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Thread: Building a Rock Shelter (Perm or Temp) FREE

  1. #1

    Cool Building a Rock Shelter (Perm or Temp) FREE

    One thing nice about Mother Earth is she provides us with everything we need to survive, its a wallyworld of her own and everything is FREE. I like the Free part too.

    Here is a simply plan to build your own Rock shelter (Home is where you make it) and you can build these just about anywhere. (Exception of snow, ice, desert where there are no rocks handy).

    Size is important since you have to take into affect you want enough sleeping space and for how many, room for your rock stove, room for dried food storage, and a little room to have that elbow space to work around in.

    Location is near a water source and near a nice area where are plenty of rocks. You may want to check the consistency of the shores of the stream, lake or pond to see if there is plenty of clay or mud handy. This is for filling in those areas between the rocks to make it weather proof. Plus you will use mud for your roof as well..but I will get to that.

    A flat area is preferred unless you really can't find one and then you have to build your floor out of rock as well. Some rock and mud will simply act like putting bricks together with mortar. The idea is to get a level floor however you can do it. Even with some help of some large fallen trees or small logs to get an area to add the rocks and mud to where you have a level floor. Just saves some time in finding a level area, but in some areas you are stuck with uneven ground and when weather is on the way, you don't have time to complain. Again, this is only one choice for a shelter. It is not needed, but can make life feel a lot more comfortable.

    Adding strength to the mud or clay is done by adding dry weeds or nap weed, even any other strong weed to the mud mix. When it dries, it is like cement.

    Starting with the layout. Find where you want your door and mark it with some rocks or sticks. Then start to make your walls by putting one layer of rocks all around in the shape you want your rock house to be. Planning our for windows for which views you want will also be incorporated later on.

    Next, find your mud/clay area and start getting a nice area of mud or clay gathered up. The stickier the mud, the better it is. (You can always wash later since the water is close.) To carry the mud, you can use your shirt or improvise with what ever you have on hand.

    Then start to lay your layers of rock, which should be about 2 foot thick walls and you can use large rocks and small rocks in the process. Each layer of rock you put down for the walls going all around will have one layer of mud as well on top, like mortar on a brick house. This seals the cracks and prevents bugs, animals and weather from getting in the walls. Try to keep the walls even at all times, but it can be sometimes hard with the different sizes of rock, so then when you get higher you can start to use smaller rocks in some areas and bigger rocks in the lower areas to try and get it even. You don't add windows until you are about a foot from the top of the wall. This way, you can place a large flat rock over the small window (keep it small since the larger they are the bigger the flat rocks you need to create a top beam for the window. Windows are going to be the areas about 1 foot from the top of the walls that you will leave blank during your process of making the walls, anyway you get the drift and can figure that out with some common sense. However, you do want to find a flat rock, perhaps even a few branches (thick) and make a shutter for your window, I prefer to not have more than one window facing the south for sunlight during the daytime, but that is your choice. You don't even need windows, but you may want a peek hole or put your little window in the door so you can see in your home during the daytime, unless you want to leave the door open or have a fire going all the time.

    Now, you will want to build a fireplace. A simple fireplace can be made the same way, with rock and mud. The mud (Thick clay is best) will seal the stove and chimney so you don't get smoked out of the house. Since you will want to incorporate the chimney into the wall and out the wall you will want to use some nice round log pieces that will be in place in the wall surrounded by rock and mud and when you are done building your wall after the mud starts to get dry, you can burn the log out of your wall leaving a nice round hole for your chimney going out the wall. Then build the chimney up the side of the house with more rock and mud leaving the center empty so the smoke can go out and up and over the house. Just remember to leave a trap at the bottom of the chimney so it can catch any debris, wet soot and junk in the bottom, which you will not have a trap door, but it will burn out when it fills up and there is no fire danger when it does.

    While making your rock and mud fireplace, you will want to make sure the top is covered with only a flat rock as much as possible, for this is your cooking area in which you can cook food on, even on top of the rock itself if you have no frying pans available. You cook on the rock. Or do the hot dog on a stick inside the fireplace trick.

