The Fifty Dollar and Up Underground House Book 4th Edition

96 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0442273118
ISBN-10: 0442273118
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Paperback, December 1, 1981
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 116 pages
  • Publisher: Mole Publishing Company; 4th edition (December 1, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0442273118
  • ISBN-13: 978-0442273118
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 8.5 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Author Mike Oehler built his first underground house in 1971 for $50. He published an article on it in '72 and began the first of several winters hitchhiking around to American universities lecturing on underground housing and the back-to-the-land movement, sponsored by architecture departments and student environmental groups. In 1975, with the internship help of architecture student Chris Royer, he tripled the size of his home for $500 including wall-to-wall carpeting. It would increase to $2,000 when the $500 wood burning stove and solar electrical system were later added.
In 1978 he published "The $50 & Up Underground House Book" (illustrated by Royer) to instant acclaim including more than 45 enthusiastic print reviews. One was in the Dutch magazine, De Twaalf Ambachten, which led to a Dutch TV crew flying in to shoot a national program of his work (he was building internationally also for clients through his company Hobbit Housing). In 1982 the magazine sponsored Oehler for a lecture/workshop tour of the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, England and Scotland.
All during this period Oehler was inventing and building the highly successful earth-sheltered solar greenhouses which require no heat, plus two more small underground houses, a small root cellar and an underground sauna - all dug and built with hand tools by Oehler and volunteers on his 40 acre homestead. His international projects built for clients were all dug and constructed with machinery and power tools.
In 1992 Oehler brought out a three volume video set on underground design and building. In 1997 the BBC shot the first of two episodes about him, and in 2001 HGTV, the American Home and Garden Television Network did a segment on him, which still is occasionally shown periodically.
In 2007 Oehler published "The Earth-Sheltered Solar Greenhouse Book" which has so far garnered nine enthusiastic reviews and is scheduled for a second printing. The "$50 and Up Underground House Book" (14 printings) is sold internationally on and, nationally through several distributors and catalogues, in the UK by Eco-Logic Books and in the Netherlands by De Twaalf Ambachten.
Oehler has four books altogether in print, three DVD's, one video, and one CD. He at present is writing two more books, completing three more underground structures on his land and is brining out a web television site, "Hipnet.TV".
Oehler has co-published with both Van Norstrand Reinhold Company, Inc. and Keokee Co. Publishing, Inc.
Oehler has been interviewed live on numerous radio and television programs, has been written up nationally by the Associated Press, and twice by the New York Times.
Oehler has been a longshoreman, teamster union construction worker, landscaper, busboy, bartender, warehouseman, oil refinery laborer, cotton picker, apple picker, cannery worker, Alaskan commercial salmon fisherman, Alaskan gold miner, camp consular, lifeguard, soldier, dishwasher, firefighter, tree planter, mill hand, rail splitter, beach bum and ski bum.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

660 of 681 people found the following review helpful By goosefish on January 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
I read through the first chapter on Amazon and was absolutely sold on the idea. Subterranean housing is vastly more ecologically compatible than surface dwellings; it can even be environmentally regenerative. But the book's last chapter was a crushing blow; the designs and methods Oehler suggests are not compliant with the Uniform Building Codes.

If you do your best to play by the rules in life, this book will have to be set aside. It's thought-provoking reading, to be sure -- not to be missed. But before you can set out into the wilderness and build yourself an inexpensive answer to today's housing problems, you'll need to socially-engineer a way around civilization's permit/inspector traps. The author proposes a few far-fetched possibilities, e.g. getting a code variance, getting an underground code amendment. Basically, the only real options are: either move to an area with NO building codes (Oehler himself admits there are almost none left), or hide your construction -- and this entails forgoing utility hook-ups, since meter readers apparently double as spies for the housing board, looking for unauthorized renovation/building projects.

