Easy Guide to Building a Root Cellar on a Budget: Save & Store!

Are you tired of seeing your homegrown produce spoil before you can enjoy it? Or perhaps you want to save money on groceries by growing and storing your own fruits and vegetables? Building a root cellar on a budget may be the solution you’re looking for!

In this easy guide, we’ll show you how to construct a cost-effective root cellar that will help you extend the life of your produce and reduce food waste. You’ll learn everything from assessing your space and needs to choosing the right location, DIY design and construction, cost-saving techniques, effective storage practices, and maintenance and upkeep.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, this article will provide you with the knowledge and skills to build an affordable underground storage space that will serve you well for years to come. So, let’s dive in and discover the benefits of building a root cellar on a budget!

Why Build a Root Cellar?

Building a root cellar on a budget is a wise investment for anyone who wants to save money and store homegrown produce effectively. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Extended Shelf Life: A root cellar provides a cool, stable environment that can help extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. This means you can store your harvest for longer without having to worry about spoilage.
  2. Reduced Food Waste: By storing produce in a root cellar, you can reduce the amount of food you waste. Homegrown fruits and vegetables tend to spoil quickly without a proper storage solution, so a root cellar can help you make the most of your harvest.
  3. Savings on Grocery Bills: A root cellar can help you save money on grocery bills by allowing you to store food for longer periods of time. This means you can buy produce in bulk or take advantage of seasonal sales without worrying about it going bad.
  4. Environmental Benefits: Building a root cellar is also an eco-friendly option. By reducing your food waste, you’re also reducing your environmental impact. Plus, storing produce locally can help reduce the carbon footprint associated with long-distance transportation.

Overall, building a root cellar on a budget can help you save money, reduce waste, and support sustainable living. It’s a smart investment for anyone who wants to make the most of their homegrown produce.

Assessing Your Space and Needs

Building a root cellar requires careful evaluation of your available space and your specific storage needs. This will help ensure that you construct a functional and effective root cellar that meets your expectations.

Start by considering the amount of produce you plan to store in your root cellar. This will help you determine the size and layout of the storage area. Keep in mind that you may want to expand your storage capacity in the future, so it’s important to plan accordingly and leave room for growth.

Next, evaluate your space options. A basement or crawl space can be an ideal location for a root cellar. Alternatively, you may need to build an underground cellar or utilize an outdoor space. It’s important to choose a location that is cool, dark, and dry, with good ventilation and easy accessibility.

Planning Your Root Cellar Layout

Once you have determined your available space and storage needs, it’s time to plan your root cellar layout. Consider the following factors:

  • The orientation of the root cellar in relation to the sun
  • The location of the entrance and exit points
  • The placement of shelves, bins, and other storage containers
  • The need for additional features such as lighting and ventilation

By taking the time to plan your root cellar layout, you can maximize storage space and ensure that your produce is easily accessible and well-organized.

Choosing the Right Location

When it comes to building a root cellar, location is key. The right spot will ensure that your stored produce stays fresh and healthy, while the wrong location can lead to spoilage and food waste. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind when selecting the perfect location for your root cellar:


The ideal temperature range for a root cellar is between 32°F and 40°F. This temperature slows down the rate of decay, preserving the freshness and flavor of fruits and vegetables. It’s important to choose a location that stays within this temperature range year-round. Avoid areas that are prone to extreme temperature fluctuations, such as areas near windows, doors, or vents.


Humidity levels are also crucial for proper root cellar storage. A relative humidity (RH) of 90% to 95% is ideal for most fruits and vegetables. This level of humidity helps prevent wilting, shriveling, and rotting. However, excessive humidity can lead to mold and mildew growth. Consider adding a dehumidifier to the root cellar if necessary.


Proper ventilation is crucial for maintaining healthy air quality in the root cellar. This helps prevent the buildup of harmful gases and odors that can lead to spoilage. A ventilation system can consist of a simple vent in the cellar door or a more elaborate system with fans and ductwork.


