stone house ancient stone house ancient People have been living in houses like these for thousands of years. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

How to build a house out of stone (for apocalypses AND fun)

Moroccan villagers taught me how to make a stone house, and you can too! Especially if you're worried about zombies.

When I first arrived in a tiny village in Morocco, I noticed that most of the buildings seemed to be made out of stone. Also, the fences were made of stone. And the roads. It slowly dawned on me that the local people must have built virtually everything with stones they dug up around them. This is a really old method of building. In Israel near Jerusalem, for instance, researchers are currently digging up Neolithic houses that were built in a similar way.

These simple houses intrigued me, partly because I always wonder what I’d do if civilization crashed or I got stranded, and I needed to build my own shelter from nearby materials. So I talked to some locals who knew how to make these houses. First off, you ...

Dig trenches

how to make a house out of stone rewild Dig a square, yard-wide trench about a yard deep into the ground, until you hit rock. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

Figure out where your four walls will be. Since we're talking about ancient technology, forget about tape measures. Eyeball it.

Once you've done that, dig into the ground until you hit stone (probably about a yard deep). Dig four trenches following the imaginary lines of your walls, making each trench about a yard wide; we're going to have some pretty thick walls here. Don't worry about digging out the enclosed area inside the trenches yet.


Build the walls

stone house ancient morocco berber Your wall should have three layers: stones, pebbles and more stones. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

Your walls will have three layers: a foot-thick stone wall, an empty foot-thick gap, and then another foot-thick stone wall.

Gather stones from the ground. Then carefully wedge them together in the trenches you made to make your stone layers. These are stones, not bricks, so they're going to be all different sizes.

"Real stones aren't regular," pointed out Jesus Diaz-Mauriño, a Spanish guy who has been coming to this village for years and is currently building a stone house there.

That means you'll have to arrange the stones pretty thoughtfully, cramming together pieces that fit with other pieces.

"It's like Tetris," Diaz-Mauriño added.

Keep building further and further up until your walls are as tall as you want your house to be (maybe eight feet or so). Remember, a yard or so of your house will be underground. Leave a gap for the door, unless you’re planning on spending the rest of your life holed up in your house to ward off zombies.

Remember that foot-wide gap in the middle? At the end, fill it in with small stones.


Use lime mortar

concrete stone house survivalist Use mortar to fill in the gaps between rocks. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

You didn't think you could make a house just out of rocks, did you? You gotta wind and waterproof this situation. Enter mortar.

I know what you’re thinking – you can’t just buy mortar in an apocalypse. That's why you have to make it from stuff around you.

Find some limestone. Grind it up until it's dust. Then, put it in a pot of water and boil it, stirring as you go. Mix some dirt in. Congratulations! You just made mortar.

Use the mortar to patch up the gaps in the rocks. Use it fast, because once it cools down, it turns back into rock. And it's SUPER embarrassing if you ruin your pot because you filled it with mortar.


Make the roof

roof stone house Your roof should look something like this from inside. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

This whole roof made out of stones business seemed precarious to me, but the locals here have worked out a pretty good method.

Find a tree willing to sacrifice itself to your cause. Chop it up and lay down branches running the same direction for your roof, until the whole top of the house is covered. Then, whip up another batch of that awesome homemade mortar, and pour it over the whole thing.


Make the floor

stone houses floor They've mostly dug out the floor here, but they still have to clean it up a bit. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

I would think this would be the first step, but apparently it comes later. Why? Because working on all these walls and roofs is going to make a mess, and it's easier to just clear everything out at the end.

You basically have to carve out the inside of your house now. Your floor probably isn't level yet, so dig out any stones, dirt and whatever else is making hills in your floor.

Once your floor is level, throw some more mortar on it.


Add the door

door decorated stone house You can always decorate your door if you're feeling creative. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

Find a big piece of wood and stick it in the doorframe. The end.

So that’s the deal! These houses are actually pretty simple to make, at least conceptually. They also stay warm at night. And by warm, I mean way warmer than the bricks and other building materials most people use today. Plus, if zombies are tearing at my house, I'd rather my walls be made out of stone than plaster. Just saying.

stone house morocco berber One day, you too can have a lovely little house like this. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

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How to build a house out of stone (for apocalypses AND fun)
Moroccan villagers taught me how to make a stone house, and you can too! Especially if you're worried about zombies.