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How To Build A Root Cellar Cheap [10 DIY Plans]

Last Updated: July 31, 2022

Have you ever wanted to create a root cellar so you might keep your food and crops longer?

We’ve spent 37 hours researching the ins and outs of building a root cellar, looking for the best root cellar designs and plans, and we package it all in this article for you.

It’s not unusual at all to build a root cellar.

For many centuries, it has been known.

Unfortunately, with the advent of high-tech stainless steel refrigerators, it almost became a lost art.

However, if you want to be able to preserve your food, water, and even ammunition without having to depend on the power grid, then learning how to construct a root cellar is an excellent skill.

We’ve compiled a list of 10 DIY Root Cellar Plans.

But first…

What is A Root Cellar

If you were to go to Google and ask “What is a root cellar” the first page you’d get is Wikipedia saying that a root cellar is “a structure, usually underground or partially underground, used for storage of vegetables, fruits, nuts, or other foods. “

In simple terms, a root cellar is the result of digging a deep hole in the ground until it’s cold and wet.

Building a Root Cellar

Before you can dig into your garden, dig, and construct a root cellar, there are five essential components that a root cellar demands.:

1. Root Cellar Ventilation

The ventilation system must be built in such a way that it exchanges air while not raising the temperature to ensure that your root cellar is a success.

This may be accomplished by relying on basic physics: Warm air rises and chilly air falls, so place the intake near the floor of the storage space and the outlet near the ceiling.

A window could function as the outlet for a root cellar in your basement, and a fan can provide air to the intake.

Storing fruits and vegetables on elevated crates improves circulation.

high-airflow ventilator fan can be used to maintain the temperature and humidity in your root cellar.

This system will also lower humidity levels to prevent mold growth while also ventilating out smells.

2. Root Cellar Temperature

CivilEats.com

When you begin to build a root cellar, the temperature is the most significant consideration.

Temperatures are not only stable and cool but also below grade temperatures are more readily controlled than above-ground ones.

It’s best to store food at around 32 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keep an eye on the temperature, at least while you’re starting.

Investing in a good thermometer would be beneficial here; pick one with minimum and maximum readings over a specific time period.

Indoors, the grower should expect to keep produce at a low level and close to the walls.

Produce will stay several degrees cooler in this area than on a high shelf near the middle of the space.

If your basement doesn’t reach below 32 or 40 degrees Fahrenheit, following in other people’s footsteps by digging under the basement slab to access

The most basic approach—though it has disadvantages—is to bury a produce-packed plastic or metal waste can in the yard, burying it.

3. Darkness

Because light might speed up the spoilage of certain fruits and vegetables, make sure the root cellar is as dark as possible.

If your basement will be used for storage, make careful to fully cover any windows.

4. Humidity

Maintain a high humidity level—about 90 to 95 percent relative humidity—without making the root cellar into a dripping jungle.

The addition of water to dirt or gravel-covered floor may be done on a regular basis.

If your hygrometer continues to indicate that the condition is not acceptable, try packing produce in wet sawdust, sand,

5. Shelving/Storage bins

Wood shelving and containers are naturally antibacterial.

Wood conducts heat more slowly than metal and does not rust.

Avoid treated wood when you build a root cellar since it is not as durable as naturally rot-resistant wood.

Root Cellar Plans

To build a root cellar, you must first have a clear vision of where you want to end up.

You can’t just dig with a shovel willy-nilly.

Well…yes, but you’ll soon regret it.

Instead, planning will help you meet all of your objectives and obtain what you desire!

Before digging begins, consider the following:

Step #1. Calculating Your Budget

Naturally, the size of your wallet will have a significant impact on the size and quality of food storage cellars.

If you can afford to go all out on this project, do it. Purchase high-quality supplies and build it on your own property as big as possible.

What could be better than investing your money in critical survival efforts?

However, if you’re like me and your bank balance is severely limiting you, then you’ll have to make concessions.

As a result, I’ll try my hardest to provide some cheaper alternatives. Some corners may be cut; others, not so much.

Remember this when we continue our discussion.

Step #2. Digging The Hole

Underground storage is, by definition, placed underground.

