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TEOTWAWKI considerations for home building & maintenance


This two-part article describes some TEOTWAWKI considerations for home building and long-term maintenance.

Have you ever daydreamed about building the perfect home for the end of the world as we know it? If you’re like me, you may have caught yourself daydreaming about various configurations and options you would like to have on your home to help you survive with better security and better comfort. I would like to say that there is a perfect home configuration out there for everyone but that just wouldn’t be true. When building a home, you must take multiple things into consideration including geographical location, soil types, legal considerations and various other hurdles that may be encountered along the way.

With that being said, let’s go over some of the options out there along with some of their pros and cons:

Foundations
Slab Foundation

Slab foundations are essentially concrete slabs that rest directly on the ground. These types of foundations are reinforced with metal components that add strength to the foundation itself and are designed to last for the life of the home.

Pros

Low Maintenance – There just a lot of maintenance requirements with this type of foundation. The biggest concern is the level of moisture around the foundation walls. High or low moisture content can cause movement but can be prevented with proper drainage when it rains and a watering program for when it’s extremely dry.

No need for additional flooring – Flooring is optional with slabs. More and more people are going with a concrete stain instead of installing flooring. This may save you some money down the road and is easy to keep clean.

No Wood Rot – As with pier and beam and even some basement foundations, you will eventually experience water damage and may even have to replace some of the wood in these areas over time. When the sawmills no longer work, this is one less thing you’ll have to be concerned about.

Cheaper to Install – Slab foundations are typically cheaper than basements and pier and beam foundations. This should free up some extra cash for that solar well pump you’ve been looking at.

Cons

Expensive to Repair – When a concrete slab does fail, its usually costly to repair it. Usually, this requires cutting holes in various locations around the home to install piers. Another downside to this is, it’s usually not a DIY project and will likely require the skills and tools of a trained professional. In the event of TEOTWAWKI, you may find that you are not able to make the needed repairs.

More susceptible to flooding – Concrete slabs usually sit lower to the ground than pier and beam foundations. This may increase the risk of flood damage if your house is in a low-lying area or if your grading and drainage isn’t performing well. Once a home has flooded, you can easily start to see mold growth. If mold takes over the home, you may be forced to find shelter elsewhere.

Concealed Plumbing – You won’t be able to look at your drain plumbing with this type of foundation. This means that if there is a leak, you usually won’t be able to see it until it shows up somewhere else, quite possibly in the form of foundation movement. This may not apply to you in a SHTF situation, but it should still be considered.

Pier and Beam Foundations

Pier and beam foundations are installed in a way that leaves a gap under the flooring of the home. This unfinished area is called the crawl space and is usually 16 to 36 inches in height leaving you just enough room to crawl around underneath it.

Pros

Easier to Repair – Pier and beam foundations are usually easier to repair compared to slabs. This may even be a DIY project depending on your level of knowledge and skill along with the appropriate tools so when you notice that the small wall crack is slowly getting bigger, you can take action and correct it before it gets worse.

You can inspect the plumbing – Every now and then, you can peek under the home to look for termites or water leaks. You’ll also find that the occasional plumbing leak will be significantly easier to repair compared to a slab foundation.

Storage – It’s not ideal to store unprotected items in the crawl space of your home but there is nothing wrong with having a waterproof cache in there.

Cons

Price – As mentioned before, this style of setup may cost you a little extra.

Potential for Wood Damage – When water leaks occur around wood, you’re likely to find wood rot at some point. Repairing this in a SHTF scenario may prove to be difficult if you’re unable to find the appropriate materials.

Maintenance – Pier and beam foundations may require more upkeep than slabs and sometimes even basements. From ventilation of the crawl space to preventing insulation damage at the subfloor, be prepared to spend some of your time on preventative maintenance.

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Basement Foundations

Basement foundations consist of another level underground beneath the home. These can be finished areas meaning that it may contain a spare bedroom or living room, or they can be unfinished which means that its essentially a tall crawl space.

Pros

Extra Space – Having a basement opens extra space for you even if it’s not a finished basement. Having the furnace and water heater in the basement will keep you from using up areas for these in your main floor plan.

Built in Shelter – If you’re under attack, you will have the option to get into the basement where bullets will have a hard time penetrating since its underground. This may give you enough time to pull a plan of action together and survive the situation.

Climate Control – Buried basements are known to be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. This may have a huge impact on your decision of a foundation type depending on your region.

Cons

Cost – Basements are usually more expensive to install than slabs or pier and beam foundations. Whether or not this impacts your decision on them will be up to you and your financial situation but keep this in mind.

Flooding – Since basements are installed underground, the potential for flooding is common and should be considered. Usually, this is prevented with a sump pump that pumps any additional water out and away from the home. If the power goes out, this pump will not work, and you may find yourself in a bad situation.

Repairs – Repairing a basement foundation if it fails is similar to repairing a slab. It will usually take a professional and a significant amount of money to get it back in good condition. This will likely not be a DIY project.

Roofs

The configurations and styles and materials for roofs are abundant and you’ll want to take into consideration the advantages and disadvantages to your options. The roof to a home usually takes all the brunt that Mother Nature has to offer. Since the materials for roofing are so vast, we will be going over the top two, shingles and metal.

