Waiver Of Liability And Hold Harmless

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5. Wrecker-Salvager hereby agrees to waive any and all liability against the Property Owner for any actual or potential liability arising from accidents which occur during the demolition of the building.

6. Wrecker-Salvager further agrees that he shall hold the Property Owner harmless from any liability accrued as a result of injury to workman provided by the Wrecker-Salvager, or in the employee of the Wrecker-Salvager, or acting as his individual contractors.

7. All reference to Property Owner, Wrecker-Salvager, Contractor and length of time for completion of this contract hereto are incorporated by reference as the respective directions set forth in the Recitals set forth herein above.


about getting a barn or shed salvage job is that you may have competition from professional salvage crews which are combing the countryside these days looking for things to tear down. In some cities weathered barn siding sells for a higher price per board foot than new lumber. It's that much in demand for home paneling.

Wrecking can be dangerous. For this reason some owners are leery about letting amateurs do the job, fearing lawsuits. We've reprinted a Waiver of Liability (Demolition Agreement) which should calm the fears of the owner and make it easier to get the job.

The big hang-up on salvage jobs is the time involved. It looks easy and quick, but that's deceptive. It may take you a month of eight hour days to tear down a small house. When making the agreement try to get an extra month or two in which to complete the work. It would be wise also to try to get the work in the slow months of winter when your time is not at such a premium. You can keep warm over a fire of the splintered wood.

It may pay you to take a partner in the work. This is especially important if you do not have a truck, for you will need a partner who does. Not only will you need to transport your salvaged material home, but you are obligated to clean up the site after completion.

One last word here: be leery of those big jobs. Sometimes old brick schoolhouses or similar structures must be wrecked. When you hear the price that used brick is fetching in the cities your head may swim with figures of fortune. This is highly deceiving. The hidden costs of transportation and such are fierce. Though I've known of several people who have landed what looked like real plums, I've never known one who has come out ahead. I can't even recall a single instance where those who were hired to work on an amateur-run salvage job were paid in full.


Out in the countryside used windows have become hot property. A decade ago a guy could pick up a 24" x 30" window for 500. Now the running price is five to ten times that. Even old stained-glass church windows could be picked up for a dollar or two. Today the same window might start at $80 and run as high as $400 depending where it is sold.

Surprisingly, your best hunting areas for plain used windows may be the cities. Most every city has a wrecking-salvage yard or two. There is considerable wrecking that goes on in the cities and not much owner-building, so the price is often right. Sometimes outfits such as the Salvation Army, Goodwill or Saint Vincent DePaul sell old windows at a bargain. And don't shy away from storm windows and doors. The frames may not be as sturdy as a window built to open and close, and sometimes the glass is a little thinner, but they do a fine job when set in permanently. Buy windows whenever you can get them reasonably. If you wind up with too many you can always build greenhouses. They make fine swap items also.


Out our way there is a "junk" auction every Thursday before the livestock sale. This is the homesteader's mainstay. Farmers from the area bring items that have been littering up their yards for years. Not only can you pick up building materials, you can also get excellent tools and household items at great savings. There is probably a similar sale somewhere in the vicinity of where you settle. If so, it could be worth driving fifty or more miles a week to attend. This is especially important when you are first settling in.

Farm auctions should not be missed either. This occurs when a family or old timer is leaving the land and selling out everything on the place. There are almost certainly building materials and tools to be sold, some of which are of a standard of quality no longer manufactured. Farm sales for as far as a hundred miles away may be advertised in your locality. Watch for handbills and ads in the paper. Get to the sale an hour or two early to check the condition of the merchandise and to decide how high you are able to bid on each item. Bring a lunch. It's usually a day long affair. Farm sales have the atmosphere of a carnival or of a picnic for everyone except the farmer who remembers how much he paid for each item originally.

