Tag Archives: real estate

Who’s buying Houses?

12 Jun

With housing moving as slow as molasses, many families are building their own energy efficient, affordable homes,, in lieu of trying to arm-wrestle a bank for a shot at an affordable foreclosure.

Where I currently reside, there’s a foreclosure on almost every street in town.

While this is happening to our neighborhoods…

… some realtors are sending me “hate mail” telling me that “I need to shut up because housing is doing better than ever”.

So I have to ask;

“Yeah? Who’s buying these homes?”

Nick answered the question for me.

Foreigners Snap Up Properties in the U.S.

BY NICK TIMIRAOS

The six-year slide in U.S. home prices and the dollar’s weakness against some currencies are driving a property-buying binge by Asians, Canadians, Europeans and Latin Americans eager to own a piece of America.

Plowing money into real estate may sound like a risky venture to many Americans. But to growing numbers of foreigners, U.S. housing has never seemed a smarter investment.

International buyers accounted for $82.5 billion, or 8.9%, of the $928 billion spent on residential real estate in the 12-month period that ended in March, according a survey released Monday by the National Association of Realtors…

(Click the headline to read more…)

What do we make of this?

Who was it that said; “There’s a sucker born every minute”?

IMHO – These “investors” are in for hard ride.  US  properties will continue to decline in value.

What’s that? I hear Realtors gnashing their teeth and wailing at my decree…

I say this because sooner or later…

…the fed is going to be forced to end their “near zero percent interest rate policy” – which was enabled to prop up the Wall St capitalists as well as the failed housing sector –  in the next 2 years or LESS.

When this happens, you can expect up to a 20-30 percent price drop in real estate when even fewer “buyers/suckers” will qualify for a mortgage due to the rapidly rising interest rates.

Okay, gotta go now. My “Hate Mail inbox” is filling up… 🙂

 

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Man Makes $329,984 from a $16 investment. Thank You, Internet!

10 Aug

They say you can find anything on the internet.

Now, I know they say that because I hear it all the time.

Well, now I’ve seen everything. Kenneth Robinson, a diehard Texas Real Estate man, proved it to be true.

You see,  Robinson used an obscure Texas law he researched online called adverse possession to obtain property rights to an abandoned $330,000 McMansion in Flower Mound, Texas.

From Google Earth

The $16 bucks wasn’t for bandwidth, either. It was used to pay a court filing fee to allow him to get legal access to the property.

Read more about it HERE.

Note:

I thought this sounded really fishy, so I called a real estate lawyer and asked if it was really possible. He said;

“Like others have noted, there is a “hitch” to using the “adverse possession” loophole;  to take advantage of it, the new “owner” must immediately pay all outstanding and current property taxes owed on the real estate.

Now, we’re talking about a house that costs $300+ grand and that’s not chump change in the property tax department. You have to figure on about $5 grand a year, at least.  And there are probably going to be outstanding penalties too.”

So Robinson is looking at being out of pocket somewhere between $30 and $50 grand before it’s all over.

That considered, he’s still getting the home for less than 15% of it’s appraised value.

When I started checking this story out, it became clear that people were really agitated at Robinson for;

(a) figuring out how to do it, and then

(b) actually pulling it off.

The question of the day seems to be;

“Would you even want to live in a nearly free home if everyone else in the community were out to get you?”

Lemme see… I just got a nice home for 15% of it’s value, in a good neighborhood, because I used my wits. The neighbors don’t like it.

Hmmm… Too bad. They’re probably just jealous that they didn’t think of it.  😉

Sailing the Prairie and planking the palace…

15 Nov

Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed…

Lately, I’ve been writing about a village that’s being created out of separate ISBU segments, transformed into modules specific to fulfilling a defined task.

Apparently, it boggles the minds of some of my readers, that anyone would address the concept of actually having to walk from one space to another, to accomplish a task.

Where in the world would we get such a crazy idea?

Are we nuts?

Did we grow up raised by wolves?

Are we (gasp!) Democrats?

(Sorry, just threw that last one in for “sport…”) 🙂

You’d think we were hankering for a return to the Stone Age, but we’re not. Okay, maybe just a little bit… “Bubba’s hunting Brontosauruses…” Can you imagine what a funny reality TV show THAT would be?  Makes me laugh just thinkin’ about it! 🙂

Where was I? Oh yeah…

Remember…  not all that far back in our Nations great history, brave families braved the planet, by doing exactly what we’re suggesting.

They sailed the plains and prairies in Conestoga Wagons, and then got out their handy dandy “Ronco Chop-a-matics“…

By the way… they even had “bio-fuel” back then… ‘cept… they actually ATE the corn… 🙂

And they built log homes out of sweat, blood, and a lot of profanity, let me tell you!

Bales1

How do I know this? Well, I’ve actually participated in the building of a log home or two, and lemme tell you… the language around those sites can make a sailor blush!

“Puritans” my butt! I bet that they swore like “Bikers at a buttkicking contest!” They did too! YOU try living like they did… 🙂

Where I live… If you get on Highway 49 headed North, from Gulfport, Mississippi and head toward Hattiesburg and Jackson (the State Capital), you can still see some of these “homespun” structures housing families, to this very day. Keep driving up into the heart of Tennessee, and you’ll find them used as “monuments.”

And… a large majority of those cabins turned out to be “two-roomers.”

Take this plan, for instance;

2roomerSome of them still have old highway billboards being used as roofing material. I kid you not!

And hey! If you look closely… you can even see the origins of “housing terminology” that we still use today…

Words like “breezeway” for instance… It came from the term “dog trot.” It was the place where the DOG trotted between the houses two structures. In the Deep South,  the term “dog trot” is still used, to this very day.

When those “Son and Daughters of the South…  and all parts in between” needed more space, they just built another “pen.”

Hey, don’t blame me… that’s what they called them!

Separate buildings were necessary… It’s because you can’t really expand an “interlocking log” cabin, because you need the corners to hold it up.

So, we’re changing the name of our project, from “the Ewok Village on Acid” to “The Demented Dog Trots of Dixie.”

Just thought that you should know…

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninOkay, you all know what’s going on with my family, so I’m not going to beat you up with that…

If this blog has helped you, educated you, amused you, or even just made you shake your head and wonder why I’m not locked up in some room clad with rubber tiles…

Please know that this site has required a great deal of money, time and effort to develop & maintain. If it’s been useful to you at all, and you can afford to… You can help my family and support this site by making a small donation by hitting that Paypal button up there on the right.

Paypal is the VERY BEST “secure” way to donate to any cause… like ours.

This will help keep us alive while we try to remedy our own situation, and empower me to carry on writing, maintaining, providing countless hours of hard work, and including any updates or topics that you might suggest.

And… No anatomical impossibilities, huh? I’m not as young as I used to be…

Building on the Frontier – ISBU style!

13 Nov

Greetings, Campers!

Today, we’re going to answer that age old question…

How do you “guerrilla” around a 9,000 pound ISBU, when you don’t have a crane??

I’m about to show you how they do it in Nicaragua. It may be ugly… it may be risky… but it works.

Now, this isn’t the first ISBU (shipping container) house to be built in Nicaragua (like the builder claims)… far from it.  That part is an outright lie. They could be found there in the 80’s, when a lot of us were down there “playing peek-a-boo in very ballistic Banana Republics.”

Back in the heyday… United Foods used to bring them down, to load them up with produce headed for America. And, they used to just get up and walk away, in the middle of the night.

Now, the Russians used to bring them in too, in order to stuff them to the walls until they were bulging, and then send them back to Moscow laden with produce, after Chernobyl sterilized most of the Ukraine in the late 80’s.

I know that’s true, too, because we turned a lot of those containers (and the ships they were “attached” to) into “artificial reefs.”

So, they were plentiful.

I’ve actually been to places in Nicaragua that were constructed of ISBUs, whole villages wrapped in Corten Steel. In fact, we used to joke that we’d accidentally eaten something toxic and (upon awakening, after the fever finally broke) found ourselves in the middle of a bad Hollywood Sci Fi Movie set. We’re talk “Mad Max” here…”

You could find these places from San Juan Del Norte, north to Punta Gorda, and even further north to the Rio Escondido, for sure. We were never quite sure how they GOT there, as the nearest shipping port was quite a distance away.

You can also find them on the “good side” where all the surf camps are.

In remote locations such as these, we used tractor buckets, backhoes, and even Lulls, with straps thru shackles at the corner “points” to haul them around. It just takes a steady crew, and some guts.

And Nicaragua is trying to become the “Riviera of Central America.” These “fast-built” ISBU homes may just make some of that “aspiration” possible.

American dollars, fleeing a rapidly failing economy will do the rest… Hey, it ain’t Rio, but it’ll do… and it’s ten times better than Panama!

See more about this project, here: Tech-Nica

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

To Dome, or not to Dome…

11 Nov

It’s me again…

I’m like that unruly relative who keeps showing up at the front door because: “My wife threw me out again, because I didn’t do nothing wrong, except get really hammered… again… and then wreck the car… again…” 🙂

WAIT! That’s not it! Nuh-uh! I’d shoot that guy in the head. Twice!

