Root cellar: walls and ceiling done; ventilation and shelves in progress

So, I’ve kept chipping away at the root cellar. I am pleased to say, the walls and ceiling are finished, right down to the paint! I also put in a new light fixture that will work in cold, damp environs, because the original shop light wouldn’t turn on when it got below 40. The tour, in pictures: (you can click any pic for a larger version)

Root cellarThe bulbs in the shop light are actually grow lights, which is all I had. They are making the photos look pink, but in real life, it’s very blue in that room. The walls are painted white, and the ceiling is the blue of the Styrofoam rigid insulation. (Be sure you use the nails with plastic “washers” on them, or you’ll just end up poking holes in your insulation. Ask me how I know…)

Root cellarNo amount of paint will probably ever cover the stains on the walls, but hey, it’s a root cellar. White “Killz” paint is quite a bit cheerier than a root cellar has any right to be! It’s hard to see in this pic, but no insulation or paneling touches the outside walls or floor, to avoid wicking moisture. This corner often sees a small trickle of water come across the floor during heavy spring rains. Nothing serious, but nothing I want my paneling sitting in.

Root cellarTo the right is the NW corner of the room, and this little alcove is formed by the base of the chimney. The plastic pipes you see will be the ventilation system. The short one goes from the window to the corner, along the ceiling. The long one goes from the window, down the wall, and across the floor to the opposite corner of the room. Convection is supposed to keep the air circulating as warm air goes out the top and cold air sinks in to the floor. When it gets too cold, I have caps for the ends of the pipes to seal them off. There are also screens for the pipes so critters don’t come in.

Insulating the window ventThe window gets blocked with a “sandwich” of plywood and rigid insulation. I’ll stick it together with liquid nails, then screw the pieces together, and seal it with exterior paint. The pipes go through the sandwich, which will replace the glass in the basement window.

ShelvesThe shelves are also in progress. They are heavy! I’m using seven-foot-long 2x4s held together with 2x3s. These will be affixed to uprights (more 2x4s) sitting on bricks to keep them off the damp floor. The shelves don’t butt up to the walls – you can see how I’ve left 6″ sticking off the back to serve as a spacer. You want about 6″ of air space on all sides of the shelves to allow the air to circulate freely through the shelving. The shelf below is sitting on sawhorses, but it’s in the orientation it will be in when installed, to the left of the door as you walk in.

This page represents about 4-5 days of work, 2-3 hours a day. The end of the project is in sight, but it sometimes feels like it’ll never end! With gardening season coming on, though, I really have to get this finished up…

Published by Emily

I'm an instructional designer and gardener based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Free moments find me in my garden or the forest, hugging trees and all that jazz.

One thought on “Root cellar: walls and ceiling done; ventilation and shelves in progress

  1. I love your root cellar work, it looks great! We have one in the basement of our 80 year old house except it is very, very old and long forgotten about and not nearly as nice as yours is. We have been here a year now and I haven’t had the guts to go clean it out… it is full of old boxes that are covered in mold and falling apart and are full of old jars and other things. I haven’t gotten far enough to see if the jars even had food in them once… the whole room creeps me out 🙂 We have another root cellar outside in the side of a hill except it too is very old and wasn’t maintained. Maybe I should just start over and make a nice new one like yours and pretend the others aren’t there…especially the one in the basement. I’d love to have space to store things to use over the winter.

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