Sawmill Lumber

Sawmills often are sources of free, or bargain rate, lumber. The day of the free mill end (mentioned earlier) may be coming to a close at the larger mills where they are chipping them to make particle board, but there are sometimes other good deals. At some of the smaller eastern mills it is possible to get slabs which is the outer cut with the bark. Though these are not suitable for underground construction, they can make fine chicken coops or hog shelters and pens. Sometimes the mills will have stacks of the poorest grade lumber on sale for as low as $10 per thousand board feet. This material should not be used for roofing, but it might be suitable for the walls in underground construction if you keep the length of span down by using enough posts, or double the boards.

In the long run word-of-mouth may be the best way to gather material. You might want to start things off with a few signs on community bulletin boards and laundromats, or even with a small classified ad in the local paper, to let people know that you are seriously looking for material. Then begin talking it up. Ask people at auctions and at social events like potluck dinners if they know of lumber, windows and so forth which might be bought cheaply. And do not neglect your old-time rural neighbors. Gossip still rivals television as the main pastime in the country, and once the word gets out, the results, though slow, may be rewarding.


As far as polyethylene goes we recommend buying it new. Old polyethylene which has spent even a few weeks in the sun tends to get brittle. After a few months in the sun it is all but worthless. The ultraviolet rays do it in. (This does not apply to polyethylene underground where it lasts indefinitely.) Secondhand polyethylene, if used at all, should go only into areas of secondary importance such as behind shoring outside firewindows or Royer Foyers, never behind the shoring in the house itself.

We used 4 mil on the $50 house, 6 mil on the $500 job. When we begin building these things commercially we'll probably go to an even heavier grade.


If you are forced to build with concrete—to satisfy building codes, or because you are not in an area of abundant timber resources— you may be able to get four-fifths of your concrete for free from the local area. We're referring to the sand and gravel. The cement you will have to buy by the sack.

The sand must be what is known in the trade as "washed sand," that is, sand which is not salty. Ocean beach sand does not qualify. It may come from your own sand hill, or from that of a friendly neighbor. Or it may come from the bed of a stream. Watch this latter source, though. There are frequently environmental restrictions on the dredging of river bottom sand.

You might try to make friends with the local ready-mix concrete dealer and see if you can't enlist his sympathies. Those who mix and pour their own concrete these days are a rare breed and it's possible that you may receive his grudging respect. He will be able to tell you which sand type in the area is construction grade. He might even turn you on to a source. If nothing else, he should be good for advice on mixing and pouring.

There are many things to be said for using the services of a ready-mix outfit. The biggest advantage: by using a ready-mix outfit you will save countless hours of hard labor.

If you are determined to mix and pour your own, however, we offer this advice: do not attempt to mix the concrete by hand. You will regret it if you do. There are few construction jobs as tedious, as hard, and as time consuming as bending over a concrete trough all day with a shovel and mixing hoe. Concrete must be mixed thoroughly. It takes forever. And when you dump that first troughful into the forms it'll look like you've thrown a pebble into a volcano. We aren't talking about laying a few square feet of concrete around your suburban patio barbecue. We're talking here about pouring a house.

Concrete should also be poured as nearly continuously as possible for aesthetic reasons (cracks) and, more importantly, for strength of the unit being poured. For this latter reason alone I would never attempt to mix and pour a load-bearing roof by hand.

So you will need to buy, borrow, or rent a concrete mixer. This is not as tough a hurdle as it may sound. Since most everyone has gone to ready-mix there are numerous old concrete mixers standing out just rusting. Look around. You'll find one, and you'll find it cheap.

Free Timber Sources

We are going to assume here that the property you are planning to build upon is wooded, or at least that there are ample timber resources in the area.

The vast majority of timbered acres in the country today are cut-over forests. Of these, again, the vast majority need thinning. This includes both national forests and the small private timber holdings. We will grudgingly admit that the big timber outfits do thin their forests well (probably too well) which is the only good word you will find here regarding the timber interests.

Cut-over forests need thinning the way vour garden needs weeding. When they are crowded together fighting for water and sunlight, trees not only do not grow well, they are more susceptible to disease and insect attack. So you should be open minded about selectively taking trees from your forest. Chances are it will do your woods nothing but good.

