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Have logs? Build a root cellar.

We have plenty of timber, so logs were a perfect choice for building material. We have a northern exposure hillside which is a perfect location to keep sun exposure to a minimum.

Our root cellar is 8' x 9' which is optimum size for a family of four and allows plenty of produce storage.

Every part of the root cellar should be underground except for the front door which is insulated inside to R19. The more ground around the root cellar the better for keeping produce cool.

Dig out the hillside to accommodate the size of the root cellar. Lay a level pad of peagravel or pitrun to build on for the floor. This allows cool air from the ground to naturally cool the root cellar. Don't put any flooring inside.

Use four solid concrete blocks of sufficient size to carry each corner of the building. These blocks will carry the total load of the building. Cut and peel logs to the size of the building. Cope (notch) each end of each log to fit on blocks. (Coping and peeling are done with a 4-1/2" grinder and King Arthur Lancelot.)

Check the squareness with a tape measure placed in opposite corners. The measurements must be the same distance corner to corner.

Once square, cope both ends of each log to fit each layer. Use a grade school compass to mark the cope size on each log end.

Once in place, drill 5/8" holes for 12" x 5/8" spikes. Pound in the spikes using an eight-pound mallet. Do this for each end of every log until you have the proper height to stand in. (I used the tallest member of our household.)

Cut a three-foot wide doorway and bolster each side between the logs before cutting the doorway out with a chainsaw. I used used 2 x 4s for my framing material, and six-inch lag screws to place the framing in the doorway. Screw one or two lag screws per log, depending on log size -- use your best judgment. I doubled up 2 x 4s side-by-side because the width of the logs warranted it.

Because of the load on the roof use the largest logs for this and place them side-by-side lengthwise. Cope ends and spike in place as before. Place five-foot-long three-inch PVC pipe on the roof with an elbow on top to keep rain out and a second five-foot section through the side. Use metal strapping to nail piping in place. Place the side pipe low to the ground. These pipes allow air to circulate in and out to keep produce cool and moisture from accumulating.

I used 2 x 4s for shelving with a three-inch gap between wallsides. This keeps air circulating with no dead air spots, which breaks down produce.

Place a door onto the frame. I made ours out of rough cut cedar board (milled on site with an Alaska MKII) with metal hinges and locking hinge for door handle. Place 90-pound felt inside of the door with an insulating cover over the felt.

Put 90-pound tarpaper over the logs on all surface sides and the roof. Then place smaller, two-to-three inch logs upright side-by-side to cover all sides and the roof. I attached them with lag screws, spikes and long nails. Then attach two more layers of felt or one layer of felt with one layer of barn-quality rolled roofing on the sides and roof. Frame a log frame around the outside of the doorway to keep dirt out.

Cover all sides and roof with dirt. Total outlay of materials: $250.

Good luck and happy gardening!
Materials list

1 4' x 8' trailer load of pitrun or gravel
1 Box 16 sinkers
1 Box 5/8" x 12" spikes
5 Rolls 90-pound felt
2 Rolls rolled roofing
1 Coil metal strapping
10' of 3" PVC pipe
20 Used 2" x 4"s
1 Box 6" lag screws
1 Box 1-1/4" roofing nails
1 5/8" Drill bit
3 Metal hinges
1 Locking hinge
1 #45814 King Arthur 5/8" Lancelot log
 peeler (King Arthur Tools, 1-800-942-1300),
Large shovel
8# or 16# Maul
4-1/2" Electric grinder
1/2" Electric drill
Grade school compass

COPYRIGHT 2001 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:May 1, 2001
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