Building the Castle – Part 2, by Jake R.

(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)

Metal Siding

Metal siding is common on a lot of the newer barndominiums and shop houses. Essentially, it’s the same as the metal roofing used on the building. These are becoming more and more popular and have their advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

Durability – This type of metal is typically durable and has good longevity. To top that off, it’s also easy to maintain.

Easy Installation – The installation of this is also straight forward which reduces the labor costs to have it installed.

Fire Safety – This material is also good to have in areas where fires are common. You may find that if it gets hot it will discolor and may rust but it should still protect your home to some extent.

Cons

Cost – This material is typically more expensive than vinyl siding so like many other things mentioned in this article, you may have to pick and choose what’s most important to you. Unfortunately, every bit extra you spend on materials may be addition funding taken away from your beans, band-aids, and bullets.

Rust – Exterior metal still has that capability of rusting, especially if it’s in contact with the ground. You’ll want to keep an eye on this and make sure soil doesn’t pile up next to the home such as ant beds. If this rusts completely through, it will open up the interior walls to the elements and can begin to cause issues.

Stockpiling – Keeping replacement panels around for this is similar to roofs. You may have a hard time finding somewhere to properly store the panels.

Fireplaces/Stoves

Heating and cooking are two very important aspects of prepping. You’ll want to be able to do both and picking the correct setup will be an important decision. For this decision, you will likely consider either a fireplace or a wood burning stove.

Wood Burning Stove

Wood burning stoves are less common than fireplaces in today’s society but have their place in a prepper’s toolbox. These are usually flat topped airtight stoves with a solid metal door that can be closed and latched.

Pros

Cost – Wood burning stoves can usually be purchased at a decent price and are a stand alone unit. This means that the stove itself has legs attached and can be set up easily. The chimney is typically made of stove pipe sections which are relatively easy to install.

More Efficient – Wood burning stoves can provide up to three times the heat as an open front fireplace and use less firewood. This alone may be a strong deciding factor for most people.

Cook and Heat – Not only does a wood burning stove have the ability to heat a home, it also has a flat top that can be used for cooking, much like a stove top.

Cons

Not usually set up for gas – Most wood burning stoves do not come with the option of connecting gas to them. This may be a bummer for you if you’re running off of propane. Eventually, the propane will run out and if you’re not able to restock, this option would be useless.

Fireplace

Fireplaces are common in new construction and can vary in their functions. These can be set up as gas only, wood only or a combination of both. These differ from wood burning stoves in that they are usually open in the front where you can watch the fire burn.

Pros

Relaxing – In the event of the end of the world as we know it, I believe it’s safe to say that the stress levels will be at an all-time high. There isn’t much in this world that is more relaxing than kicking back and watching a fire burn. Years ago, a fire meant safety and of course comfort so maybe some of that is in our DNA. This may sound a little far fetched but having the ability to wind down in bad situations can be beneficial to your mind and body.

Open cook fire – Having an open fire can be nice for cooking on a spit or even camp style with a metal hanger and hot dog.

Gas Capability – Some fireplaces have the ability to connect gas lines to them. If you have a propane tank, this may make your life a little easier for quite some time. Of course, once the propane runs out, you’re back to firewood.

Cons

Less efficient – As mentioned before, the energy efficiency of these units are not as good as wood burning stoves.

Less Cooking Options – You may find that boiling water or cooking a stew may be more difficult with the fireplace. For that matter, anything that requires a pan could prove to be a pain.

Plumbing

Plumbing may or may not be important to you once the world ceases to work as we are used to but then again, you may have a backup plan such as a well with a solar pump. In that case, you will want to have the most maintenance free material possible. The three most common types of materials for supply plumbing are PVC, PEX and Copper.

PEX

PEX usually comes in rolls and is a plastic, somewhat flexible material. Its usually identified by its colors (usually either red or blue if inside a home) and is a newer component in the plumbing world.

Pros

Easy to repair – PEX can be repaired and installed whether it’s wet or dry and does not require any glues or primers. This can usually be done in a matter of seconds depending on where the leak is located.

Crack Resistant – PEX will still freeze just like other materials but will expand which reduces the chance of it bursting. You will still not have any water if it freezes but when it finally thaws, you shouldn’t find any unexpected surprises.

Cost – PEX line is significantly cheaper than PVC or copper and usually comes in 50 or 100 ft rolls making it easy to stockpile.

Cons

Special Tool – PEX requires a special tool to attach the crimps onto the fittings. This tool runs around sixty dollars but should last you for quite some time.

