Construction and Maintenance

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frozen over

By +Cassie Costner

As the winter months approach, it is essential to get your heater checked to ensure it is working properly. A malfunctioning system can have disastrous effects when temperatures plummet. Be prepared before the seasons change to prevent this from happening. If it does, here are some of the easiest things to do to stay safe, and keep your home safe as well.


Before the worst of winter hits, get your home prepared for anything that could happen.

There are a few things that should be done beforehand in case the bad gets worse and you are left without a heater.

  • Have your chimney inspected. If you are planning on using your fireplace this is essential to prevent disastrous situations from occurring. Burning wood releases gases that will cool and stick to the inside of the chimney, forming a flammable hazard. Take care of this before it becomes a threat.
  • Flip the switch on your ceiling fan. Although many people use their ceiling fan in the summer, most don’t realize the advantages of using it in the winter. Each fan should have a small switch on the side, moving the blades to turn in the opposite direction. This forces the warm air down, keeping the heat from escaping.
  • Check for cracks in your windows or doors. These small cracks in the caulking or even in the window itself can cause you to lose warmth. Rather than allowing this to happen, check the windows before the worst of the cold hits. Get the problem mended as soon as possible.
  • Have your furnace inspected. There’s nothing worse than having your furnace go out in the dead of winter. Most repair companies are swamped with hundreds of others who are calling for the same issues. Rather than deal with it later, have it checked before the worst of winter hits.
  • Protect your pipes. Although keeping your sink dripping may seem expensive, this will save you from bursting pipes. To prevent your pipes from freezing; insulate them, especially those that are exposed to the outside elements.

Even with all this, there are still chances your heater will go out. Be prepared to keep your home as safe from the elements during this time as possible.


If your heater goes out in the middle of winter, call for professional help immediately. Set up an appointment as soon as they can. Protect your house before they get there by:

  • Closing all your windows, including storm doors. Only open them during the day if the outside temperature is higher than the inside.
  • Keep the curtains closed, only opening them when the sun is shining directly in the window.
  • Close off any rooms you aren’t using to stop the air from circulating, losing heat.
  • If you have hardwood floors, put down a rug to keep heat.
  • Use candles. These will produce more heat than you realize. Make sure they are safely placed, and are blown out when somebody leave the house.
  • Incandescent lights give off more heat than light. Turn on as many of these around where you want to keep warm as possible.
  • Use the oven, bake cookies or anything else that will need to be cooked. Stay as close to the kitchen as you can.

Surviving when the heat goes out can be difficult, make sure to protect your house, as well as your family from the plummeting temperatures. By taking a few steps beforehand, your home will be better equipped to handle whatever storms come its way. Rather than waiting to fix the problem, call a professional as soon as possible to mend the situation. – Survival Life

Cassie writes on preventing damage to the home from storm damage to mold damage. She has written for Method Air on maintaining your HVAC system, and keeping your heating and air running as long as possible.



By Josh

If there is one area where Hollywood does a major disservice to self-defense, it is in the way it shows a firefight. Any material the hero or major villains decide to hide behind becomes invulnerable to bullets, whether it is a table, a car, or a wall in their home. The proper distinction between cover and concealment is lost on the part of the scriptwriters and action choreographers, and unfortunately as a result many preppers who watch their movies have some misconceptions too! If you were put in a position where you had to defend your home, food, and family from looters you wouldn’t want to rely on faulty TV tactics, so it is important to understand the real differences between cover and concealment.

What is the difference?

Concealment only hides you from the enemy. It doesn't protect you from gunfire if they do spot you.

Concealment only hides you from the enemy. It doesn’t protect you from gunfire if they do spot you.

The names can give you some clue. Concealment is primarily able to hide you from prying eyes, keeping you from being specifically targeted in a firefight. However, if you tried to use concealment to protect yourself from stray rounds, you would turn into a lead depository pretty quickly. Cover, on the other hand is sufficient to protect you from enemy rounds winging their way towards you. It might also conceal you, but generally that benefit is secondary to the bullet protection offered. Furthermore, different kinds of cover protect from different levels of damage. A small caliber pistol round that hits you from a long range requires far weaker cover than a rifle round from point-blank range will.

The other key difference, and the one that most people tend to forget, is in how common they are. Concealment is almost constantly available in varying degrees, as every wall, piece of furniture, and tree could potentially hide you from the enemy. Obviously some means of concealment (such as a carefully designed ghillie suit) are better than others, but on the whole concealment is almost always at hand.

Cover protects you from bullets, and can also double as concealment in many cases.

Cover protects you from bullets, and can also double as concealment in many cases.

Cover by contrast is rather rare in most settings. Most furniture, walls, cars and smaller trees are not sufficient cover for even small caliber rounds, and so diving behind them in a firefight would serve only to conceal your position rather than protecting it. To be very clear, this includes metal tables and even small vehicle engines depending on the round despite what a thousand TV shows and movies may have shown you.

In most homes, cover is almost nonexistent unless there are concrete walls in a basement or a steel door to hide behind. Outside, unless you live in a city or town which has buildings with thick concrete/brick walls or other solid structures, your best bet will be to prepare earthen defenses like a foxhole, preferably surrounded by sandbags as additional protection.

Common types of concealment and cover that you’re likely to come across in a disaster

In order to further help you to tell the difference between these two concepts, here is are lists of the common kinds of concealment and cover that you’re likely to come across. If you’re having trouble shaking off the preconceived notions that endless TV firefights have given you, these may prove particularly helpful. Note that many items that qualify as cover also function as concealment, but for clarity the items on the concealment list only hide, not protect.


