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Thread: Remove Organics or Leave in Place

  1. #1

    Default Remove Organics or Leave in Place

    I've been reading a lot of posts over the last year on foundation materials, and types of foundations for remote cabins. I have built a few log cabins before for other people but never remote. My wife and I are in the process of purchasing some remote land and we would like to build a small 14 x 16 log cabin on the property. So the biggest issue I am having is with the foundation. I think I am kind of leaning towards using some type of pier block type of foundation. The area we will be building on has permafrost soils. I want to built above the ground rather than below ground to avoid melting the permafrost below the cabin. I have heard that it is important to remove any organics like moss and haul in gravel to avoid the hazard of a ground/brush fire. My concern is that if I remove the organic layer won't this affect the natural insulation that the moss/organic layer provides?

  2. #2
    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushwhack Jack View Post
    I've been reading a lot of posts over the last year on foundation materials, and types of foundations for remote cabins. I have built a few log cabins before for other people but never remote. My wife and I are in the process of purchasing some remote land and we would like to build a small 14 x 16 log cabin on the property. So the biggest issue I am having is with the foundation. I think I am kind of leaning towards using some type of pier block type of foundation. The area we will be building on has permafrost soils. I want to built above the ground rather than below ground to avoid melting the permafrost below the cabin. I have heard that it is important to remove any organics like moss and haul in gravel to avoid the hazard of a ground/brush fire. My concern is that if I remove the organic layer won't this affect the natural insulation that the moss/organic layer provides?
    Jack, I'm undoubtedly one of those you're referring to who advocated removing organics under a structure, for several reasons... But if you're on bad permafrost ground, then you're absolutely correct that it behooves you to maintain as much insulation between you and the ground as possible. Having a nice clean spot under your place to store things is great, and it definitely is a plus if you ever have to defend it against wildfire, but it's a moot point if you have nothing to defend because it sank into a mud hole.
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    Member Dirtofak's Avatar
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    Read the land. If it has large trees on it.... you might get away with pilings or posts. If it is covered with blueberries and small black spruce. Don't even think about removing the tundra covering. If it is where we talked about. You have discontinuous permafrost. You won't know until you dig it.

    I dug an outhouse hole at my cabin. It was full of water the next day.

    Do not cantelever your foundation on a log structure. A buddy learned the hard way. The weight is along the outside walls. Give it a straight path to the ground.

    Dig your outhouse first. About the size of a 55 gallon drum. If it fills with water..... bad soil. If it stays dry..... you might chance it.

    Price the difference between 14' wide VS 16' wide. I doubt that it is very much at all.
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  4. #4

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    If you have access to gravel to use the best way if in doubt would be cut and remove all of the vegatation in the cabin area then lay down a ground cloth like typar over the moss and organic's then cover this with gravel.

  5. #5
    Member kodiakrain's Avatar
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    I'd say, leave the natural insulation
    you might not want to be storing stuff underneath the cabin if it's very moist area anyway right ?

    as tempting as it is to make storage under there,...
    I'd just put up a storage shed somewhere for anything you would be tempted to slide underneath the structure
    keep it dry, and out of the Burrower Zone

    I put up a log place on pilings near the Talkeetna River,...it was pretty dry area, highspot of a sort,
    and leaving the natural soil cover underneath
    seemed like the smoothest way to go,...and it was,...

    Not sure what kind of brush you're talking there, but the standard Forest Floor, Moss, etc. isn't going to be too much of a fire concern
    it's too wet, and anything like bushes,...you'll have that cut down anyway right
    check out a Burned Over area,...the forest floor, usually isn't even singed much

    but to me, your idea of Organics as insulation, was exactly what I thought,...
    it just seemed smart to go as Low Impact on the forest floor as possible
    less work also, than all that "Scraping and Conquering," (grin)
    Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !

  6. #6

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    Good advice everybody. Thanks.

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    Seems like the easiest way to add storage for a cabin is to extend the roof on the N side down to a few feet off grade aka a 1/2 pole barn.
    Those that are successful in Alaska are those who are flexible, and allow the reality of life in Alaska to shape their dreams, vs. trying to force their dreams on the reality of Alaska.

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