As a result, digging an excavation for your large survival pantry is the first step.

This hole may be dug anywhere in your yard, in the woods, or even on a remote stretch of desert ground.

Follow this advice, no matter where it ultimately leads: the deeper the better.

Not only are deeply dug root cellars easier to hide, but they also maintain cooler food storage temperatures.

So choose how big an area you want and start digging!

If you must use a shovel, do so; however, if possible, an excavating machine will do.

Step #3. Laying The Foundation

If you have the cash when it comes time to build a root cellar, go ahead and pour a concrete floor.

Otherwise, utilize the flattest stones from as near to you as possible.

With one rock at a time, you’ll be able to create a rustic-looking floor.

Wooden planks may also be used for this purpose.

The main reason you need a solid floor is to prevent rats from tunneling through the ground and, second, to make a smooth surface on which to set up racks or shelves.

Step #4. Building The Walls

Again, if you have the cash for bricks or masonry blocks, use them.

Otherwise, look for materials for your walls in free sources in the region around you.

Stacking stones is a simple process (though it usually necessitates some heavy lifting).

You can secure each stone in place with natural mortar made of mud or clay.

The presence of robust stone barriers prevents unwanted pests from gaining access to your food storage facility, and it also helps to keep the area as cool as possible.

Step#5. Adding A Ventilation Pipe

Even though the elements are suitable, there is no guarantee that your basement will be dry.

Because temperatures inside a root cellar vary during the year, it’s difficult to ensure that they’re all consistent.

When you open the door and let in the fresh air, ethylene gas builds up faster.

Step #6. Capping The Ceiling/Roof

The ideal way to seal your root cellar is to build a concrete slab on top.

Before you pour, make sure the roof is completely supported from below.

Pouring concrete, on the other hand, will set you back the money.

Instead of pouring concrete over the top of your cellar, lay treated 2×4’s across it and bury them below the dirt you dug out in step 1.

Of course, using materials that don’t decay as soon is preferable, but it will cost more.

If you’re utilizing 2x4s, make sure they’re treated wood since it will last much longer to rot.

However, you can use this technique to make your underground food structure seem like anything other than a shelter.

It’s simple, cheap, and effective at covering up your subterranean edifice.

Step #7. Sealing Up Your Root Cellar

Make sure to fill and seal all door gaps and ceiling voids.

Bugs, insects, and rodents may enter your food storage area through holes.

Not good at all.

Step #8. Installing Doors and Locks

The reasons for this are self-evident.

When you’re not there, you’ll need to be able to close and lock the place so unwanted visitors can’t get in.

So, in order to keep your food reserve secure, invest in a good quality Rust-Oleum hanging lock.

Step #9. Building Your Root Cellar

Now you may begin to build a root cellar. However, having a set of tried-and-true root cellar blueprints will save you time and effort.

That’s why we recommend you check out The Easy Cellar plan. It’s the easiest backyard root cellar build we’ve come across.

Here’s a short video showing you how to build a root cellar.

What Type Of Root Cellar Plans To Build

By default, the word “cellar” refers to a place underground.

The earth’s temperature remains relatively steady (cool) owing to the fact that it is underground. This temperature will vary depending on your location.

It isn’t likely to function as a root cellar. Permafrost is the polar opposite: It may be considerably colder than air temperature in arctic regions.

Basement Root Cellar

The most straightforward method to build a root cellar is to divide a section of the basement (or perhaps even the whole basement, if you live in an ancient farmhouse) for fruit preservation.

Old dirt floor basements with no heat are ideal for maintaining proper temperature and humidity levels.

  1. Select a location with an existing window if possible, and utilize the window for ventilation.
  2. Fill the window with exterior grade plywood, and
  3. Cut the necessary vent openings in the plywood board. (Plywood provides additional protection from light.)

Because you can only insulate the interior walls of a north-facing corner, it allows you to leave the two exterior walls uninsulated and save money on insulation.

A north-facing wall does not absorb heat from the sun. Materials that endure moisture should be used.

The temperature in your basement root cellar should never be regulated.