  • Tree limbs, leaves etc.
  • Bushes and brush, including tall grass.
  • Shadows and blinding light (if positioned so that the enemy has to stare into a floodlight or the sun in order to look at you).
  • Opaque curtains.
  • Drywall, wood, and other thin material walls.
  • Piled clothes, blankets, leaves, and other materials.
  • Small (under 2ft in diameter) trees.
  • Vehicles, excepting reinforced doors on squadcars and particularly large engine blocks.
  • Tables, desks, doors (excepting thick steel doors).
  • Ghillie Suit.
  • Window blinds and shutters.
  • Smoke
  • A corpse (even a particularly fat person will not stop most rounds)


  • Thick stone, brick, or concrete walls/buildings.
  • Large engine blocks.
  • Thick (over 2ft in diameter) trees and stumps.
  • Natural valleys, hills, holes, and craters from explosions.
  • Earthwork defenses, including several rows of sandbags.
  • A safe.
  • A steel door.
  • Piled rubble.
  • Concrete walls in a basement.
  • A freezer or refrigerator, assuming it is packed with food.

Make sure you know the difference between cover and concealment: it might just save your life in an emergency. – Prepared For That

Your Thoughts?

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Can you think of any other common types of cover or concealment?



Previously we’ve looked at building earthwork defenses such as spider holes, which were designed to be setup fairly quickly with minimal tools and time spent. Today, we’re going to look at an old technique that was used to build stone walls that have lasted for hundreds of years. Used as fences, boundary markers, and a variety of other structures, these “dry stacked” walls were built without mortar, cement, or any other bonding agent. Instead, these walls are built of shaped field stones and held up with simple friction and the force of gravity. For a prepper looking to construct durable walls that can be easily repaired in an emergency without special materials, these walls are the perfect solution.

The tools and materials needed

Stones should vary in size, but you will need at least a few large, flat stones to build a solid foundation.

Stone. Traditionally, these dry stacked walls were constructed out of the loose stones found lying about the land or that were dug up out of the fields when plowing. Although this technique is still very much applicable today (and might be even more so in a disaster, since property lines and boundaries will be much less limiting when scavenging stones) you could also elect to purchase stone by the ton and keep it in a stockpile for future repair/construction if your area is lacking in stone. You will need stones of all sizes and shapes, including tiny chips that can be used to wedge larger stones and hold them in place. If all you can find are rounded boulderlike rocks, you may need to split some of them to get somewhat flat shapes for certain parts of the construction.

Tools. Although you will not be using mortar or any material to bind the stones together, you will still need a few basic tools in order to shape the stones properly, breaking pieces off or flattening edges to make them fit properly. This list covers the tools you will need:

  • 3 or 4lb mason’s hammer. This allows you to break most of the stones you will come across.
  • A smaller hammer. This will be used to break small edges off of otherwise good stones.
  • A sledgehammer. This will be used to shatter large rocks, in case you need smaller pieces or if a particular rock is simply too large to be used in your wall.
  • Tough string and 4 poles about a foot taller than the wall you will be building. These will be put in place to mark the edge of each side of the wall to keep it straight.
  • Picks, shovels and other digging tools. These will be used when you are digging a flat spot to build your foundation on.
  • A level and tape measure. These will be used for a variety of tasks in order to keep the structural integrity of the wall intact while you are building it.
  • Two A-Frames. Although dimensions will be different depending on the height of the wall, a common 4 foot high wall needs an A-Frame that is 3 feet tall, with a 26 inch wide base at the bottom and about 14 inches wide at the top.
  • Safety Goggles/glasses. When you split rock sharp shards tend to fly out, so protect your eyes!

The Construction

Building a solid foundation. The first step in building any stone wall is leveling out a nice dirt foundation that is free of interfering stones, tree roots, or other debris. Using your digging tools, flatten out the area where you wish to build the wall. Although you don’t need to go wild and remove every tiny pebble, any noticeable stones should be removed and used in the wall, while tree roots and the remains of old bushes and other foliage need to be hacked out and removed. If there are trees nearby, know that roots growing into your wall will eventually undermine its integrity unless you place a barrier in their path.

Once the debris is gone, look through your rock pile and separate it out into large, medium, and small sized stones. The largest and flattest should be used to build the foundation, since the wall will narrow as it is built up. Furthermore, larger stones better resist the shifting of the earth and support the weight of the stones above better. If possible, try to ensure that the stones you’re gathering are all roughly the same height when placed on the ground. Also gather a fair amount of the smaller stones, as you’ll be using them as wedges to compensate for the irregular shape of their larger kin.

Once you have your stones separated out setup the poles and string, building two lines on either side of the path where the wall will eventually be. The string should be placed just above the average height of the stones that you will be using for the foundation. It is very important that these strings remain firmly grounded throughout the construction. Every 3 hours you should double check the string to ensure it hasn’t been moved in the process of building the wall, and it should always be checked at the beginning of a workday if the project takes more than one day to complete.

A strong foundation, with a flat base and plenty of large flat stones, will make your wall extremely sturdy.

Now begin laying the foundation stones.  You will have two rows of stones to work with, one for each side of the wall. Line them up about 1/16th of an inch from the string but be sure that it doesn’t actually touch it as that could cause the string to bow out and throw off your wall’s measurements. Place them so that the greatest length is facing directly away from the string towards the center of the wall. Once the stones are laid, take small ones and begin wedging them into any place where the bottom of the larger stone doesn’t touch the earth. You want to fill in as much of that empty air beneath the large stones as possible, to create a solid foundation. To test your technique, once you have placed your wedges stand on the large stone. If it wiggles around and moves, you need more wedges. If it is solid and immobile, you are wedging it in properly. Do this for both strings, which will give you two rows of stones with an empty space in the middle.

Fill the empty space between the two rows of foundation stones. Using the small/medium sized flat rocks, fill in the spaces left between the large stones. A good rule of thumb here is to use the largest possible filler stone to occupy an empty space. When you place the stones, shove them up against the larger ones that are already secured and wedged in until the smaller stone can’t move any longer. You want to fit them together almost like puzzle pieces, to the point where they are attached by the friction and weight of each stone on another. Once this task is done, you have finished your foundation.