Being an outlaw is not my cup of tea. Nor does it suit the mainstream. So perhaps this book's main function, after showing us how inexpensive housing can be, is to wake us up to a harsh reality. Housing boards, composed largely of members of the building professions, "have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. In other words they are not likely to take a cheerful view of any system which cuts the cost of building from 70% to 90%." The reason houses are so expensive is: the law REQUIRES them to be, and the law is assiduously enforced by the very contractors building those houses. What we need is a uniform building code flexibly oriented around safety and good construction standards, NOT the maximization of revenue to entrenched special interests.
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235 of 239 people found the following review helpful By Glenn R. Kangiser on December 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
I built the $50 and up underground cabin about 8 years ago. I could not believe it would actually work but figured I was not out much if if didn't.

Well, I'm still here and so is the cabin.

Problems - a few. The need to learn about and stand up for your God Given Rights to provide shelter for your family? Yes. It is necessary. I prefer to fly under the radar, not flaunt it, post $5000 per day land use fees for trespassing officials and the like as well as use Mikes ideas and stay away from the power company. We are totally off grid and don't even notice when the local grid goes down several times per year.

Following Mike's information and related videos tell you most of what you need to know to be successful. The farther you stray from his guidance, the more problems you may have.

He now recommends EPDM as a membrane and it is a very good choice, but.... good ol' polyethylene will get you by if you can't afford it. I recommend the post on a couple inches of concrete with a steel pin in the center with a plastic vapor barrier under it. Pier size as needed. I agree that you don't want the preservatives in your living space, but the charred post in plastic did not work for me. Those rotted in a few years but the posts on pins as mentioned show no deterioration.

If there is any chance that moisture may be a problem, I recommend the French drain option also to help remove moisture that may get in.

Expand the umbrella part of the membrane ten feet or so past the house perimeter if possible for a drier shelter.


I hope yours is successful too.
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173 of 182 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
I first purchased this book about twenty years ago, then lent out my copy and have been without it for five years or more. Having recently bought a new copy, I have just finished re-reading it once again. I find the author's ideas to be intelligent, logical, and revolutionary.
His personality comes through strongly as he is a man who is not afraid to state his opinions. I find this book to be an interesting read for this reason alone, but strongly recommend it on the basis of the building system he outlines. He explains to the reader, in simple, easily comprehensible language, just how to go about building a warm in winter, cool in summer, low cost home, that is easy on both the eye and the environment.
A huge advantage is that a person living in such a home doesn't have to look at neighbor's homes, and, for their own part, is residing in a home that blends in with the surrounding countryside. If, by good fortune or good planning, one lives on enough acreage that viewing a neighbor's house is not an issue, there is still the benefit of having the home tucked away out of sight, part of the earth around it.
Having never been the type to build a "impressive" home, I am more intersted in staying out of sight and being left alone. I enjoy the woods and wildlife. Mike Oehler shows us how to build a home that lets me do just that.
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235 of 259 people found the following review helpful By Pirate Builder on June 25, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

Here are some helpful hints to keep in mind from a retired Pirate Builder who has also previously spent two decades in legit construction for the gentry.

I have nothing to sell and no axe to grind. I just wish to share, to motivate and to support you to best and right action. Since my view is somewhat different from Mike, the author of the book "The $50 and Up Underground House Book", I feel an obligation to explain why. If you feel moved, you have my consent to email this to others. I feel it is important for people beyond just those whom visit this site to have this opportunity for an informed decision about an area so important to their life.

My back story is that while having a successful practice as a builder, I came to recognize the folly of those methods and the negative impact on the greater good. Thus, I quit and did a number of things differently in life. One such thing was a homestead, no power or running water lifestyle, often with animal motive power instead of machines. I have aesthetic and spiritual reasons for this as well as for recognizing a world that is about to cave in. I have also designed and built wooden sailboats for work and cruising in various nations and have been invited as a consultant to the National Maritime Museum.

I have helped, and continue to help, people in many parts of the world to organize and find their way out of Babylon.

I say all of this so you can get a sense of where I am coming from and my experience in this venue. I also wish to gain your confidence because I will propose a very different solution than the author and also show you how to LEGALLY BUILD what you might consider to be a Pirate Home, below the radar and with less total cost than the author proposes.
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