How Much Does It Cost To Build a Root Cellar and a Step by Step Guide to Build One

Winter is here, and the chilly overnight temperatures and frozen ground will soon wreak havoc on most of your garden. While a few kale and spinach plants may courageously survive the assault of cold weather, the bulk of backyard gardeners will soon be condemned to browsing seed brochures and patiently waiting for the earth to thaw.

For the majority of the year, we would prefer to eat local vegetables. The less we rely on goods such as pesticide-treated vegetables or oranges brought in from far distant areas to your store shelves, the healthier it is.

A root cellar is a “technique” that has been used to preserve crops for hundreds (or thousands) of years. Root cellars are an effective and feasible solution that might be a perfect complement to your house.

Even though you’re not an eager planter with a vegetable garden, a root cellar may be a valuable enhancement for any home looking to decrease its environmental impact and preserve a self-sufficient supply of nutritious and organic food supplied from small growers.

But, you might wonder how much does it cost to build a root cellar. Read on to find the answer.

What Are Root Cellars?

Root cellars are basic constructions that are wholly or partially submerged underground. Fruits, vegetables, root crops, and other foods can be stored in root cellars. Root cellars may effectively preserve food over many months, based on the harvest and environment.

Prior to the invention of freezers, root cellars were a vital tool of agrarian societies, allowing households to store harvests for many months throughout the winter when healthy produce was in short supply.

Although many old houses might have remnants of root cellars that were abandoned with the introduction of modern freezers, root cellars are regaining popularity nowadays owing to the rising awareness and demand for organically and locally produced food.

how much does it cost to build a root cellar

If you ever happen to venture inside a cave on a warm August day, you would have undoubtedly observed how chilly it is. Since soil is a bad conductor of heat, the temperature just a few feet beneath the ground stays chilly and steady all year. Owing to the consistent, cold temperatures that operate as natural freezers, root cellars are excellent locations to keep food.

To make matters better, unless you reside in an extreme desert environment, the ground below your feet is usually damp. This inherent humidity keeps root cellars at a high moisture level, which is yet another important factor that keeps foods in perfect condition.

If you want to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle by cultivating and growing your own food, the idea of building your own root cellar is something you should definitely consider. If you want to live off-grid or in an area where the local store is inconvenient, a root cellar is an absolute must-have.

How Much Does It Cost To Build a Root Cellar?

The cost of a root cellar varies greatly based on its size, intricacy, and other considerations. A modest, low-cost root cellar may set you back a few hundred dollars. However, because of the expense of concrete, renting machinery, and other variables, bigger root cellars will cost you thousands of dollars. It is possible to create an underground basement cellar for as low as $500, but most will cost between $2500 and $25,000 or more.

Traditional stone or block-built basements, or cave root cellars, may be rather costly to construct due to the extensive earth preparation required, as well as material and labor expenditures. The materials are the most expensive part of building a root cellar.

So, if you can recycle or obtain old materials, you can construct a low-cost root cellar. However, do not worry. We have shown you how to construct the two most inexpensive types of root cellars and they shouldn’t cost you more than $500.

How to Build a Root Cellar?

Building a root cellar is a rewarding endeavor for the do-it-yourself enthusiast since the supplies are inexpensive and the cellar will last for years. A root cellar will save you money for decades to come, and the cost of constructing supplies is less than what a family would spend on food at the supermarket in one winter.

A root cellar necessitates five key components:

  1. Ventilation: Certain fruits and vegetables emit ethylene gas, which can destroy other products. A securely enclosed cellar will also raise the danger of fungal growth. Ascertain that fresh air can enter, stale air can exit, and air can flow about the vegetables.
  2. Earth-shelter: The earth insulates and keeps the temperature at a comfortable level. When it comes to moisture (humidity), a packed earth floor or gravel floor outperforms concrete.
  3. Humidity: An 80-95 percent humidity level stops vegetables from withering away. If you keep canned products in the root cellar, be careful, watch lids, and rotate stock since excessive humidity can lead canning jar lids to rust. Excessive humidity can also be a concern, so aim to keep it below 95%.
  4. Darkness: Light can cause sprouting; so if your root cellar has a window, keep it shut and turn off the lights.
  5. Shelves or storage bins: Wooden shelving and bins are inherently antimicrobial. In addition, wood transfers heat more slowly than metal and does not corrode. Avoid treated wood and go for naturally rot-resistant wood.

Steps for building a root cellar

Basement and trash can cellars are two of the most prevalent forms of root cellars. Here’s how you can make both of them.

Root cellar in the basement: Perfect for warmer areas

This solution allows you to have your fruits, vegetables, and other goodies conveniently available within your house’s basement. A compact ground or gravel floor is preferable, although a concrete basement floor could also be used.

1st step: For your root cellar location, select a dark, cold, and dry section in your basement. Choose a location with a window for airflow.

2nd step: To keep the sunshine out, block the window with exterior-grade wood. To fix the wood, utilize your drill and screws.

3rd step: Wear safety goggles and use a multi-tool to carve ventilation holes through the board. For an 8-by-10-foot area, a 4-inch intake vent and a 4-inch exhaust vent should suffice. Try installing more vents if the area is larger.

4th step: To keep vermin out of the cellar, cover vent openings with a membrane filter and fasten.

5th step: Put the wood shelves 3 inches out from the walls to allow for air circulation. Wood shelves will maintain a more constant temperature and will be cooler than metal shelving.

6th step: To store your vegetables, use wood crates or bushel baskets on racks. To keep track of what you are eating, categorize it by kind.

7th step: Fill each box or basket with your vegetables. Place one layer of food on top, followed by one layer of straws. Continue piling all the way to the top. This strategy will help keep vegetables and fruits from decaying by preventing them from lying on each other.

Trash can root cellar: Perfect for colder areas

This procedure necessitates some digging. A garbage can root cellar mimics the atmosphere of a refrigerated produce bin by utilizing the soil’s naturally chilly, wet characteristics.

1st step: Choose a location. If you live in a snowy area, consider a protected spot so you do not have to shovel to get to your vegetables. Excellent locations are beneath a porch and inside a shed with a dirt floor.

2nd step: With your round pointed shovel, create a deep trench big enough to fit a 20-gallon stainless steel garbage can, keeping 4 inches of the can well above soil level.

3rd step: To keep rainfall out of the container, cover the dirt hole’s floor with pebbles.

4th step: Drill 6- to 12-inch spacing between air vents everywhere around the base of the container.

5th step: Load the bin with vegetables and straw, then seal with the stainless steel lid.

6th step: Stack 12″ of straw on top of the sealed lid.

7th step: Cover the basement with a waterproof sheet to hold the straw in place and prevent rain from entering the can.

8th step: To drive hungry creatures away, place a concrete block on top of the sheet.

Final Thoughts

The construction of your root cellar definitely requires some thought, depending on how frequently you want to utilize it and the cost involved.

Indeed, the more costly root cellars dug into the hillside or metal shipping containers buried into the earth are quite spectacular. However, unless you have a large amount of vegetables to store, they may not be cost-effective. Hence, give serious thought to what kind of root cellar you are looking for and start building accordingly.

The bottom line is that no matter how much it costs to build a root cellar, building one will make your life better in many ways. A root cellar is a cost-effective investment. It allows you to purchase fruits and vegetables in excess and at a lesser cost during harvest season, then consume them over a long period of time when shop goods become more expensive. So, even if you have to shell out a few pennies when making a root cellar, it will all be worth it in the long run.

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