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Old 02-18-2007, 03:32 PM   #1
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Stone foundation for a small shack


Hey guys,

I'm hoping you folks can help me out with this. I'm 18 and in November I bought 2 acres of land on a small lake in the boonies/middle of nowhere, I guess I thought it was a wise investment as opposed to my friends who spend all of their money on new cars which I think is pointless.

Anyhow, this summer I want to build a small shack on my land. Nothing fancy, just something that I can spend the night in if I really wanted to. Since money is in an issue for me I was thinking of building a foundation out of stone, because the land I have is FULL of stones and rocks of all sizes (one is half the size of a Geo Metro!) Stones would obviously cost me nothing and just about the only thing I'd have to buy would be basic tools and cement.

Here are my plans:
There's a slope/small hill on my land (see below) that probably runs up about 10-15 feet from start to bottom. I'd like to dig out a rectangle-shaped area of about 8' by 10', in the area where the red square on the picture is.




After I get the 8' x 10' rectange-shaped area dug into the side of the hill, I'd like to put in a foundation made out of thick stone walls. Some of the foundation (towards the back) would be almost ground level, some of it (towards the front, as the hill goes down in elevation) would stick out of the ground more (obviously) since it would be built like a walk-out into the side of the hill. I don't anticipate of having the building be "under ground" in any way, it's just that the roof towards the back would be nearly ground level at the top of the hill, and at the front of the building the roof would be about 8'+ higher of the ground where the hill starts.

For anyone that's more visual, this is one of the best photos I could find that is probably similar to what I want to build (foundation-wise; except no part of the building would be underground like almost this whole thing is):


Here's another good photo (it looks kind of primitive though), although I think this one too is underground for the most part:


I live in Minnesota and the ground is frozen like half the year here. I don't care if it takes me 3 years to complete the stonework, I think using rocks of different sizes from my property in combination with cement would be the most economical thing to do. It's reusing the earth's materials and I'd be getting the rocks for free.

Anyway, here my questions:
- To make a simple walkout/hillside 8' x 10' stone foundation using rocks of various sizes, will I need any materials other than cement?
- How about tools?
- How thick do I make it?
- How much cement should go between the rocks?

Any help (the more detailed, the better) would be very appreciated. All I care about right now is the stone foundation (floor + walls), the rest I would do after the whole thing is finished. Thank you!

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Old 02-18-2007, 06:45 PM   #2
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Stone foundation for a small shack


That hill is not steep enough. It is a great idea, but you need a steeper hill, if possible. Also look at designing it as a circle/semi-circular structure, as you get more square foot for less effort, as well as inhernet wall stability.

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Old 02-20-2007, 12:06 PM   #3
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Stone foundation for a small shack


Wow, that's really cool.

So things you don't care about....

No need for electricity
No plumbing
No heat, no air.
You just need walls, floor and roof and a door maybe a window, right?

I like the round structure idea. I think that once you start building the walls you we see how much work it is going to be. Stacking the stone mixing the cement (morter). A lot of work.

Why a walk out design if I may ask? I like the idea of a stone footer, but have another suggestiond for the wall structure.

Picture a stack of firewood, except in between all the wood in motar. So you got trees on your 2 acres, just cut a few down, peal off the bark, easy after it's dried for a year or so. Then lay down some motar and stack some logs, then repeat. The build your roof out of purchased lumber.
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Old 02-20-2007, 12:11 PM   #4
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Stone foundation for a small shack




http://www.daycreek.com/dc/html/TMEN_No54.htm


Last edited by harleysilo; 02-20-2007 at 12:13 PM.
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Old 02-20-2007, 03:07 PM   #5
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Stone foundation for a small shack


Judging by the first picture of your site, I think you are off on the elevation difference. - I would guess that is more than you think (a common error). The photo may have included areas beyond your property line.

If you could get a reasonably accurate determination of the elevation difference of the site, you would find out if your ideas are possible. Your sire is the general type that is ideal for a walk-out concept. Don't count on using any of the standing "lumber" on the site. The stones will probablt work wel, but there cannot be nearly enough in the excavated area.

