Easy Root Cellar Construction Step-by-Step Guide For Your Home

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on building your very own root cellar! For those who want to store fresh produce without any of the refrigeration requirements, a root cellar is the perfect solution. Our step-by-step guide is designed to make the process of creating your own root cellar as easy as possible, no matter your level of DIY experience.

In this guide, we’ll share everything you need to know about root cellar construction, including planning and design, gathering the necessary tools and materials, preparing the site, building the foundation and walls, installing ventilation and insulation systems, creating shelves and storage organization, adding finishing touches and security measures, and maintaining and caring for your root cellar. We’ll also address frequent concerns through our FAQ section.

Get ready to embark on a fun and fulfilling project that will provide you with fresh and healthy produce all year round. Let’s dive into our root cellar construction step-by-step guide!

Understanding Root Cellars and Their Benefits

A root cellar is a simple and effective storage space for fruits, vegetables, and other perishable items. It is an underground or partially underground structure that maintains a consistent temperature and humidity level, typically cooler than the air outside, which helps to preserve produce for longer periods of time without the need for refrigeration.

Building a root cellar can be a great investment for anyone interested in sustainable living, gardening, or homesteading. It allows you to store your homegrown produce and other perishable items throughout the year, even during the colder months when fresh produce may be harder to come by.

One of the key benefits of a root cellar is its ability to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for extended periods. This is largely due to the consistent temperature and humidity levels, which slow down the spoiling process. Additionally, root cellars are typically built using natural materials, such as stone or clay, which help maintain a stable, cool environment ideal for storing produce.

Insulation and Ventilation

Proper insulation and ventilation are critical components of a root cellar’s construction. Insulation helps maintain a consistent temperature by preventing heat transfer from the surrounding soil. The insulation material should be thick enough to prevent outside air from entering but not so thick that it traps moisture inside.

Ventilation is equally important in a root cellar as it helps regulate temperature and humidity levels. The goal is to create a stable, cool environment that is neither too dry nor too moist. Adequate ventilation helps to prevent mold and mildew growth and keeps the air fresh.

In the next section, we’ll discuss the factors to consider when planning and designing your root cellar to ensure proper insulation and ventilation.

Planning and Designing Your Root Cellar

Before you start building your root cellar, you need to plan and design it to ensure its functionality and durability. Here are some factors to consider:

Factor Description
Location Choose a spot that is away from direct sunlight and has good drainage. A north-facing slope is ideal for natural cooling.
Size The size of your root cellar will depend on how much produce you plan to store and the available space. A good rule of thumb is to allocate about one cubic foot of space per cubic foot of buried cellar.
Materials Choose durable materials for your root cellar walls, such as concrete blocks, poured concrete, or pressure-treated wood. Avoid materials that are prone to rot, like regular wood.
Ventilation Proper ventilation is essential to prevent mold growth and maintain optimal humidity levels. Plan for at least one vent near the top and one near the bottom of the cellar.

Once you have determined these factors, you can create a basic sketch or blueprint of your root cellar design for reference during construction.

Gathering the Necessary Tools and Materials

Before beginning the construction of your root cellar, it is important to gather all the necessary tools and materials. Here is a list of items you will need:

Tools Materials
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Hammer
  • Nails and screws
  • Saw
  • Power drill
  • Circular saw
  • Hand saw
  • Cement
  • Gravel
  • Sand
  • Concrete blocks or poured concrete
  • Insulation material (e.g. spray foam, fiberglass batts)
  • Ventilation ducts and fans
  • Shelving material (e.g. wood boards)
  • Doors and hardware
  • Light fixtures and wiring
  • Paint or other finishing materials

Be sure to have all necessary tools and materials on hand before starting construction to ensure a smooth process. In addition to the items listed above, you may also need additional items based on the specific design and layout of your root cellar.

Preparing the Site for Construction

Before starting construction, it is crucial to prepare the site properly. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Clear the area: Remove any debris or vegetation from the site. This will prevent any potential damage or interference with the foundation.
  2. Excavate the ground: Dig a hole that is at least 8 feet deep and slightly larger than the dimensions of your root cellar. This will be the foundation of your cellar.
  3. Level the surface: Use a level to ensure that the floor of the hole is even and flat. This will prevent any potential sagging or structural issues with the foundation.
  4. Consider drainage: If your area is prone to flooding or heavy rain, consider installing a drainage system or sump pump to prevent water damage.

Additional Tips:

Make sure to choose a location that is away from potential hazards such as trees or rocky areas. Also, consider the proximity to your home for easy access and convenience. Finally, always check local building codes and regulations before starting construction.