Soft Material – PEX material is relatively soft which may make it vulnerable to rodent damage.

Copper

Copper used for water lines has been around for quite some time and is commonly used even today. It usually comes in rolls and can be identified by its color.

Pros

Hard material – Copper material is relatively tougher than other plumbing materials and should last for quite some time.

Cons

Corrosion – Over time, copper can corrode and crack, causing a leak in your water supply system. This of course can be a problem and should be considered when deciding which material to use.

Difficult to repair – With the exception of the shark bite fittings, copper pipe repairs can be difficult. This may require “sweating” the copper and is an art in itself to do so without having a leak once its complete.

Cost – Copper is an expensive material and will be somewhat expensive.

PVC

PVC is another commonly found material used in supply plumbing. This material usually comes in sticks and is identified by its rigidity and white color.

Pros

Inexpensive Fittings – PVC fittings are usually cheaper than PEX and concrete fittings. The pipe itself is a different story.

Cons

Brittle – Over time, PVC can become brittle, especially if not protected from UV damage. Between that and its tendency to crack when it freezes, you should be cautious of using PVC to run your water supply.

Difficult to repair – PVC is usually easier to repair compared to copper but compared to PEX its significantly more difficult and requires special glues and primers. If these glues and primers are not available, all the extra PVC stock you may have will be rendered useless.

Electrical System

AC electrical systems are fairly universal in their installation techniques so as far as making decisions on the installation of the electric, you probably won’t have much of a say. The only decision that may be present to you is the option of generator versus solar power or a combination of the two. My best piece of advice on this is to contact an electrical professional and go from there. Electrical systems are something that you do not want to mess around with unless you’re properly trained.

Windows

There are a number of various window styles and types on the market today and most, if not all have some level of energy efficiency. The only point I will make with windows is the size. Keep in mind that the larger the window, the greater the breeze it will let through. This may be an important consideration in the summertime without air conditioning. A nice breeze can make a difference in your level of comfort.

Doors

Doors are in the same category as windows in the fact that the options are endless. You’ll want to consider protection. After all, your doors are the gates to your castle and should be considered as such. Reinforced doors can be purchased but keep in mind that the heavier the door, the heavier the hinges. Make sure the hinges can support the weight of the door. Also, when you get a chance, check the hinge screws on your door and make sure they’re not the standard 1-inch long screw. Replacing these with longer and beefier screws is a cheap way to increase your home security.

Septic System

In a SHTF scenario, your drain plumbing and septic can still function as intended but all of that depends on the type of system. You’ll still need a water source to flush the toilets but if you have that set up, you may be okay.

A conventional (anaerobic) septic system is the older style of system with lateral lines and is gravity driven. They will still need to be cleaned out every few years but should continue to work. The problem with this is that the EPA has stepped in and required most areas to switch to installing aerobic systems. Aerobic systems use pumps, aerators, and irrigation heads to help clean up the nasty stuff and reduce the amount of human waste dropped into the soil. These systems may not continue to perform after the power goes out so don’t rely on it for an extended amount of time.

Deciding where to put your septic is also important. You’ll want to make sure that your leech fields are at least two hundred feet from your well or any other water source. This should protect your water source from contamination.

Wells

Modern wells are pretty standard. You’ll want to hire someone to drill your well for you and hopefully install your pump as these can be a bit complicated. If you have a solar setup available, consider asking the technician if he can install it as well. Keeping extra parts for the well pump and solar components would also be wise. Have your well water tested ever so often to make sure it won’t make you sick. After a SHTF scenario, you may want to consider boiling your water just to play it safe.

This article will not give you all the answers but if nothing else, maybe it’ll help you understand some of the options out there. Again, everyone’s situation, whether it be in relation to finances, geographical location, preference or experience is different. Just keep in mind, your home is usually the main thing protecting your family and your preps and should be considered carefully.




19 Comments

  1. I’m sorry but there is much lacking on this.

    Doors are one area that are lacking supremely in. Not just in options as the author says about almost infinite options.

    Let’s start with door sizes… Standard door sizes are as follows for single swing doors (i.e. not french or barn double doors)

    Entryway doors 36″
    Rear door kitchen to exterior etc 33″
    Interior doors 30-33″ (bed room \ room to room etc.)
    Closet and bathroom 27- 30″

    These are standard sizes (recommended sizes are different)

    Door swings on essence you have out and in swing.

    The author should have at least given the readers the information that inward swinging doors are easier to kick in. And the warning that at least one door in the home should still open inward as it keeps the door from becoming blocked by foreign material put there by people or nature (think snow from storms or fallen tree limbs.