Make sure that your root cellar is easily accessible for harvesting and storing produce. Consider the distance from your garden or fruit trees, and choose a location that is convenient to access. It’s also important to ensure that the entrance to the root cellar is wide enough to accommodate larger items, such as crates or bins.

Other Considerations

Other factors to consider when selecting a location for your root cellar include:

  • Proximity to an electrical outlet for lighting and ventilation systems
  • Proximity to a water source for cleaning and maintaining the root cellar
  • Sufficient space for the root cellar and any required excavation

By taking the time to choose the right location for your root cellar, you can ensure that your homegrown produce stays fresh and delicious all year round.

Diy Design and Construction

Building a root cellar on a budget is a fun and rewarding DIY project that can be accomplished with some basic construction skills and a bit of creativity. Here are some steps to follow to design and construct your own low-cost root cellar:

Step 1: Choose the Right Site

Before you begin construction, you need to select the best location for your root cellar. Look for a spot on your property that is well-drained and away from any potential sources of flooding. Also, the location you choose should be easily accessible for loading and unloading produce. Consider the topography and the slope of the land to help with natural ventilation.

Step 2: Design and Plan

Designing and planning your root cellar is crucial. Consider the space you have available and what materials will be required for the construction. For example, if you don’t need a large storage area, a smaller cellar can be built that will require less materials and will save you money. Draw up plans before starting any construction to avoid costly mistakes.

Step 3: Gather Materials

Gathering materials is the next step. There are several affordable options for constructing a root cellar such as cinder blocks, bricks, or even scavenged materials such as old car tires, culverts, or shipping containers. Recycle and upcycle as much as possible to keep costs low.

Step 4: Construct the Root Cellar

Begin constructing your root cellar once you have all the necessary materials. Start by digging the foundation and building the walls. The walls can be constructed with several materials, including concrete, masonry, or wood. Try to use materials that are as cost-effective as possible and construct the cellar with proper drainage and insulation to avoid moisture buildup. Don’t forget to install a door that can be closed tightly.

Step 5: Ventilation and Shelving

Your root cellar must have proper ventilation and shelving. Air circulation is essential for storing produce, so consider using ventilation pipes or creating air vents in the walls. Shelving is also important to maximize storage space. Using wooden pallets to create shelving is an affordable option that works well.

By following these simple steps, you can create a functional and affordable root cellar that will help you save money and store your homegrown produce for longer periods.

Cost-Saving Techniques

Building a root cellar on a budget doesn’t have to mean sacrificing quality or effectiveness. With the following cost-saving techniques, you can create a functional and affordable subterranean storage space to store your homegrown produce.

Repurpose Existing Items

One of the best ways to save money when constructing a root cellar is to repurpose existing items. For example, an old refrigerator or freezer can be converted into a root cellar by digging a hole in the ground and burying it. The door can be sealed to keep out pests and moisture, and shelves can be added for storage. Similarly, old wine barrels or wooden crates can be used for storage and will give your root cellar a rustic charm.

Use Affordable Materials

There are plenty of affordable materials that can be used to construct a root cellar. For the walls and ceiling, consider using concrete blocks or poured concrete, which are both durable and low-cost. For shelves and storage bins, use wire mesh and wooden studs to create a sturdy structure. And for insulation, consider using straw bales or foam board, which are both cost-effective options.

Minimize Excavation Costs

Excavation can be one of the most expensive parts of building a root cellar. However, you can minimize these costs by choosing a location that requires minimal digging, such as a hillside or existing crawl space. You can also consider using a pre-made root cellar kit, which comes with everything you need to construct a functional root cellar without the need for extensive excavation.

DIY Construction

One of the best ways to save money when building a root cellar is to do it yourself. By following a reliable guide and using affordable materials, you can create a functional and effective root cellar that suits your specific needs. Plus, the sense of satisfaction that comes with completing a DIY project can’t be beat!

