Dear Mr. Rawles,
Do you have any thoughts on the use of A-frame homes as a retreat? I can see the positive negative points, and would appreciate your thoughts (and those of your readers).
They are economical to build and maintain.
The extensive roofs offer lots of space for PV panels or solar water heaters.
The steep roofs are good for distributing heavy loads (whether from heavy snow falls or volcanic ash).
They look like most people’s stereotype of a vacation home, and not like a survival retreat (good for hiding in plain sight).
More difficult to harden against attack.
The steep roof angles create “dead spaces” within the building, reducing the usable square footage.
Any input would be appreciated. Sincerely, – James K
JWR Replies: I would add the following to the list of negatives:
In a societal collapse, looters will be looking for what appear to be vacation homes.
They are often less well insulated than comparable size houses with attics.
They are typically built with very poor visibility on two sides, making them vulnerable to attack.
They have roof materials in close proximity to ground shrubbery, so any combustible roofing (e.g. wooden shakes) are definitely a hazard.
The lack of an attic means less storage space.
Odd angles on the inside walls limit storage space and make cabinet installation far more difficult.
The steep roof angle is not ideal for photovoltaics unless you live at an arctic latitude. (A-frame roof pitches are typically too steep for flush-mounted solar panels.) Ideally, solar panels should match your latitude (i.e. if you live on or near the 40th parallel, then flush-mounted solar panels should be mounted at a 40 degree angle.)
Summary, in my estimation: A-frames look quaint, but they aren’t very practical except for areas with very heavy winter snowfall, such as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and upper elevations in the western slope of the Rockies. A-frames were a fad in the 1960s, but are not very popular these days, in part because their drawbacks outweigh their advantages.