Now that the foundation is finished, setup the A-Frames at each end and begin raising the wall. The A-Frames need to be set level at each end of the wall, sitting on the foundation stones. Once they are level, use one of the poles or (if you need more stability) a couple pieces of rebar to hold it in place securely. Tie the strings onto the uprights of the frames about 5-6 inches above the foundation stones to show the path for the next level of stone laying. The string should be about 1 inch closer to the center of the wall for each 6 inches of height in the foundation to maintain the proper sloping for the wall, so don’t worry if the string doesn’t match up with the edges of the foundation stones any longer.

Now, taking the largest, flattest stones you have remaining, begin building this layer as you did the previous one. Once the large stones are placed, wedge them in and then fill in the center with stones, interlocking them so that they become one solid layer. If your stones have a slope, make sure that the stones are flipped to position them so that they slope inwards, working with the slope you’re building into the entire wall.

When placing layers, make sure you don't overlap joints as this creates weak points in the wall.

Once you have built up to half height, place your tie rocks to solidify the wall. Tie rocks are placed perpendicular to the way the wall is facing, so that they will stick out slightly from each side of the wall. They should be flat, and should stick out past the strings by about 2-4 inches for the last layer on both side of the wall. In this case you want just one rock to stick out across the entire wall, rather than having two rocks. Place another tie rock every 3 feet along the wall, securing them with wedges as you go. These are essential for keeping the two rows together and united, so be sure to double check the wedging job you’ve done on these.

Fill in the spaces between the tie rocks as if it were just another layer, and continue adding layers on top of the tie rocks. Continue building the wall until it is up to the proper height, then raise the strings a further 5-6 inches one last time. For the final wallhead, use a large, heavy cube shaped rock to properly anchor each end.

Add the cover stones at the top of the wall. These are flat rocks that are large enough to stick out on both sides of the wall, just like the tie rocks did below them. Unlike the tie rocks, these are placed right next to each other along the entire wall before they are wedged in.

The vertical pieces are the coping of the wall, and act as a final layer, increasing height and improving the wall's durability.

Finally, add the coping to finish the wall completely. The coping is made up of smaller rocks positioned vertically and angled slightly to cover the entire top of the wall except for the wallhead caps. They should be of uniform height, just below the strings. You should setup all of the rocks before putting a wedge between each of them. After tapping in the wedges you will need to go back through and tap them in again, since the entire unit will tend to loosen somewhat as the wedges are first put in.

And with that, your wall will be done. It can be used to create cover and concealment, as a way to shield a cache or other vital supplies from looters, or to contain livestock. Although a stone wall takes longer to build than a simple earthwork it is much more durable in the long run, making it an excellent preparation for before a survival situation kicks in. – Prepared For That

Your thoughts?

What would you use a stone wall for? What other design additions would you want for the wall you would build? Let us know in the comments.

By Guest Contributor

It’s been a bit of a process but we’ve finally made up our minds what to do about the wood stove – cook stove dilemma we’ve (I’ve) been struggling with. I have written before about my absolute love of all things old and beautiful but I would NOT want an old stove because burn technology and heat shields  have come a long way in the past 25 years and I am concerned about safety above all.

Our search had several criteria.

  • It had to look good.
  • It needed to be efficient.
  • I would like to cook on it.
  • The price needs to be taken into consideration.

It may sound shallow but that was in order of importance!

We spent part of the past weekend  learning about wood stoves by visiting different wood stove dealers.  We asked lots of questions and were able to see – in person – some of the stoves I had researched on-line. The real dilemma in making the choice lay in what we want the stove for in the first place.  Our first priority is an alternative way to heat the house – the second is cooking.  I had to keep reminding myself of that goal.

My all time favorite is the Heartland Wood Cook stove – and who wouldn’t love it???  It’s even more beautiful in real life!  This is the stove I drooled over – almost literally…  The problem: It was pricey – about $7000.00 and It has a small firebox which means it needs to be restocked regularly and although many people use it to heat their homes I was looking for something that I could fill up and leave longer than the 7-8 hours max it is rated.  Chopping wood is not on my list of – I-can’t-wait-to-do-this-some-more so if I gotta do the work then I want all the bang  for the buck I can get for my sweat equity.

Blaze King

I’ve researched the most efficient wood stoves on the market in the past few weeks and came up with the Blaze King. It’s Canadian-made wood stove with a catalytic system built right in to create less emissions and therefore less creosote.  In some cases it allows for a 40 hour burn! Wow – that’s impressive.  I watched all the videos on Blaze King I could find.  Great technology.  The problem: it is the ugliest stove you have ever seen and it didn’t improve AT ALL in person.  It’s a big square ugly box and no matter how I squinted I could never imagine it in my dining room and therefore who cares what it costs :)  If it was out of sight – i.e.  a basement or a garage – it would be my first choice.

One of the others I wanted to see was the Esse cook stove.  This stove made in the UK has great reviews for heating a home and cooking.  It looks nice too.  I liked it but the price tag of $7000.00 was more than my budget could bear.

Esse Ironheart

All through this process I had my conversation with Michelle Mather (who lives completely off-grid) in the back of my mind.  Last year she pointed out that having a cookstove as your main cooking appliance meant you would have to fire up the beast in the middle of the summer in order to cook – oh yeah. Her suggestion was to get a good quality wood stove – and she and her husband Cam recommended the Pacific Energy Brand (and later get a gas cookstove that looked like the cookstove of my dreams. oooh!)

After looking at many other brands we settled on one made by Pacific Energy – the Alderlea.

Built around Pacific Energy’s legendary Super Series steel firebox, the Alderlea T5 combines the very best features of both cast iron and steel stoves. Elegant, historic cast iron styling that adds to the decor of any room, radiant and convective heat, huge glass for a full view of your fire, a concealed cook top for peace of mind during power outages all in a proven easy- lighting, clean, long-burning heater with 30 years of wood stove technology behind it.

