“Boonie Builds… or Beachfront… or Bayou…” even. ;)

10 Oct

It’s becoming clear that the American economy is on a spiral down and Congress is playing media games instead of addressing the crisis at hand.

Unemployment is claiming more and more victims of a marketplace that “fails or flees”…

How many jobs have fled to places like Malaysia or Mumbai lately?

And inflation is driving up the cost of everything. We can see it reflected weekly in our journeys into those “hallowed halls”… the grocery store.

They say that we’re in a “Global Recession”…

How did this happen? It brings to mind “Chicken and Egg” questions;

As times get harder, many families are starting to consider the construction of a secondary “Fallback” home or shelter. Many people we talk to lately are looking at “Affordable Housing Solutions” being designed and built to be constructed in the “third world”.

“Guys, I saw a set of plans on-line, for a $300 house. Why can’t I do something like that using an ISBU (Shipping Container)?”

“Well, for starters, that ISBU is going to cost you a hundred dollars a foot, plus delivery.” I remind them.

They mean well, and they’re acting in what is sometimes close to “desperation”.

But they ARE on to something;

Let’s talk about DIY Housing – ala “Fallback” or even “Vacation Home/Fishing Camp/Hunting Lodge”;

This is not about “silver spoons” or even “silver rounds”… be you rich, poor and middle class we all face the same problems.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Survivalist, a Prepper, or a Family that just wants to get away from the city from time to time…

Your new cabin/fallback/shelter has to fit the following criteria in order to fulfill your needs over the long haul;

It has to be SAFE.

It has to be SUSTAINABLE.

It has to be AFFORDABLE.

It has to be Structurally APPROPRIATE to the region’s climate.

It has to be “culturally applicable”.

(Building a home intended for Haiti only works if you are IN HAITI… capish?)


It has be designed to be EASILY CONSTRUCTED.

and last but not least,

Your wife (or significant other) has to want to live in it.

There is nothing worse than building a place in the woods, that is filled with discontent and uproar. You built the place to get away from that, in the first place!

Building shelter in the wilderness isn’t that much different than building “Third World” Housing in many regards.

Generally, it all starts with the same conditions. This is due in part to the fact that this type of housing in these “brave new worlds” is often fraught with peril due to natural disasters like earthquakes and flooding, fires and tornadoes…

Is it hot? Is it cold? Is it wet? Is it dry?

All these factors need to be carefully considered.

Often, DIY housing is built by people who really don’t have an intimate understanding of WHAT or WHERE they are trying to build.

Your shelter needs to be effective and well thought out, structurally accurate and it MUST be climatically responsible, as well.

I recently talked with a DIY family that is building an ISBU Home in Wyoming.

This is thrifty family that understands what “recycling” means. I have to give them that. Over 70% of their home build was reclaimed or recycled and repurposed materials.

They were happy with their accomplishments… until we started talking about the actual construction of the home.  

They were quite proud of the fact that they’d gotten all their insulation for free. (I would be too!) They told me that they were using rigid insulation boards that were 2″ thick. They’d put it into the walls and the ceiling. In fact, they doubled it in the ceiling.

Rigid PolyIso boards will get you an R12-14 (depending on brand and type) in that thickness. It’s good stuff.

BUT – this isn’t enough for the cold winters of Wyoming. IMHO – they needed at least double that thickness in the walls.

It got worse. As it turns out, they didn’t use “rigid insulation material” at all. They used scrap Polystyrene (Styrofoam) that they salvaged from a local furniture company.

Styrofoam has an r value of about 4 per inch, at it’s best.

So, they actually had approximately r8 in their walls. Not good. Now factor in openings like doors and windows… and that wall system was NOT going to stand up to Wyoming Winters… Brrrrr!

Now couple that with a reliance on a woodstove for heat.

That means “open flames”. It’s a “Time Bomb” waiting to happen.

Styrofoam is extremely flammable.

Using Styrofoam as insulation requires that you actually put a firewall between IT and YOU.

At minimum, you’re going to need to cover that styrofoam with 5/8″ drywall. What did THEY use? Recycled wood paneling painted with latex paint. Thickness? A  QUARTER OF AN INCH, tops.