    If you want something pretty and romantic, (if you are a woman) you can make an open hearth type rock stove and make your chimney going out at the top of the wall and near the ceiling at an angle so you don't get rain and snow coming in the house.

    Now you have fireplace, you have the walls, and you just need a roof. The other furniture can be made from rock and mud as well later on, but the roof now must go up. Finding thick branches (straight helps if you can) that are about 4 inches thick and lay them tightly next to each other across the top of the walls to start making your roof. You will then add a layer of mud evenly on this and then add another layer of 4 inch branches (not the pine needles or leaves, just the solid branch). After you have your layers of sticks, mud, sticks, mud and sticks, mud again then you start to make the center of the last layer of mud higher than the rest. Like even a dome shape if you want. This helps with the run off of water. Now add flat rocks starting form the bottom and work your way up, tile them on top of each other about a quarter of each size so they will let the water, snow and debris run off the roof like you see on any other house with shingles. Now you have a roof that is solid, will not leak and will keep the heat inside the rock house.

    A door is simply using sticks tied together to make your door, I use at least 3 to 4 inch sticks so it is a strong door. Two poles will be along the outside of the doorway, pounded or dug into the ground and use rocks to keep it in place with your home made cement. Hinge it with strong rope, vines, or whatever you can find that will work (stringy bark, leather, etc.) which will need replacing over time. A latch can be of the same, tied around another stick pounded in the ground inside the doorway.

    Now that is a shelter you can depend on and enjoy at the same time. Home away from home. If you have questions, post them and I will answer them when I check back. Who says survival must be without comfort?
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  2. #2
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Got any pictures of your last one? We're kind of visual beasts.
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  3. #3

    Cool

    The stone shelter I had built several years ago is not anywhere near where I live, but I am planning on building another in my own back yard (back 40). So I will be starting this next week and will be glad to post photos (from beginning to end) since I was also going to teach this to others in my local area so this gives me the chance to post it on here and use it as a show and tell here locally as well. Plus it will make another nice hunting shack for friends who come this fall to hunt. The only difference will be the door and perhaps using a few small pieces of lexicon for windows since I will be wanting to use this stone house as a guest house as well. Other than the differences in the windows and the door, everything else will be from nature. Including the fireplace (which will be a variation of a rocket stove just because I like the usefulness of it and the style. So I will be starting that project within the next few days. I will take more time than just throwing it together in a day or two since again, it will be part of my property and I do want it to blend it nicely. So by next week (given my spare time in the evenings) I should have it completed (maybe minus a door and or a window which would be ok too since it gives it the full nature look what any stone shelter would look like anywhere else. I will gladly do that and post photos. Plus to show it can be done with just Nature provides, I will build it only using what nature provides me with (no shovel, no pick, no 5 gallon buckets).
    Last edited by AirborneEagles; 08-08-2010 at 07:30 AM.
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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Looking forward to the project. Thanks.
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    Senior Member ClayPick's Avatar
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    I call them a Shieling, it was a tough living back in the day.
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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    CP, thanks for the pic's, very cool, reminds me of the round stone house the guy lived in at the Harry Potter school.

    As far as building one for survival purposes, seem very labor and material intensive.
    Now if a TEOTWAWKI situation, I agree a good possible permanent option, but not a "throw it shelter".

    BUT, lots of suitable stones/rocks needed, generally not big piles around, at least around here.
    And HELP.

    I have been collecting rocks for and building the berms in front and rear of my cabin.
    I gotta tell you, lots of work finding, transporting, lifting, fitting (not real consistent as far as dimensions go), so the whole thing doesn't just fall down and kill you, or just mashing your fingers, straining your back.........

    As far as I am concerned there are four kind of stones:
    One handers- Carry one in each hand.
    Two handers- Takes two hand to carry.
    Bucket stone- Tractor loader bucket to move and lift.
    Decorator stone- Looks good right where they are.

    AE, I would really like to see pic's of your shelter, sounds cool.
    And I do have a problem with "FREE", there is turly no such thing..............IMHO.

