I’d like to discuss my perspective on family preparedness, from the perspective of a architectural design and building contractor. There are four categories to this aspect of preparedness: Materials, Tools, Knowledge and Usefulness
I read a lot of articles about things to stock up on when TEOTWAWKI situations occur. One thing I do not hear discussed as much is keeping a well stock material shed at your bug out location. Now keep in mind this is not a Bug out bag list. The is a Bug Out Destination or Home list.
Coming from the world of Architectural Design and Contracting I have seen buildings become deplorable shacks in no time. You would be amazed at how quickly a simple water leak can destroy your compound/home. Maintenance is always key but sometimes Mother Nature will take over on even the best of us. A downed tree branch, strong wind gusts or even a deer running into you window (I have seen this happen).
A well stocked material shed will provide you with not only items for repair and maintenance of your Compound but will provide you with barter items that could be just as valuable as ammo or food.
Below is a list of items I would recommend to keep in stock at all times. The best part is a lot of items can be found for little or no costs at all:
2×12’s (these, with a little effort can be made into 2×4’s, 2×6’s or 2×8’s if need be)
Other sizes of 2x framing lumber if your budget allows.
Plywood or OSB
Tyvek or similar Building Wrap (10 mil plastic works as well)
Plexiglas (4×8 sheets to be cut down)
Steel pipe and sheets (in any sizes)
Chain Link Fencing
Exterior Grade Paint (color will not matter but neutral brown or green is always best)
Cans of PVC cement (keep in a cool dry place and Sealed tightly)
This is just a small list of items. You can expand this list to any thoughts you may have and concerns about what you may need. My personal favorite are Pallets. I have built many things with these in the past. Recently I just built my entire material storage shed with them. 12 x 14 foot shed with 8 foot side walls and a 4/12 pitch roof. A little thinking and planning can go a long way.
Now I mentioned most can be found at little or no cost. Just tracking down the materials in the right places. Any hardware store, furniture store, even ATV stores are great for pallets. [JWR Adds: In lightly-populated regions, machinery companies, fish hatcheries, and trucking firms are a great source for free pallets, usually available just for the asking. But please be sure to not take any pallets that are returnable–typically marked with spray-painted company logos.] Most of the material is scrape to them and costs them money to remove. They are usually more than happy to just have you take it off there hands. Even the ones that are not structurally stable will make great firewood. So grab everything you can get.
Another place to go are new house construction sites. You would not believe the material that go into the dumpsters because it’s just too much work for them to salvage. The best sites are ones when they tear down and old house. The framing lumber is the best from them. If you keep an eye out or know anyone doing a building project, ask them ahead of time if you can get into buildings to salvage any items before they are destroyed. It is also a great idea to contact local construction companies and ask them if they have any projects you can take a look at to salvage from. Just don’t push it with them either. They have to be concerned with Liability insurance so if they turn you down its most likely nothing to do with you but insurance reasons. If they do turn you down ask them for locations where they dump debris and if they can give you a heads up when they dump to see what you can find.
On a recent trip to a construction site I was able to pick up about 6 bundles of shingles they just had taken off a roof, multiple pieces of OSB, some framing lumber and a stack of siding. Those are the items I kept for myself. I gathered windows, doors and molding that I took home and posted on craigslist for resale. Ammo and food storage money!
Craigslist is the next best place to pick up materials with a little work and searching. I have come across many postings in the past of people looking to have decks from old pools taken down or concrete blocks from old burn pits. It is a plethora of free materials that could be a home saver in the future. Sometimes and if your budget allows you will find contractors liquidating non-used materials from job sites. You can get these for pennies on the dollar compared to home depot.
Material Auctions from local auctioneers are good to keep an eye out for as well. Even the local county gov’t has their auctions that you can find items for dirt cheap.
Now Materials are great to have but without the next list item they are useless.
Now after you get into a rhythm of finding and storing your material the next step will be to make sure you have all the tools required to work the materials.
List of items to keep on hand (excluding garden and out door tools like shovels, Etc…):
Min. (2) Construction Style Hand Saws
Utility Knifes and several bulk packs of blades
Multiple size crowbars
Multiple staple guns and boxes of staples
Sharpening Tool for saws
Tape measure (25’, 100’ and a wooden 3’ collapsible one)
Contractor grade pencils (a box of them)
I would see this list as the bear minimum of items to keep stock. It would also be a great idea to stock up on extra blades and items to barter. I have read on here recently the phrase “two is one, and one is none.” I could not think of a better term to describe my tool build up.
Now this brings us to our next category.
Now while you have been stocking and storing all these items you should have been building up one item at the top of everyone’s list for any prepping area. Knowledge. You must understand how to use your materials and tools and to use them safely at all times. The last thing you want to do is throw safety to the wind and end up with a missing or broken finger. Safety is extremely important!
Knowledge is the most important part of this prep. I have known many people that I walk into there garage and get jealous of the tools and things they have. The thing is usually though, I am looking at these things after they have called me to come over to help them build something because they do not know how. Ironic huh?
Research is a great tool but the best tool is sometimes to just go build something for fun. Build a pallet playhouse for your kids. Build a barn door to replace one you have. Simple things that get your brain looking at projects in a different light. Let me tell you another thing about using recycled materials. Your brain will work in ways you would never believe to figure out how to make and repair something for free with only what you have available. Besides, at TEOTWAWKI all you will have is what is available in front of you most of the time.
Now for those of you who like to read up on things let me tell you about a book I first started with when designing back in school. It’s called Building Construction Illustrated by Francis D.K. Ching. It is a very basic but also a very through book about most types of building construction. This one book alone I still reference even after being in the architectural field for 15 years.
Everyone has done the research most likely on how to build a chicken coop, or greenhouse. You can find plenty of plans out there on the internet to figure these things out. Problem is, how do you do them without paying for any items to build with. I recently constructed my chicken coop using one of my favorite items again: pallets. I built and entire frame from the pallets and secured it to my garage. I used reclaimed pressure treated wood from a fence as clap board siding. I used reclaimed insulated ceiling tiles for the insulation. Reclaimed metal roofing for the roof. I spent most likely the same amount of time thinking about how to build it as I did actually building. But in TEOTWAWKI situation the one thing you will most likely have a little more of is time with that pesky thing called a job out of the way. It’s all about knowledge in the end. Thinking outside of the box.
Knowledge again is your best defense and offense. Your own ingenuity could be a defining point in having shelter or none at all. You must be able to understand the basic concepts of design and construction to be able to allow you to have the last of my four categories.
Imagine back in the pioneer days. All people had was their own two hands and trying to figure out how to use an ax to build a home. We are spoiled today, with our ability to have all these basic, yet great items and so many of us don’t know how to use them. If you figure this out though you will be useful not only to your family but to the community around you that will eventually rebuild. This usefulness in your community around you will pay off very big dividends in the end.
Trading your skills and labor could also be one of the best Barter items you could have to offer. They are the cheapest things to be able to stock up on but some of the most valuable. Being useful to those around you will provide you with their trust and in turn you will be able to trust them when you need it.
So in the end having all the basic preps are important. But always keep in mind the hidden long terms preps mentioned above.