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How This Idaho Oldtimer Constructed An Ideal “Underground Home for Less Than $50”

Mac Slavo
March 10th, 2017
Comments (47)
Read by 15,998 people
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This guy never took to living conventionally, or really, having anything to do with the grid that he didn’t have to.

Mike Oehler is a veteran in the DIY homesteading movement –  writing the book on how he made his own underground home for cheap, less than $50 using found materials and his reservoir of ingenuity.

This house, dug into a hill and concealed underground, lends itself to camoflauge, self-sustainability, energy efficiently, prepping and survival.

Learn from his experience how to design for the best management of water flow, sunlight into your underground dwelling, and the best way to insulate naturally, and live as low cost as you prefer.

via Kirsten Dirksen:

Mike Oehler lived for over 30 years in an underground home that he built for $50 (and expanded for $500) on his land in Northern Idaho near the Canadian border. Now in his seventies his arthritis keeps him from hiking up to his home, but he continues to “write and proselytize.”

In 1968 like thousands of other San Franciscans hoping to go “back to the land”, Oehler bought property and began to build a homestead. After spending a winter freezing in a small cabin, he designed a home that would use the earth as insulation. With his first attempt he fell into the easy errors of what he calls a “first thought house”: a hole cut into a hillside with south-facing windows. Gradually he began to innovate with subterranean design, creating better ways for letting light in: among them “the Hollywood Wing”, “the Royer foyer”, gables and most-importantly the “uphill patio” (which also provides space for an earth-sheltered greenhouse). He also created an inexpensive, low-tech approach to basic design with what he calls PSP or Post/shoring/polyethlene. Mike Oehler’s “$50 & Up Underground House Book”:

Depending upon how you look at it, you could live out your dream, or prepare to survive a nightmare in relative comfort and security.

If it is build properly, it will maintain more regulated temperatures throughout the year than virtually any other structure.

If you’re flying under the radar completely, sod-covered roofs, tucked away hills on back-acre property, shrubbery and foilage in front of your major entrances and other simple tricks can help you blend in and remain almost literally undercover.

Yet, at the same time, natural light can be easily utilized for a home that does not necessarily need electricity, power or grid connections (that much is up to you).

Read more:

Prepper’s Blueprint: The Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Through Any Disaster

The $50 and Up Underground House Book

Prepping Expert Joel Skousen’s The Secure Home

Elite Prepare to Hole Up in Luxury Underground Bunkers: “They Know Something The Rest of Us Do Not”

How This Man Converted “Underground Shelter Using a 20 Ft. Shipping Container”

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Author: Mac Slavo
Views: Read by 15,998 people
Date: March 10th, 2017

Copyright Information: Copyright SHTFplan and Mac Slavo. This content may be freely reproduced in full or in part in digital form with full attribution to the author and a link to Please contact us for permission to reproduce this content in other media formats.


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  1. Warchild Dammit! says:

    That is some awesome thinking/building this guy does.Yes,in many ways he comes across like a hippy but states in video many times the advantages of said house and defensible kept coming up,gonna try and find a copy of his book.

  2. Zeus says:

    Necessity is the mother of invention. Get busy people.

  3. Yeah, right says:

    Now I understand why they say a lot of people will committing suicide if the SHTF. I guess it doesn’t rain or snow much there huh. Where’s the mail order bride? I’m sure she was impressed.

    • It doesn’t snow in Idaho?
      It snows for months on end in Idaho and the temperatures can get anywhere from -35 to -60 degrees below zero in the winter,depending on your location within the state.
      Unfortunately, Californians are moving to Idaho and have driven up the price of land, homes and apartment rents exponentially.
      Many of these California transplants are working diligently to change a once conservative state, into the liberal hell hole from which they came.

  4. Nomadic says:

    Due to recent storms there is an abundance of used building materials available.
    When a metal roof gets damaged most insurance company’s will pay to replace the whole roof as the old metal can’t be color matched and would look like a patchwork
    I recently turned down 45 sheets of 2’x 20′ standing seam (grey) for $100 …. just didn’t need them.
    On the barn siding so what if it has screw holes every 2’… use them..
    Pressure wash and throw on a coat of paint with an airless … good as new.

