Planning a "Disaster Room" (Part 1)

We have a number of factors that are coming together that force us to think through an earthen home addition.

Whether you are talking radiation resistance, food storage, an additional bedroom, family day room for when the grid goes during a hot summer in the south, or an additional armory space…a “Disaster Room” is making sense. 

You’ll see it as we run through some headlines this morning and the chart…

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39 thoughts on “Planning a "Disaster Room" (Part 1)”

  1. George,

    Some sort of buried structure is also on my mind. I have substantial food storage and am constantly trying to keep it cool in the summer and not freeze in the winter. Underground storage I think is the answer so I had the hole dug out this last summer and am noodling the ‘structure’. I am thinking a school bus or maybe structural plate that is used in culverts. I looked into precast concrete sections, 8x8x8 with a dome roof but they were $5000 per and would need a crane to set in place. I my wind up learning how to lay cinder block. Please keep us in the know on what you decide to do.

    • If you use block in this application, pour a concrete base with integral footer and rebar ties going vertical. DRY lay the block max four feet at a time with vertical and horizontal rebar(use block with formed notches). After dry laying a section, fill with a wet, rich concrete using a vibrator. Then repeat to the full height, keeping the rebar running and tied. A ceiling can be poured with proper support using 12″ spacing on thick rebar, presuming you’re not spanning too far. Proper roof and wall waterproofing and drainage is a must.

      • NM Mike, thanks for the advice on the cinder Block! I was thinking about stacking dry as per your instructions, and also applying QUICKRETE to both sides of the walls. Apparently, it is the recommended way to dry stack cinder blocks. The roof would span 8 to 10 foot and have 18 to 24 inches of dirt on top.

  2. Better an old school bus body as a form than an RV. RV’s are lightweight boxes exempt from many NHTSA rules. School buses are ridiculously overbuilt, due to parental concerns. They are also dirt cheap, since the bodies are a pain to recycle. Get an old RV or two to park somewhere as spare houses if you wish. Just buy with delivery included. It’s sometimes good to give relatives their own houses, rather than share a roof. Doubly true if they have a S.O. or family. A “Winter Roof” will extend an RV life considerably.

    For the disaster room, place your “form” on a deep bed of gravel, with(ideally) side-hill gravity drainage. Use lots of well tied or welded rebar(12″ spacing ideally) in concrete. Pay special attention to infiltration and access by bugs, rodents, snakes, centipedes and other critters. Have a plan to eradicate any infestation. Watch humidity carefully if food is involved. Ventilation, plumbing and power are engineering considerations.

    • Oh, that brings back memories – I think it was in the seventies? Eighties? When a school bus full of kids and driver were kidnapped and held for ransom and their bus was buried with them in it. I seem to remember the driver was a hero in the whole mess . . .

  3. Regarding proximity to medical “services”, remember that 80% of total LIFETIME medical expenses are incurred during the last three days of life, on average. You may not even be conscious during those last three days, so does it really make sense to incur these expenses? Perhaps trade off three days of near-life for a family legacy…

    As always, it’s a personal choice.

  4. So now it is keep the plane and all the toys, and the crappy kitchen but build a bug out/earthen addition in Hooterville? Starting to think geezerdom has taken over your brain….

    • Yeah, we know u r a troll with limited thinking and no vision. Put on earth to be paid for your spittle, shameful disgraceful result of a shallow life not lived. Go away, and don’t come back, you don’t add anything to the site.

  5. Secondly if you are thinking of having young people rent from you why not build a multiple family( two seperate or duplex style) near where one of the kids most likely not to want to kill you live . “Rent” to them and you two can seriously travel. They can start to absorb the chores as well as tend to you as you move further into old age…

  6. why not build a multiple family/ duplex near the kid most likely not to want to kill you resides. Rent to them while you take Elaine on real trips.They could also take take of the place ,as well as you as you you move further into old age…..

  7. “Whether you are talking radiation resistance, food storage, an additional bedroom, family day room for when the grid goes during a hot summer in the south, or an additional armory space…a “Disaster Room” is making sense.”

    A disaster room is a good idea.. from the increased volatility of storms due to whatever reason you want to give it..
    They are good if your in need of a short term shelter.. but unless your on the invited list to one of the national bunkers.. the best bet for anyone is to learn a skill that you can use to trade and barter..
    Just like the mayan calendar.. I think unconsciously everyone expected a drastic change.. like instantly.. but changes are really quite subtle.. Like a tree falling or a building collapsing.. here is a video of what I am talking about.. from the economy.. global climate collapse , droughts etc.. they are can be summerized the same way.. it isn’t sudden.. but a slow shifting..
    take the elephant in the room.. Fukishima..