I’M the guy building a home for his family, out of shipping containers and aircraft hangar parts. And, I’m teaching other people how to do it, too! And… some of them are actually listening to me… the rubes! 🙂

Seriously, we’re trying to demonstrate by example that you can build your own affordable, sustainable, energy efficient home without being a NASA scientist or tying yourself to a huge mortgage, or living a life fueled by “keeping up with the Joneses.”

And we’re doing just that. 7 of my families are building their own homes, as  I type this. You could be  too…

NO! Not “7 of my families” in the biblical sense! What are you, nuts? 🙂

Anyway…

In between fighting with Planning and Zoning Nazis and the State of Mississippi, and helping other families get their projects moving, I check my email. I don’t know WHY?  Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment.

Every time I open my email… I get accused of being (a) stupid, (b) crazy, or (c) both.

But… you know what they say… “sticks and stones…”

I’m just going to have to change my email address so that my Mom doesn’t know what it is! 🙂

Lately, I’ve been getting a ton of flack over this whole “ISBU” thing…

Okay, so it’s not just “lately,” it’s been since Day ONE…

And, I get all kinds of people who send me stuff that starts out with:

“Forget that ISBU nonsense! I’ve read all about these polycarbonate domes on the market now, that are touted as being ‘the next big thing’…”

camo_domeI keep having people ask me about the “domed shelter” idea… you know the ones I mean… that come in a 20′ diameter (314 square feet) configuration.

Of course, they’re talking about Intershelter’s Polycarbonate Dome system. And, I’ve gotta say that at first glance, they’re pretty enticing.

And okay, I’m warning you up front, that I’m going to have some fun, at Intershelter’s expense. And, I hope that they have a sense of humor.

Look, I’m well known because I say exactly what’s on my tiny little mind.

You don’t like it? Well… Tough Noogies…

I’m not a politician or a diplomat. If you have any doubts about what I’m talking about, read the disclaimer  over there on the right side of your page. Capish?

In advance: I don’t hate their product at all. In fact, it’s kinda cool. But like every “shelter solution,” it has it’s potentials, and it’s pitfalls.

You want something that you can deliver by C-130 aircraft or military helicopter and slap up in a hurry, when you’re on an expedition into the Great White North, to document Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, or even a bevy of attractive Eskimo girls in seal fur… this may be the solution.

Wanna explore the Sahara looking for buried African treasure troves? Well, give a bunch of camel’s a humongous hernia… or parachute a bunch of these puppies into your base camp. Hey, all those Nigerian Internet scam artists had to hide the loot somewhere, right?

Wanna start a cult out in the middle of nowhere (that you can pack up and move at a moments notice)?  You know… like when the trigger-happy guys from ATF  (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) show up dressed in bulletproofs… after they figure out your “current” address? Okay, here ya go!

001_ADozenDomesv02And, they can even interlock, to form big old “chemistry class bubbles!” Yahoo!  🙂

Wanna have a “Jewish Jamboree” in the land that Moses spent 40 years exploring? I bet you could even find a Kosher bunch of “half shells…” Um… maybe not.  Shellfish ain’t never kosher!  And… Probably not even plastic “half-shell – Jonah eating”  shellfish. We’ll have to  ask a Rabbi… Oy Vey! 🙂

Looking for a cool camping “tent” that ain’t a tent? One that’ll make your kids really mad at you, when you make them haul it out of the truck, piece by piece, to erect in the clearing of your choice? Okay! This will do the trick!

(And, it’ll keep the little buggers out of your hair all weekend, because they’ll be so mad at you for making them do chores! And, they can’t kill you by sneaking up and burning it down… that burning insulation will make a terrific popping sound as it combusts! )  😉

Hey all this talk about “popping sounds” is making me hungry… Time out while I make a batch of popcorn!  🙂

Okay, where was I? Oh yeah…

Does the dome system have some really cool “Military Applications?” Probably, if you can find a way to insure that it’s capable of being transformed into something “anti-ballistic.”

Nothing screws up “a nice dream about home…” like getting shot in the butt… while it’s still in your rack.

But is it really an affordable housing solution? I’m not so sure…

Let’s run it up the flagpole, and see who salutes… okay?  😉

The domes we’re talking about are made of a very cool polycarbonate panel system (that you can insulate for $2,500 extra) that costs about US$12,000+  for the base structure. (This figure is based on the  most recent pricing data I’ve seen – as of November 10th, 2009)

artic_domes

So… that’s $14,500.00 plus crating and shipping, for an empty, non-floored, non-foundationed, insulated 20′ beer cooler/dome. And that shipping and handling is going to add at least another $500 bucks…

(I’m being generous here, it will probably cost substantially more.)

But hey… they gotta be cool, because they (somebody overheard one of the manufacturers reps say it, repeatedly…) claim that Brad Pitt bought some of them, right?

So what? That’s almost $48 per square foot! WTF? Are you absolutely freakin’ nuts?

Sorry… lost it there for a moment… Let me just take several deep cleansing breaths… ah… that’s much better! 🙂

Evidently… my suspicions have been confirmed. Even if Brad was “mondo cool enough” to get Angelina… (sigh! excuse me a moment while I pleasure myself with a little daydream about “Angie baby“)…

angelina-jolie-pregnantHow can you not love this face? (sigh!)

… if Mr. Pitt thinks that these domes will work as “affordable permanent housing,” well… Brad Pitt is a complete whacko! He’s “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs” crazy… His “bats” have bats… in his belfrey.

But; “wait a minute…” you say… “domes have some good things going for them!”

They look really cool!

Yeah, I agree. They DO look cool. IF… you’re an Eskimo! Otherwise, you live in a house that looks like it fell out of a seagull’s butt…

And hey! I mean… NO corners – So… No place for the wind to grab, during a “big storm event.” No wind shearing!

Okay, I’ll give you that one…

“They’ll withstand a Category 5 hurricane direct hit! I know it’s true ‘cuz they said it on their website! I think… “

Uh huh… Sure it will. Prove it. THEY haven’t. Give me the address of the house. I’m POSITIVE that they didn’t say that. That would be incredibly stupid. Not even an idiot would say that.

And… because it has NO corners… floodwater goes around them  without knocking them down… right? Well Ronin? What you gotta say now, Mr Smarty Pants? Huh?

Um… Jeez, you are one gullible sap, aren’t you? You honestly believe that a wall of hurricane driven water won’t knock down a plastic dome that weighs nearly nothing, in comparison… Uh huh… again… PROVE IT!!

Well, okay… you gotta admit that they’re easy to wash… Just start hosing off the top, and it’ll all come running down, and wash the sides.

Seriously, when’s the last time you washed the outside of your house? Me? Like NEVER. That’s what G-D made “rain” for… duh! 🙂

And when they’re all shiny clean? Those domes will still look like great big bird droppings.  🙂

So, when the poop hits the fan… there’s gonna be a line for them at Walmart, huh? Just whip out that GoldCard, and “Kerblammo!”

Instant shelter…

Well, “bull-hoo-hoo-hoo-freakin-hooey!”

First, who is their right mind would live in a plastic dome, without any insulation? And, what Planning and Zoning Nazi would let them, even if they wanted to?

That said, why does the insulation cost extra? Hmmm? Why didn’t they just include it in the first place?

That’s just kinda STUPID, with a “capital” STUPE! But, I could be wrong. It could happen… some day. 😉

And, I could go on about the polycarbonate shell, but I’m trying not to make you feel like a complete imbecile… sort of…

I mean, it IS kinda fun… ya big dope!  🙂

Here’s the one big problem with a dome…

Ever tried to live in a round room?

Ever tried to lay one out so that you could use decent “off the shelf” materials to finish it out?

Ever tried to do it without being a Master Carpenter? Ever tried to cut exactly correct complex curves, into every single piece of wood in the freakin’ place? Huh? Well?

Ever tried to squeeze every wasted part of a circle into something usable?

clint-eastwood-dirty-harryWell, have ya, punk? 🙂

There’s a better way… if you’re not stupid.

You’re not, right? Cuz’… I mean.. If ya are, you better stop reading now… and head on over to “Google Games” or something… 🙂

Now where was I? Oh yeah… and pay attention, because there’s a “pop quiz” at the end….

I need an insulated shell with an area of approximately 310 square feet, right? One that I can haul in by myself, without any heavy equipment…

Here’s how I’D do it;

(Now remember, Ronin don’t have a team of NASA engineers, or a plastics lab, or a manufacturing facility, or a million dollars in start-up money. He’s flyin’ solo…)

Start with 1″x 4′ x 8′ sheets of plywood. Exterior grade, about (16) of them will do. Match that with (12) 4′ x 12′ x 1/2″ sheetrock panels. Get the mold resistant ones, huh? Condensation is a real pain in the butt…

Put that all together with some spray-on closed-cell foam insulation, and you’ll get pre-Insulated and Interlocking 4′ x 8′ “sandwich” panels, that paired up… will form (8) 8′ x 8′ Wall assembly sections of your octagon.

octomom
NO! Not “Octomom…” If  she’s gonna live there, you’re gonna need a LOT more room… and medication. A truckload of med’s….