The fact that your trees have grown up crowded can work to your advantage when building. Crowded trees reach for the sun, growing tall as fast as possible to beat the competition. They don't put on much girth but this is an advantage to you since it means that there will be less taper. The result is that vour posts and beams will be nearly as big at one end as at the other. That's nice. It's good material for your project. Crowded trees tend also to grow straight which is again greatly to vour advantage. Nothing beats working with straight posts and beams. Finally, crowded trees tend to drop their lower branches where there is little sunlight. This means you have fewer knots to contend with and a higher quality lumber. (Woodsmen who want prime quality lumber deliberately trim the lower limbs during growth.)

If you don't have enough timber on your property there are several ways you might get it for free. One is to thin someone else's property in exchange for the material you take out. Unless there is a disease or insect infestation, the owner will want mostly the small trees removed. To avoid misunderstanding you might request that the owner mark the trees to be cut, or ask that the state forester do it. Timber with a diameter of six to twelve inches is prime material for posts and beams. Material larger than that may be milled for lumber. Material smaller may be used for fence rails and firewood. The small branches and needles or leaves should be left to rot on the ground at the logging site for fertilizer. These contain the greatest amount of soil building nitrogen of the entire tree.

A second free timber possibility is to log out the right-of-way for new private or county roads. If the road is to go through timber which is too small in girth to interest the commercial loggers it may be all yours for free. Even if there is commercial size timber you may be able to work in after the professional crews have creamed the best. By taking out the small trees you save the owner or the county the expense of bulldozing the trees in piles and burning them.

A third possibility is to salvage timber from a newly cleared field. You may pass a farm where the earth is raw and gashed by heavy equipment and where there are hundreds of yards, sometimes even miles, of rows of small timber and brush piled up by bulldozers. The farmer here is turning timber land into crop or grazing land and the piles are what he is going to burn when they have dried a little and weather conditions are right. If you ask he will usually let you take all you wish so long as you leave the remaining piles intact for burning.

A fourth possibility is to get the timber free from the national forest. Traditionally you are allowed sixteen cords of firewood per year per family by permit. At least out West. It used to be that they would also allow you enough logs to build a cabin and to fence your land, though they are tightening up somewhat these days. If anyone should see you at work and ask why you are taking your allotment out in lengths of eight, ten, twelve feet and so forth, you explain that you intend to buck them into firewood when you get home. Easier to haul this way. Fewer units to heave on and throw off the truck. Load rides better. Don't want chunks of firewood falling off and creating highway hazards. Tell them anything. They don't really care what you do with your allotment unless you sell it. Then they care a lot.

Milling Your Own Lumber

It is still possible in this day and age to take a load of logs in and have a large sawmill custom saw, kiln dry and plane it for you. If you got the stumpage for free and did the logging yourself you may save some money by this method. But you probably won't save a lot.

A better idea is to find someone in the area who has a small mill and work a deal. By doing so you should save considerable amounts. The small mill owner doesn't pay fancy union wages since he is often his only employee, usually doesn't have insurance costs, and pays nothing for transportation, marketing, storage and advertising of the product. You can air dry the lumber yourself. That may be a better method than kiln drying anyway.

There are more small owner-run mills than you might imagine. If asking around doesn't turn one up, an ad in the local paper probably will. You usually have to provide the stumpage and do the hauling, and if it is a one man outfit you may even have to provide half of the labor. All of this cuts down considerably on the cost.

It is even possible for you to buy your own small used sawmill. -I've known of a few cases where complete rigs with circular saws went for as low as $40, though several hundred dollars is more common. Sometimes these small mills operate with diesel or gasoline engines, sometimes they are run with power take-offs from tractors.

If you are milling lumber for just one house, buying your own mill probably won't pay. If you are part of a community, though, it could be just the thing. What you have to watch for when buying is that you get a complete outfit. Lots of these small mills are in piles behind a farmer's barn and it is difficult for the untrained eye to tell if all of the components are there.

Probably the most common means these days for the owner-builder to mill his own lumber is with an Alaskan Mill. This is a contraption which holds a large chain saw and guides it by running down a straight 2x4 nailed to the log being milled. The special advantage of the Alaskan Mill is that it is the most portable of them all. You can carry it to the site as easily as you can carry the chain-

saw. This allows you to mill right where you build, eliminating all transportation hassles. I'm taking a stab here, but I think with the cost of a good new saw you can set up the whole rig for around $500. And, of course, you will be using both the mill and the saw for years to come.

