brushing the resin in you layed more strips of fabric over top, you could make a composite not too dissimilar from fiberglass that would be very durable and paintable.. but id be fine with fabric

honestly, i like the idea of a fabric skin, its durable, insulatable, and you can even harden it if you choose.. and im just talking about the structure right now, independent though taking into considerations methods for insulation and heating

if i still went with a military style tent itll be so i can remain mobile ,take it all down and move to a new location if i wanted to which is a VERY attractive idea since i intend to bounce around to a few different locations before i settle

what i will probably end up doing is finding land with trees on them i can harvest for whichever project i go for, seen those tools you mount a chainsaw into and they can slice strips of any thickness from a tree you cut down which makes it very easy to cut lumber on the spot, making it much easier without specialized logging or lumbermill equipment to get usable boards i can season, plane, and use.. so i think its very important i focus on site-harvested lumber for the framework

what i should do is look into some of the ideas posted above.. passive solar heating im guessing is like a greenhouse?.. and i really do need to look into my options for insulation.. hay bails seem like they would be an incredibly flammable source of insulation which im not entirely sure id want with wood heat and likely wood cooking

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what i can say is this.. i want a place that is rather small, i likely wont have any bedrooms, no need for a separate kitchen, so i want a structure that doesnt need internal walls, except maybe for a bathroom.. i also want something with little value and little time spent on its construction and can be made from minimal sources, i dont want to have to contract just for certain materials, and from minimal sources i mean the majority of the materials being harvestable from the site. and by little value, i want something that wont be too difficult to replace if it does in fact get destroyed or if i decide to move.. so thats why im leaning towards a small yurt, a military style tent, or a timber framed structure thatll be little more than a pole shed.. i live alone, if that changes then i can always build onto it and cross that bridge when i get to it.. and as for shipping containers, i really like the idea, but lets face it the fact i need a tractor (on-road tractor-trailer) just to move the thing to the site and the fact i probably wont even have a road going to where i'll be living makes this option an impossibility
 

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I built a 10' diameter camping yurt and lived in it for a summer in Yosemite (volunteering). I didn't need any insulation etc. or heavy waterproofing (roof was a waterproof tarp, but walls were canvas dropcloths) because the summers in the Sierra are warm and dry. It cost me about $250 and a LOT of hours to fabricate. If I'd had to waterproof/insulate that cost would probably double. I also collected materials on sales for a while, so if I'd needed to go out and buy everything all at once the cost would have been 25% or so higher. I hope eventually to pick up a small mountain land parcel and put a 16-20' yurt on it for weekend/getaway use. With the knowledge I gained making the camping yurt, I reckon I could make a waterproof, insulated 16' yurt for around $2000. Add another $500 or so for the platform.

Given the base price of that size from the yurt manufacturers is about $6k, self-fabrication can save you a LOT of money -- but you have to put in a LOT of time doing calculations, cutting endless lathes from 2x4s, screwing them together in the right pattern, sewing (with an industrial sewing machine), etc. You can't do much of it onsite, so the advantage to a yurt vs. traditional framing is that you can fabricate it entirely offsite, take it to your land, and have it up in a day or less. (I can put up my camping yurt by myself in under 45 minutes and I am a short woman.) Stick built houses are sturdier, but you're shifting all the fabrication work to the site itself, so you've got to figure out where you're staying while that's going on.

If you're going to make your own yurt, I recommend the following resources:

http://simplydifferently.org/Yurt - his yurt calculator was the single most valuable resource I found in designing and building my yurt

http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/articles/yurt/ - Monica's description of making the khana was especially helpful

http://www.houseoffabri.org/photo_index.htm - SCA members (including Monica above) have been making yurts for years -- this is a photo gallery of one group's yurts and helps visualize the construction process
 

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Since you sound pretty tech savvy, You should look into designing and building a geodesic dome. I have seen several up here in Alaska. They are suppose to be super strong and I guess you can cover them with anything you want. I have seen them up here used as greenhouses covered in plastic, to be insulated and covered with shingles and lived in as a home.
 

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i used to be huge into the domes, initially the concrete ones then afterwards the wooden ones, i guess it wouldnt be impossible considering the strength of a dome to go with a fabric water proof and insulated skin like you may find on a tent or yurt, but have the pieces of the dome fabricated in a way where they can be easily and quickly constructed, and maybe even deconstructed if i decide to move

its a tough decision, i guess im not 100% sure exactly what my needs are, i like the idea of a yurt or tent, but ill probably have a 20-25' camper i can tow and drop off so having something mobile isnt NEEDED, i guess i need to do more thinking about it
 

