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Apr 17, 2021
31
12
22
Inverclyde
I'm planning a build and I'm looking for two bits of advice, maybe 3,
Im planning this shelter be underground,would the groung hold with supports if I use a mining method. Or am I better using an open method and make a roof that can be walked over. Also either method what do I have to worry on drainage, id I were to to an open method I'd use a waterproof sheet to cover is that enough
 

nigelp

Full Member
Where are you going to put the soil/substrate you dig out of the hole?
If the hole is in heavy clay type soil the volume will be up to 6 times the volume of the compressed soil when it comes out!
Is the hole/shelter on private land? Do you have permission to dig a massive hole and alter the natural environment?
How will animals be prevented from getting in or be able to get out?
If you dig a hole and cover it with plastic the sheet will get water on the middle and sag.
How high is the water table? If the hole is unable to drain it will fill with water or at the very least the bottom will.

Just some food for thought
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
5,631
5,012
Mid Wales
TBH an underground shelter is not very practical at all for all the reasons Nigel says. The trad way for a personal protection shelter is dig a trench, lace across with strong cord, put the waterproof sheet over, then cover back over with earth and turf but it's not comfortable and only to kip in.

For 'living space' you wouldn't normally dig a hole down but dig a trench into sloping ground so you have a high wall at the back and sloping walls on the sides. You then cover that with branches (pegging where necessary to stop them rolling down) and turf and earth on top of that leaving a gap at the bottom big enough to get in and out - depending on the size of you trench that could be a hole to crawl through or a door to walk through. Without a plastic sheet over the branches it will leak if it rains. You need to divert any water running down the slope from the top as well. This method is less likely to end up full of water as you can slope the floor slightly to let it drain out.

However, it's a lot of hard work :)
 

Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,394
1,360
Berlin
A friend of mine did such a thing many years ago in sand soil. A pretty large underground shelter in wooden construction an yourt shape.
He first digged the hole and put the house into the hole.

That worked really well but I wouldn't invest the effort.
If you build the same thing on top it will last you 10 times longer.
 
Last edited:

SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
887
587
Ceredigion
I'm planning a build and I'm looking for two bits of advice, maybe 3,
Im planning this shelter be underground,would the groung hold with supports if I use a mining method. Or am I better using an open method and make a roof that can be walked over. Also either method what do I have to worry on drainage, id I were to to an open method I'd use a waterproof sheet to cover is that enough
Whatever you end up doing, do make sure you support the walls and roof so that they don't cave in on you and you need plenty of drainage to get the water out. Perhaps bricks, big rocks or a layer of crushed rock to support the floor.

Soil type and water table depth will have a huge difference on what's possible.

Also what size space are we talking?
 
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Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,394
1,360
Berlin
I think that such things work relatively well in certain circumstances but there are good reasons why people in areas where it was done like that don't do it anymore like this.

And I think it's an interesting question why the Germanic house in Germany was different to the houses in Iceland or the Kotas in Lapland.
It might be just because Vikings were used to ships that serve well as a house if turned upside down, and Sami were used to tents and both copied that concepts in wood and earth.

But that doesn't answer the question why most North Europeans always did put the house onto the surface instead of digging holes.

Or am I wrong and we did that in hill areas?

Does anybody know where these cave men in the videos live and why such constructions work there?
It looks as if that is or was a usual life stile there. The guys in the videos seem to know what they do.
 
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Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,394
1,360
Berlin
Might be an option for hot summer nights if the field beds are stored somewhere else.
If it works well you can rent it out as an event hotel, decorated with a few grave goods of your personal choice.

For example "Sleeping like a dead Viking King".

:encourage:
 
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Kadushu

Full Member
Jul 29, 2014
391
375
Kent
But that doesn't answer the question why most North Europeans always did put the house onto the surface instead of digging holes.
Maybe simply because digging and moving soil/rock is hard work, especially with primitive tools and it's also hard on those tools. Once you're in a time/place where the ground is frozen it becomes impossible.
 

SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
887
587
Ceredigion
I think that such things work relatively well in certain circumstances but there are good reasons why people in areas where it was done like that don't do it anymore like this.

And I think it's an interesting question why the Germanic house in Germany was different to the houses in Iceland or the Kotas in Lapland.
It might be just because Vikings were used to ships that serve well as a house if turned upside down, and Sami were used to tents and both copied that concepts in wood and earth.

But that doesn't answer the question why most North Europeans always did put the house onto the surface instead of digging holes.

Or am I wrong and we did that in hill areas?

Does anybody know where these cave men in the videos live and why such constructions work there?
It looks as if that is or was a usual life stile there. The guys in the videos seem to know what they do.
In Southern Sweden, backstugor (’hill cottages’) were common historically (up until the mid-1900s in some cases). They were built into the south side of hillsides and were used to house poor people (they didn’t have to pay property tax to the state, just rent to the landowner). Some of them use the hill side to provide just the back wall and a bit of the side wall, with the rest of the walls being built like normal and with a complete roof. These houses usually sat level with the ground. Others were dug in deeper (horizontally) and only had the front wall built up and a roof. Some were dug down completely with only a roof and a small wall around the entrance built by conventional means (stone, planks etc). Building them into a hill side meant you only had to have material for ”half a house” so to speak. Most of them were very small, but still being under a proper roof must have been better than the alterntives...
 
Apr 17, 2021
31
12
22
Inverclyde
Whatever you end up doing, do make sure you support the walls and roof so that they don't cave in on you and you need plenty of drainage to get the water out. Perhaps bricks, big rocks or a layer of crushed rock to support the floor.

Soil type and water table depth will have a huge difference on what's possible.

Also what size space are we talking?
Im using the shape of the land while aiming for square, it would allow a person to stand comfortly and (being square) at least or about 3 metres. I don't know much about drainage, so would a waterproof sheet covering the whole shelter a d then some wouldn't work? If I made a collecting drainage it could provide some of my water
 
Apr 17, 2021
31
12
22
Inverclyde
Herman, I think these are more the source of inspiration, given earlier questions about bamboo and the thought to use Roman cement on the walls.




These are more basic sorts of things from a UK kind of environment
They are part of it but I'm getting kicked out and till they can find a place for my dog and me, I know I have time if I start now even without full use of my arms
 
Apr 17, 2021
31
12
22
Inverclyde
In Southern Sweden, backstugor (’hill cottages’) were common historically (up until the mid-1900s in some cases). They were built into the south side of hillsides and were used to house poor people (they didn’t have to pay property tax to the state, just rent to the landowner). Some of them use the hill side to provide just the back wall and a bit of the side wall, with the rest of the walls being built like normal and with a complete roof. These houses usually sat level with the ground. Others were dug in deeper (horizontally) and only had the front wall built up and a roof. Some were dug down completely with only a roof and a small wall around the entrance built by conventional means (stone, planks etc). Building them into a hill side meant you only had to have material for ”half a house” so to speak. Most of them were very small, but still being under a proper roof must have been better than the alterntives...
That's the main reason on this project. And being underground means neds won't find it
 
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Apr 17, 2021
31
12
22
Inverclyde
A friend of mine did such a thing many years ago in sand soil. A pretty large underground shelter in wooden construction an yourt shape.
He first digged the hole and put the house into the hole.

That worked really well but I wouldn't invest the effort.
If you build the same thing on top it will last you 10 times longer.
That's a good idea to build my shelter into the hole for my purpose
 

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