2″ of sprayed on closed-cell foam would provide approximately r14 walls. You’ll need that much insulation at LEAST.

But, just for the sake of holding you up to public ridicule, we’re just gonna go “cheap…” 😉

Precast steel corner pieces will adjust each wall assembly to the “right” angle, and that will allow assembly of  the “octagon.” These pieces already exist, off-the-shelf, so why make them, when you can buy ’em already? Look ’em up in a catalog on-line… that’s what I did.

Buy em LONG. At least 10′. We want at least 18″ up over the top of that wall. Why? Well, if we extend the supports up past the top of the insulated panels we just made, we can put thick clear plastic sheeting in there to “daylight” the center of that octagon.

And, if you keep following this post series, you’ll see what else you can do with an 8’x9’6″ opening.

But for now;

Several different “panel component” assemblies will allow for window insertion or door insertion, etc…

(16) panels would create an (8) sided, 310 square foot housing unit, with (2) 36″ entry doors and (4) 32″ windows.

Of course, you could always install a set of 8′ sliding glass doors, too. Just replace one wall assembly with the door set. That’d bring in a ton of light, and even help you heat the home, if you used a thermal mass floor… like maybe concrete. And you could do it for the price as one of the wall assemblies,  if you used a “salvaged set” from a scrapyard or salvage supplier.

The octagonal roof would simply be (8) interlocking SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) approximately 10″ thick. Each panel would be light enough to be handled by (2) men. The assembled roof would require no “support.”

In the center of the roof would be a “draft inducer assembly” built into an 8 sided SIPs “receiver” to complete the roof.

This inducer would allow a wood stove or other heating device to be placed in the center of the housing module, to heat the unit. Or… forget the draft inducer, and install a skylight.

This entire housing module would “flat-pack…”  enabling it to be transported by a pickup truck or small flatbed trailer..

Assembly onto a pre-built wooden “foundation” platform would take approximately 3-4 hours, with 2 able-bodied men.

Yield: (1) Small (approx 310 square foot) family unit with a 12′ roof, includes sleeping loft, kitchen, bathroom, living area, and additional sleeping quarters for Ma and Pa Kettle.

Cost for shell:

Note: I’m just talking about the empty structure (just like the dome shell quote), the foundation is extra.

$108.00     (12) 4′ x 12′ x 1/2″ Sheetrock  @ $9.00 each

$  40.00     (16) 104″ 2x4s – for bottom and top plates  at   $ 2.50  each

$850.00    (10) Blank 4′ x 8′ x 3.5″ Insulated Panel at approximately $85.00 per to fabricate

$770.00   (4) Window 4′ x 8′ x 3.5″ Insulated Panel at $192.50  each

We used “good” Dual Pane insulated glass 32″ x 60″ windows.

$390.00    (2) Door 4′ x 8′ x 3/5″ Insulated Panel at $195.00 each

We used decent – contractor grade 6-panel 36″ steel – (foam insulated) doors.

$ 80.00     (8) Panel Interlocks – Straight at $10.00 each

$ 96.00     (8) Panel Interlocks – Angled at  $12.00 each

$680.00   (8) SIP Interlocking 10″ Roof Segments  at approximately $85.00 each to fabricate

$ 85.00     (1) Draft Inducer Roof Crown at $85.00 to fabricate

$100.00   (1) Hardware/Sealer Kit full of nuts, bolts, screws, silicone caulking, flashing, and other stuff…

Grand total:

$6,199.00    OR   $19.99 per square foot.

Now… you have a complete shell with r15 (actual) walls that perform like r19, and r41 (actual) roof that performs like r62.

What? What’s this “actual/perform” crap?

Because air-tightness, moisture resistance, and thermal mass are properties that are inherent with closed-cell foam and SIPS, so they will out-perform their given R-Values in comparison to fiberglass batts. That’s why! Don’t you READ the blog? Well? Huh?  🙂

Not feeling silly enough yet? Okay, let’s pave the road to “Dufasberg” further… 🙂

Now… just add (on your own dime, because we’re just trying to compare “likey-likey”) a concrete foundation or an elevated wood deck platform, maybe a solar panel to help with domestic hot water production, and even a photovoltaic panel or two, to bump that utility meter backwards a little bit… plus the necessary electrical and plumbing.

Back to “spendy-spendy…”:

Waterproof it (just in case, even though that closed-cell insulation forms both a water AND a vapor barrier), side it, and slap some felt and shingles on the roof.

Roofing material for that 325+ square foot roof is going to cost you about $600.00

After all that, you still have about $8,200.00 to play with.

Put some kind of siding on the outside of the house.

I’ll give you a grand to do that with…

Now, you’re down to $7,200.00.

Figure a kitchen at  (let’s be generous, okay?) about $3,000.00;

$500    36″ Stove
$500    Refrigerator
$250    Sink (double) and fixtures
$200    Microwave (?)  Or your wife will kill you…
$900    Cabinets – Home Depot or Lowe’s – El Cheapo’s
$165    Countertops (I’ll make them outta stained concrete)

That’s $2,515 bucks… So, you can afford a new set of pots and pans…

… and a decent bathroom runs right at $2000.00;

$725    60″ x 42″ Tub/Tub Surround/Shower Access
$250    Toilet
$150    Sink and fixtures
$250    Lavatory Cabinet
$250    Tile for flooring

$500   Hot Water Heater  (40 gallon at least…)

$2,125.00 IF you bought everything at retail.  Oops… My bad…

But, we did have a few bucks left over from the kitchen, so we’re okay…

And you’ll need a heat source…I’d buy a wood stove, if I wanted to stay in budget. Can you say “Craigslist?”

But… Here’s what I’d actually do… even if I had to cut out my kid’s allowance to pay for it;

I’d go out and get  a 1.5 ton Heat-A/C unit like this one…

m_s_splitAnd, yes… even the “Dome nuts” agree with me that it uses 50% less energy than other existing HVAC units.

If you’re “careful shoppers,” and you “google” your brains out… that HVAC system is gonna cost you about $3,000.00 to $3,500.00. I know it sounds steep, but you’ll thank me later…

Now, you have a home that can be heated to 72 degrees year round – summer heat or winter snow… for just pennies a day. Plus, it has a built in battery back up system that will operate it for up to 12 hours, if the power fails.

It runs on DC voltage, too. Couple that baby with a dedicated photovoltaic panel array, and you’d have a killer heat/cooling system, that didn’t cost you a dime to operate. Ever.

Okay… ‘cept maintenance. Sheesh… everybody’s a critic! 🙂

It’s not like I’ve actually thought this out or anything, but…

Do all that, and then throw in some nice patio furniture (because it’s cheap, durable, washable, easy to haul up there in your pick-up, and it’s probably on sale right now, at a Walmart near you!) and voila!

Instant “BOB” (“Bug-Out-Box”) easily assembled in a week.

A WEEK. TWO weeks… TOPS.

And, if you’re careful, you’ll probably have spent that $15,000+ that those dome guys were trying to “bamboozle” you out of… but you’ll have AN ENTIRE HOUSE, filled with BRAND SPANKING NEW appliances and fixtures.

Okay, they’re not really trying to bamboozle you!!  Those domes cost money! They put some serious work into producing them. They’re worth every penny that you spend for them, in the right conditions and circumstances.

If  I was faced with ANY of the scenario’s that I described up at the top of this post… (especially that “cult one…”) I’d buy one, myself… or maybe 12!  😉

But, for that kinda money, or maybe a little bit more (if you buy the “super deluxe” HVAC unit I showed you) you can have an entire house that will last for years… that any idiot can build… all by themselves in just a few weekends….

AFTER they built the foundation, and installed the septic tank. Duh!   😉

So what if it’s not an ISBU! I don’t care, as long as your family is safe. That’s the ONLY thing I care about…

And… it’ll be complete and ready to move into at a moment’s notice.

For a few bucks more, you can turn that same box into an eco-friendly completely off-grid home (simply by adding some more photovoltaic panels to your array), perfect for weekends in the mountains, or even as an emergency shelter, when things go nuts.

brad_pittBrad Pitt… what a moron… lucky… but a moron if he thinks these domes are the answer to “permanent housing”… IMHO.

I hope he doesn’t.  Angelina deserves better…  😉

(Picture Ronin rolling his eyes, and waving his finger in a circle around his ear…)

Now, if I build one of these little houses… (again… Shhhh!)… I’m gonna come in WAY under that…

… because I’m going to use salvaged cabinets from a “Habitat for Humanity” store, recycled “appliances and fixtures,” and anything else I can get “recycled,” like doors and windows.

And, I’ll do almost ALL of the labor myself.

I’ll spend about $10-12,000 to do it, all the way through. And, you’ll never be able to tell the difference.

Wait… yes you will… Mine will be the one surrounded with barbed wire…  and “Border Buddy” landmines. 😉

YOU could do it too. This ain’t rocket science…

In conclusion (I bet you thought that this would never end, huh?);

Those polycarbonate domes would be terrific as “fast-set” Emergency Housing, or a FEMA alternative. Any idiot (myself included) can see that! And, they’d also be great for temporary quarters for a homeless population while permanent structures were being prepared.

But as a “permanent” solution? No, I’m not convinced.