    Also used epdm rubber roof can be had on the cheap . The old adhesive doesn’t matter if you’re going to ballast it with earth.
    On the first layer turn the adhesive down … Then glue a second layer on top of the first layer using the black glue with the old adhesive turned up. Guarantee if you put a turn down all the way around it won’t leak for 50+ years.

    Window companies always have storage trailers full of new windows on the cheap. There are literally hundreds of reasons why. Wrong size , style, color, grids, low e, contractor credit issues etc…

    But old dude is right… If you are going to build your structure to fit the windows…. do a scale model first.

    Most importantly get below ground. The times they are achangin.

    As for you old timer (bless your heart) you ain’t gonna ride out no nuker in that hovel. Ha

    • Nomadic says:

      Here’s one from Cucamonga Slim that I almost forgot about.
      You can take used barn metal cut it to 7 foot lengths and use it for fencing. It doesn’t matter if it’s different colors as long as it’s same profile just paint it.
      Don’t bother knocking off the ruff edges with a die grinder leave them sharp top and bottom … It will lay their hands open quick.
      The wood post and rails serve as insulators and you can energize the metal by attaching a hot wire and running the neutral wire to ground.
      Hmmm that must be why you see that kinda fence around junkyards.
      It might not be good for your residence but ok for Bol.
      Security / windbreak

    • anonymous says:

      Damn neighbor, now everyone is coming up here. He lives near bonners ferry. What he isnt telling you is that you need slope all around it unless you like being wet.

      • Genius says:

        Kudo’s to the ol man! He did very well for what he had to work with. I bet those old single pane windows froze his ass off though unless he had a bad assed woodstove. With a few less windows and modern dual pane glass it would be killer. I have often thought about converting a cave into a dwelling (I’m too old and tired to do all that digging). Craigslist has a ton of construction materials cheap and construction sites sometimes will let you have scraps too. I built my first cabin out of concrete blocks bought on craigslsit (420 8x8x16 blocks for 100 bux) and did the trusses out of 4×4 posts 14 foot long (about 35 of them for 100 bux) and the windows were used sliding glass door panes and a couple sliding dual pane windows for very cheap. I got metal roofing off an old mining mill (very good shape) about the only thing significant I had to buy new was a sliding door and hardware and mortar and cement. I quit scrounging building materials because I have so much. I still have about 38 sheets of 1-1/4 inch rated tongue and groove plywood and 10 16 foot 4x8x14 glue lam beams and 45 2.5x7x14 wood beams and a small crate of screws and brackets that I got all for free off a job. Me and my friend are going to put some of it to use this summer rehabing an old abandoned cabin from the turn of the century. I like the idea of rehabing an old (and very hard to get too) cabin because from the air it will look like the same old delapidated cabin that has been there for a century but inside it will be fortified and livable with no one the wiser. I love building stuff especially when it is prep related. Summer cometh and my plate is full 🙂

        • anonymous says:

          @ GENIUS>>>>>I found a old homestead half way up Solomon Lake road way off in the woods. I believe its now on state land property. You must eat a lot of brush and slash to get to it. Im you might have hunted the area. or ran a cat on the near by forest roads.

  5. Faux Liberte' says:

    We have about 100 years of life support remaining on this planet. There are no sides. This is problem that is shared by all of us. There are forces in play to exact a solution.

    You will have three choices. One, you could run and hide. Two, you could fight and kill your neighores for the last pizza pocket. And, Three. You could try to help others and become a solution, rather than a burden.

    In the latter, there is no fear nor anger. It doesn’t mean give up or surrender, either. You may still die, but it will not be a meaningless death.

    We’ve all considered and prepared for solutions to choices one and two, and yet, what about option three?