Alderlea by Pacific Energy

Matt – they guy we talked to at Friendly Fires mentioned that one of the other men who worked there had guided the purchase of wood stoves for his whole family and wouldn’t let them buy anything BUT an Alderlea because as a repair man he KNEW that these were the least likely to break down, the easiest to fix if they did and the most efficient.  Apparently people who own one never want anything else – even 20 years later they are coming back for the same stove.  Well – that was the kind of recommendation we were looking for. It’s also pretty, it has a swing out cook top and the price of $2500.00 was more within the budget range.

Our stove chimney will go straight up through the ceiling of the dining room, through the corner of second floor family room and out the sloped roof – the install cost was quoted at around $3000.00.  Spending that kind of money I think it’s worth our while to purchase a really good stove rather than put an old stove in and hoping for the best.  I feel very confident the Alderlea will last for many years and safely do the job with style.

Soon we will have one more step done in the plan to be more self sufficient! – The Prepper Journal

Read the original article on the Canadian Preppers Network


By Josh

In part 1 we looked at the proper mindset and the types of supplies you would want to seal up in a cache. In part 2, we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty and see how to properly store your gear so that it will last until you need it.

Types of caches

There are multiple ways to hide things: false walls in a house, a buried stash in the yard, a hollowed out log in a forest, or a false PVC pipe stuck to the side of your house. Each have their own considerations depending on what the cache contains, but generally speaking they can be separated into aboveground and underground caches.

A buried cache can be quite effective, and is great for weapons and ammunition

Underground caches have the advantage of temperature stability, and the fact that they’re not usually disturbed as often. They can be used for just about any item in your storage, but are particularly well-suited for guns and ammunition over caches aboveground since the metal/wood likes the stable temperatures. They are typically less accessible than aboveground caches, however, which can be a disadvantage if you need to access it frequently. A PVC pipe makes for an ideal container for almost any item you wish to bury, and since you’re burying it you won’t need to worry about camouflaging the container itself.

Aboveground caches require a degree of ingenuity to stay hidden.

Aboveground caches rely more on blending in with other structures, garbage, and vegetation than hiding out of sight. They are great for food and other basic supplies, particularly if you need to refill them or exchange products more frequently, but their susceptibility to temperature and weather means that more delicate items made of metal (guns and especially ammunition for example) will typically do better buried. They can require a bit more ingenuity as well, since you’ll need to craft hiding places that are reasonably accessible and safe for your gear but also capable of blending in with your surroundings.

How to build a cache

Although there are specifics for each kind of stash, here are some general principles that apply to both:

  • When possible, they should have design features that make it possible to get your stuff out quickly and easily. You may have only moments to pull what you can carry out of the cache, or you may be in dire need of food, clothing, weapons, or medical supplies. Consider how you would get to a cache buried underground if you lacked a shovel, or one up in a tree or on the roof if you didn’t have a ladder. Assume a worst-case scenario and make sure you will still have an accessway to get to your stash. For example, since actually digging out a big PVC pipe and removing it would be troublesome, you can add a smaller container on the inside that has a rope sticking out, enabling you to grab onto the rope and pull out all your supplies while leaving the larger pipe firmly anchored in the earth.Remember these little guys? Turns out they soak up moisture, and if you have any lying around you can dry them out and reuse them in your cache!
  • Moisture and oxygen are your enemies. Moisture causes metal to rust, food to rot, and encourages fungus and mold to grow on any available surface. Oxygen is needed for aerobic bacteria and for larger pests like bugs and vermin. Desiccant packets, moisture resistant packaging (mylar bags) that have been sealed airtight and vacuum sealing all help to reduce the effects of these two destructive forces. In the case of underground caches you need to consider runoff that may leak into your hole and your storage container, while aboveground stashes need to worry about seals breaking down faster due to temperature fluctuations and weathering.Bears are more than willing to find your cache for you unless you hide the smells of food from them.
  • Prepare for other hunters. Animals are sensitive to strange smells, and the smell of stored food and even oil from preserved guns may attract unwanted attention. Dogs, rats, squirrels, and even bears will dig for potential food sources. Nesting birds may elect to build a nest on the convenient platform made by your new cache, and rats may chew through the plastic looking for morsels and a dry home. Seal everything, and keep scents to a minimum particularly when the cache is first being placed or when it is being refilled.

When building underground

After packing items into plastic bags, and then the silvery mylar, it is recommended that you seal them to keep moisture at bay.

  • Pack objects multiple times in layers of sealed containers. If something happens where the outer layers are compromised by snow or rain, an extra plastic bag or mylar sleeve may be what saves your precious resources. Suggested layering: outer PVC pipe, inner removable tubing, sealed mylar bag, plastic bag. Include desiccants and oxygen absorbers in all but the outermost layer. Food that is already prepackaged in buckets to last for a long time may only need to be stored in one outer layer of PVC, since they tend to include gamma seal lids and oxygen absorbers anyway.
  • A very light coating of oil will be helpful for firearms. You could go and cover every weapon in a coating of Cosmoline, but the light coating of gun oil is probably more practical for the average person. Ammunition just needs to be properly packed in multiple layers, though a few extra desiccant packets probably wouldn’t go amiss.
  • If possible, dig deep enough that you are at stable temperatures. You’re not really concerned about keeping things cool (which would require a hole 10 feet or more deep) but rather just stable, so dig down about 3-4 feet for maximum benefit. If you want more easily accessible caches I recommend building them aboveground, since keeping your underground stash too close to the surface could present a whole host of difficulties.
  • Locate them in places away from common runoff spots or low-lying areas. You don’t want your cache to become an underground pond, so why put it in a spot where rain and snowmelt drain? Furthermore, if you place it in areas where water runs over the hole erosion may take the loose soil away and expose the cache!A bunch of metallic junk lying around can help keep your buried cache secret, just watch for metal thieves!
  • Fool the metal detectors with false positives. If you can make it seem natural, have a few pieces of scrap metal, rebar etc buried in a wide scattering in the area around your cache to hide from looters/confiscation officials looking for buried stashes of weapons and supplies. Actually burying your cache under a scrap heap may backfire however, since scrap metals may become more valuable in a survival situation and desperate people may find your cache digging for submerged pieces.
  • Take multiple routes to the same location in order to prevent a trail from forming. When building the hole, dragging the PVC over, and then transporting all of the materials there is a strong probability that a track leading to this conspicuous loose earth will form. Try to take different paths to avoid creating a trail.