But wouldn’t they make a cool “camping” alternative?

“I’m sleeping in that camo speedbump, right over yonder…”

(I know… I’m gonna get “hate mail,” and probably even a letter from Intershelter’s lawyers…)

But Ronin… I have 8 kids…

I bet you’re wondering WHY I chose to build 8′ x 8′ wall segments, right?

How big is the business end of a shipping container? Hmmm?

POP QUIZ: Do the math.

C’mon… you knew I was gonna slip a container or two in there somewhere, now didn’t you?  😉

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninOkay, you all know what’s going on with my family, so I’m not going to beat you up with that…

If this blog has helped you, educated you, amused you, or even just made you shake your head and wonder why I’m not locked up in some room clad with rubber tiles…

Please know that this site has required a great deal of money, time and effort to develop & maintain. If it’s been useful to you at all, and you can afford to… You can help my family and support this site by making a small donation by hitting that Paypal button up there on the right.

Paypal is the VERY BEST “secure” way to donate to any cause… like ours.

This will help keep us alive while we try to remedy our own situation, and empower me to carry on writing, maintaining, providing countless hours of hard work, and including any updates or topics that you might suggest.

And… No anatomical impossibilities, huh? I’m not as young as I used to be…

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water…

9 Nov

Greetings…

Grab your swim fins and masks, because we’re gonna get wet today.

No! We’re not “free-diving” looking for lost shipping containers to salvage in our quest to build a home! There are enough of them parked on our shores already! Mountains of them!

pirate-snorkeling

You see, we should at least get as wet as the knuckleheads in Congress, who see nothing wrong with piling so much debt onto our already aching backs, that we can’t labor under the load.

Wait… that’s not it…

But, the water IS getting deeper.

There’s talk of postponing the actual release of hundreds of thousands of tax credit claims, due to fraud.

The guys hiding behind those steel desks at the Internal Revenue Service are examining more than 200,000 suspicious claims for the first-time home-buyer tax break.

I just wrote a post about this credit. You did read it, right?

Well, it’s just another sign of trouble for the soon-to-expire “give-away” program.

Now, I recently told you about this bill, so that you wouldn’t get scared when you heard all that howling outside, as builders try to pry more money out of Congress, in the form of an extension to the “first-time home buyer” tax credit.

In February, those wizards in Congress adopted a measure as part of the economic-stimulus bill, that gives first-time buyers an $8,000 tax credit. This was done in an effort to boost sales and stimulate the hemorrhaging housing market.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, so the program is set to end Nov. 30, 2009.

But… builders, housing-industry leaders, and lobbyists by the busload are lobbying those poltroons in Congress to extend it.

In fact, lobby money is flying around Washington DC right now, like hornets after that naughty rock-wielding kid who challenged their nest! 🙂

According to records, over one million claims for the credit have been received so far, and experts have estimated that the credit has helped generate over a quarter of a million home sales (conservatively) that wouldn’t (and probably couldn’t have) otherwise occurred.

But there’s trouble brewing… Some lawmakers and tax experts now say there is evidence that a significant number of the claims might prove to be unjustified, or even fraudulent.

Why? Because Congress knows the smell of crime when they smell it. They’re used to it. You can’t go to Capitol Hill without having to hold your nose…

“I am concerned about recent reports that there have been fraudulent schemes involving the credit,” Rep. John Lewis (D., Ga.), chairman of a House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, said in a statement. The subcommittee is planning a hearing on the problems on Thursday.

Why? Because there will be cameras there! It’s better than a CSPAN BBQ!

The IRS says that it is currently investigating several hundred “criminal schemes” involving the credit, but because of  “legal requirements,” IRS officials declined to describe the suspected schemes or provide any additional details.

The National Director of AARP Tax-Aide, Bonnie Speedy, which is a volunteer service for low-income people, suggested that criminal abuse of the home-purchase credit appeared to be running rampant, in part because of relatively loose standards for claiming the credit in the first place.

The credit “has some fraud issues because it’s not being done at the time of the sale,” said Ms. Speedy. “People are filing for the home credit who don’t have a right to file for it.”

You see… the taxpayers don’t have to file their claims as part of any on-going real-estate transaction. All you have to do is file or amend their income-tax returns to claim the $8,000 bucks in the form of a credit.

I “googled” her, so I could include a photo, but all I found was a girl on MySpace, and a porn star… Oh well…

An IRS spokesman said the agency “will vigorously pursue those who filed fraudulent claims” for the credit.

And we know what that means… Bite marks in your butt, for sure. The IRS pursues money, like bears pursue campers in the possession of honey.

You in a heap O’ trouble now, boy… 😉

“The IRS recognizes that there is a potential for fraud whenever a new refundable tax credit … is put in place,” agency spokesman Frank Keith said. “As we began implementing this credit in the days after the Recovery Act legislation was passed, we also identified the different  types of potential fraud, and matched our compliance program to those abuses.”

A spokesman for the National Association of Realtors, Lucien Salvant, said, “Any time there is a lot of money around, there is going to be people attracted to it with evil intent.”

Like, for instance… Realtors trying to close a deal… 🙂

Okay, that was uncalled for… I apologize…

I left out Real Estate Lawyers… 🙂

(Ain’t I a stinker?” 🙂

Housing-industry officials recently have stepped up their lobbying for an extension of the credit.

But, I already told you that. You WERE paying attention, right? 🙂

The builders want an extension… say… like about 12 months. And let’s just forget about this “first – time buyer” nonsense, huh? How about you guys make it apply to EVERYBODY? Hmmm?

“Our fragile economy is just beginning to show signs of recovery,” the letter says. “We should not jeopardize that recovery by letting this tax credit expire.”

That Realtor guy I quoted earlier? Well… Mr. Salvant said the industry groups weren’t suggesting any changes to the credit policy aimed at diminishing possible fraud.

Why not? Well, according to a Realtor I spoke with this morning…  that would make people leery of using that credit, and those deals wouldn’t get past the shadow of the front porches of all those empty houses.

Get this:

One proposal by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.) and others to extend the credit and make it available to all home buyers through June 2010 carries a price tag of about $16.7 billion.

That proposal would raise the income ceiling for eligible home buyers to $150,000 per year for an individual and $300,000 for a couple. Currently the credit phases out for individuals earning more than $75,000 and married couples earning more than $150,000.

What do my favorite “think tank guru’s” say about all of this?

Ted Gayer, an economist at the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank based in Washington, estimated that the current credit costs the government about $43,000 for each additional home sale it generates, because most of the two million or so home buyers expected to claim the credit would have bought a house anyway. Expanding the credit to all home buyers would raise the government’s cost per additional home sale to more than $250,000, he said.

Yikes… That mountain of debt is getting higher. I hope our children and grandchildren can find enough oxygen masks…

Oy.

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninLook, I’m a “housing advocate.” Of course I want you to have a house! It’s my GOAL.
But, I don’t want to force everybody else to pay for it, for decades.
I want my kids to at least have a chance for success, without having to operate under a monumental mountain of debt created by idiots… that will enslave them and destroy their chance for a bright future, before they even reach puberty! Capish?

Is Caffeine a gateway drug to Heroin? :)

6 Nov

It might be – if you’re a Realtor… right about now.

It’s me again… That “Corten Crusader on a Metal Mitzvah…” clad in several mils of oxidizing steel, seemingly “courting disaster… while courting your conscience.”

Try saying THAT three times fast… It’s harder than trying to choke down your Bubbeleh’s awful latke’s… without hurting her feelings!
(That’s “Grannie’s terrible pancakes” to you Gentiles out there!!) 😉

For the last 18 months, my family has been traveling down that rock-strewn road that will ultimately lead to finally having a safe, affordable, and sustainable home for our family.

Now, in our case, most of the rocks and pitfalls have come in the form of “authority,” as in… “NO! You can’t do that here, you idiot!”

It seems that ISBUs – Shipping Containers (and the use of alternative materials in general) is a topic vastly misunderstood in Mississippi.  This in a State pioneered by folks who built shelter with anything they could find.

I mean… there are houses within a few minutes driving distance of my home that have old billboards used for roofing material…

Admit it, you’ve seen all those “historic record” type movies… How ironic!

So, since I have no problem beating people to death with facts, I’ve taken up the banner and I’ve marched boldly into the fray (like Joan of Arc, but with far hairier legs), to get bloodied, so that you’ll have somebody to laugh at! 🙂

This blog is evidence of that on-going battle.

And while I’m demonstrating that these steel boxes can indeed become a part of your own affordable housing solution, I get bombarded with questions.

OY VEY! Do I get questions!

Now, admittedly… most of them are “mental health” questions and questions about the safety of my family – “whose ship is quite obviously being piloted by an idiot…” if I’m to believe what I read.

… but I have thick skin, and a delete button (which is just about worn out!), so…

Where was I? Oh yeah…

I keep getting asked;

“Ronin, why should I even consider building when houses are available, and money is cheap, now?”

Argh! Here we go again…

Okay… Look… It ain’t as good as you think… Housing slumped again, in September, and it’s looking grim for October, too…

You only have to examine all that data lurking behind the figures to see that “things are not good at all in Bedrock.”