Make a mental note of any ductwork or piping that runs through the ceiling above your root cellar (if any), and make sure vents or hot water pipes are well insulated to keep heat from entering.

Modern Root Cellar

Small concrete exterior porches are increasingly common in new homes.

This space is generally 4ft deep and filled with dirt beneath the porch. You’ll need to install a foundation wall anyhow, so why not make use of it?

To build a root cellar out of this under-porch area, have the builder include full footings, an insulated exterior grade access door from the basement, and two 4 inch vent openings.

As usual, concrete slabs should be added on top.

This area might also be used as a wine cellar or a safe room.

The root cellar’s location outside the home makes it simpler to keep cooler temperatures than a subterranean room in a house.

Build a Root Cellar Outside the Home

For an exterior root cellar, keep in mind that you’ll need adequate ventilation, earth shielding, and darkness.

A north-facing door is preferable to avoid heating your cellar up due to the sun’s rays.

It’s best to have at least one to two feet of soil over the root cellar, and if you’re using a prefabricated option (some people have used new septic tanks) or materials that are rot-resistant and can withstand moist dirt, your choice is even better.

Old Fashioned Root Cellar

This is what the majority of us think of when we hear the term “build a root cellar.”

There are insulated doors that lead into the ground. It’s dug into a hillside or underneath a hill.

Concrete, cinder block, and other inventive materials such as old tires are used to construct walls.

To avoid collapse, make sure the roof and walls are adequately supported. Hire an engineer to assist with safety.

Above Ground Root Cellar

One of the most affordable way to build a root cellar is called Easy Cellar.

It’s a backyard root cellar design you can build for only $400!

The good news is constructing a root cellar is the kind of project that supports your survival for a prolonged large-scale disaster.

Because, as we all know, having a few barrels of buried food is excellent; having a large area filled with survival food is even better.

Ever wondered if you live close to a potential nuclear target?

Even if you live in a small town or rural area… don’t think you are safe. Not all strategic targets are in heavily populated areas.

Find out if your county is close to ground zero.

US Nuclear Target Map. Do You Live in The Danger Zone?

10 DIY Root Cellar Plans

Root Cellar Plan #1

DIY Root Cellar

To begin our list here’s a root cellar from WaldenLabs.com which you can build in 7 detailed steps.

This is a 4,000-pound root cellar that functions as a natural refrigerator, keeping temperatures below 30°F in the winter and above 50°F in the summer.

It’s an excellent one that will last you for a long time if properly cared for. If you’re on a budget, this would be a good option.

Want to build a root cellar in your backyard with $400? Watch this short video.

Root Cellar Plan #2

DIY Root Cellar

Our second root cellar on this list can be build using a freezer.

This is a very inexpensive and simple way to build a root cellar. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money or do not have much time, this one might be ideal for you.

If you decide to convert an old freezer into a root cellar, be sure to do your homework to ensure that no Freon leaks into the environment.

Root Cellar Plan #3

DIY root cellar

If you got a room on your yard, and want a good root cellar that is cheap to make, this one is a great choice.

It is made from earthbags.  Earthbags are great to build a root cellar because you can stack them together like bricks. Easy.

You can find all the steps along with detailed pictures on how to build this root cellar made from earthbags here.

Root Cellar Plan #4

DIY Root cellar

The fourth root cellar on our list not only functions as a backyard refrigerator but also as a storm shelter.

That’s right! This one is made from a 1,500-gallon plastic ag liquids tank.

To build a root cellar and a storm shelter at the same time, Mike built the building out of wood inside as well. It was then covered with 16 to 20 inches of dirt to provide thermal and wind protection.

On either side of the entrance, tires filled with earth are stacked 5 feet high. If you ever wanted on wanting to build both an underground root cellar

Root Cellar Plan #5

DIY Root Cellar

This root cellar on our list is made by burying a new concrete septic tank into a hillside.

The greatest feature is that because the root cellar is in the ground, it may also serve as a storm shelter. This root cellar is an excellent addition to any property.

Root Cellar Plan #6

above ground root cellar

I love this DIY root cellar plan. They call it the Glory Be. They built this structure out of cordwood and created a  green roof too. It is backed into the earth which helps to keep your vegetables nice and cool all year long.