Effective Storage Practices

Storing homegrown produce in a root cellar is an effective way to extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. To maximize the storage area and ensure that your produce stays fresh for longer, it’s important to implement effective storage practices. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your root cellar storage:

Organize Your Storage Area

Maximizing space in your root cellar can be achieved by keeping the area organized. Group produce by type and store them in designated areas. Use wooden crates, baskets, or shelves to keep items off the ground and easily accessible. Don’t forget to label your produce for easy identification later on.

Maximize Root Cellar Space

If you have limited space in your root cellar, consider using vertical storage solutions. Hanging baskets or shelves can be used to store items such as onions or garlic. You can also try using pallets as shelving to create more storage surfaces. Be sure to leave enough room between your produce to allow for air circulation.

Preserve Your Fruits and Vegetables

Proper preservation techniques are essential for keeping your produce fresh in a root cellar. For example, storing apples with potatoes can cause both to spoil more quickly as the apples release ethylene gas. Instead, store apples and potatoes in separate areas. Additionally, place a layer of straw on the floor to absorb moisture and prevent rotting.

Rotate Your Stored Produce

To prevent spoilage and ensure that all your produce gets used in a timely manner, rotate your stored items regularly. Use older produce first and move newer items to the back of the storage area. This will help to prevent waste and keep your produce fresh for longer.

Maintenance and Upkeep

Now that you have built your root cellar on a budget and stored your produce, it is important to maintain and upkeep your cellar regularly. Proper maintenance will ensure that your root cellar remains functional and your produce stays fresh.

Regular Check-Ups

Regular check-ups are essential for maintaining your root cellar on a budget. Inspect your cellar at least once a month to check for any signs of damage or issues with temperature and humidity levels. Keep an eye out for any pests or mold growth, which can quickly compromise your stored produce.

Cleaning Procedures

Clean your root cellar regularly to prevent the buildup of dirt and debris. Wipe down the walls, floors, and shelves with a damp cloth and mild detergent. Make sure to rinse and dry thoroughly to prevent excess moisture.

Pest Control

Pests can quickly become a problem in a root cellar on a budget. Keep your cellar sealed and use traps to control any pests that may have found their way inside. Be sure to remove any produce that has begun to spoil, as this can attract pests and rodents.

Monitoring Temperature and Humidity Levels

Temperature and humidity levels are critical to maintaining the freshness of your stored produce. Use a thermometer and hygrometer to monitor these levels regularly. Adjust ventilation and insulation as necessary to maintain ideal conditions for your produce.


Maintaining and keeping your root cellar in good condition is crucial for ensuring the longevity of your stored produce. Regular check-ups, cleaning procedures, pest control, and monitoring temperature and humidity levels are all important aspects of maintenance. By following these tips, you can enjoy your fresh produce for months to come!

Harvesting and Rotating Produce

Proper harvesting and rotating practices are essential for maintaining the quality and longevity of homegrown produce in a root cellar. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your root cellar storage:

Harvesting Produce for Root Cellar

When harvesting produce for root cellar storage, it’s important to do so at the right time. Fruits and vegetables should be picked when they are fully mature, but not overripe. Be sure to handle them gently to avoid bruising, which can lead to spoilage.

Some fruits and vegetables that are ideal for root cellar storage include:

  • Apples
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Parsnips
  • Cabbage
  • Squash

Rotating Stored Produce

Rotating stored produce is important for preventing spoilage and ensuring that older items are used before fresher ones. Here are some tips for rotating your stored produce:

  1. Check your root cellar regularly to assess the condition of your produce.
  2. Move older items to the front and fresher items to the back.
  3. Use up items that show signs of spoilage as soon as possible.