The $8,000 “first-time homeowners” tax credit boosted sales numbers temporarily, but the “money cops” (the IRS)  are now saying that there were approximately 100,000 investigated cases of fraud:

Check out this article in the Wall Street Journal.

Later circulated reports have put that fraud number at closer to 200,000.

How long do you think it will be before those homes end up in foreclosure, the way things are going?? House prices haven’t stabilized. These are young folks with first homes. Who loses jobs first? Young folks not all that high up on the feed chain.

I’m afraid that once again… the idiots in Congress have demonstrated that they’ve learned nothing from the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

So what if the home buyer tax credit succeeded in (artificially) boosting demand. This led to an uptick in home prices which (with high unemployment and frozen lending markets) leads to that much less affordability going forward. That’s just brilliant!

And frankly, I find it ironic that politicians assail businesses for having a ‘short term, gotta get that quarterly profit’ view while those same politicians are just as guilty of such nearsighted vision! After all, they’re the ones passing bone-headed legislation for short term political gain… at the expense of long term recovery and prosperity. Duh!

Who’s the idiot NOW? Hmmmm? See? I’m not so dumb… I’m just “slow.” 🙂

Look, the “Cash for Houses” program (in other words, the “first timer” tax credit) is just another way of bailing out the banks. It really has nothing to do with soothing the ills of families across America. I’m not sure how many readers realize this.

“Cash for Housing” is nothing more that yet another attempt to artificially support housing prices so the banks don’t have to mark down the values of these “assets.” Hello?

But wait, there’s more…

Some of you email to tell me that in your neighborhoods… home prices are going up. Okay? But WHY are they going up?

Here’s why “some” of it happens:

The crooked bankers are at it again by “artificially inflating” demand and prices.

Here’s how they do it;

There are literally thousands of bank owned homes available for sale, that have been “held in inventory.”

Here’s the game (the way it was described to me);

* Bankers take the homes out onto the market one at a time.
* They lower the price until at least two buyers come in.
* After they get the offers… they go back and force the buyers to start bidding against each other.
* And if one buyer decides not to play, the second buyer basically bids against himself…

Those Jerks! But where did they learn it?

Well… some unscrupulous Real Estate agents have been doing it for decades!

It’s unethical, but it’s hardly “new.” It’s been going on since the beginnings of the Real Estate market.  Now, not all Realtors do this… Nuh – uh!  Mind you, it’s just the greedy ones!

(Now if know a Realtor like this, just email me his/her address. I’ll have one of my “minion” put a flaming paper bag full of  poop on their doorstep! It doesn’t matter what “market” they are in… cuz’ “I’m Everywhere!” Muwahahahah!)

That’s how “some” home prices are going up. There is the potential for an incredibly large home inventory on the market right now. But, how do you protect it, and keep it profitable? Well… bankers can inflate the home and their stock prices, so people are forced to pay more than the current market value.

But intelligent home buyers with at least enough brain cells to rub together (thus starting a fire) won’t fall for it, because they acted diligently, did a good market assessment, and then developed a buying plan from there. Anyone dumb enough to overpay for something because they think that somebody might be bidding against them is an idiot, and they deserve what they get. Says Me.

Will this activity help “inflate” a local market?

Yes. But, it’s not anyone’s fault but the buyers. The rubes…  Remember that old tune?

“LET THE BUYER BEWARE!”

(Let him/her be SMART… too.)

Here’s something else to think about, though;

Banks don’t have control over all of the houses out there that can be put up for sale, so there can’t possibly be a monopoly, right?

While the economy is in the crapper, there are still people with enough money to buy housing. Let’s face it, if you have the money and enough brain cells to start a fire… NOW is a really good time to spend it on real estate.

Evictions are still happening, and they’re just as likely to happen to people who still have jobs and money, whose homes are “under water” (a condition that occurs when a home is no longer worth the existing balance on the mortgage) – so they  just pack up and walk away.

There are plenty of facts to justify price increases during a recession even without any monopoly players – that’s simply Economics 101 (or maybe Economics 102… I forget which)… and it does add up.

But there’s another pair of icebergs looming in the water. They’re called “Alt-A & Commercial real estate.” These two pools are much bigger than the sub-prime market that is hemorrhaging now.

And… that wave of foreclosures is just beginning. Analysts are saying that those foreclosures won’t end until late 2012 or early 2013.

“But Ronin? What the heck is ‘Alt-A’ financing?”

Alternative-A (Alt-A) financing is basically loans for people who have better credit than subprime borrowers…  but their credit may not qualify them for the best loans and the lowest rates. Or, to put it simpler… Alt-A borrowers may have solid credit, but they may want financing which is more risky than conventional mortgages.

Why would anyone want “risks” at all, associated with their mortgage? The Nimrods… 🙂

But, soon… that tsunami will break on the shores of “broke and desperate beach” and…

… then I guarantee that all hell will break loose. If you think the market is bad now, just wait… Realtors and developers will be throwing themselves off the top of those skyscrapers, right and left…

realtors_leapMan, if they could just grab hold of a lawyer, or better yet… a politician…  before they jump off… then… um…er… never mind! Just kidding…. sorta… there aren’t enough hands to grasp enough politicians… mumble, mumble… 😉

Look, like anything else, you just have to use common sense, and think for yourself. That’s what marks the difference between a guy like Warren Buffet and that chump brother-in-law of yours, who consistently loses all his rent money.

Look, if you HAVE the money… I’m not saying that you shouldn’t buy real estate. Just use a reputable Realtor, understand that prices will continue falling, and negotiate  your purchase accordingly.

However… if you don’t have money, or you’re trying to get a loan to buy a house, you may have a tough road to hoe.

And then… what we are doing with these ISBUs may look like a really good idea.

It’s all up to you… Your Mileage May Vary.

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninOkay Clark… Lemme have it… 🙂

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

5 Nov

Greetings, Campers!

Okay, so I took a break from that plasma cutter.

A guy has to eat, you know! 🙂

My family needs a house. My family has no cash. My family has a plan… and it involves Shipping Containers, recycled steel, and a lot of hard work. Hey, that’s why they call it “sweat equity”!

Most readers of this blog know that after a hurricane and an insurance company wiped out our dreams of  “a life lived like regular people”, we started rebuilding.

Katrina Bites

And, our faithful readers know that our build is harder than most, because we have “complications.” My wife is seriously ill with cancer, and my son (who is 2 years old) isn’t big enough to swing a hammer yet.

I’m not going to bore you with all those details, because I’ve talked about them before. Suffice to say, we have our hands really full.

As we speak, I’m cutting “containers into boxes.” I’m helping a guy build a small “demented village”, out of damaged container segments. And, that’s work that will make a fella mighty hungry…

So, as I sit here watching the sweat rain down, for the 37th day in a row (or so it seems) …

I’m gathering my thoughts, while I gather up this sandwich, and stuff it into my face.

sandwichNote: Not the REAL sandwich. You think I’m crazy? This one’ll kill you!  😉

So… you read, while I eat, ‘kay? Try to ignore the chomping and slurping… my wife does… barely… 🙂

I was out reading on the ‘net a few days ago, and something I read made me think about a guy I’ve been corresponding with for a while.

A reader recently contacted me (we’ll call him “J”), and told me about a “Corten Cabin” he has… stashed up in the woods. It’s what some of us would call a “Bug – Out Box”.

Now, “J” contacted me, because his box looks just like my old blog header, except for his box is twice as long.

cropped-rr-banner-0509cYou remember… this one.

“J” has a 40′ High Cube Shipping Container sitting on cinder blocks, out in the middle of nowhere, that he uses for weekend fishing trips.

There’s a logging road for access, unmaintained for years… that’s passable when it’s not under mud, or frozen under snow drifts.

The story he told me of them towing that container into the woods was hilarious.

His father-in-law wasn’t laughing, however… It was HIS truck they blew up moving that box.

Know how much it costs to get a tow-truck back into 4wd country, to haul out a dodge pick-up? Go on, guess!

More than the truck is worth. Oy.

It reminded me of a box we moved years ago, that kept trying to drag us back down the hill, before we got to the top of it…

You know how people say that when they’re facing their death, their life flashes before their eyes? Well, on THAT day, it kept happening to us over and over again…

After a while, all we could do was hang on, and scream “Deja VU!” at the top of our lungs…

Sure, we sounded like frightened little girls! We were scared “you-know-what!”  🙂

Wait… this post is supposed to be about “J”.

While he goes up there on weekends in the summer, he’s thinking that “with the economy trying to kill itself”, his family may be forced to head there someday, to ride out whatever “chaos and storm” the “hard times to come” might bring…

Now, we’re all nervous. You can’t watch cable TV without some “expert” saying that it’s time America either “checked up, or packed it in.”

We’ve all heard “it.” You know, the “experts” touting their “fearmongering” crap… “All nations eventually fail. Yada, yada, yada…”

I suspect that this is in part due to Cable TV shows like “The Colony” that advocate forward thinking rolled into a nice tight ball, to form a dysfunctional view of what survival in our times may end up being like, if you’re a complete idiot…

colony

I’ve watched a few of these “disaster simulators”. You know, “here’s a look at what happens, when the “you-know-what” finally hits the fan”.