Oh crap.


Let’s talk about PolyIso Rigid Insulation Boards… what they THOUGHT they were using.

Image: Wikipedia

According to the PolyIso Association:

“PolyIso is a closed-cell, rigid foam board insulation consisting of a foam core sandwiched between two facers. The facers are composed of various organic and inorganic materials, usually paper and fiberglass. It is widely used in both residential and commercial markets for both roof and side wall applications.”

I literally swear by the stuff. If you’re not fortunate enough to be using SPF (Spray Closed Cell Foam Insulation)… then PolyIso is the way to go, as far as I’m concerned.

PolyIso insulation has many attributes including (again, I’m quoting from the PolyIso Association with MY own two cents worth – comments in italics):

Polyiso is the most thermally efficient rigid board insulation available in the marketplace; it has the highest R-value per inch of thickness.

Moisture resistant foam core.

FREE Moisture Barrier!

Compatible with most solvents used in construction adhesives.

NO SCREWS needed to install it! Use GLUE!

Excellent dimensional stability

Superior performance in fire tests – Polyiso meets the strict standard of both FM Class 1 Approvals (FM 4450/4470), UL 1256, and CAN/ULC S126M

Wide range of service temperatures.

Desert or Mountains, PolyIso is your boy…

Long Term R-value (PolyIso insulation is the only roof insulation with third party certification – according to the PolyIso Assn)

It doesn’t rot, settle, degrade or leak. What you install is what you get… forever… UNLIKE Fiberglass batts.

Sounds good right? It’s because PolyIso Insulation IS good.

Polyiso has the highest per inch R-value of any insulation available. Because of its superior R-value, homes and buildings that use PolyIso insulation products have lower heating and cooling costs than similar structures insulated with other materials of the same thickness.

On the other hand;

Polystyrene is a petroleum-based plastic made from the styrene monomer.

Most people know it under the trade name Styrofoam.

Polystyrene is a light-weight material consisting of about 95% AIR, with very good insulation properties and is used in all types of products from cups that keep your beverages hot or cold to packaging material that keep your computers safe during shipping.

But the best you’re going to do with it as insulation… is about r4 per inch.

AND, IMHO – it’s not going to give you a decent vapor or moisture barrier.

It’s going to degrade and decay as well, because it’s open cell. It’s porous. Stuff gets in and then… rots.

Using it for wall assemblies gets you inferior walls, even if it was cheap. To use it in this manner, you’d need to fir out your walls with 2×8’s and then put several sheets into each cavity, one on top of the other, to get to the r value you needed.

They have an r8 now. They’d need to stack those Styrofoam sheets three panels deep (6″ total), to reach anything close to r24 with polystyrene. And with doors and windows, they’d get about an r20 wall system at the cost of a LOT of square footage now eaten up by those thicker walls.

And… in the ceiling… they had about an R16-20. Nowhere NEAR the amount of insulation that they’d require. The home was going to become an “energy glutton” as they literally cut down every tree in the forest to keep the wood stove burning, 24/7.

Can you imagine how many sheets of Styrofoam they’d need to build a “decently performing” roof in Wyoming?

They actually built a “metal tent”.

And now… as I type this… they’re tearing all that paneling off so they can pull out that Styrofoam and START OVER…

Look, it doesn’t matter what KIND of home you’re building.

Your home MUST be “appropriately designed and constructed”.

Over the next several weeks, we’re going to look at “Low Cost – High Speed” Shelters and homes that can be constructed by a family that desires a “change in their lifestyle”.

How’s this for “Hardened Living in Style”?

Can you say “inherently Anti-Ballistic”? That “Geiger fellow” is a genius!

And… our CORGANIX Home is ANOTHER example of what you can do IF you put your mind (and your back) into it.

Stay tuned.


One Response to ““Boonie Builds… or Beachfront… or Bayou…” even. ;)”

  1. The Urbivalist (@Urbivalist) October 14, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    I’m naming my firstborn PolyIso. Sounds like amazing stuff.

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