WORKING UP POSTS AND BEAMS Sources, Seasoning and Peeling

You will need two types of structural timbers. The first type is for posts. This must be a wood which will take preservative well. It must have a certain amount of compressive strength. The second type is for the roof beams. This must have bending and shearing strength. Whether it will take preservative is not important.

For posts out our way we generally use cedar or lodgepole pine. Cedar is fine wood. It is light and easy to work. There are few knots and it peels well. Though our particular species doesn't, many cedars even smell great.

I've begun to favor lodgepole pine, however, for purely individual reasons. Though it is heavier, doesn't peel or work as well, and tends to be knottier, most of the lodgepole pines on my property are nearing maturity. Lodgepole pine has a short life span. It comes in quick after logging or after a fire and acts as a cover for the longer lived trees. It reaches maturity in 70 or 80 years. Then it dies off and other trees become dominant. Cedar, by comparison, takes two hundred years in Northern Idaho to reach maturity. They grow big around as the redwoods. I want to leave plenty of those giants to grow for my descendants to enjoy.

Find out what sort of timber the farmers in your locality use for fence posts, then use that species for the posts in your house. They should be using a species which takes treatment well, the possible exception to this being in extremely arid regions where farmers sometimes don't treat the fence posts at all.

If it is possible, use trees which are already dead. These will have seasoned (dried) already and will readily absorb the preservative, though if they have been lying on the ground you will have to get them up and let them dry some more. My favorite are snags (standing dead trees) which still have their bark on. If dead long enough, these not only peel nicely, but usually have worm grooves cut into the exterior which are highly attractive. Naturally you won't want to use any timber which has rotted. Stick a sturdy knife into the wood to check for this. Watch the cedar. Often it will have rottefcl out in the center.

If you use living trees you will have to buck them to length and pile the posts off the ground to let them season. All wood which seasons quickly in this manner (as opposed to a snag which dries very slowly) tends to check. Checking means cracking. Though the checks look disturbing they are not really important. Beams which have checked lose little in the way of strength, posts lose virtually none. Those who build log cabins sometimes peel strips down the bark on opposite sides of a log. This way when the wood seasons it tends to check mostly along the peeled strips. The cabin is built so that the checking is straight up and straight down, covered by the chinking. If the checking were facing out it would provide an environment for insects, provide them with housing, so to speak. So would bark if left on the logs. Checking is relatively unimportant in our type of construction since underground housing attracts far fewer insects than one might imagine.

Still, you may not want your logs to check for aesthetic reasons. Several tricks are used to allow the wood to.season slowly. One is to fall the trees in the late autumn or dead of winter so that the drying process is slowed. A second trick is to keep the bark on the logs during the seasoning. This latter suggestion has the disadvantage of making the material much harder to peel when you finally get to that stage. A newly dropped green tree peels well. One dropped during the spring sap flow peels exceptionally well.

Posts from trees dropped green in the winter will probably need at least six months to season. They must be stacked up off the ground during the seasoning process. If you are rushed you may have to drop the trees in the spring or summer and peel them right away. Even here they will probably need a minimum of three months seasoning. It should be obvious then that preparing the posts is the first step in the process of building an underground house unless you happen to be lucky enough to score already seasoned material.

You may peel the timber with either an axe or a peeling spud. The latter has the advantage of performing the job quicker and more easily. It is also easier to leave thin strips of inner bark on the post or beam when using a spud. An axe, on the other hand, offers the advantage of being a tool you will already possess. An axe makes it possible to chop into the wood exposing the grain. If you are peeling dried (but not rotted) bark with an axe it becomes almost impossible not to cut into the grain, in fact.

