Building the Walls of the Root Cellar

March 15, 2012

Root Cellar

The Walls of the Root Cellar

On one of the few non-rainy days this winter, I got a chance to get some more pictures of the root cellar’s progress.  Here you can see that the outside of the extra-thick block walls have been sealed with a water barrier to keep rain from seeping in from the surrounding soil.

A sturdy structure is a must in a root cellar

From a glance, it looks like we must have put up the blocks ourselves since everything appears to be leaning to the left.  Fortunately, that is incompetence on the part of the photographer rather than the contractor.

If you look carefully at the top rim of the blocks, you’ll notice a ridge.  The concrete floor will be level with the top of the block.  That allows for 6 inch thick concrete (2 inches more than required).

Ventilating the Root Cellar

Here is a photo of one of the vent holes.  To provide good ventilation, each of the four corners has a pipe.  On one side it is down low.  Directly across is a pipe exiting high.  The positioning on the other two corners is reversed so that the high pipes are diagonal from each other.  They will be connected to pipes that comes out above ground level and will have screens on them to prevent rodents and other things from entering.

Good drainage for the root cellar

This is the main pipe that will carry water (that runs down the exterior of the block wall) away from the root cellar.  It runs well out into a pasture to drain.

preparing the ceiling of the cellar

The steps have been poured and a heavy duty door installed.  The stairway will be covered by a part of the multi-purpose building we are putting on top.

On top of the block wall, the bridge decking is in place, ready for concrete.  The project sat at this stage for quite some time since it rained and temps dropped into the low 30’s for the better part of 3 weeks.  After the concrete is poured, it needs about 3 days of temperate weather to “cure.”  If it gets below 32, the water in the concrete could freeze, causing it to crack.  Though we were eager to see progress, we were willing to be patient since the integrity of that concrete ceiling is really important.

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24 Comments on “Building the Walls of the Root Cellar”

  1. MtWoman Says:

    Looks great. I have a question: what’s to keep water from running down the steps to the door?


    • Joe Says:

      Good question, MtWoman. Although there is a door at the bottom of the stairs, we’ll have another outbuilding (shed) at the top of the stairs as well. So, we’ll open a door at the top of the stairs, turn on a light, walk down the stairs and open the door into the actual cellar.

      We’d talked about putting a drain at the bottom of the stairs just in case, but decided that it wasn’t necessary.

      Thanks and we’ll post more pictures as we progress.



  2. poormansprepper Says:


    Looks awesome guys! What will be the average temp inside your root cellar when you are complete?



    • Joe Says:

      Good question and one that we won’t truly know until we get it completed.

      Ideally, it’ll stay around 40F and fairly humid, but I don’t know that we’ll actually reach that temperature. Maybe Laura has a bit more information on it? I’ll check.

      Thanks, Jeff!


  3. northernhomesteader Says:

    Looks like a great root cellar, and a great tornado shelter too. Good job, thanks for the excellent pics today!


    • Joe Says:

      Thanks NorthernHomesteader! We’ll post a few more pictures as we progress with the building. We’ll post some lessons learned (but hopefully not too many.)


  4. Todd Says:

    the vent pipe. It appears to be standard PVC. May iI suggest using cast iron or steel. Reason: whats the best way to get a gopher from his hole? As you know in the event that theres a A disaster, people will be looking for shelter and food. That vent pipe could be a very easy way for mauraders to flush you out of your safe spot. Other than that, it looks nice, very secure.


    • Joe Says:

      Thanks Todd. Yes, that vent pipes are a bit of a concern should it come to that.



    • Ursula Says:

      If I might ask, what difference would it make if they were cast iron/steel instead of plastic?


      • Joe Says:

        I don’t want to speak for Todd, but one advantage of metal over PVC is that an animal cannot chew through it.

        Regardless of the material, someone from outside could use the airway to their advantage if they know it’s there.



  5. PrepMom Says:

    a root cellar is one of the things on our very long ” to do ” list….thanks for sharing


    • Joe Says:

      It’s been a long time coming for us, PrepMom, and we’re really looking forward to it.

      Thanks for the comment and let us know when the root cellar makes its way to the top of your to-do list.



  6. Bill Rankin Says:

    A fantastic project, and one that will serve you and your family well. I think if sheeple knew how close we are to collapse, we would all be out back digging root cellars!


    Bill Rankin


  7. sunflower Says:

    How very nice. Good for you all. You deserve it.


  8. 101st Says:

    Joe, IMO absolutely perfect. I do find as I complete different projects, I always have that “I shoulda done that moment”…. and it may be a bit early for your evaluation of the entire project but – is there anything you wish you’d done differently?
    Please post pics as your “roof” is complete and maybe once you move the building over the stairway…!! THANKS! Very impressive!


    • Joe Says:

      Thanks, 101st! That’s a good question. I’ll think about that and will definitely post some “lessons learned” if I come up with something.


  9. Leigh Ann Says:

    That looks awesome! I cant wait to see the final pictures.


  10. elisa Says:


    Very nice project! I am wondering if it would be possible to share how you designed the roof? I am guessing a beam and girder system to hold the weight but the web is somewhat devoed of just how to do that.




    • Joe Says:

      Thanks Elisa. Yes, it’s a standard beam and girder system with some reinforced crossbeams on the porch area. I’m planning to use that area for processing animals and wanted to make sure the crossbeams would support the weight.


  11. Steve Says:

    Looks good, what’s supporting your upper floor structure that you’ll be pouring concrete on?


  12. Grawg Says:

    I have a few questions.
    1. are you putting in a cement floor or going with gravel (for drainage issues).
    2. The ridge on the top – is your roof going to be that thick? Will it be a flat roof or have a “curve” to it.
    3. Will the whole root cellar be buried? If so – are you just putting a shed over the stair portion?
    4. Are there previous “chapters” to this project?
    5. What are the dimensions?
    It looks great and we are kicking the idea of a root cellar in the future so I am thinking of stealing some of your idea…..


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