    This is just basic information that should be included in any discussion.

    Further more there is a huge difference in door construction it’s self.

    You have 3 main types of doors (main types not all types)

    Solid core (the door is solid all the way through can be solid wood, or particle board to name a few)

    Hollow core (is pretty self explanatory it’s hollow or has foam or honeycomb cardboard in it)

    Fire rated (can come in wood or metal varients and can be hollow filled with fire retardant materials or solid core made of fire retardant materials.

    Door frames are the same…. Multiple option

    You have welded metal door frames
    “Knock down” frames
    Wood frames.

    And on a side note there. Is a world of difference in screws used for fasteners …. For example just swapping a 3 inch screw drywall screws will actually be less secure then using a 1 ½ inch wood screw and 3 inch drywall screws are what most people tend to by when they get 3 inch screws.

    [Some closing unkind words deleted by the Editor.]

    1. I think most of this was unkind. Jake provided a good basic start to work toward moving in the direction of building a home. Some of the information in this comment is incorrect. I feel it would be better to understand the intent rather criticize.
      Just my opinion.

  2. About those metal roof / wall panels – check your home insurance policy to see what kind of damage is covered. My Aunt built a home with metal roof panels – very happy with it.

    But a hail storm created small dimples on roof finish from the impacts, which collected condensation and eventually rusted out at the spots. Her insurance policy did not cover the cost of replacement nor did the manufacturer of the panel. ‘Act of God’ and all. If the panel had been destroyed via a falling tree, another story altogether.

    So if you live where hail is a common occurrence – take heed.

    Very interesting series – thank you for writing them.

  3. Jake, Thanks again for getting us all going on this topic. There is much to talk about. I hope you realize volumes could be written about any one of your topics.
    I want to jump in on fireplaces vs wood stoves.
    I am 66 and have heated with wood nearly all my life. Currently I live in northwest FL and most people would think we don’t need much heat. Certainly not compared to the mountains of Colorado where grew up. In northern FL it is 44 degrees this morning and we have a fire blazing.
    When designing our current house 5 years ago I wanted a high efficiency stand alone wood stove but my wife as an interior designer would not hear of it. After weeks of research we settled on a fireplace that has ducting to all parts of the house. It is fantastic and I would encourage anyone designing to look into this. My only other thought would be to look at Paul Wheaton’s designs for heating a house with wood.
    Thank you

    1. Wood Tamer! Great strategy — a fireplace with ducting throughout your home. Our wood stove was added “after the fact” (and works exceptionally well). But — for anyone building from the ground up, this is an excellent idea. Thanks for sharing!

      1. 45 Degrees North,
        We used the RSF Focus 320 which are manufactured in Canada. We actually ordered from Southern Hearth and Patio in Chattanooga 423-899-3853 (I have no affiliation) I must commend them on their excellent customer service and support. Many options are available. Our fireplace heats the entire house evenly. Ours came in with a broken fire brick but replacement was quick and painless. Be sure to plan for a fresh air intake. Drawings and specifications are complete.
        I am not really sure how to add ducting to an existing fireplace but imagine it could be done but extreme caution is advised.

    2. When we remodeled our family room, I added ducting in the ceiling joists above the wood stove that transfers heat to the bedrooms above. Nothing scientific, but it works pretty good. A tinner friend (who now works for me as a site superintendent) fabbed it for me for free, so the outlay was just labor. Definitely glad I did it.

  4. Materials choices… This is a good conversation for those who are new to the ideas or considering improvement choices for existing homes.

    For anyone considering a wood stove, you might look at the Soapstone line. We purchased ours now nearly 20 years ago, and we wouldn’t be without it. Our home is small and on one level, and the Soapstone stove provides winter warmth with exceptional efficiency. It’s clean burning too with a feature that is essentially a catalytic converter. We also find that the quality of the heat is far superior to the electric alternative. Dimensions of our stove are about 28″ wide x 16″ deep including the heat box in the back, and there are larger and smaller versions as well.

    A tip for anyone new to wood stoves and wood heat… The need to feed or stoke the fire in the middle of the night can be greatly reduced (or eliminated) with 1) the type of wood you’re using (OAK and LOCUST burn more slowly than some other woods — although LOCUST will burn hot so be aware); and 2) the loading of unsplit “rounds” just before bed. In our experience, MAPLE is another good option.

    Always use your stove with safety guidelines in mind, and keep your flue clean. We have cleaned our own (using a brush designed for this purpose), and we have also hired an experienced chimney sweep now and again to clean and check out stove and flue. In all the years we’ve had the stove, it wasn’t until this year that we needed to affect any repairs (and this year replaced the ash pan grate that rests above the trap because it had some warping from lots of us over the years).