Everybody has a scenario. Everybody is sensationalizing our plummet to a grim capitalistic  death. Everybody is speculating… Everybody is plotting…

But  you know… we may not all get stranded with a rocket scientist, an electrical engineer, a mechanic, a nurse, a martial arts expert, and a doctor, yada… yada… yada…

We might get stranded by our “onesies.” So, we should understand what we’re doing, in case the cavalry doesn’t show up in time to make any repairs.

Or worse, we’ll inherit that drunk jerk up the street. You know the one…

… he’s always passed out on the lawn, none of his cars run (and he’s got eight of ’em), and he’s always getting his lights turned off. The cops are always at his house… and his wife is always at YOUR house, “borrowing” groceries. Yeah, they’re gonna be a lot of help… Oy.

It’s why I also advocate knowing how to safely use and maintain personal firearms. And tasers… lets not forget tasers…

Like  I was saying…  before I so rudely interrupted myself… “J” thinks that if the world goes to hell in a handbasket, he and his family (he’s married with 4 children aged from 3-9) might have to be up there in his “bass box” the winter time, and he reminds me that it’s REMOTE.

There are no neighbors. There is no store. Walmart ain’t got there yet…

There’s just your wife yelling at you because you forgot the big Sam’s Club carton of toilet paper!  “Ya Dumb Moron!!” 🙂

He’ll have whatever he hauls in with his small SUV, and that’s it. He doesn’t want to rely on propane, or any other type of “store-bought” fuel, simply because it might not be available.

There’s a neat little bass lake about 200 feet from his front porch.

basslake

He says you can spit into the pond, and catch a big, fat bass. (So, they won’t lack for protein.) Hence the name “Bass Box.” Paying attention? Huh?

The box isn’t anything to write home about, it’s just a big shipping container. Except for insulation and siding on the outside, it’s a regular box.

The box sits with the front face (40′) facing a few degrees of due south. It wasn’t “a solar plan”, it’s just the way the site worked out.

Actually, the “real” story goes like this:

They argued for three hours about where “the perfect spot” for the box was. Finally, his big brother said:

“@%$^#&#*!!! IT GOES RIGHT DAMN HERE!”

And then he punched “J” right in the eye. Voila! Problem solved. 🙂

He (and his brother – who is no longer available for “cabin help,” by the way…) applied a waterproof membrane on the exterior of the box. They used a rubberized roofing membrane that you spray on. ‘Cept, they used paint rollers, so it’s REALLY thick…

Why?  Well, because they found 2 barrels of it… “just laying around, that nobody wanted”.

I know, I know… Don’t ask, don’t tell…

After they’d added more “water seal” to the box, they firred it out with 2×6’s.  This created cavities, and those cavities received about 4″ of PolyIso foam into the cavities.

When I asked him where he got the PolyIso foam boards, he told me that they’d;

“… found/commandeered/discovered the material from a vacant industrial real estate listing they had. It was just laying there collecting dust”.

“Real Estate Plunder”. Okay, works for me…

Don’t worry “J”… we won’t hold “logistical left-turns” against you. We might, however, hold it against you that you’re a (gasp!) realtor!

Say… do you know a guy named “Clark?” Hmmm? 🙂

He put some siding scraps over the insulation that they found on “a dead building project”…

Hmmmm… I’m not sure if “J” is a recycler, or a felon. Note to self: “If getting stuff from “J”… always get a signed receipt.” 🙂

Anyway, as near as I can figure, he’s got about an r20-r30 wall system (depending on which PolyIso rigid foam product it is, it ranges from about r5 to r8 per inch). So, he can “almost” hold heat in, once he gets it there.

I say “almost” because he ran out of insulation at the top of the box, so the roof is uninsulated.

But, he’d been thinking about some kind of clerestory roof anyway to bring in more summer sun. Right now, “J” has a flat roof with a pair of vents on top, that are identical to the one depicted in my old blog header image.

Steel ShedObviously, we’re going to pay some attention to this.

First, I’ll sue him for patent infringement… 🙂

You know what? I miss that old blog header. I think I’ll do my “Lazarus act” and resurrect it.

Seriously, a cool SHED roof would add headroom, a cool space for a few sleeping lofts, some additional storage, and a good opportunity for vents and windows to help with air movement and heat gain.

Plus we can use that roof pitch to catch water, and get rid of snow.

“J’s” back is gonna hurt for a week or two, by the time we’re done. Boy, I bet “J” wished he’d never heard of me, NOW…

Picture “J” sad. Poor “J.”

That just leaves the floor.

Shipping container floors are treated with serious insecticides and fungicides to keep alien bugs out of foreign ports.

Wood preservatives containing a number of organochlorine insecticides, including aldrin (no, not BUZZ Aldrin!), dieldrin, chlordane and lindane, are just the beginnings of the treatment that floors receive.

Although I know people who’d like to stuff Buzz Aldrin into a container… Oy!

I ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, rip these floors out.

You can’t EVER trust the shipper you got the container from. The labels denoting the presence of that toxin are often worn off, or even just missing. Because the containers are moved so often and with so many variables…  you can’t tell which ones got the toxic sprays just by looking.

Some containers escape without being sprayed or treated, but the only way to know for sure, is to take a sample of the floor out, and get it tested at a lab.

There’s are products that you can put on the floor to encapsulate them. That’ll seal the toxins in there, but they’ll still BE there. And, those products are expensive. We’ll go a different route.

Okay, all that accomplished, you’d have a “shelter”.

Inside, it’s spartan. It’s so bad that his wife won’t even go up there! Once you get through those big steel doors, you’re greeted by a few wooden shelves, a tiny wood stove, hammocks, and a blow-up mattress for a bed.

Did I forget to mention that they have a “shanty with a hole in the butt seat” kind of outhouse.

Oh yeah, they have an outhouse.

I bet he found THAT at a construction site, too… 🙂

He has a composting toilet, but it’s still in the box, in the garage. That’s kinda dumb… Lotta good it’s doing him, there! 🙂

Okay, he needs a bathroom, too.

And, he reminded me about 11 times that the box gets cold. So, we turn up the heat a bit.

He doesn’t want to try any “geothermal nonsense” (his words) because the container is already in place, and he couldn’t move it if he wanted to.

Actually, his exact words were;

“Ronin, don’t be giving me none of your Geothermal nonsense, I don’t like shovels, my friend…” 🙂

He doesn’t want to rely on solar panels, because he’s not a guy with a lot of money to set up a complete “off-grid” situation. The closest he’s come to that is a Harbor Freight photovoltaic set-up with a pair of small panels.

So, he has enough power for a laptop computer, a TV, and maybe a radio.

(I’m going to try and talk him into replacing that crap inverter, and adding a panel or two so that he can establish some kind of “real” electricity, for refrigeration and other necessities.)

With the world going digital, I wonder what TV signal he’d get? I’m thinking he uses a VCR or a DVD player… Remind me to check, okay?

He has a good water supply.

It’s a hand-pumped well that draws water from about 175 feet. If he wants a shower, he pumps water up into a black painted 55 gallon barrel on the roof of his container, and then gravity-feeds it to a showerhead.

This is great for one guy on a weekend, but it’s not gonna work for a “family in residence”. Nuh uh!

We need a solar powered pump, too.

BTW: The gray water from the shower, and doing the dishes goes out into the garden, that for now, only feeds the wild animals that live around his box.

That’s good, but we’ll do better.

They have a small swedish fireplace/stove combination installed, but they only use it for heat at night. It’s sitting on patio tiles as a hearth. So, it’s not exactly ideal. We’re gonna move the stove, and build it “into a better box”.

Again, it’s about managing resources. “J” says that he doesn’t want to use it during the day, if he doesn’t have to. Why? He hates chopping wood. HATES it! 🙂

The stove vents out the side of the box. Sort of… It’s a rather shaky connection.

So, we do some chimney repair, and then we use what I call “idiot solar” to help bump up the heat. But, we’ll use solar in a different way than “normal people” are used to.

Okay, I can see that there is a lot to do, but he needs to do it one weekend at a time.

And, he needs to do it in a way that maintains the security of the structure, so that he doesn’t end up with visitors he doesn’t want, or need, while he’s away…

So, over the next few posts in this series, we’re going to take that empty 40′ High Cube Shipping Container, and we’re going to turn it into a full blown cabin, complete with sleeping lofts, and enough interior to let it be used comfortably, for a long vacation in the woods.

It’s all about his family’s survival, if times get hard. And, it’s all about HIS survival, if his wife gets mad.

After all, out in the woods… nobody can hear you scream… Muuuuwahhahah!

We’re not just going to insulate that container top. We’re going to “weatherize” the box.

Weatherizing isn’t “turning off the heat and freezing in the dark”.

Try that with your wife sleeping next to you. I guarantee you that you’ll wake up, dead!

It’s all about using ‘stored’ energy (and less of it than you might think) combined with small resources to achieve the same level of comfort that you used to get from that McMansion of yours.

How do you accomplish this?