When setting up aboveground

  • Keep in-house caches to a minimum. We’ve had the Drug War going on for quite a long time now, and confiscations and thieveries of other kinds have been going on for centuries before that. Homes generally have very limited hiding spots that can be quickly checked by experienced confiscators or even looters who can easily use tactics and knowledge used today to determine the most likely places. Furthermore, putting too many stashes in the house may cause you to loose a great deal of supplies if the retreat were to catch fire or otherwise be damaged.If you use a snake to guard your cache, be sure to have some thick gloves one when you need to retrieve the goods!
  • Consider current residents. If you elect to place a stash in a log or other dark place, make sure you aren’t going to run into a venomous serpents or spiders that may already have made a home there. Alternatively, use these animals as guardians of your treasure that will discourage any searching fingers looking for loot.
  • Follow basic principles of camouflage. As mentioned in part 1, the human eye can easily pick out “artificial shapes” like hard right angles and perfect cylinders that we tend to use for containers. Break up the solid lines with blotchy and random colors appropriate to the environment, covering with leaves, vines, branches etc or else blending them in with other artificial shapes (if on a house or in an urban envrionment). The last thing you want is a “this thing is not like the others” moment!When gale-force winds go tearing through, will your cache be safe?
  • Remember that temperatures will fluctuate and wind, rain, and snow can damage a cache. You will need to ensure that paints, the container itself, and any items inside are protected from the elements properly. If you have a false branch on a tree, can it stand up to 60 mph winds? Will that spray paint from Wal-Mart last through a severe thunderstorm with heavy rain and hail? Pick durable outdoor materials for your caches and be sure to reinforce and repair any supports year to year.
  • Feel free to use these for frequently rotated items. If you have canned goods with 3-6 month shelf lives, use these more easily accessible caches rather than buried ones that require more time and effort to empty.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to setting up the perfect cache. Whether aboveground or below the earth, be sure to conceal it from prying eyes and always have a way to know where your supplies are kept! – Prepared For That


By Josh

In this third part on our series of root cellaring articles, we’re going to start take a look at the true root cellar. Whether built into a basement or outside, these have enough room for shelves and bins to store food and can hold a fairly large amount of the harvest all at once.

Build inside the house or as a separate building?

Obviously most people would probably find it easier to build an underground room in their basement or at least under their house rather than digging up their yard. But assuming you have the room to make that choice, here are some considerations:

  • A basement cellar generally has less risk of collapse or other structural fault than a dugout building outside. If you lack construction experience, I would probably recommend the easier option for safety reasons.
  • Dugout shelters can be much larger, depending on your needs. Depending on the size of your basement, you may only be able to have a very short, narrow little room with only a few shelves. Outside, you can make a 10×10 room suitable for several families if need be.
  • It is possible that coding and permit restrictions may be different for the two types. Since a root cellar in your basement is actually a room in your house, you might be subject to additional regulation. Of course, an outdoor cellar can also run afoul of regulations, but many rural areas can classify these as unregulated sheds.
  • Assuming they are the same size, basement cellars tend to have a lower cost unless you can salvage a large amount of materials. Generally, a basement saves you money and time since you already have the digging done and several of the walls setup. However, owing to the need to use special moisture resistant wall coverings and the like in a basement, you might be able to build an outdoor cellar on the cheap if you have access to old railroad ties, a pile of stone blocks, or a good deal of treated lumber.

Unless you can get access to cheap construction materials like these railroad ties, a basement cellar tends to be cheaper.

Building in a basement

Many people find this to be much simpler than digging outside, but you still need to pay attention to detail. Moisture-resistance and proper sealing are both vital, since you want to keep humidity in that cellar but you don’t want to start growing potentially deadly mold in your walls. Being able to cobble things together from makeshift parts is perfectly acceptable and very useful when building a basement cellar, just be sure that everything can perform adequately before you install it.

  1. Choose where you want your cellar. Ideally it should be in a north-facing spot of an exterior wall, away from light and heat and buried as deeply as possible. If you wish to run a vent pipe out of the basement window instead of cutting holes in the wall, you can include it in the room as well.The cover for the window doesn't need to be fancy. Just insulate, allow the pipes to go through, and you're good!
  2. Cut and setup your two ventilation holes, which need to be large enough for the piping you will use (I recommend 3″ PVC). One should be set as high up on the wall as possible, while the other should be as low as possible. This will setup an air siphoning system, which will allow the cellar to adjust its temperature constantly in order to keep things nice and stable. If you’re using your window, you’ll have to build or buy a support for the pipes that will block that window up completely.
  3. Insert your piping, and cover the the part of each pipe that connects to the outside with a valve that can be opened and closed. These valves will be used to prevent hot air from being sucked outside when temperatures drop below freezing.
  4. Add levers that reach into the room and allow you to shut the vents from inside the cellar. It can be annoying to have to run outside and then back in to check on the temperature differences when you open/close vents. Having a convenient lever on the inside is much handier and you’ll appreciate it especially during the winter months.
  5. Build the frame for your room out of moisture resistant lumber. Pressure treated stuff is naturally perfect for this job. Cedar is also naturally rot resistant, if you have an aversion to pressure-treatment.Green board like this is great for making a moisture-resistant wall.
  6. Attach moisture resistant wall-board. “Green Board” commonly used in bathrooms and showers works well here, and won’t be damaged as easily by the high moisture content in the cellar.
  7. Seal the cracks and insulate the walls. You want this room to be as nearly airtight (aside from the vents, of course) as possible to keep that humidity in. Use fiberglass insulation and spray foam to fill in the walls, any cracks, and to touch up any drafty areas in the new room. You may also want to seal the extra space around the ventilation pipes at this time.
  8. Add your shelving. Higher shelves will be warmer and drier, while lower shelves will have extra moisture and cool air to contend with. Plan your shelf sizes according to what products you will store on which shelves. For example, milk would probably be best on a lower shelf where it is colder, so you’ll want shelves that are wide enough to hold milk jugs/bottles, and maybe a lip to keep the milk from falling off of the shelf.
  9. Add a door. You can use a standard pre-built door or a homemade one, depending on your level of skill. Just be sure that it is also as airtight as possible while still being fairly easy to open.
  10. Add your thermometer and hygrometer, and start filling up your new cellar.

