Roofless Underground Dream Houses

For as long as I’ve known Dad (Joel), he has talked about underground housing. It’s a dream of his to have a house that is underground with a garden roof top. I suppose this would be much like the house that Laura Ingalls Wilder had. (the name of the book escapes me at the moment, can you remember?)

Daniel and I built our house here on the farm, up on the hill behind the big white farmhouse. Due to county restrictions, we were not allowed to build anything smaller than 900 square feet. Absolutely ridiculous, I know. So rather than fight all the battles, we fought the hardest to be allowed to use our own milled lumber.

A concession was made – we could use our own ungraded, milled lumber if we went up a size on every board. Done!

We both like the rustic look anyway, so that’s what we did. We harvested the trees from here on Polyface and milled the lumber ourselves. We have a portable band saw mill from Turner Mills. If you plan on doing any building with your own trees at all, this mill is affordable and dependable. Polyface highly recommends them.

Here are some photos of our mill and a couple inside our house. Unfortunately, I don’t have any that are digital of our construction process, so I can’t share those.

Logs ready for milling

The sawmill

Raw Lumber

Inside our house - notice the open beams in the ceiling and the woodstove pipe (our only source of heat)

My kitchen - when it's completely full of interns learning to make peach jam.

So, what is your dream house made of? Where is it?


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  1. Our family just finished a Cordwood cabin in TN (about 800 sq. ft.). My husband and sons milled the beams from our land, and all the cordwood too. We actually moved from Northern VA, to TN because of taxes and restrictive laws… We love VA, and would have stayed except for those reasons. We are raising pastured poultry, goats and a dairy cow (for our own personal milk/cheeses…). We’re closely involved with a near by Plain Community (folks call them Amish, but they like to be called Plain). Polyface has been a source of inspiration for our family. Thank you! Can’t wait to see more pictures of your sweet house!

  2. Sheri –

    The walls inside your home… Are they sanded down from the raw lumber and then polyurethaned? What are the finishing steps required so that you’re not splinter-ridden from leaning on a wall? Or does the mill make them THAT smooth?

    Looks great, by the way! Very exciting to know that you *carved* your home out of the forested land on which you live! Hah!

    – Frank

    • Hi Frank,
      We took ours to a local Amish farm and they planed and ship-lapped them for us. We did use polyurethane, but if I had to do it over again, I would use tung oil.

      The ceiling joists are lightly sanded with a palm sander and not finished. The upstairs oak flooring was also taken to the Amish farm, planed and tongue & grooved.

      In our basement, we put them on the walls rough cut, right off the mill. We boarded those walls on a diagonal and I really like them.

  3. My dream home is a monolithic dome. Made of concrete, it is virtually indestructible, can withstand most natural disasters, and can maintain its internal temperature without a lot of outside intervention (uses less electricity.). It can also be partially underground.

  4. our dream home is a tiny little eco house on the edge of our farm. We currently live in a 2500 square foot monstrocity built in the 1800’s by the original owners of this farm. Nostaglic yes, but horrible to heat in the canadian winter and it breeds dust.

  5. We are currently renting one side of a duplex so my dream house is any one that I own and has at least an acre with it. Our landlords are awesome and let us have a big garden plus a strawberry patch and tiny herb garden but I’d really like to have some animals and be able to make a little homestead of my own. I’m not too picky at this point. If I were to start from scratch I’d say an off-grid log cabin with composting toliet.

  6. I agree– anything with an acre. We live close to sea level, and don’t even have basements because of flooding, let alone an underground house. (I have spent a lot of time wondering how people used to store root vegetables…) Love the pictures of the house.

  7. Your house is really beautiful. I love the rustic, exposed-wood look too. Y’all did such an amazing job with it.