Well, first, you find all the “energy nasties” and you give them the boot. In this case, we’ll start with that leaky stove chimney, and work outward from there. Careful planning and attention to detail will have this family in a sustainable vacation home, in no time.

We’re also going to deal with indoor air quality.

Remember that the air quality is 2-5 times worse in your house, than the air outside it.   This is a small space, that may be inhabited by a family of six (or maybe even more, if that damned brother promises not to punch him in the eye again) , under rather severe conditions, and maybe for extended periods of time.

Beyond air quality, we need to pay close attention to energy use, moisture (and it’s movement… unless you LIKE mold and mildew), combustion zones, and ventilation.

Remember, condensation is a killer.

Areas in walls and roof cavities that stay moist, start to grow funky things that attack your lungs. YUCK!

Ice dams on roofs can contribute to this problem, too. So we’re going to pay close attention to that roof, it’s construction, and it’s pitch.

We’ll talk about fixing that stove vent/chimney, before you huff and puff… and burn your house down…

We’ll talk about designing, building, and attaching a roof to catch the sun and even a couple of kids.

We’ll talk about photovoltaic panels on the cheap, and an “in-wall solar heating” solution.

We’ll talk about building loft spaces into it, to get the kids up and out of your hair.

We’ll talk about a “hidden” Master bedroom.

We’ll talk about the floor of that shipping container, and what to do about it.

We’ll talk about a kitchen (with a refrigerator, and running water, and everything!) and even a real bathroom.

We’ll talk about catching water and setting up a graywater system.

And, we’ll talk about building storage.

We need to add some serious storage  into that shipping box, so that it can house all their crap, so that “J” doesn’t step on everything they own, in the middle of the night, when that damned bear is trying to beat down the door!

And we’re going to accomplish this, a goal at a time, a weekend at a time…

Why?

Because you “Show me a man who failed… and I’ll show you a man who didn’t have a good plan”.

We’re not just  going to meet his needs, we’re going to exceed his expectations.

Why? Well, because… I know his wife… and she’ll kill him! (gulp!)

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

It’s about time for some Heavy Metal In Michigan!

3 Nov

3D Rosa ParksAh… another fine example of “Mi Container es Su Casa!”

“Oh, give me a home,
I can build on my own,
where the bankers can kiss my big butt…

A ‘slight’ mortgage I’ll pay,
while I’m happy all day,
and the neighbors all think I’m a nut!”

(I writ that, I did… all by my onesies… You can tell, huh?) 🙂

Call it “Home on the Range…” or “Home, sweet home…”

I’ve shown you cabins, castles, and even condo’s before, but this is a good one…

Recently, I got involved in conversations over a project that would build a factory in Florida to actually produce ISBU homes. The idea is to take a plant that used to build modular homes and simply “retool and convert” it to process ISBUs, using the same workforce that was laid off, when the plant recently closed. That’s Win-Win.

And, they wanted “my advice…”  The rubes… 🙂

(Well, it’ll be worth exactly what they paid for it…. nada.) 😉

As we talked, they kept talking about this Detroit project. Now, I’ve known about this one for a long time, but frankly, although it has real merit, IMHO there were too many cards stacked against it.

And everybody is still talking about it… even though it’s dragging out longer and longer… without making any real progress.

Until…

On October 6, 2009… Exceptional Green Living on Rosa Parks was approved by Detroit City Council with a 8-0 “YES” vote to move forward. Now, they “WAIVERED” it, which means they can’t change their minds or rescind the vote.

So, maybe a model home will get built. IF… they can raise a quarter million bucks of front money. So far, all they have is $50 grand.

Detroit architect Steven Flum and company have finally convinced the city of Detroit to let them build the “Exceptional Green Living on Rosa Parks” project on top of land currently containing vacant lots and burned-out homes.

It’s a 17 condo project that was projected to cost about $1.8 million bucks!

(Man, I could build over 30 ISBU homes with that kind of money!)  🙂

IF built, each unit will range from about 960 to 1,920 square feet, at a cost of between $100 grand, and about $200 grand. This is about 25% less than most of the units around the area, and these puppies are “Green, green green!”

I’ve seen the floorplans, and they’re pretty sweet. It’s not the approach I would have taken, but they know their market far better than I do! And, the project will make a lot of people happy, most importantly, the residents.

Thanks to the use of recycled materials, efficient appliances, and green design, these babies will be about 60% more efficient than the neighbors, too! Talk about your annual energy savings!

They want to have a $1 Million Five hundred thousand dollars of Investor money by Novembers’ end, drawing interest. That may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back…

According to the Detroit Free Press;

(BTW: Why is it the Free Press, if you have to buy it?) Hmmm?

Like I was saying…

The project would stack empty containers four high, cut in windows and doors, install plumbing, stairways and heating, and add amenities such as balconies and landscaped patios…

The developer, Leslie Horn, chief executive of the Detroit-based PGH “Power of Green Housing” organization, said using empty shipping containers is not a new idea.

Well, DUH! And it’s funny… I thought that PGH stood for Professional Golfing Hooligans… I got an invite from John Daly, just the other day… 🙂

Anyway, again with the “back to’s…”

“It’s been done in Europe and, to a limited extent, in this country. But no one has looked at organizing the process on a larger scale incorporating a range of recycled materials and efficiencies that could save a homeowner as much as 60% annually in energy costs,” she said.

What? Careful, lass… You’re overloading your bottom there… Many of us have done exactly that! WAY before this project ever got penciled…

Horn and Flum said they would use special insulating paint inside and out (Supertherm, probably), high-efficiency water heaters and other energy-saving methods. But by far, the most environmentally friendly aspect of the project is the use of discarded shipping containers.

Finally, there will be a “highly public” project that will test the claims of the Supertherm folks…

Think about it. It’d be homes made out of steel. And if you’re living in a drive-by zone, what better material to use?

Anyone out there live in Detroit? Would you live here? It’d be built on the southeast corner of Rosa Parks and Warren. How’s that neighborhood, now? I was there years ago, and it was pretty rough! ? Can you go outside, during daylight hours without getting shot, or stabbed, or maimed??

Anybody else wanna live there?

I mean, I know it’s in DETROIT and all… 🙂

Wait! I just figured it out! This is just a scam! You pay your dough… You go to bed in Detroit, and the next thing you know your ‘house’ is on a slow boat heading for South America.

Argh! 🙂

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninLike I said… although they’ve been talking about this project for months, and although it’s looking better, it’s still not looking too good.  I recently spoke to one of the heads of the Realtor network up there, and between the economy, the alternative approach, and local politics, it’ not looking like “diamonds and pearls.”  I’m betting it’s not going to happen on the publicized timeline, if at all… It’s a shame, too. It’s a really nice project that would set a wonderful example. I really hope they prove me wrong! I’m rooting for them, big time!

“I’m sorry – We’re Broke.”

1 Nov

I have been accused of being a “treehugger”around here, recently. Again…

I’m not sure why…  Sure, I write posts about saving energy. Because I have to pay for the energy I use! Well, duh!

I like CFL’s (Compact Fluorescent light bulbs). Why? Well,  because I don’t have to change them as often, and they save me money.

treehugger1

Sure, I write posts about being kind to the trees that give us WOOD, and oxygen, and shade… Why? Wood gives me an excuse to use POWER TOOLS!  Plus, if you water those trees, they give you SHADE! Shade saves energy, and gives me a place to hang the hammock!

I’m not a militant “tree-spiker”, and I don’t agree with a lot of the “treehugger agenda”. Or maybe it’s just the methods I don’t’ agree with. Saving a tree is never worth killing a human being over. And that’s what “tree-spikers” do. I know from first-hand experience.  If you kill a person over a tree, you’re NOT an “environmentalist…” You’re a MURDERER.

Terrorism is terrorism, no matter what “flag” you wrap it up in.

Nothing good can come of it.

But… people see shipping containers being cut up and reassembled into houses, and they immediately think “Eco-Whackjob.”

Look, I love trees. Truly! But my primary goal isn’t to clean up the earth, or save the environment, or even make sure that my kids breathe clean air right now.

WHAT? RONIN SAID WHAT?

As my wife slowly dies, as my two year old son starts venturing out into that great big world… my family is living in a hovel. It’s a horrid little box, that hasn’t had anything resembling “real maintenance” done to it, since about the Kennedy Administration.

It wasn’t always like this. We had a nice home, and it was almost paid for. We had a decent car, and we had money to pay the bills. Until…

A hurricane wiped it all out. Sure, we had insurance. But, you know what? The insurance company is pleading “bankruptcy” if they are forced to pay off all their claims. So, we’re part of 2,000 families in a class action lawsuit against them now, trying to get the “protection that we paid for.”

The facts are that they HAD the money.

But, the stockholders would’ve taken a huge hit (okay, an even bigger hit), and the fat-cats in charge would have seen their bonuses (and possibly even their jobs) diminish. So guess who gets screwed? Guess.

I’ve written extensive posts about all this before, you I’m not going to rehash it now. It just raises my blood pressure.

While all those environmental goals are noteworthy, and even applaudable, I just don’t have the means to change any of  circumstances that contribute to them. I have to leave that to you guys and gals.

