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Learn the Methods and Materials Needed to Make a Root Cellar Above Ground

written by: W. A. Swan•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 2/22/2011

Root cellars are an effective and economical method of food preservation. If you don't want to, or cannot, construct the typical underground root cellar you can build one above ground.

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    Root Cellar Root cellars commonly are built underground or inside basements. Sometimes this is not possible. When situations warrant knowing how to make a root cellar above ground, you should be aware of methods and materials to ensure success.

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    The Material

    Part of knowing how to make a root cellar above ground is in the materials. You want to use material that is able to control temperatures naturally, known as ambient heating. There are a variety of materials you can use to achieve this. You want material that can compensate for the humidity in your region and the extremes of temperature in your area. Materials such as wood and sod, hay, rubber tires and dirt for the walls; cement and tile for flooring;

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    The Floor

    Using dirt for the floor of the root cellar is inadviseable. You must know how to make a root cellar above ground using material that can control temperature and mold at the same time. This is where concrete and tile are useful. Lay out the frame of the floor using 2-by-6-inch lumber. Set up gravel to a 2 inch depth inside the frame. Pour concrete into the frame and level off to match the top of the frame. Allow the floor to set for 24 hours. If you want a duel layer of flooring use half the amount of cement and lay a course of large ceramic tiles across the floor. Either method will keep the floor from becoming too cold. You can also use this type of floor to hold barrels, sacks or boxes and crates without the danger of mold or dampness.

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    The Walls

    Build the walls out of material that can withstand weight while controlling temperature. Hay bales can be stacked similar to bricks to build a short term root cellar – such as one used for a single season. For long-term structures you want to use a wood frame with sod built up around the exterior. The wood frame will need studs placed close together, setting the studs at intervals of 18 inches from the center of each stud. Attach heavy gauge wire along the interior of the frame. Pack sod between the studs to build the wall. Complete the walls by covering the frame itself with a second layer of packed sod. You have just simulated the conditions you would have if the root cellar was built below ground.

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    The Ceiling

    The roof should be constructed of a solid material such as currogated metal or plastic. Use a flat roof design with a pitch from front to back. Research what the weight bearing requirements for winter would need to be for your area. These requirements will determine the pitch for the roof. Using a pitched flat roof will also minimize the construction cost and use of material.

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    Additional Aides

    Wood shelving has better temperature control versus metal shelving. Metal retains coldness which can damage the packaging set upon it through freezing or condensation on the bottom. Keep the shelves three inches from the walls to allow airflow around the food containers and help eliminate the potential for mold. Set a bowl with water on the floor to help control humidity for dry climates. Install an exhaust pipe through the ceiling to release hot air. Install an intake pipe nearby to allow fresh cool air to enter.

    References:

    Lithia Alden - Chronicals of a Farm Girl

    RuralSurvival.com - Root Cellar

    OldFashionedLiving.com - A Root Cellar for Your Homestead

    2020Site.org - How to Make a Root Cellar Above Ground

    Image Credit: Flikr/espring4224