I am a fan of both earth bermed and "earth sheltered" construction, but be aware that not everyone is and you could have a hard time getting your work and investment out of it. If you want the enjoyment out of building something you can use for a long time, it is a great investment.

Do not fall into the trap of using ANY wood at all in the below grade portion even though some romantic above grade strucrures are still standing.

Be aware that there is a big difference between the value of an earth bermed structure and a true "earth shelter" home that has "goats and grass" on the roof. The latter is very difficult to build properly and is not cheap (even with free materials)!
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Old 02-20-2007, 03:52 PM   #6
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Stone foundation for a small shack


yea, that area looks pretty steep. Can you re-think your plans and find a more level area? if so, I think your better bet may be to build your shed pier and beam style. You could get away just 4 concrte footers/pieers in which to build on. You could use the stone as a decorative element.

If you really want to build with stone and mortar (Its called mortar, not cement. Cement is an ingredient in mortar). You will need a proper foundation, in your area its 4' down. Excavation will be a royal pain. Digging 4 holes will be easier. Or, no foundation at all if you build it like a shed on gravel but that requires a flat site.
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Old 02-20-2007, 07:21 PM   #7
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Stone foundation for a small shack


Not to sidetrack the thread, but cement is the proper term. Cement can be anything used to hold other things together. Portland cement is used in mortar, as is masonry cement, but you can also have a fine mortar with no portland cement at all.

The answer to his question about how much cement he needs between rocks is hard to answer without more info, but it will generally be as much as it takes to hold the rocks apart, and as little as possible given that criteria. The type of cement used is variable, and can range from a portland cement based mortar all the way through to dirt, straw, and cow poop mixed together.
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Old 02-20-2007, 07:23 PM   #8
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Stone foundation for a small shack


Brik -

All he is interested in is a stone foundation. Look at the photos. It was originally called "earth shelter" construction in the early 1970's.

You can build a foundation into a hillside and then do what you want above. It eliminates being stuck up on a pedistal and you get the benefits of the temperature moderation provided by the soil.
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Old 02-20-2007, 07:52 PM   #9
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Stone foundation for a small shack


Cool little spread of land, how much did you pay if you don't mind me asking? And at 18? Man you're on your way! You're very right too, cars are pretty much the worst financial investment you can make. They depriciate faster than you pay off the principle. But real estate... that's where it's at! It only goes up! You called it the boonies (which is the best place to live in my opinion ) but watch the urban sprawl turn that into prime real estate one day. I've seen it happen. My folks bought an acre in the "boonies" 15 years ago, its worth 10 times that now.

I'm avid DIY'er myself, in all sorts of things, electronics more so than construction. And I'll let you in on a little secret.... DIY is ALWAYS more expensive than something that is mass produced. So if you're building a "shack", it WILL be more expensive (in materials or especially labor) than it will to go down to Home depot, buy a shed kit, or just some lumber and shingles. So really think about that, especially if you're just trying to save money.

Look at it this way, you could go get a job (or work the one you have) for, say, whatever bucks an hour. If you spend "three years" like you said building if, you wasted a small fortune in terms of labor, you know? Maybe work all fall/winter and drop a few grand on a nice little barn or something. Be sure to consider resale value as well. Nobody will probably be interested in a out-of-the-earth built shack, but if you're selling the land someday, and it has a nice little barn, smokehouse, fishing/hunting shack, etc. built on it, you'll get a nice return on your investment.

On Dirty Jobs on Discovery channel the other day they built some little house made of mud bricks, now there's a free material for you. Just get some clay soil, hay, sand, water, mix it up into little bricks... kinda like adobe I guess.. They didn't even fire or dry them. You'll have to do some research on it...

Check out your county auditor's website. You can get tons of information on the land, everything from soil composition, to land tomography based on sattelite photos... so you can find out how much the slope really is.
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Old 02-20-2007, 09:07 PM   #10
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Stone foundation for a small shack


This would be my basic layup:

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Old 09-13-2007, 01:49 PM   #11
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Stone foundation for a small shack


Get the video Alone in the Wilderness from the Alaska tourist people. It is the story of ************ Proenneke. He built a log cabin in Alaska and lived in it for 30 some years. He video-ed his construction work process in great detail. Maybe you can adapt his log cabin to your site.

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