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    Last edited by hunter63; 08-09-2010 at 01:30 PM. Reason: added stuff
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  7. #7

    Cool

    Nice photos, yes it would look pretty much like that. Only a little smaller, since for one man it only has to be 7x7 inside since its mostly for sleeping, fireplace, and cooking/eating. Yes, these are perm, but a temp one would be using a side of a steep hill to help make up one wall or against a cliff if one is around. However, if its late fall and getting colder and you need a perm shelter till the spring and finding a good area near a creek with lots of rocks around sure helps to make it easy.

    Figure on two solid days and it would be built. (A small one that is livable.)

    Of course there are different ways, improvise using even a large hole and build it around that, even dig a hole and just build your fireplace and entry way around that. Even a miners stone cabin works, finding a small cave and building the stone house around the entry of the cave so there are only 3 main walls with an entry way.

    Love the picture. Mine however is still on hold, its raining and has been for the past 2 days now. Sigh. Need the rain though, helps keep from getting forest fires here.
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    Senior Member SARKY's Avatar
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    How well does that mud hold up to heavy rain downpours?? I sure as hell don't want my walls caving in on me during a downpour!!!
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    reclinite automaton canid's Avatar
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    mud/clay mortars don't withstand direct rain/wind well, but plaster is easy enough to make, and a simple slip applied to the exterior and touched up every year or two if needed will prolong the life for hundreds of years, as evidenced by the cob dwellings in Whales which have been maintained since the 16th century, and many of the flint cobble houses throughout the british isled from a similar time period [can't remember atm].

    here is an example of rain weathering of the cob surface [which is just a med clay mordant re-enforced with straw], from Coquille Oregon. you can see where the mud is slowly eroding away form the straw fibers. the colored patch at lower left shows where the plaster had been applied in time for the wet season. the similarly colored building in the background has been fully plastered and is holding up great.
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    this picture shows the minor, much slower weathering that happens where the suface of the plaster chips and cracks; the sort that only needs to be touched up. the white wall surface on the left has been finished with a finer plaster wich i believe was smoother and better wearing.
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    to my knowledge, but of these plasters shown are just simple slaked lime and sand plasters.

    i apologize for thread-jacking. i just wanted to demonstrate the benefits of a simple water-resistant finish for mud, as it adds not only to such a structure's longevity and ease of maintenance, but to it's safety and aesthetics.
    Last edited by canid; 08-10-2010 at 05:20 AM.
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  10. #10

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    You don't build stone buildings relying on the mud or mortar for the same reason you don't stack bricks one on top of another when building a wall, or they will fall down. It has to be done as an interlocking whole. Usually a few courses thick. Look at the doorway and windows in the pic ClayPick posted.

    I stayed in an old stone house that had been limed on the outside and plastered on the inside while over in Cornwall last spring. I could get used to it. Of course there was electricity and plumbing...
    But I also have first hand knowledge of what it's like to move 3 tons of 18" rickrack with a wheelbarrow. How many tons in a house?

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    Senior Member ClayPick's Avatar
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    There’s not many cob wall buildings around here and what there is has lots of overhang on the eaves. Like any building made with natural materials they seem to be a constant a work in progress. The building I have shown would traditionally have the walls backfilled with earth and soded. Bulrushes make a roof and does a good job at keeping the weather out until it rots. Lugging rock sure seems to be an endless task.

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    reclinite automaton canid's Avatar
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    like any structure, they need regular inspection and upkeep, but as to being a constant work in progress, they are so well loved in part due to the fact that they lend themselves so well to easy repair, modification and expansion.

    as Linda Smiley is fond of saying; a cob building needs a good hat, and a good pair of boots, meaning the foundation that allows good drainage of moisture, and a roof which keeps seeps out of the walls. it's not hard, as so many of the buildings there actually sport green roofs, and manage to keep free from seepage, though they are largely roofed with scavenged materials.

    the roof certainly needn't be of a separate material, and overhanging, as long as it is well surface sealed against water infiltration [as in the outdoor sculpture, ovens, etc which have become popular in recent decades], but it is definitely a proven approach.

    the ideology is not limited to cob, and i mentioned it because of the similarity in composition between cob, and any other clay/sand structural or mordant material which will suffer from water damage. it's just a matter of sealing it well, and that can be done with more or less natural materials.
    Last edited by canid; 08-11-2010 at 12:10 PM.
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    Resurrecting this.
    I recently got a book called
    Building with Stone by Charles McRaven.
    http://www.amazon.com/Building-Stone...8451874&sr=1-1

    It has some really nice advice on laying walls and arches. It gives a nice hands-on project progression from a simple drystone wall to an outdoor fireplace to a root cellar, a dam, an arch bridge and finally houses and barns with a brief section on restoration. The writing is very down to earth with lots of funny anecdotes.