    • LaManiac says:

      Faux,if option one is in play,were in deep shit.Option 2 you didn’t prep well.I prep to survive,didn’t
      Collect all these tools and materials for nothing!Do have a bob but hope to never use it
      Be well all !
      Maniac out

      • Genius says:

        There is a 4th option… STOP HAVING SO MANY FOOKIN KIDS!

      • Faux Liberte' says:

        LaManiac. Prepare and arm yourself to protect your family, of course. However, we are in this together, all of us. Don’t give up on practicing to be human for those whom need it and can reciprocate in kind. You can’t hide in the hole forever. Eventually you will have to come out and try living again.

        Prepping is not entirely about stacking supplies and being greedy. There is a leadership role to be played. Our knowledge of survival will benefit others and we’ll need to set the rules that if you don’t work, you don’t eat. If you don’t help, you won’t receive it.

        Once it goes down, you’ll understand.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’m loving this!!! I also like other videos I’ve seen of old oil drums buried as well!

  7. JoshAegis says:

    This guy actually lives near me, and his first underground home is on the adjacent property to a friend of mine. The funny part, not sure if he mentioned it in the video (i can’t stream, I’m off grid) is that he was chased out of his home for a winter by a bear that decided the home was a perfect place to hibernate, and there was nothing to do but give it up for a year! lol!.

    Anyway, I built off grid up here too, and I built a partially bermed structure. Used passive solar concepts in the design. The partial berm and passive solar concepts combined with a sod roof worked amazingly. We hit minus fifteen degrees here on our worst day, and stayed in the single digits for weeks. My home, WITHOUT running ANY kind of heating device, maintained itself at 55 to 60 degrees. I bought a wood stove, and threw a few sticks in it, and it easily heated the house to over 100 degrees with minimal wood. For comfort, I tend to keep it around 80 degrees inside, and I also use it for all my cooking.

    We are having a record smashing winter, broken records over a hundred years old, and I’ve burned less than a cord of wood, despite having 3 to 5 feet of snow consistently on the ground for three and a half months.

    The house is nearly impossible to spot from above. So it definitely provides some great concealment.

    The only problem is the 500 foot long driveway I have to hand shovel. Man that gets old fast…..

    • @ josh… Did you see the railroad warehouse across the street from the naples store collapse in the snow…that thing has been there for decades. Im real close to your place too. I firewood at Deer creek road, and fish Perkins all the time.

  8. GrandpaSpeaks says:

    Yep, he is right there in my copy of the last Whole Earth Catalogue. Been on my bookshelf for almost 50 years along with its companion Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book. The fate of both authors tell the tale. Hope and the loss of it. Glad to see you still pushing the grass down Mike while Abbie pushes it up. RIP Abbie, you were right.

  9. Houston/Cypress/Katy/Shtf says:

    NYS Patriot. Welcome to fbr board.. I was trying get some input on the preppers situation up north..It sounds like you have a good back up plan.. Agent76. Welcome to the board.. Hey lo Long, it’s good to hear from you again.. Hang in there and keep prepping just incase you have to grab that big out bag and hall ass.. I rocomend that NY preppers get a good mountain bike and ride regularly to build up riding endurance to have to ability to hall ass. And clear out to which evr direction your need to go, and now we’re heading they something is up in th north side?


  10. Beaumont says:

    There are pre-industrial building methods, which can last hundreds or thousands of years.

    Architectural elements, in newer developments are made of styrofoam, covered in stucco (but, not for long.) We have these walls, which cannot last in sunshine, in the American southwest. They past code inspection. Some of us are using paper and cardboard furniture, and pay dearly for that, for so long as it lasts.

    I would like to draw a stark contrast, between someone who shows up, at his subsidize makework job, and thinks that he has physically earned something, and suffers illness from being sedentary vs. someone who has experienced physical hardship, to the point of ruining his health.

    Most of us won’t be that resilient.

  11. joeybagofdonutsandbagels says:

    Looks like he took a few pallets apart.

  12. Sgt. Dale says:


  13. A good friend of mine is looking to rent a very clean all season cabin or cottage for long term. A few miles outside of town. Any suggestions? Western states preferred. Arizona, Nevada, etc. He will consider other locales.