What I am out to accomplish is getting my family back into a safe, secure, weather-resistant house, that we can afford to live in. One where we have the same basic needs covered that most of you have. And, we’d like to do it without a huge mortgage, huh? Is that too much to ask?

And if I manage to slay any environmental dragons along the way, well, that’s just a wonderful bonus.

From the feedback I’m getting, you’d certainly think that I might be asking too much…

I’ve groveled,  I’ve crawled, I’ve lobbied politicians, I’ve made speeches before “Capital cronies,” I’ve written “blood-covered” posts, and I’ve even begged, because my family is FAILING, but help is just not happening…

Some of you already know that we just got a shipment of damaged shipping containers, that we’re cannibalizing for fun and “experimentation.” Okay, three. We got three. It’s not like we got a container ship fulla boxes. Don’t I wish. I’d build houses  for families that needed them… until I dropped dead from exhaustion.

While I was out behind a warehouse recently, using a plasma cutter to dissect a Corten Cubicle, I had a guy walk over and get on my case about my “ambition.”

It seems that if you cut up a steel box and then live in it, you’re “putting carpenters out of work” in an already failing economy. Why, what you’re doing is downright “un-American!”

Exact words.

I had to laugh. Right in his face.

That just made him madder. For a minute I thought that he was looking for something to hit me with, but everything laying around was steel, and way too heavy for him to lift. So, he just rattled off a string of obscenities, shook his fists at me repeatedly, and then waddled off.

I guess he forgot that you have to put interiors into these boxes in order to make them livable, and then… you’ll probably put insulation and siding on the outside of them, to confuse the neighbors even further… I think carpenters do that, unless I’m mistaken. I’ve never seen any “Container Gnomes”, or anything like that… 🙂

If wanting a safe, affordable, sustainable house to live in is considered “Un-American”… then sign me up and send me a lifetime membership card.

Having had just about enough of his nonsense (and his threats), I calmly put down the plasma cutter (Remember, campers… always treat your tools with respect. Your neighbors? Well… um… er… it depends on what day it is…), and took off my goggles, and my wristwatch.

This was going to be just the “attitude adjustment “I needed. I hate taking “anti-stress and blood pressure medication.” But, I’m all pent up with frustration. What better outlet, than an idiot cursing my family ancestry? Hmmm?

But he didn’t possess enough “conviction” to actually put his butt behind his mouth. He literally ran away.

Now, I realize that I seem a little bit “up-patriotic” at times. I’m disenchanted with government. I’m tired of give-away programs that only benefit the elite, or fund projects that seem unlikely to succeed, while the rest of us suffer.

Bailing out Wall Street?

I’ve heard all the arguments. And now, I’ve seen everything go right back to the way it was… except the bonuses are even bigger. Why?

Bailing out the Car Companies?

Again, why? Not ALL companies started withering like grapes in a heatwave! Only the ones that refused to change with the times.

Cash for Clunkers?

Okay, some of us got new cars. (I didn’t.)

But, I’ll remind those of you who did that the REST of us are paying for them. Billions of dollars. So, when you go out into the driveway, to start up that new car you bought with your $4500 free bucks, remember that the rest of the taxpaying citizens of America helped put it in your driveway, and now we’re helping you pay for it.

Like it or not. I don’t remember voting for that one. Oy.

The Stimulus Package?

Sure, now hundreds of large US-based corporations can afford to outsource jobs to Malaysia, to build solar panels and other cool environmental stuff. And, it’s exactly what’s happening. I just read a report that several large companies here in the US are on a hiring binge in other countries, to build these products, now that they have government money to do it with. In fact, they may offer to move you to that country, if you want to keep your job. I hear India is nice this time of year. And, the  curry is good…

We just picked our own pockets until there was nothing left but lint. Am I really the only one who sees this?

Recently, I ran a post that talked about grants, and loans, and “money lost.”

I got a list of grants and banks, and “other” organizations helping American families to build homes. And, it wasn’t worth the paper that they printed it on. Should I be surprised? After all, I got it from a Government official.

And, I got pissed off, and wrote a post about it.

People emailed me like mad, telling me that I was crazy. After all, the Government is just giving money away, to anyone who wants it!

Yeah? Bull.

Apparently, they’re only giving it away to people OUTSIDE this country, who supported Presidential Campaigns.

Want yet another an example?

The Wall Street Journal (Yes… Ronin reads… I don’t just look at the pictures…) The Department of Energy just awarded $529 million to Finland…

FINLAND!

… for an $89,000 all-electric sports car, while US projects die, jobs languish, and American companies go bust.

The U.S. Government has offered a $529 million loan to FISKER,  an Al Gore-backed company making $89,000 all-electric sports cars in Finland, while US projects, and the resulting US jobs go unfunded.

Why are US projects unfunded? The Government says they don’t have the money to fund them… Whaaaa?

It might interest you to know that Fisker‘s top investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a veteran Silicon Valley venture-capital firm of which Gore is a “significant” partner.

Employees of KPCB have donated more than $2.2 million recently to political campaigns, mostly for Democrats, including President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign contributions.

A representative from the CRP added; “And that’s just the money that we can actually track.”

You wonder why I hate (okay… I don’t “hate” him, I just dislike him…a lot…) Al Gore?

Here’s yet ANOTHER reason. This backstabbing b@st@rd continues to rake in the cash, by using his “global warming platform” as an ATM.

There is a distinct difference between “Global Warming” and Climate Change. I totally, totally, totally…  believe in Climate Change… but “Global Warming?” Bah-Hooey! 😉

But, back to Al Gore… First, it was “Bad Science“. Hey, if nothing else, Al Gore IS the Paris Hilton of the Scientific Community… He’s stinking rich for no apparent good reason, he’s a “charismatic idiot,” he turns up every time he sees a press camera light go on… and he looks good on camera… sometimes.

Thousands of notable, credentialed scientists (including many who specialize in Climate Change Science) are now going on record to state that Gore pulled a fast one on EVERYBODY…

Then, it was “carbon credits.” Again, Gore‘s “Carbon Credit Trading Company” made millions of dollars.

Now FISKER is using Gore‘s contacts and political prowess as a “Hollywood backed media darling“, to bilk American taxpayers again, and again, and again.

Other car companies have gotten money recently. Hello? You know, GM, Ford, and Chrysler, for example. Even one of my favorites, TESLA,  got some cash, in the form of a loan.

Now, I’m okay with Tesla getting some cash. Tesla builds electric cars. Cool electric cars, I might add. Those idiots in Congress gave Tesla $465 million bucks, in the form of a loan. Okay, so Tesla has to pay it back… I’m okay with that. They actually build their cars here. So Americans get jobs and Americans want, and will get the cars they build.

But Fisker? Wait a minute!

The Silicon Valley-based Fisker said that the bulk of loan proceeds will go towards the development of a $40,000 family sedan.

That they haven’t even designed yet!

And if that’s true, why are they diverting a large portion of the funds to fuel yet another car, an “alleged” $90,000 electric car that nobody can afford except status seeking… um… er… Hollyweirdo’s and fatcats…. Oh… I get it… never mind! 😉

Wait a minute! you say… It’s a Silicon Valley corporation! That’s not  “alien.”

Um… where do Finnish cars get built?

So far… FINLAND.

So, how many American jobs will that money fund?

I’m Betting ZERO!

Fisker‘s Silicon Valley operation is just a glorified design center. It’s a place for the top 1% of their employees to hang their hats. So either Fisker plans on giving them HUGE pay raises, or that money is going overseas.

I read the data. The plant in America (Wilmington) that they’re talking about is hopelessly locked in turmoil. Moses couldn’t bring that plant on-line any time soon. The Union isn’t budging, and there are big troubles ahead…

But… employees of Fisker’s top investor, KPC&B, donated more than $2 million to the Obama presidential campaign, and customers who have pre-ordered the Fisker include… who else… Al Gore.

Wanna bet that his doesn’t come with an invoice?

The DOE denied that politics played a role in the decision.

abductions

Yeah, right. And yesterday I was abducted by aliens…

I’m thinking that if you spend about $4 million dollars on the right politician, you can get a hell of a loan… no matter where you live. But, I bet that the DOE will deny that, too…

But zero is still zero. Unless you count the millions of bucks that Finland (and Al Gore) just raked in.

For 1/10th of 1 percent of that money, I could have built homes for 15 small families. Okay, sure… it’s only 15 families, but it’s a START! It’s 15 families safe, dry, and warm in their 600+ square foot houses made of steel. And one of those kids could grow up to be President. But probably not… because growing up to be energy efficient, self-reliant, and socially  responsible… would probably disqualify them.

Somebody pass the Tylenol…

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin Look, if you like this blog, if it helps you plan your ISBU project, or even if you just enjoy watching me make an @$$ out of myself … hit the Paypal button up there (if you can afford to), and donate a few bucks to help us out. Look, if I didn’t REALLY need it, I wouldn’t ask. It’s humiliating, and it’s embarrassing. I just ran out of options. If we don’t help “ourselves,” no one will. Government isn’t going to do it. If something doesn’t happen REAL soon, my family will fail, and we don’t have a safety net. I write this blog, to help as many families as we possibly can, while we try to heal, ourselves. Thanks for reading!