Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

Discussion in 'Designing, building, making and powering your life' started by Shack Living, Jan 26, 2009.

  1. Shack Living

    Shack Living Junior Member

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    I have decided to build a small underground cellar to store food in. Its about 2 x 1.5 x 2.1m high with 4 shelves on 3 sides (the 4th side having a ladder). Its built out of 5 old metal beds, bread racks, shelving and scrap metal from our local tip. Progress does get a bit slow at times with the hot weather, but I have the hole half dug (touch wood I don't hit a boulder) and most of the welding done. Can take some pics of progress is anyone is interested? My goal is somewhere to store everything from potatoes and tin food to pumpkins. (and snub my nose at the thought of buying a large fridge :) )
     
  2. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Re: Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

    Shack Living,

    I'm very interested in most anything built with earth sheltering, so please post pics! Here's a link to a thread that contains some pics of my underground "root cellar" rebuild project from a few months ago: https://forums.permaculture.org.au/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=8709

    Thanks!
     
  3. Shack Living

    Shack Living Junior Member

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    Re: Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

    Still need to finish digging the hole, put on some old plywood paneling, door and concrete into the ground. Looking forward to having a cool place to store goodies :) Will try to post updates

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Re: Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

    "Root Cellars" (!) are common in the USA and colder countries. You rarely see them in Australian areas with short winters.
    A Root cellar to keep the heat out is a new twist. Good for wine too?

    USA DIY magazines may give you some clues?.

    Looks like you are having fun!
     
  5. stonethegardener

    stonethegardener Junior Member

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    Re: Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

    I've used the ground to keep food cool...

    I buried a chest freezer under the floor inside my house ...

    Drawbacks? Didn't keep food cool enough... But did keep ice much longer when I put my ice chest in the buried freezer. Ice in the ice chest means that water contaminates the food that we're trying to keep cool...

    The other draw back was that the freezer filled with water during the rainy season even with the drainage pipe...

    I'm now living on sand, I expect the second drawback to not be an issue.
     
  6. Shack Living

    Shack Living Junior Member

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    Re: Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

    Still digging the hole at the moment. Usually make good progress after coming home frustrated from work :D If I had the money, I probably would have paid an excavator to do it, but on the plus side, its a lot of exercise and cheaper than going to the gym :razz:

    [​IMG]
     
  7. hardworkinghippy

    hardworkinghippy Junior Member

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    Re: Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

    Great photo!

    ...you'll get there. :D
     
  8. openeyes

    openeyes Junior Member

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    Re: Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

    Hey great work. That looks like quite a hole - I can imagine you have released a lot of frustration there!

    A friend of mine used a 5000 gallon concrete water tank and then had soil dumped all around and on top.

    This was around northern NSW and it kept beautifully cool in there. Great for wine. Of course I don't think it was 0-5 celcius which is the perfect temp.

    You can work out what temp your likely to get by getting the average minimum and average maximum for a full year and half way between the two should be the soil temp down to about 15 feet. I did quite a lot of research into ground based air conditioning for which you use the same principle.

    Well done and good luck.
     
  9. paul wheaton

    paul wheaton Junior Member

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    Re: Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

    I recently attended several weeks of workshops with Sepp Holzer. This is a pic from a root cellar he made.
     
  10. Curtis

    Curtis Junior Member

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    Re: Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

    You guys should read, or atleast look into, "The $50 and Up Underground House Book" written by Mike Oehler.

    While you're not building an underground house, the methods described in the book would make simple work of creating a nice root cellar.

    Good luck!
     
  11. Pablito

    Pablito Junior Member

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    Re: Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

    Mike and Nancy Bubel have a book, "Root Cellaring", put out by Storey Publishing, which I just picked up from Amazon. ISBN is 978-0-88266-703-4. Has some interesting ideas in it, including one of a guy who buried an old delivery van in a hillside (I think I'd want a bit of reinforcing for that one.) Although it's aimed at the US market, many of the ideas seem very practical.
    Given the recent fires in Victoria, I think that underground vegetable storage/fire shelters are likely to become more of the norm.
     
  12. ho-hum

    ho-hum New Member

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    Re: Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

    Shackliving,

    Before you concrete etc contact a concretor and ask about a 'water stop' [if you havent already]. BTW an awesome looking hole you have there are you going to dig a stairwell or use a ladder? I would love a cellar here in the NT but the ambient soil temps are around 30c so no value in it unless I wanted to grow some 'electric spinach' or similar.

    Any idea of the ambient soil temps in your area? They are available from the Bureau of Met online.

    That soil looks like lightning ridge or andamooka and is amazingly dry for that depth.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Cheers,
     
  13. Curtis

    Curtis Junior Member

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    Re: Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

    Anyone have any advice for building a root cellar in the desert?

    In the summer, it gets up to 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit here. In the winter, it can get as cold as freezing. My only concern is maintaining a comfortable temperature for storing the food.

    I was planning on using earthbags for the walls (tons of thermal mass) and timber to help reinforce everything, but am wondering what some of you in hotter climates get out of your root cellars, temperature wise.
     
  14. christopher

    christopher Junior Member

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    Re: Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

    Nice photo, Paul. That is a beautiful and robust looking food cellar! Any more photos?
     
  15. paul wheaton

    paul wheaton Junior Member

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    Re: Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

    Lots.
     
  16. Shack Living

    Shack Living Junior Member

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    Re: Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

    finally close to finished :)

    First photo shows hole fully dug
    [​IMG]

    Second photo shows structure in hole with black plastic and man hole

    [​IMG]

    Third photo scaffolding added, leveled, block of wood on a pole to compact the sides with concrete, and pipe for air vent. not shown is a hose for wires to add a light later on.
    [​IMG]

    Fourth photo is pile of conmix ready to make concrete. (took about 30 x 20kg bags of concrete)
    [​IMG]

    Fifth photo shows finished job. (yay)
    [​IMG]

    The cellar will end up part of a structure so that it will form part of the floor. I plan to make the door out of chunky light timber (have some old chunky cedar verandah posts ear tagged for the job)
    I hope these photos help motivate others to take on projects. All materials were salvaged except to black plastic, bags of cement & conmix.
     
  17. Mowman

    Mowman Junior Member

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    Re: Building Small Underground Cellar for Food

    Its looks very good.

    Curtis, I started taking daily temperatures with the intention of making a temperature chart for my "root cellar" (a vehicle service pit in the garage that I've never used), until I realised it was so constant I was wasting my time. The hottest its ever gotten was during the long South Australian heatwave a few months ago (up to 46 degrees, the shed got hotter than that), when it reached 24 degrees, at the moment its a constant 18 degrees. (outside temp's about 26). It might be warmer than normal because the lids off a lot lately, but I'm building an insulated lid.

    I've been down there a bit (trying to set up mushrooms) and my helpful daughter said we should sleep down there next heatwave, thats a great idea, so now I'll have to look into ventilation requirements...
     

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