    There isn’t any way in the world I would even consider relocating to the PNW.. especially since the radiation levels spike as high as they do.. so.. what do you do..
    Not much.. even if you were an invited person to one of the deep bunkers.. you just have to learn a skill.. that is where Gayes site comes in. she pushes skills.. you can stock food water etc.. but what happens when it run’s out.. several years ago.. I invested in solar power.. a friend of mine that was a scientist.. ( still is just retired) living in the DC area.. razzed me about the cost.. he teased me for years.. then a huge storm took out the power in his area.. for several weeks.. he had a generator.. it was great till the fuel ran out.. he called me and apologized because the house he lived in was almost 130 degree’s.. he said I am cooking in here.. since his retirement he has invested in a huge solar aray that supplies his home with all the power he can produce.. he has thanked me several times.. so the best way to see just how you will fare.. turn off the water.. turn off the breaker in your home.. and leave it for a couple of weeks.. not a day or two.. but you have to feel it.. as far as radiation etc.. your only recourse is to move out of the area that is saturated from it.. learn as much as you can.. making soap.. how to make paper.. pencil.. process and store food acquire food from nature.. is it stupid.. not on your life.. we all should be prepared for a scenario..

    Does it make a difference if your rich or poor.. nope.. the poor are use to making due so they have a better than average chance at surviving.. those already living on the street.. even better…. the wealthy are use to having it done for them and not having to scrape for anything.. they might put up stores for a catastrophic event but when the goods are gone what do you do then.. medical.. keep it from the poor.. but it is in everyone’s best interest to make sure everyone is as healthy as can be.. since a virus or material situation doesn’t’ really care who you are 67 percent of those working in hospital settings are on part time or temporary duty…. during the depression of 1918 in germany that should be a good model to judge by.. although this time around it will be a whole lot worse in my opinion..

    Check out Gayes site.. she shoves information out to everyone that is willing to learn and practice what they learn.. if you don’t hone your skills.. you just have the knoweledge not the practical experience.. the Mormons probably are halfway prepared.. they preach it but they don’t live it.. some do.. but less than ten percent.. the Amish now.. they live it.. every day all day.. Like the building going over.. it won’t do much till it happens then wham..
    Of course all of this is just my opinion..

  8. And why exactly would you WANT to survive in a hole in the ground?????? Knowing that lived ones are gone and the rest of the world is toast? Storing some extra supplies is one thing a dug-out home (and how old are you ?)Is kinda nuts…During the Cuban missile crisis, Jackie alledgedly told JFK that she and children would NOT be going down into the bunkers, but would hold hands on the White House lawn and face their fate as dignified human beings…what a class act!

    • Jackie.. she was a class act… an inspiration for all of us…. although a dugout shelter isn’t a bad thing either for a coming storm or a quick retreat.. .. Its just not a long term solution..if radiation has a ten thousand year half life.. you are not going to live in the ground that long.. its just a tomb..

    • here is an out of this world abstract comment.. we read about the aliens.. the ufo influence.. all the reports.. thousands for thousands of years.. Now.. why aren’t they stepping in to stop the greedy group from all of this insanity.. the horror of rampant violence and hate that seems to be running amok from those we should be looking up to to the average on the street . we read in the bible stories like Sodom and Gomorrah.. stories out of the books of Enoch on the watchers.. I would say this is the prime time for them to step in and say hold it stupid.(Stultus eam.) lets take a step back from what you are planning.
      Instead the very few are pushing to destroy a planet that are on average from what I know uncommon … ..
      what is so insanely stupid about it all.. is its all for geopolitics or paper that isn’t worth anything more than something that some idiot in polyester sporting a hanky in his pocket is saying what he thinks its worth.and if they succeed there won’t be anything left for anyone. Im done ranting..


    Mike Oehler lived for over 30 years in an underground home that he built for $50 (and expanded for $500) on his land in Northern Idaho near the Canadian border. Now in his seventies his arthritis keeps him from hiking up to his home, but he continues to “write and proselytize”

    In 1968 like thousands of other San Franciscans hoping to go “back to the land”, Oehler bought property and began to build a homestead. After spending a winter freezing in a small cabin, he designed a home that would use the earth as insulation. With his first attempt he fell into the easy errors of what he calls a “first thought house”: a hole cut into a hillside with south-facing windows.

    Gradually he began to innovate with subterranean design, creating better ways for letting light in: among them “the Hollywood Wing”, “the Royer foyer”, gables and most-importantly the “uphill patio” (which also provides space for an earth-sheltered greenhouse). He also created an inexpensive, low-tech approach to basic design with what he calls PSP or Post/shoring/polyethlene.

  10. I live in florida, dug a hole and now I have a pond. Bunkers are cool, always wanted an underground home for various reasons.

    • Yeah I agree I dig a hole make a pond and take the dirt from the pond and making them grow up above ground structure that’s awesome that protects you from the elements and makes it cool in the summer and warm in the winter and does a whole bunch of the stuffj

  11. I never thought about this when I read the report..
    Earth Sheltered.. a bunker or emergency shelter is a great idea for the temporary..
    But earth sheltered homes is only smart.. the temperature remains constant low maintenance all of your fixes go inside the house..
    I have been in a few that are absolutely gorgeous with patios and pools that are usable year round..they are not dark and damp but bright and airy..
    In fact if I ever got the chance to build my dream home it would be an earth sheltered home..