Root Cellar Plan #7

This root cellar is outstanding and very aesthetic.  The owner got interested in building root cellar after reading the book Root Cellaring, by Mike and Nancy Bubel.

Amy adores squash and apples, and a root cellar is a fantastic way to keep both of them throughout the winter.

It has an ancient rustic look that absolutely complemented any farm or homestead. I’d love to have one like it oneday.

Root Cellar Plan #8

What Food To Store In Your Root Cellar

Your root cellar’s contents are determined by your objectives.

If you want to save long-term survival food, construct a cellar that will accommodate everything you have now as well as anything you may wish to add down the road.

But what if your garden produces fresh vegetables and fruits? You should also make sure there’s adequate space for these seasonal goods.

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Non-perishables Are Your Friend

Canned, jarred, dehydrated, dried, or tubed meat and vegetables are all excellent choices.

You’ll be able to survive on them for an extended period of time.

The further away from the expiration date you keep food items, the better.

You should learn how to make pemmican and hardtack for long-term food storage.

The more non-perishable items you can store in your basement, the better prepared you’ll be for any future calamities (big or little).

Store Fresh Vegetables Too

Fresh produce can be stored for a long time if you’re willing to maintain it on a regular basis.

You’ll need to understand the humidity and temperature levels, as well as when to consume the fruits before they are harvested again.

Because of the chemicals they generate, there’s a specific method for keeping these foods.

Here’s a handy chart that shows the ideal root cellar storage temperature and humidity levels for various types of produce.

How Much Food Should You Stockpile [Quiz]

Survival Food vs. Fresh Garden Produce

I believe it’s reasonable to infer that if you’re interested in underground food storage, you’re interested in self-reliance.

Preserving your harvests all winter while off the grid is as self-sufficient as it gets.

There’s a contradiction between long-term survival food and fresh fruits and vegetables.

What is the problem, anyone guess?

It’s humidity, in case you were wondering. The air has moisture in it.

The last thing you want with long-term dry survival foods is moisture in the air.

You should do everything you can to keep water away from your dry survival food. Even if it means adding a high-quality dehumidifier to your prep area.

However, with crops that need to be stored for a single winter season, you want the opposite.

You wish for a high degree of humidity (about 80%).

Freshness and nutrients are preserved in this humid environment. Your stored produce is kept both fresh and nutritious thanks to your high humidity.

All foods keep longer in lower temperatures, as we pointed out in the previous section.

As a result, underground food storage offers both survival food and garden produce optimum conditions for preservation.

So what’s a self-reliant person to do?

The way I see it you have a couple of options.

Option 1 – Don’t Store Your Dry Survival Food’s In Your Root Cellar

Don’t store your survival foods in your underground food storage system.

Your yearly harvested fruits and veggies should be stored there.

This is the most important reason to keep your basement dry. It also makes it easier to regulate the humidity in your survival food storage space without causing any damage.

You’ll have to look for a separate location for your long-term survival foods.

Do you why you should not hide your food stockpile in your basement?

Option 2 – Create Separate Areas Within Your Root Cellar

Create distinct containers or sections within your root cellars for high- or low-humidity conditions.

For example, if you need to store 4 of the same thing at one site but only two of them at a second site, this might be inconvenient.

Two storage places are no longer necessary; however, the building and storing process is more complicated.

Especially for a big underground food storage facility where everything has to be kept together.

Option 3 – Use Mylar Bags For Your Survival Food

Mylar Bags

Put your survival food in sealed Mylar bags with desiccants and then put these bags into food-grade sealed buckets.

Your long-term survival foods should be protected from the high humidity condition in this double seal setup.

I think Option 3 is the best, but ultimately it’s up to you.

Here’s a Complete Guide to Mylar Bags for Food Storage.

