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Building a concrete root cellar

Discussion in 'Survival (Preps & Homestead)' started by Ishkabibble, Oct 21, 2012.



  1. Ishkabibble

    Ishkabibble Gold Member Gold Chaser

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    This is awesome...

    Root Cellar

    We decided that our little farm needed a root cellar to store our produce in. For those unfamiliar with the term, a root cellar is an underground room that acts like a natural refrigerator, maintaining temperatures in the mid 30's F in the winter and mid 50's in the summer.
    Step one: Dig a hole in the ground. We are fortunate to have a local gravedigger who is a real artist with a backhoe. He can carve a hole with straight sides almost within an inch of what you ask for.

    DSCN2940.JPG

    Step two, pour a concrete footer. Then start laying blocks. About 320 went into this 8 x 8 foot cellar.

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    Almost finished here.

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    Now, for the fun part, pouring a concrete roof. A simple flat slab wouldn't do, for you want condensation to run off to the sides. So, I created a plywood from with an arched top. The arch would also create a stronger roof. It also created a very strong form.

    DSCN2982.JPG

    I built the form in the shop, then dismantled it.
    The arches are 1/2 inch plywood pressed into dadoed grooves in the 2x4's. This created an extremely strong structure.

    DSCN2986.JPG

    Satisfied with the form I reassembled it on the root cellar walls.

    DSCN3008_1.JPG

    A nice snug fit, supported by 3 vertical 2x4's on each side. (Not shown in the picture are 8 pieces of 1/2" plywood approximately 6" x 23". These were installed after the plywood sheets were added. They are used as extra reinforcing ribs by wedging them between the plywood sheets and the top of the 2x4's.) Next, the plywood, a sheet of plastic and lots of 1/2 rebar. Lots of rebar. Rebar is cheap, so why not? If this were a flat 4 inch slab, the calculated load rating is around 250 pounds/square foot. More then enough. But it is arched, and up to 5 inches thick. Also the rebar extends into the walls a foot, and are cemented in place. Not sure what the load rating is now, but it is certainly more than adequate.

    DSCN3015.JPG

    18 half inch rebars on 8 inch centers. Strong enough!
    Next, add a perimeter to the form and pour concrete. About 4,000 pounds worth. I expected at least a little deformation of my form, for all that weight was being borne by my 5 arches, but there was none! Impressive.
    Not taking any chances, I did not enter the cellar until I was confident the concrete was fully cured.
    Removing the form from inside was not difficult, for it was designed for easy disassembly and re-use.

    DSCN3025.JPG

    A view of the top before the entrance was completed and the cellar covered with 2 feet of earth. The wood at the rear is covering the ends of the rebar to prevent injury. They will be part of the reinforcement for the entrance-way.
    I poured the roof in 3 sections, for that is the most concrete I can handle working alone. The seams are nearly invisible from below, and are waterproof. It was not difficult creating the arch in the top using standard concrete. The radius of the top arch is about 6 inches larger than below.

    DSCN3031.JPG

    The arched ceiling is as glossy as a counter top, thanks to the plastic sheet I laid over the plywood.
    See light reflecting off ceiling in picture below left.
    Below: Add stairs and doors at top and bottom, and you have a fine root cellar, ready for lots of fruits and vegetables. Currently we are storing apples, carrots and potatoes, and we are pleased with the results.

    DSCN3246.JPG

    This project took a few months of evenings after work over the summer. It was cooler then, and the mortar did not dry too fast. All concrete and mortar, about 8,000 pounds in all, was either mixed with a small mixer, or by hand.

    http://robertchristine.blogspot.ca/2010/02/root-cellar.html

    I think the only alteration I would make is to install a sump at the bottom, gravity feed if possible.
     
  2. newmisty

    newmisty Duppy Conqueror Midas Member

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    I've seen many old root cellars from the road but rarely up close. Been pondering the thought for when I get a bit more land. That's a clean install and good write-up.
     
  3. gnome

    gnome Platinum Bling Platinum Bling

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    Can also use rammed earth in tires or earthbags as alternatives to concrete block. Lot cheaper but more labor intensive.

    http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Build-an-Earthbag-Dome/

    How-to-Build-an-Earthbag-Dome.jpg

    Root-cellar-bags-almost-done.jpg

    If in a humid climate, I would think about building above grade and berming in order to reduce risk of moisture problems down the road. A pond liner could also be used as an umbrella to shed moisture away from the root cellar.
     
    Ishkabibble likes this.
  4. stAGgering

    stAGgering Silver Miner Seeker

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    Wow and... wow. Tajma cellar. Love the arch.

    We intend to build one into the E side of the hill on our property.
    Not all concrete as 1/2 will be old style.
    Will be building new chicken coop & garden shed, out of recycled wood, right over the top of it.
    As out of sight is out of mind. Entry from inside the shed.

    On Amazon a root cellar book has doubled in price since it went on my list 2 months ago.
     
  5. TnAndy

    TnAndy retired guy Platinum Bling

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    I did something similar few years back. North side of our garage is built into the mountain and has a cinder block wall. I took a Stihl cutoff saw with a 14" masonary blade and cut a "door" in the block. Then had a guy with a trackhoe that was here doing some other work dig out an 8x8' space on the outside.

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    Hand poured a footer, and laid 8" block with horizontal rebar every other course.

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    For the roof, I did a flat concrete pour. Didn't think of the arch deal, which is cool !......have to file that away for future reference. I did cover the top with a hunk of EDM rubber roof, and drape it over the sides though, which works good too.

    The inside lumber is a temporary support for concrete.

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  6. TnAndy

    TnAndy retired guy Platinum Bling

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    Ahahahaaa.....reminds me of a guy's "project" I saw once....he built a really cool moonshine still operation under a hog house/lot. Used a State backhoe off a road project on a weekend to dig it out.
    Smell of the hog operation hid the smell of the cooking.
     
    WhyKnow likes this.

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