    • Hey Now You’re groovin that’s a good website there are things that can be made in the ground I really like that that’s got some good good points good aspects and good visions

  12. who and why asked the kids to get in debt.did they party and play along the way and now want their debts to be forgiven ? i did not get a higher education but worked hard from age 19.raised 4/four children and struggled to pay bills” but i paid them”.can,t they do without till they can afford what they want and get by on what they need. now a days they are born with a phone in their hand and a phone bill also. fess up grow some balls.

    • When I was in college (some 35 to 45 years ago – I assume you went about the same time frame) I worked mostly full time and went to school at night, lived at home and the cost per credit hour was seventeen dollars. (That’s right a whole seventeen dollars – I was paid at most $5.50 per hour.)

      Today the average wage for a college student has probably doubled to like maybe $11.00 per hour, but the cost per credit hour is in the hundreds.

      I don’t know how a student who is of average ‘means’ can afford going to college without getting loans and going into debt. Today for many jobs, you need the extra education to advance.

      Whether someone has a cell phone or not is a red herring – the cost of college/university is ‘unreal’!

      • understood. if it cost too much dont go do something else.the reason i did not got to college was in 1960 it was too high for me .so…i went to work in a box factory @1.89 a hour and was a happy man became a bldg supply salesman , on commission retired @45 went back 10 yrs. later and retired @67.did not owe a soul for years.some students now in college don,t know what they want to do ???

  13. George,
    as you well know there are survivors (who will repopulate the world) and then there others who do not wish to survive, you and others like us is what it will take to remake the world after whatever it is that is coming, so don’t listen to the the ones who wish to die, let them and build your safe place, we did 12 years ago and have NOT looked back!!

    • Excellent and absolutely, I have been prepared to be a survivor for over 30 years. I am the rebuilder, the truth teller, and the spiritual balm that will keep my group together. I am prepared and ready, willing, and able to serve.

  14. What’s got me wondering is like why are we all the sudden going in this direction does that mean there might be something happening in our future as has happened in the past with our ancestors they have had things coming in and they have long to live underground to a certain degree I mean there are beings like us that live way on the ground but we’ve had beings like us that are nudes its surface but still on the ground or in case so you know to have the same existence that we do except it’s a little more

  15. Don’t you have ‘a lot’ (meaning too many) snakes in Texas? Like cottonmouths and rattle-snakes?? Ugh!
    The idea of ‘sharing’ an earth shelter with snakes . . .

  16. I’ve got tons of links saved of this kind of stuff. As mentioned earlier Mike Oehler’s “50 dollar and up underground house” is a fantastic book. He’s got videos online you can see his buildings.

    The link below has great design ideas.

    Cobb is about as cheap as it gets. Cobb is clay, straw and sand. It hardens like a brick.

    For the roof search for “reciprocal roof”.

    I have an idea for the absolutely cheapest housing available using combinations of the links above. Use the ultimate building system inflatable form. Use a plaster or Stucco sprayer to spray on swimming pool plaster in several layers. After it dries it provides support for multiple layers of cob and waterproofing. Cover with multiple layers of cobb. Let that dry then cover with more swimming pool plaster. The plaster can be colored to make it stealth. I think this would provide about the cheapest structure possible and still be very strong because of the arches.

    If you don’t like the inflatable form work search for “fabric formwork”. The shells and forms made like this are really beautiful. Look at these even if you don’t want to build anything they’re art in themselves.

    Here’s one more which combines a reciprocal roof with earth shelter. Very cool.

    For radiation you probably need to go with arches and 3 feet minimum of cobb.

    If you wish to protest against nukes you need to go to

    it’s an interactive nuclear blast effects online program. Nuke your nearest city and see what you need in terms of protection.

  17. Take a look at Monolithic Domes over at Italy,TX. They have done a number of earth sheltered domes and know how to handle oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange in a semi sealed environment. Their domes have survived earthquakes,tornados,and hurricanes.

    • They are having a Monolithic Dome Home Tour, on Saturday, October 15th. A good day to see several finished domes and see how and where they make them, and on-site small dome home models for simple living. They are normally closed on Saturday and only do this open house tour once a year. Well worth the trip there. Banks now finance dome homes.

  18. Some sooner rather then later will end up ‘underground’…BUT in the end ALL will ‘ go to the ground’….I chose to stay above ground as long as possible…”come hell or high water”….to each his/her own….imho

  19. I just sold all my prepping gear, cept a few things Berkey filter, water proof banaculars, my loup etc. Etc.. Contrary to popular opinion round these parts we still have 3 years and change of prosperity from my vantage point.

    We are still in the mother of all bubbles and housing is only just starting to catching up..

    What was it that is said in revelations? Something about, “they start talking about peace the disaster will suddenly over come them”..

    Peace sells, but who is buying?

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