Your root cellar may be small, but it will help keep you and your family fed with preserved foods.

Outdoor Cellars: the two ways to build a separate root cellar

If you elect to build outside, there are two major designs to choose from: the dugout and the pit. Which of these two designs you choose is mainly based on geography.

If you have a hill sufficient for a dugout root cellar you’ll almost certainly want to use that design, as it requires much less digging and you can keep the entrance somewhat level with the rest of the cellar. Furthermore, drainage is much easier in a dugout cellar, since you can add a slight slope as you dig to allow any water to drain out the door.

You’ll want to use a dugout if:

A dugout cellar is great if you have the right hill for it. A north-facing one is best to minimize sun exposure.

  • You have a hill available. No hill, no dugout!
  • You have sufficient soil quality to build the cellar in. Loose, sandy soil can require additional support for your roof and may be bothersome as a wall. Heavy clay soils are much better for a dugout, as your roof will be stronger and more durable.
  • The location has solid drainage. If your hill is placed so that the entrance will send water rushing into your root cellar after every rain, I would not recommend building your dugout there.
  • You understand how to properly construct and support your tunnel. No blog post can cover the skill needed to construct a tunnel properly to keep it from collapsing in on you, and even 4 feet of earth can present a serious danger. Acquire the skills needed to build a solid roof and walls to protect you and your food!
  • The law permits it. As we’ve said before in this series, always be sure that the local code-enforcers won’t have a reason to come knocking at your door.This is a massive example of a pit cellar with a shed built over it. The sod on top helps with additional insulation This is a massive example of a pit cellar with a shed built over it. The sod on top helps with additional insulation

A pit cellar built on flat ground generally requires you to dig a large rectangle in the earth and then cover it over with an earthen roof. The entrance is typically via a shed built on top of the cellar or a simple trapdoor and ladder depending on the design, and you will have a great deal of earth to move either way. Since you lack the premade side insulation that a dugout provides, you’ll be piling at least 4 feet of earth on each side of the root cellar as well, so unless you have quite a few willing hands some manner of earth-mover is strongly recommended.

Before building, know that:

  • You need to ensure proper drainage. Since you lack the ability to create a sloped exit for water, you need to design a floor of gravel or sand that will let the water drain away.
  • If you have a high water table, you may need to build some of your cellar above ground. Some areas have water everywhere, and so you won’t be able to dig at least 3-4 feet down into the soil. In that case, the earth you dig out will need to be used to build over the top of the roof, adding additional layers of soil above to give you proper coverage.

Building one of these cellars

Unlike the previous designs, there is almost no way to create an exact step-by-step instruction on building one of these larger cellars. There are simply too many variables depending on the size, shape, and general skill of the person building the structure. We hope to have the chance to add a post showing our own root cellar construction project in the spring, but until then our general design guidelines are your best bet.

Share your thoughts

I’m hardly the world’s greatest builder when it comes to root cellars. Do you have any ideas that would improve a design or help improve durability? Let us know in the comments. – Prepared For That

cabin design plans from steve maxwell

Editors note: UPADTED PRICING FOR 2015, the current pricing before taxes is around $6000.

By Steve Maxwell – Mother Earth News

Rays of early-morning sunlight gently peek through the windows, easing you awake. Looking down from the sleeping loft, you see everything you need: a pine table; a box piled with hardwood, split and ready for the woodstove; and a compact kitchen in the corner. This is the cabin dream.

In this article, I’ll show you how to build a 14-by-20-foot cozy cabin featuring a sleeping loft over the porch for about $4,000. Who can resist it?

My own cabin adventure began in 1986, when I built one as an inexpensive place to stay while constructing my house — that’s when I began learning what makes cabin design and construction successful. (I’ve always had a debt-free approach to developing my property.) The four years I lived in this cabin were a good time in my life — perhaps one of the best. I fondly recall the simplicity of waking each morning with the sole purpose of building my own house, working well into the evening.

What follows is a cabin plan (I’ve included a full Cabin Assembly Diagram) with the hands-on know-how I wish I had 20 years ago. It won’t replace the need for basic carpentry skills, but it will alert you to the main challenges of framing a cabin and how to clear the most important hurdles. And even if you never build a cabin of your own, these basic instructions will be useful anytime you need to build a garage, shed or other outbuilding. (For more on the author’s cabin experience, see Our Life in a One-room Cabin)

I believe in building for the long haul. When it comes to cabins (and everything else for that matter), this means working to the same standards of durability and beauty that you’d apply to a full-size house, even though the style, size and soul of a good cabin are entirely different. I’m sold on durability because it takes such small amounts of extra care, materials and money to yield a huge increase in longevity. Although a cabin certainly can be framed less stoutly than the design I’ll show you here, I’m convinced the wisest use of resources often means going beyond what’s merely good enough.

A Firm Foundation

Every well-built structure begins with the foundation. In regions where frost isn’t an issue, site-poured, 6-by-16-by-16-inch shallow-depth concrete pads work just fine. If this is similar to the approach used on new houses in your area, then it’s OK for use under your cabin.

Cold climates are a different matter, and one of the best cabin foundations you can choose is established easily with minimal tools and time. Concrete piers extending below the frost line, poured within round cardboard tubes, are a time-proven approach to lightweight construction that offers a couple of advantages. Besides raising the structure off the ground and isolating it from the annual freeze/thaw movements of the soil, concrete piers provide good support around the perimeter of your cabin, without the need for full-scale forming and pouring.