By following these simple harvesting and rotating practices, you can make your root cellar storage more effective and reduce waste.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Building a root cellar on a budget can be a rewarding and cost-effective investment for storing homegrown produce, but like any construction project, challenges may arise. Here are some common issues and solutions to ensure that your root cellar remains functional and efficient:

Excessive Moisture

Excessive moisture can lead to mold growth, spoiling produce, and compromising the integrity of the root cellar. To address this issue:

  1. Ensure that the root cellar is properly ventilated to allow for air circulation and the release of excess moisture.
  2. Add a dehumidifier to regulate humidity levels.
  3. If possible, consider using a moisture-resistant coating on the walls and floor.

Inadequate Ventilation

Inadequate ventilation can lead to poor air circulation, which can cause produce to spoil and create unpleasant odors. To address this issue:

  • Ensure that the root cellar has proper ventilation, with both intake and exhaust vents.
  • Avoid over-stuffing the root cellar, as this can impede air circulation.
  • Regularly check that vents are unblocked and functioning properly.

Temperature Fluctuations

Fluctuations in temperature can compromise the quality of stored produce, causing it to wilt or spoil. To address this issue:

  • Ensure that the root cellar is constructed with insulated walls and a solid door to maintain a consistent temperature.
  • Monitor the temperature regularly with a thermometer.
  • Avoid opening the door unnecessarily or for extended periods of time, as this can cause temperature fluctuations.

Pest Infestations

Pests such as rodents and insects can pose a threat to the stored produce in a root cellar. To address this issue:

  1. Seal all entry points, such as gaps around the door or vents.
  2. Use traps or bait stations to control pests.
  3. Avoid storing produce that is visibly damaged or infested with pests.

By addressing these common issues, you can ensure that your root cellar remains functional and effective for storing homegrown produce.

FAQs about Building a Root Cellar on a Budget

Building a root cellar on a budget can be a daunting task, and it’s natural to have questions along the way. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about affordable root cellar construction, along with helpful answers.

Q: How much money can I expect to save by building a root cellar?

A: The savings can vary depending on factors such as the size of your root cellar, the amount of produce you store, and your local grocery prices. However, building a root cellar can potentially save you hundreds of dollars per year on groceries by allowing you to store homegrown produce for longer periods of time.

Q: Can I build a root cellar if I live in an area with a high water table?

A: Yes, it is possible to build a root cellar in an area with a high water table, but you will need to take extra steps to prevent water from seeping into the cellar. This can be achieved by installing a French drain or by waterproofing the walls and floor.

Q: Do I need any special tools to build a root cellar?

A: While there are some tools that may make the process easier, such as a backhoe for excavating the site, you can build a root cellar using basic hand tools such as a shovel, pickaxe, and level. Additionally, there are many DIY root cellar building plans available that require minimal tools and construction experience.

Q: How can I keep pests out of my root cellar?

A: Proper ventilation and sealing can help prevent pests from entering your root cellar. Additionally, storing produce in sealed containers or plastic bags can further deter insects and rodents. It’s also important to keep the storage area clean and free of any spilled produce or debris where pests can congregate.

Q: What types of produce can I store in a root cellar?

A: Root cellars are ideal for storing root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, turnips, and beets. They can also be used to store fruits such as apples, pears, and citrus fruits. However, some fruits and vegetables may require specific temperature and humidity conditions for optimal storage, so it’s important to research the storage requirements of each item before storing them in your root cellar.

Q: Can I use a root cellar to store other items besides produce?

A: Yes, root cellars can be used to store other items that require cool and dry storage conditions, such as canned goods, wine, or even books. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the humidity levels may not be suitable for all items, so it’s best to research the storage requirements of each item before storing them in your root cellar.

Q: How often should I check my root cellar?

A: It’s recommended to check your root cellar regularly, at least once a week, to ensure that the temperature and humidity levels are stable and that there are no signs of spoilage or pests. Additionally, it’s important to perform routine maintenance tasks such as cleaning and ventilation checks to ensure that your root cellar remains functional and efficient over time.

Building a root cellar on a budget can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to store your homegrown produce. With these frequently asked questions answered, you’re well on your way to creating a functional and affordable root cellar. Happy building!