  5. The other major lack in this article is the lack of any discussion of alternative building methods. Contemporary 2xstick construction is useless against pretty much any modern firearm. Which makes your home a trap in case of the need for defense. Also not discussed is the need for planning building placement and design to maximize field of fire. Older construction methods such as Adobe or log and newer rammed Earth and earthship construction may be labor intensive but are sturdy, fire resistant, and bullet resistant. Something to consider for when the SHTF.

  6. If you decide to use metal siding be sure to get the 26 ga. metal panels and use the Longline screws that are zinc coated and have the overlap to prevent the washer from UV deterioration, otherwise you will be changing all the screws every 8-10 years especially if you live in the South.

    1. The washer-ed screws come in varying diameters. Initially use the smaller diameters so that years later when the screws start to work their way out from the panels contracting and expanding you can simply replace them with larger diameter screws. Also, some panels snap together providing a “fastener-less” surface connection. Much less likely to leak.

  7. Jake ,,, I have built and help build homes and cabins in the alaska bush , in some cases hundreds of miles from a road ,all material was flown in , in small bush planes ,these were a mix of small log (turned logs) ,pole barn , yurt,geo dome and stick frame .
    From my experience all things considered was the pole barn types were most practical
    Yes I flew in 20ft 6×6 posts with a Cessna 185 float plane ,plywood was cut to 2×8 to fit in the airplane tin roofing was in 2×8 sheets too ,
    Every thing was hand carried 1/4mile up from the lake ,even the 600lb wood stove
    No concrete was used ,comp roofing would have been a nightmare to pack in ,
    As for doors and window covers we made those out of 3inch cut on site with a chain saw mill

    A tin roof is easy to repair , you don’t need to change the entire pannal ,cut the dammage out and slip in a patch section , As for hail damage if that is a problem a plywood underlayment helps
    Consider that a tin roof needs a paint job too doing that will extend a it life many years ,i also like that it a light roof needing less roof structure,addto that with the right pitch snow load stops being a problem
    Using tin for siding has a advantage as siding in that exterior wall are easy to repair from the outside
    Just experience talking ,

    Tea and chocolate

  8. More thoughts on metal roofs… When it was time to replace our composite roofing, we went with a metal roof and have been very happy with this choice. We did have vent pipes to address which necessitated the dreaded “cut outs” (try to avoid these if possible when designing and building from scratch). A good tip is that there are special “boots” available for installation that prevent leaks — talk with your roofer or plumber about these. We also suggest that you consider plywood underlayment and a product called “double bubble” for added energy efficiency.

    1. Keeping in mind ada guidelines is always a good idea to a point. Certain things like counter top height etc can be omitted of course if you are on the tall side.

      But keeping in mind that this is intended to be your forever home … It should be based around you and yours.

      A good starting height for standing work surfaces is to stand in a relaxed posture with your arms held natural as you hold them. Them lift your fingers and palm until it is parallel with the floor. That is your starting height for your work area height.

      Most people are comfortable working with in 6 inches of that height (3 up 3 down)

      It would be a good idea to set the height of your counter tops and sinks to that height -2″ (or who ever’s is going to be primary user of the top \ sink) . The reason for the minus 2 or so inches is… You shrink as you age.

      The last thing you want to do is come in from hard labor with a sore back and have to stoop bend over to do meal prep or clean.

      Like wise your chairs heights should be made fire you and yours.

      Little pre thought touches like that will go a long way for quality of life

  9. The design should account for possible dangers;fire,flood,storm. Building in a hurricane inundation zone can be a slab elevated on piers or tied rebar hurricane construction,same with a possible flood zone(plan for 500 year flood),foundations of easily repaired material(block) can be fixed fairly easily(digging and filling are the hard part,if high water table prevents a below grade storm shelter a above ground shelter can be joined into the foundation. Solid brick construction may be a higher cost to build with but a pre-existing can be a excellent choice if in good condition. Really glad the waste system was touched on,septic systems are very reliable if maintained(normal pump outs,baffles and elbows in outflow),a quality map of the system is invaluable for maintenance/repairs(hours spent probing for the tank,field boxes while the plumbing is backed up is Bad). Damaged/unmaintained fields can even be repaired by knowledgeable professionals. The aerobic style(cavittete)systems are not new but very effective(properly designed/run) can even discharge into flowing water without pollution,can be run by solar but were originally hand cranked.

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