In this cabin design, you need one pier at each corner of the cabin, one in the middle of each long side, three piers spaced evenly on the front of the porch and one in the middle of the rear wall. In light soil, it’s reasonable to dig the 10 holes you need for 8- to 12-inch-diameter pier forms using a long-handled shovel. Otherwise, call in a neighbor or contractor with a tractor-mounted auger. You can use 8-inch concrete piers, but the larger size is more forgiving if you don’t get the alignment just right.

The best way to mark your foundation outline is with 12-inch spikes pushed into the earth and connected with nylon string. (See “Choose a Rock-solid Start,” below, for layout tips.) Regardless of the foundation design you choose, the main construction challenge is the same: leveling the top of the foundation pads or piers. A laser level is easy to use and even allows a person working alone to level a foundation successfully. You don’t need to buy a laser level for this project, but it’s definitely worth borrowing if one is available from a friend or neighbor.

When setting concrete pier forms in the ground, dig the holes large enough to allow room for side-to-side adjustment. The outside edges of the pier forms should extend a bit beyond the outer dimensions of your building. As inexpensive insurance against frost jacking of foundation piers (when the piers are pulled toward the surface by seasonal freezing, even though they extend below the frost line), wrap the outside of each pier tube with black polyethylene plastic before setting them into the holes and packing soil around them. While the concrete is wet, vertically embed five-eighths-inch L-shaped threaded metal rod anchors, extending at least 7 inches above the concrete, short end down. Later on, these will hold down the base of the floor frame.

Building the Floor Frame

There are many ways to frame a cabin floor, but I favor the timber-rim approach for a couple of reasons. “Timber rim” refers to a load-bearing frame of timbers that defines the perimeter of the floor area. It’s better than a continuous foundation wall because it eliminates the need for lots of block work or a poured foundation, and it offers great stability. For this project, it provides continuous support for a building that’s held up at only 10 points around its perimeter. Another plus is that timber-rim construction is durable and simple for first-time cabin builders.

Start by gathering rot-resistant 6-by-6 timbers for the outer rim. Timbers for the ends of the cabin and porch should be long enough to do the job in one piece. If you need to splice two timbers together for the 20-foot cabin sides, that’s fine. Just locate the splices directly on top of your concrete pads or piers. (It is possible to get away with thinner pieces of wood here, but that would require adding more piers — an option that’s probably less attractive than dealing with thicker timbers.) Be sure to make half-lap corner joints to connect the rim timbers.

Measure, mark and drill 1-inch-diameter holes in your 6-by-6s for the five-eighths-inch threaded rod anchors you embedded in your concrete piers, then settle the timbers in place over the rods.

Before bolting down the timbers, double-check that the top surfaces of the 6-by-6s are level to within one-eighth inch of each other. Pouring concrete is coarse work, and it’s possible the foundation piers aren’t exactly the same height now that they’ve hardened. Now’s the time to identify and correct any such errors. Install shims underneath the uneven timbers to make them level; bolt them down tightly under 2-inch washers; then check one last time with a level. You now have a sturdy timber rim on which to begin building the cabin. As long as the bottom of the timber rim is at least several inches above the soil, natural ventilation should keep this structure strong for many decades.

The timber rim you just installed supports floor joists and headers (the frame around the joists) that in turn form the cabin and porch floor. By running joists across the 14-foot width of the building, you’ll have the stiffest possible floor for a given width of joist, minimizing squeaks and ensuring long-term durability. As a rule of thumb, 2-by-10s spaced on 16-inch centers across the span of this cabin will give you a good floor. But because the type of wood affects the total allowable span — building codes may vary where you live — double-check floor joist sizes with your local authority. You might consider using 2-by-10 joists across the porch and 2-by-12s for the main floor (but if you do, remember to use a 12-inch-wide header for the main floor, or your joists will be taller than the floor frame). Using 2-by-12s raises the cabin floor slightly, creating a lip at the door that helps repel water and snow.

Regardless of the floor framing wood you choose, use five 3 1/2-inch nails on each joint connecting the floor joists to the headers. Make sure the edges of your floor frame are perfectly straight and use a string as a reference to ensure that this happens as it should. Use 3 1/2-inch hot-dipped, galvanized nails driven at an angle to connect the floor frame to the timber rim. You also can use galvanized connector plates.

Now’s the time to apply a floor surface to your joists, and that means you have a decision to make: If you want flooring that’s easy to build, inexpensive and requires no maintenance for a cabin that won’t see much cold weather, then three-fourths-inch softwood planks are the way to go. Even left completely unfinished, these form a fine, rustic floor that’s easy to sweep clean. Over time, bare wood like this also takes on a burnished beauty that’s as pleasant to look at as it is to live with.

Or do you want a better floor to keep out drafts and bugs, while retaining simplicity? Then consider shiplapped floorboards. They’re one step up from square-edged planks, offering all the same advantages as plain boards, while also preventing board-to-board gaps. The best floor option is five-eighths- or three-fourths-inch plywood, though this makes sense only when you’re planning to apply a finished floor material over the top. Plywood keeps drafts out and adds an element of rigidity that dimensional lumber can’t match, but it also looks unattractive, especially in a cabin.

IllustrationWall Framing

With your rough floor in place, you can now build the walls. Stud-frame construction is still the most popular approach for residential projects, and it makes sense for cabins, too. Although you can save money by framing with 2-by-4s, I recommend 2-by-6s instead, even if you won’t be insulating. The extra 2 inches of frame depth is stronger, looks better and offers greater storage opportunities for small items sitting on shelves between the studs.

Stud-frame walls have three main parts: the plates (horizontal members that form the top and bottom of the walls); studs (vertical frame members); and lintels (horizontal members that span doors and windows).