  14. Houston/Cypress/Katy/Shtf says:

    That whole set up good to have for survival, but mature and old preppers need to get I shape and people don’t exercise. Even your and old fart. You can still get in shape of you don’t have arthritis.. The guy scan barely walk much less take care of himself but I have to give him credit ..I guess is easier fkr me to talk since I almost 50 yrs old but am in top physical condition.. Preppers who are not in shape will not be able to protect themselves and family,if you have children that are in shape tk secure you location then your alright.. But people need to get in shape..not trying to talk bad about this old prepper guy because he is very smart. Just saying. These days I have be careful not get injuries in the gym, because if you fuck up a knee your can t walk. So I quit doing squatsast year and this is for preservation and prevention of injuries..the last thing I need is and injury and besides, I better stay in shape since my woman is in her mid thirties and must rely om this brute..


    • Genius says:

      I know how he feels (almost) I have arthritis in my back and bad knees and neck pain. I am trying to do all the laborous things while I can because eventually I won’t be able too. Get in shape? How do you propose that with the ailments I have? I am fairly thin anyway and always have been but going out and lifting wieghts etc. aint gonna help just damage more. I do my share of physical labor even though it is getting more painful I just do it. Packing materials up a mountain and refurbing a cabin is enough workout for me. If I ever end up a land whale somebody just shoot me ok!

  15. Zeus says:

    See,… when you own your own good land hidden far from any road, or spying eyes, you don’t need a certificate of occupancy. That works for grown adults.

    However, if you have any children under the ages living with you, living like this off the grid is considered child abuse by the CFS (Child & Family Services) and will come and (Kidnap) take your kids away. They even now consider Camping under the stars as child abuse. So OPSEC is key, keeps your mouths shut and have that talk with your children to shut their mouths. Teach them they have a right to remain silent and don’t have to answer to anybody.

    • Outside the city limits here, building permits, inspections and utilities are not required. In fact, if you have a sign out front, the assessor cannot come on your property, and must guess the value. Quite a few people here have the NARLO sign. But yes, OPSEC is the key when you are raising kids, because there is a minimum sanitary/heat/water/food requirement for them….as it should be IMHO.

  16. PLANET X says:

    Send this to some politicians.

  17. Ketchupondemand says:

    I bought this book back when it came out and liked the idea.
    Just didn’t like cold country.
    Oregon might have worked for this type house but between property taxes and the cold it was out of the question.

    This guy described himself as “the drunk at the end of the bar” and once cut out the liver of a brown or grizzly before calling the sheriff….going on memory, of course.
    Interesting book.

  18. Norse says:

    Here in Norway they build to last (and to survive, they don’t play at survival):

    Hut is from the late 1700’s built of materials from an almost identical hut on the same property. from the late 1600’s (it was easier to build a new one than repair the old one).

    Timbers used are from the mountain as it was covered by forests of large evergreens at that time, later cut and exported and the land then used for summer pasture.

    The hut, once used as the main living quarters for this summer farm is now used as a cabin. The farm produced milk during the summer months until only a few years ago.

  19. ruby says:

    Not guilty in Oregon but…..

    Stay focused and pray!

    • Yeah, right says:

      It’s insane, but that’s what all these three letter agencies were created for. They produce one regulation on top of another and across all lines, that have the enforcement power of law. Not that the there isn’t a problem with the law creators too. I guess they should just be considered an eight letter agency. (Congress)

      • Genius says:

        The problem is too may asswipes are willing to enforce these bullshit so called laws. Without the asslicking yes men they would be powerless. The agents are the ones resposible for their actions, just because some fat fuck in suit says do this and that doesn’t mean you HAVE too. The number one assholes responsible for what happens are the ENFORCERS!

  20. Traitor Hator says:

    Fixed fortifications are monuments to mans stupidity ? Not saying that this was to be a fort. But for SHTF I’d rather have something on wheels or a tent?

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