Shingles

Shingles are small tabs that are installed by overlapping materials to help shed water away from the building materials of the home. These can be made of various materials including asphalt, wood, or fiberglass.

Pros

Cost – Compared to metal roofs, shingles are cheaper to install and may even be easier depending on the configuration of your roof.

Easier to Repair – If you have a tree fall onto your roof and it damages a few shingles, all you have to do is replace the damaged areas and continue on about your day where with metal roofing, you’re going to have to replace the entire sheet.

Easy to stockpile extra materials – You’ll be able to stockpile spare shingles in a relatively small amount of space. These come in bundles and can be stacked in a corner somewhere until needed.

Cons

More susceptible to hail damage – Although all types of roofing can be damaged by hail, shingles seem to take it the hardest. Hail breaks apart the granules and can cause early deterioration of the materials.

Relatively Short Lifespan – Shingles usually have a lifespan of 10-30 years depending on the type of shingle and once these begin to fail and leak, your problems can grow rapidly.

More susceptible to wind damage – Wind is not a roof friend and this is especially true with shingles. You may find missing or damaged shingles after a bad wind storm where metal could have otherwise held tightly in place.

Metal Roofs

Metal roofs are made up sheets of metal and usually screwed to the roof decking using special screws that have small rubber gaskets seated near the head of the screw to seal the roof once the screws are put in to place. These types of roofs can come in a multitude of colors.

Pros

Lifespan – Metal roofs have an average of 40 years or more giving you peace of mind for an extended duration.

Fire Safety – Metal roofs cannot catch fire from wildfire or chimney embers landing on it. Although damage to the paint may still occur, you won’t have to worry as much about that one stray ember.

Energy Efficiency – Metal roofs reflect heat well and in the summer months, may keep your home cooler. This can save you money on your air conditioning bill and could reduce the demand of your solar setup if you have one installed.

Cons

Cost – Metal roofs are typically more expensive than shingles. The cost difference could be significant depending on the layout of your roof and may affect your decision based on finances.

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Stockpiling – Metal roof panels can be well over twenty feet long so finding a dry location that’s out of the elements to store these spare panels may be difficult.

Difficult to repair – When a metal roof panel takes damage, you’ll likely have to replace the entire panel to appropriately fix it. This means that to repair a two-inch hole, you’ll have to replace the twenty-foot panel. These panels can also be heavy and quite difficult to install.

Walls

The walls to your home can be another major decision to make in the home building process and just like before, you can have quite a few options. We will look at three of the most commonly seen materials including brick/stone facade, vinyl/wood/hardy siding and metal.

Brick/Stone Facade

Brick and Stone Facade walls are common in today’s construction industry. It’s important to understand that the brick and stone that you see usually do not support any weight of the home. Brick and Stone are known to be porous and allow water to pass through them. A house wrap is usually installed behind the facade to protect the building materials.

Pros

Durable Material – Brick and Stone are durable materials and have a long life span with minimal maintenance. These walls may also offer a small amount of ballistic protection but don’t expect them to last long to gunfire.

Fire Safety – Brick and stone offer fire protection to the home as well meaning that you will be protected against a small grassfire better than you would be with vinyl or wood siding.

Energy Efficiency – Brick and Stone facade offer a small amount of extra energy efficiency by slowing the conduction of heat through the walls. This may help in keeping your home warmer in the winters with just your fireplace going.

Cons

Cost – Bricks are expensive along with the labor to install them. Just like anything else, you may not put too much concern into the cost if it’s what you really desire.

Color – The color of bricks is fairly limited so if your house is out in the woods and you want it to blend in with your surroundings, you may not be able to find a color that suits you. Brick can be painted but this task can prove to be extremely difficult depending on the type of brick.

Weather Considerations – If you live in a region with extreme changes in temperatures, keep in mind that these changes can cause bricks to spall. Spalling most commonly occurs when moisture freezes inside the bricks themselves and causes them to break apart. Repairing these can be difficult, especially if there are no more bricks of that type being produced.

Siding

Siding comes in multiple forms including wood, hardy board, vinyl and aluminum. Each of these materials by themselves have pros and cons but we are going to try and cover them all in one category. Siding is installed by overlapping materials much like a shingled roof. This allows moisture to shed from the house and protects the building materials underneath.

Pros

Cost – Siding is cheaper than most other options and can be installed relatively fast. This keeps the labor costs down as well.

Stockpiling – You may be able to order some extra siding to set back in the event that some of the siding on your house gets damaged. With the low cost and easy installation, you can usually do this yourself and save some money or in the event of a SHTF scenario, save your home from water damage.

Color – If you want your home to blend into its surroundings, then this may be the stuff for you. It can usually be painted with a good exterior paint allowing you to possibly camouflage your home.

Cons

Damages Easier – Siding does not usually hold up well to damage and may need to be replaced more frequently. This may be a pain but at least the installation is fairly simple.

Not Fire Resistant – These materials usually do not hold up well to the occasional grass fire so in the event the fire department no longer exists, you may find that keeping this material on your home can be risky.

Paint Dependent – Wood siding will usually need to be painted from time to time to help protect against the weather. If this goes for an extended time without paint, wood rot can set in and cause you a ton of headaches.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in part 2.)



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