Start by cutting one top and one bottom plate for the rear wall — the one opposite the door. Make these plates out of one 2-by-6 each, then temporarily screw them together so all sides are flush. Joining them together ensures accuracy of the marks you make to show stud location. Make these plates 13 feet, 1 inch long. This way the completed front and back walls will measure 14 feet wide when flanked by the two long walls that will go up on each side of them.

With the pair of plates on edge, use a carpenter’s square to draw lines across the edges of the plates at the same spot. Each pencil line shows where one side of each stud should be located. An “X” marks the side of the line where the stud needs to sit. Studs measuring 92 1/2 inches long should be spaced 16 inches apart from center point to center point, with extra studs where door and window openings will go later. Before you frame openings for windows and doors, you need to know the sizes of the openings required for them. Make window openings 1 inch wider and 1 inch taller than the overall size of your window (1 inch wider and a half inch taller for a prehung door, when you get that far).

Remove the screws that temporarily held the top and bottom plates together, separate these pieces about 8 feet apart (with the bottom plate near its final place on the wall), and then position your wall studs between them. Begin by nailing the plates to the ends of the full-length studs, then cut and add shorter studs to form the window opening. Use three 3 1/2-inch nails per joint. If you’re planning to build insulation into your floor, add a second bottom plate to the wall to raise it up. Now gather some eager volunteers and get ready to heave the wall upright and into position.

This is an exciting moment, but you’ll need a few tools to succeed. In addition to a framing hammer and some 3 1/2-inch nails, an 8- to 10-pound sledgehammer is helpful for jostling the wall into final position, and you’ll need a 24- to 48-inch level to check and align its orientation. Raise the frame with a couple of helpers, then push, pull and pound it into alignment with the edge of the floor frame. Use your level to help align the wall so it’s perfectly vertical (plumb), and then drive two nails into each space between the studs on the bottom plate, extending down into the floor boards and header.

Your wall is up and secure now, but it’s not yet strong. Brace it with some long pieces of lumber extending to the ground (you’ll take them off later, so use the good stuff), then repeat the wall framing process for the two neighboring side walls.

When you’ve framed the last wall (the one with the door) and raised it, check and adjust all walls so they’re straight and plumb. This may take some time, but don’t continue until you’ve correctly finished this detail. Use taut strings (as you did when assembling the floor frame) to make sure the top edges of the walls are truly straight. When you’re satisfied, get ready to cut and apply another layer of 2-by-6s over the existing top plate. You’ll need to arrange these parts so they overlap the joints between wall segments (see “Post Top Detail,” at the bottom left corner of the illustration), but there’s another detail you need to address first.

Our Post Top Diagram shows you how two 6-by-6s or log posts should be installed extending from the top corners of the side walls to provide support for the porch roof. Begin by fastening two 6-by-6 vertical posts to the front corners, then rest three horizontal 6-by-6s on top, extending to the porch posts temporarily supported by props of lumber. When all this is in place, tie everything together with a second 2-by-6 top plate.

What you should have at this stage is the four walls of the cabin raised, with an additional 4-foot frame extension from the cabin’s front wall, which will support the porch roof. The roof fits over the cabin walls and porch in exactly the same way. Here’s a tip: In general, you can use 12-inch spikes to hold together large framing posts, such as the 6-by-6s described above, but you have to drive them into pilot holes. Although spikes aren’t strong enough to resist shear loads, they do an excellent job holding one part in place over another.

For siding, I recommend wall planks because they look so much better from the inside of your cabin. If you are looking for inexpensive siding, or you plan on insulating the wall’s interior and adding interior siding (covering the 2-by-6s from the inside), you can use plywood or oriented-strand board (OSB) wall siding panels.

This article first appeared at Mother Earth News continue reading on how to build at; Build This Cozy Cabin For Under $4000


Download my original Cozy Cabin guide circa 2006.

The current pricing before taxes is around $6000.

Build this Cozy Cabin


Cabin Kits

Many people dream of building a cabin or cottage in the woods, beside a lake, along a bubbling brook or on top of a mountain with sweeping views. But cabins are not just for wilderness living. They also can offer cozy space as a guest room, an artists’ retreat, a craft center or a small office.

The cabin kit manufacturers listed below are divided into three construction categories: log, frame and panel. Most kits consist of the necessary materials for the exterior walls, interior wall studs, roof and floor, and include windows, doors, fasteners, trim and construction manuals. The kits do not include foundations, insulation, or electrical and plumbing packages. The base prices listed below do not include shipping costs.

To find the cabin that best fits your budget and construction experience, read each company’s literature carefully and then ask lots of questions before you buy a kit.

Log Cabin Kits

Appalachian Log Homes
“Yukon Trail II”
18 by 24 feet; 432 square feet

Conestoga Log Cabins
14 by 27 feet; 378 square feet

Merrimac Log Homes
20 by 24 feet; 480 square feet

Northeastern Log Homes
18 by 24 feet; 432 square feet

Frame-wall Cabin Kits
$29,004 ($32,485 Canadian)
20 by 24 feet; 864 square feet; two floors

Jamaica Cottage Shop
“Vermont Cottage”
16 by 20 feet; 320 square feet

Shelter-Kit Incorporated
One unit — several units can be connected
12 by 12 feet; 144 square feet

Summerwood Products
“Kepler Creek”
$15,435 ($14,735 Canadian)
16 by 24 feet; 384 square feet

Panel-wall Cabin Kits

Panel Concepts
“Knotty Pine #5”
20 by 20 feet; 400 square feet

About the author:

 Steve Maxwell has been helping people renovate, build and maintain their homes for more than two decades. “Canada’s Handiest Man” is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. Contact him by visiting his website and the blog, Maxwell’s House. You also can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and find him on Google+.

Additional resources from the author:

DIY Cabin Building Plans from Steve Maxwell

Download free do it yourself cabin building plans from Steve Maxwell. Have you ever wanted your own cabin, but been unsure how to do it properly?  Here are some free cabin design and building plans from Steve Maxwell.

Cabin Building Guide

To download a pdf copy of Steve’s Guide, simply click on the image below. It’s free! cabin design plans from steve maxwell

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