Building the Foundation and Walls

After the site has been cleared and prepared, it’s time to start building the foundation and walls of your root cellar. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Select the Right Materials

Choose materials that are sturdy and durable, such as concrete blocks or poured concrete. These materials will provide the stability and strength necessary for your root cellar.

Step 2: Lay the Foundation

Start by excavating the ground to the desired depth and width of your root cellar. Use a string line and stakes to ensure that the excavation is level. Fill the excavation with gravel to create a solid base.

Next, pour the concrete or lay the concrete blocks to create the foundation. Make sure the foundation is level and square.

Step 3: Construct the Walls

Using the same materials as the foundation, construct the walls of the root cellar. Be sure to leave space for the door, ventilation system, and shelving. As you build, use a level to ensure the walls are straight and even.

It’s important to remember to leave space between the concrete blocks or pour in insulation to ensure proper temperature control. A gap of at least 1 inch between the blocks and the dirt wall is recommended to prevent moisture from seeping in.

After the walls have been constructed, let the concrete cure for at least 24 hours before proceeding to the next step.

Step 4: Install the Door and Ventilation System

Install the door, ventilation system, and any other necessary components such as electrical outlets or lighting fixtures. Make sure that the door seals tightly to prevent moisture and temperature fluctuations.

When installing the ventilation system, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and test for proper airflow before loading the root cellar with produce.

After all components have been installed, let the root cellar sit for several days to ensure that the concrete has fully cured and settled before adding shelving and produce.

Installing Ventilation and Insulation Systems

Proper ventilation and insulation are crucial for maintaining the ideal temperature and humidity levels in your root cellar. This section covers the steps to install ventilation and insulation systems.

Installing the Ventilation System

The ventilation system ensures that there is a constant flow of air in the root cellar. This helps to regulate temperature and humidity levels, preventing the buildup of moisture and mold. Follow these steps to install a ventilation system:

Materials Tools
PVC pipe Drill
Screws Screwdriver
Screen mesh Hacksaw
Elbow joints
  1. Choose a spot near the top of the root cellar wall for the intake vent and another spot near the bottom for the exhaust vent.
  2. Drill holes at the chosen spots for the pipes to enter and exit the root cellar.
  3. Cut the PVC pipes to the desired length and attach elbow joints to both ends.
  4. Screw the PVC pipes with the elbow joints into the holes in the wall.
  5. Attach screen mesh to the outside of the PVC pipes to prevent insects from entering.

Insulating the Walls, Ceiling, and Floor

Insulation helps to regulate temperature and humidity levels and prevent fluctuations caused by outside weather conditions. Follow these steps to insulate your root cellar:

Materials Tools
Fiberglass insulation Staple gun
Vapor barrier Utility knife
Sealant tape Measuring tape
  1. Measure the walls, ceiling, and floor of your root cellar to determine the amount of insulation needed.
  2. Cut the fiberglass insulation to the appropriate sizes and staple it to the walls, ceiling, and floor.
  3. Attach a vapor barrier over the insulation to prevent moisture from entering.
  4. Seal any gaps or holes with sealant tape to ensure that there are no air leaks.
  5. Install a door with weatherstripping to help maintain temperature and humidity levels.

By following these steps, you will have a properly ventilated and insulated root cellar to store your fruits, vegetables, and other perishable items. Ensure to check the temperature and humidity levels regularly to ensure that your produce stays fresh for longer.

Creating Shelves and Storage Organization

Once your root cellar is constructed and has proper ventilation and insulation, it’s time to start organizing your storage space to ensure optimal preservation of your produce. Here are some tips for creating shelves and organizing your root cellar:

Invest in Sturdy Shelving

When it comes to shelving in a root cellar, durability is key. Opt for sturdy, moisture-resistant materials such as pressure-treated lumber or plastic. Consider constructing shelves with adjustable heights or removable sections to accommodate varying sizes of produce.

Maximize Storage Space

Make the most of your storage space by using all available areas, including walls and ceilings. Add hooks or hanging baskets to store items such as onions or garlic. Utilize cardboard boxes or plastic bins to store produce in layers, with heavier items on the bottom and lighter items on top.

Arrange for Proper Airflow

Arrange your shelves to promote proper airflow throughout the root cellar. Leave space between shelves and ensure they are not pressed against the walls to allow for adequate ventilation. Use wire shelving to allow air to circulate around and under produce, promoting even preservation.

Label and Rotate Stored Items

Label your shelves or bins to help identify what produce is stored where. Keep an inventory list or chart to track what items are in storage and their approximate shelf life. Additionally, rotate your produce regularly to prevent spoilage and ensure freshness.