    What it won't teach you is how to figure out which stone will fit where and admits that part does require somewhat of an eye and thinking in 3D. It does give dressing instructions to make em fit if they don't.

    Highly recommended.

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Hey AE - have you dug up any of those pictures of the several shelters that you built of this type?
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    Oooh. I forgot all about this thread. Thanks, Lowkey for dredging it up. I love rock "stuff". There are so many cool things that can be built dry fitting stone together.

    Quote Originally Posted by AirborneEagles
    I will be starting this next week and will be glad to post photos
    If you have some pics, AE, I'd love to see what you've done.

  16. #16

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    The only things I've built in rock are a garden wall and a slate patio.
    The garden wall was the 3 tons of rock and a wheelbarrow...
    It's very Zen-like to work with stone. They turned out well.
    Last edited by LowKey; 10-31-2010 at 10:24 PM.

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    Not a Mod finallyME's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hunter63 View Post
    CP, thanks for the pic's, very cool, reminds me of the round stone house the guy lived in at the Harry Potter school.

    As far as building one for survival purposes, seem very labor and material intensive.
    Now if a TEOTWAWKI situation, I agree a good possible permanent option, but not a "throw it shelter".

    BUT, lots of suitable stones/rocks needed, generally not big piles around, at least around here.
    And HELP.

    I have been collecting rocks for and building the berms in front and rear of my cabin.
    I gotta tell you, lots of work finding, transporting, lifting, fitting (not real consistent as far as dimensions go), so the whole thing doesn't just fall down and kill you, or just mashing your fingers, straining your back.........
    hunter, you should come to my neighborhood for rocks. I could build a nice shelter with just what is on the ground. Recently my wife had the great idea to dig out the front flower bed and get all the rocks out of it. She wanted to dig 2 feet down. Of course it ended in me doing all the work. I built one of those sifter things to separate the rocks from the dirt. It took a couple months threatening the kids to shovel, and myself doing most of the work. It was like digging through gravel. Actually it was digging through gravel. I got at least 10 wheelbarrows full of rock. Most were fist sized, but a good amount were basketball sized or bigger. My neighbors told me that I will find big ones in the same spot next year, as we grow rocks around here. Of course, if you look on a 1978 topo map, it shows my neighborhood as a rock quarry.
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    Senior Member Winnie's Avatar
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    Winnie jnr can build dry stone walls.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_stone He can get them about 5' high, but a master craftsman can do much better, He can also build a Cornish Hedge. I think Lowkey has had experience with them
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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Yummmmmmmm. I love Cornish Hen.......Oh. You said hedge. Nevermind.
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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by finallyME View Post
    hunter, you should come to my neighborhood for rocks. I could build a nice shelter with just what is on the ground. Recently my wife had the great idea to dig out the front flower bed and get all the rocks out of it. She wanted to dig 2 feet down. Of course it ended in me doing all the work. I built one of those sifter things to separate the rocks from the dirt. It took a couple months threatening the kids to shovel, and myself doing most of the work. It was like digging through gravel. Actually it was digging through gravel. I got at least 10 wheelbarrows full of rock. Most were fist sized, but a good amount were basketball sized or bigger. My neighbors told me that I will find big ones in the same spot next year, as we grow rocks around here. Of course, if you look on a 1978 topo map, it shows my neighborhood as a rock quarry.
    It is pretty rocky at "The Place" as well, but it's still a lot of back breaking work, (young guy work, why do you think Journey men have apprentices?)

    Yes, I agreed, when DW says, "Why don't "WE do, whatever, she means you. LOL
    Thats just the way it is..................

    BTW I thinking that there will be no Free rock shelters pictures from AE, anytime soon.
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