10 Tips for Fruit and Vegetable Storage in a Root Cellar

Key food storage tips to remember:

  1. Late-maturing crops store better than early-maturing ones. Certain cultivars, on the other hand, have a superior storage quality. Keep an eye out for strains that are known for excellent storage quality.
  2. Check the condition of fruit and vegetables while they’re in storage. If you spot any damage on your fruits or veggies, use them first. One bad apple or onion may ruin an entire bin, so it’s a good idea to do so every now and then while they’re in storage.
  3. Curing is required for certain vegetables such as winter squash (pumpkins), onions, garlic, and potatoes.
  4. If the dirt is removed rather than washed, root vegetables keep their best in the root cellar. Wipe away any extra debris from carrots, beets, rutabagas, and turnips and store them in dampened greenery or straw. Each year, fresh leaves may be used to avoid pathogen accumulation. Sand and sawdust are
  5. If your garden is mucky at harvest time, wash it, but make sure to dry up any excess moisture (and cure if necessary) before storing to avoid decay.
  6. Storage in undesirable circumstances shortens the product’s shelf life – try to get as near as feasible to the target temperatures and moisture levels. To store carrots and beets lower (colder) and tomatoes and winter squash higher (warmer), use various parts of your storage.
  7. Fruits that create ethylene gas should not be kept with perishable goods susceptible to ethylene gas spoilage. To contain the gas, wrap fruit that creates excess ethylene in newspaper. For additional information, see below on Ethylene Gas.
  8. Fruits and other veggies can absorb the odor of strong-smelling vegetables, such as turnips and cabbage. Keep them away from other food and away from any sources of scent that may waft into the house.
  9. Do not let fruits and vegetables freeze. They will become soft and rotten if they freeze.
  10. To evaluate the success of your root cellar, you’ll need to record the temperature and humidity. The SensePush gadget can keep track of up to 20 days and communicate with your smartphone.

How To Best Organize Your Food In Your Root Cellar 

The first step is one that is frequently neglected, yet it is critical to the life of your subterranean food storage cellar.

To avoid any unwanted water damage, keep everything elevated (on shelves or supports, or pallets).

It’s also critical to store fruits and veggies in designated areas beyond this.

Tomatoes, apples, and pears produce the ripening agent we mentioned before in the form of ethylene.

It’s a good idea to keep this chemical byproduct on hand.

It expedites the breakdown of other items, which is why it’s referred to as “rotting juice.” In short, everything starts to decay faster and is a significant issue that might produce a lot of waste food.

The simplest method to prevent this problem (besides not storing fresh produce in the first place) is to:

  1. Keep the foods that produce ethylene at the top of your pantry. The higher, the better. This will help prevent your other foods from being contaminated by the chemical agent.
  2. As we discussed before, you’ll need a decent ventilation system.

And some types of fruit and vegetables are improved when they’re cured at 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit for around 10 days before being kept.

Garlic, winter squash, onions, and potatoes are just a few of the foods that are ideal for storing.

If you want to keep these items in your root cellar for an extended amount of time, cure them first.

Stored items that need to be kept at lower temperatures should be put at the bottom of your cellar.

There will be a significant temperature difference between the top of your cellar and the bottom.

A substantial enough variation to keep food cold when it is laid flat on the ground is frequently enough.

Canned food or jars with metal lids are vulnerable to rust. Even if you pay close attention to the temperature and humidity, rusted cans are a concern.

Rust can erode the seal on lids, allowing food to seep out. To prevent this, store all-metal containers in sealed mylar bags (vacuum seals are best).

Conclusion

In this article, you’ve learned everything you need to know about how to build a root cellar.

However, having a set of tried-and-true root cellar blueprints will save you time and effort.

That’s why we recommend you check out The Easy Cellar plan. It’s the easiest backyard root cellar build we’ve come across.

Here’s a short video showing you how to build a root cellar.

Humans have been building root cellar and burying food underground for thousands of years.

Since its inception, this method of extending the food supply has saved hundreds of people from starvation. It’s still just as relevant today.

Creating your own survival food storage is useful in both periods of peace and crisis.

There’s no telling what circumstance may make you need your buried food cache, but having a fallback supply of food is a must in today’s fragile and uncertain world.

“Always Be Ready” Max

Want to learn other great lost ways from a better, far more self-sufficient country filled with rugged individuals who knew how to survive anything life threw at them.   Watch this short video

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