Follow these tips to create an organized, efficient storage space in your root cellar. A well-organized root cellar will ensure your produce stays fresh and preserved for longer periods of time.

Adding Finishing Touches and Security Measures

With the main construction of your root cellar complete, it’s time to add some finishing touches to make it a comfortable and secure space.


Installing proper lighting in your root cellar is essential for easy access and inspection of your stored produce. LED strip lights are a great option as they do not generate heat and can be easily installed along the walls or ceiling. Place the lights in strategic locations to ensure optimal visibility without creating any shadows.


The flooring of your root cellar should be durable, easy to clean, and preferably non-slip. You can use tiles, concrete, or even epoxy to create a smooth and hygienic surface. Make sure the flooring is sloped towards the door to ensure any moisture or spills can be easily drained out.

Door Installation

The door of your root cellar should be sturdy, insulated, and secure to keep out pests and unwanted intruders. You can use a pre-made steel door or construct one using moisture-resistant wood. Add weather stripping around the edges and install a sturdy lock for added security.

Security Measures

Aside from a secure door, it’s important to take additional measures to protect your stored produce. Install window bars or wire mesh screens over any ventilation openings to prevent rodents or insects from entering. You can also use non-toxic pest repellents or traps to keep your root cellar free from unwanted pests.

By following these steps, you can create a functional and secure root cellar that will provide a reliable storage space for your fruits, vegetables, and other perishable items.

Maintaining and Caring for Your Root Cellar

Congratulations! You have successfully built your own root cellar. However, your job doesn’t end there. It’s crucial to maintain and care for your root cellar to ensure that it continues to function at its best and provide a safe and effective storage space for your fruits and vegetables.

Regular Cleaning

To prevent the buildup of mold, mildew, or bacteria, make sure to clean your root cellar regularly. Use a mild detergent and warm water to clean the floors, walls, shelves, and any other surfaces. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry.

Temperature and Humidity Monitoring

Keep a thermometer and hygrometer in your root cellar to monitor the temperature and humidity levels. The ideal temperature for most root vegetables is between 32-40°F (0-4°C), while the humidity level should be around 90-95%. Adjust the ventilation system and insulation as needed to maintain optimal conditions.

Checking for Damage

Regularly inspect your root cellar for signs of damage or wear, such as cracks in the walls or leaks in the ventilation system. Repair any issues immediately to prevent further damage to your stored produce.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

If you encounter any issues with your root cellar, such as excess moisture or temperature fluctuations, try adjusting the ventilation or insulation system first. If the issue persists, consult a professional for further assistance.

By following these simple maintenance and care tips, your root cellar will continue to provide a reliable and effective storage space for your fruits, vegetables, and other perishable items for years to come.

FAQ about Root Cellar Construction

Building a root cellar may seem like a daunting task, but with the right guidance it can be a rewarding and worthwhile project. Here are some frequently asked questions related to root cellar construction:

How much does it cost to build a root cellar?

The cost of building a root cellar can vary depending on factors such as location, size, and materials used. On average, a DIY root cellar can cost between $500 to $5000.

How long does it take to build a root cellar?

The time it takes to build a root cellar can vary depending on the size and complexity of the project, as well as the skills of the DIY-er. On average, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to complete the construction.

What materials are needed to build a root cellar?

The materials needed to build a root cellar include concrete blocks, lumber, roofing materials, insulation, ventilation system, and a door. Other materials such as gravel, sand, and a moisture barrier may also be required for site preparation.

What is the ideal location for a root cellar?

The ideal location for a root cellar is a cool, dark, and dry area, preferably underground or partially underground. A north-facing slope or a spot near a tree line can often provide natural insulation.

How can I ensure proper ventilation and insulation in my root cellar?

To ensure proper ventilation, install a vent pipe that allows for air to circulate and remove excess moisture. As for insulation, use rigid foam board insulation on the walls, ceiling, and floor of the root cellar to prevent temperature fluctuations and control humidity.

Can a root cellar be used for storing other items besides fruits and vegetables?

Yes, a root cellar can be used to store other perishable items such as wine, cheese, and cured meats. It can also be used as a tornado shelter or a storage space for canned goods and emergency supplies.

How do I maintain and care for my root cellar?

To maintain and care for your root cellar, regularly check the temperature and humidity levels and adjust as needed. Clean the space regularly to prevent the buildup of mold or mildew. Inspect the shelves, walls, and ceiling for any signs of damage or wear, and make repairs as necessary.

Building a root cellar can be a valuable addition to any home, providing a cost-effective and sustainable way to store and preserve fresh produce. With proper planning and attention to detail, you can create a functional and durable root cellar that will last for years to come.