There is good reason to want to leave on some of the inner bark and/or chop into the grain: it looks nice. On the $500 house we left as much as one-fourth the inner bark on the tamarack (larch) beams. It adds character. It provides interest. It made it unnecessary to stain the beams, so attractive were they. I did varnish them (highly recommended). The varnish gives them a luster, almost a glow, which makes them look handsome and expensive. I used spar varnish—the real stuff —not the cheaper "wonder" plastic imitation your hardware man will probably recommend.

Most of the posts in the $500 house were lodgepole pine. These peeled with difficulty, the bark tending to cling. They also had a fair number of knots making it difficult to use the spud. We had to hack away at them with the axe taking all sorts of bites and chunks out of the wood exposing the grain. We thought it looked shoddy at first till we stained them. Then they looked beautiful. The stain brought out the grain. We used a walnut stain, though there may be better ones to use. The walnut was a little dark for our tastes, so we applied it as lightly as possible. After several coats of varnish the posts were as handsome as you could wish.

Post Treatment

The whole purpose of treating the posts is to make them resistant to rot when in contact with the damp earth. Only the part which actually is set into the ground should be treated.

To take treatment they must, first of all, be thoroughly seasoned. Damp wood will not absorb the preservative solution. They must also be free of all bark, both outer and inner, the end, fusing ¿1*1*1 AminiriLL,

Underground House Damp ControlUnderground Wood Preservative

Above: Sitting on the lower side of the elevation change table, Therese Hubbell plans a menu. Upper Left: Therese stirs a sauce while guest at barbecue windows samples mountain refreshment. Upper Right: Mary Hubbell fiddles around in the study (as viewed from original section).

Right: Building crew of 75. Royer at right wears hub cap. Such merriment is not uncommon when jovial underground builders gather.

in the area to be immersed in the solution. They must not have been varnished, shellacked or painted and should be clean of mud, dirt and so forth.

There are two commonly used methods of treating posts: pressure treatment and soaking. Pressure treatment is what the professional outfits use and need not concern us here. It takes special equipment. To soak posts all you need is one or two 55 gallon drums. One fellow I know applied treatment to his posts with a paint brush, but I can't recommend this. The point of soaking is to allow the preservative to penetrate deeply.

There are two common preservatives. Creosote is the oldest. It is famous for use on telephone and power poles. I've never used it myself and so can't give you any tips. Directions should be on the can. Creosote smells bad. Though this is mitigated somewhat by the fact that most of the treatment is buried, some_ of it js_ certain t_Q_be ^exDosed.

I've been usine what most of the farmers in our area use, a poison called Penta. It is mixed one part in ten with kerosene or stove oil. Sometimes for economy we use regular diesel. We cut off the top of a 55 gallon drum, fill it not more than 1/3 to 1/2 way full with the solution (because the posts will raise the level of solution by displacement) and cram as many posts into the drum as it will hold. Length of time for soaking varies from twelve hours to four or five days depending upon the temperature of the solution, dryness of the wood, its girth, and species being treated. Dry cedar six inches in diameter might only need twelve hours on a hot summer day.

Lodgepole pine ten inches in diameter treated in the cool of autumn might need five days. When the treatment begins soaking up the post six inches or so by capillary action I generally pull them and add new ones. It will soak upward much more readily on cedar than on pine.

To keep the barrel from turning over from the top-heavy weight of the posts, bury it at least half way in the ground. Take two posts and set them in the ground close to the barrel and nail a cross piece between them. Rest the top of the soaking posts against this.

If you are going to sink the posts to a three foot depth in your house you will need two barrels welded together with the bottom cut out of one of them. Using one barrel you will only be able to soak them conveniently to a height of about two and a half feet.

Some will object to using a poison which will obviously leach into the ground. This is a reasonable objection. I've always felt uneasy on this point myself. Being an organic gardener I would never under any circumstances use poison treated posts in my solar-geo-thermal greenhouses. There is one alternative: you may heat treat the posts. That is, you may scorch them slowly over a fire. In arid regions this may be all you'll need. Fire hardened wood lasts considerably longer underground than untreated, though I can't imagine it lasting even half as long as poison treated posts. The construction technique to be explained shortly makes it possible to replace posts with a minimum of fuss and without disturbing the structure of the house.

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