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what about insulating a cabin.. you know, the standard type of log cabin with stacked logs for walls?.. ive never lived inside one of these before so im curious as to how they are insulated? do they just have another wall on the inside for insulation or do the logs provide enough being solid?.. id use square logs though, not round ones if i go this route

since i do plan to live off grid, no road either ive actually been thinking of buying a military surplus cargo truck M35A2 for the size, and capacity.. a 8x8x20' shipping container is within the cargo trucks limits for what it can haul if the bed was removed and the container fitted directly to the frame, if i go this route i can carry pre-fabbed sections or even shipping containers to the site, so thats an option, using half-size shipping containers i can get used for a few hundred each, place them on top of concrete poles

putting more thought into it, i'm going to focus on low cost, i have a personal policy against using credit and placing myself in debt, so i have a focus to live within my means and buy only what i can pay for up front and in cash, domes are very tall for their actual floor space and i only need one story.. yurts are ok, but circles tend to further complicate construction vs simple structures

so i think if i get this cargo truck (5,000lb carry limit off-road, 20' shipping containers are about 4,850lbs) then using smaller shipping containers is an option.. so that will be one of the options i will begin to focus on

the other option which will probably be plan A will be the idea of using all site harvested materials, meaning probably a small cabin with a bed on the loft, of this idea, i have in mind either the square log cabin and the timber frame/pole barn construction with wood planks for siding

other ideas ive considered since i've started this thread while browsing around for ideas is the steel buildings, could even make one myself by bringing tube steel to the site, weld together a frame and cover it in sheet metal, and the other idea ive since looked into is the nessen hut which is a half-pipe shape construction often made with clay brick half-circle pieces on each end with an arched corrugated metal roof, these two idea's of course would require bringing supplies to the site and of course raise the costs in doing so, but clay bricks (i could even use site-harvested stones) are cheap, and corrugated metal would make a VERY strong roof
 

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what about insulating a cabin.. you know, the standard type of log cabin with stacked logs for walls?.. ive never lived inside one of these before so im curious as to how they are insulated? do they just have another wall on the inside for insulation or do the logs provide enough being solid?.. id use square logs though, not round ones if i go this route
First off, just follow my thread and you will see the progress on the little log cabin DH is building:

http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/countryside-families/511044-closing-property-week-10.html

Now, once the cabin is completed, which includes the roof, windows, door, the interior flooring, and insulation under the flooring...strips of insulation are pushed in between the logs, then secured with nails, bent over. When shrinkage occurs, more insulation is added, until it is time to *****. There are products used for this, which include Permachink, but we will be using mortar. So, in answering your question, no interior walls covering the logs.

Also, the cool thing about logs is the length of time they hold heat. It isn't about R-Value. The reason we use them round, instead of square? The cambion layer isn't cut into, which prolongs the life of the logs, and also prevents water damage. Also the roof overhangs are plenty wide to protect the exterior logs from getting too wet. This type of construction is very simple, but does require a bit of skill in choosing the trees, and picking the logs as you build with them, too. In order to build it level, it does take some care.

If you look at the pages of my thread, you will also see we bought a shipping container (40 feet, high cube) and also were given a refer unit truck box (40 feet long, same height as shipping container).
 

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it just seems to me like square logs would be more stable, have less gaps as they could be planed to have a very tight fit, and hold more heat.. as for sealing for water proofing, viking ships crossing the atlantic were sealed with pine tar, worked to waterproof large ships, it should work fairly well to keep rain out of a house too
 

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it just seems to me like square logs would be more stable, have less gaps as they could be planed to have a very tight fit, and hold more heat.. as for sealing for water proofing, viking ships crossing the atlantic were sealed with pine tar, worked to waterproof large ships, it should work fairly well to keep rain out of a house too
You will have settling issues that don't occur in Butt and Pass Log Homes. Read the info at this link:

http://www.dirtcheapbuilder.com/Home_Building/Log_Home_Construction.htm

Square logs are more time intensive than whole logs. Using the rebar in the construction makes the log home structure incredibly strong (stronger than square log construction). I've never seen a comparison between square logs and round logs for heat efficiency. But in terms of heat retention, the round logs would win. Even in tight fit type square log homes, there are gaps. They will need filled. What will you use to fill them? Also, how will you account for settling?

As for your example, a ship can't compare to a log home. Why? The ships are in the saltwater and wood is preserved by being wet all the time. Yes, the Pine Tar is an excellent sealant for the exterior of the wood. There will still be the gaps to seal between the logs.

What type of joints will you use, if you are planning to use square logs? If you notch to fit the corners, that weekens the wood, and also allows areas for water & pest damage. In Butt and Pass construction, the logs used in the walls and for the structural support aren't notched for those reasons.

You can really build a log home after going to Ellsworth's 2-day class. My DH did and so did 2 of his friends! It takes a lot more skill and precious time to build other types of log homes... Also, costs a lot more!

DH built a 3-story Butt and Pass Log Home (30) years ago and it is still a beautiful home to this day, standing the test of time. He logged the logs, peeled them, and built his log home with an old Dodge truck & tall log boom he built. Interesting fact- DH built his log home in 2 years, while working 60 hours/week. Driven was an understatement!

By himself, without help, DH can build a simple log cabin in two months. He isn't currently working a job away from our property, as I am the one making the income so he can build...
 

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Discussion Starter #19
well, for the square logs, maybe lay them on top of eachother with some kind of insulating material in between that could assist in settling, but i will look up round log homes too
 

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If you live in Northern WI, you better insulate the place very well since our winter starts as early as mid-November and can last til the end of April! Also, consider using triple pane (expensive) in each window location. Many insulated glass windows are not even good enough by themselves. One can make some inexpensive storms from plastic film (or glass) to add R-value during winter months - what we do. What I have always wondered is if one could simply double up windows if the walls were extra thick. Also, have a good well-insulated storm door or entry area. Windows and doors are where you lose heat. Don't live too close to Lake Superior as your growing season will be cut down by near a month due to the cold. Make sure soil is sandy loam and not clay - clay soil also restricts your growing season as it takes a while to warm up (mid June).
 
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