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Author Topic: root cellar with straw bale ?  (Read 8219 times)

Offline surfivor

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root cellar with straw bale ?
« on: April 23, 2011, 07:19:19 PM »
 I had an idea to build a root cellar. The idea is to build a crawl space type root cellar with a ceiling that is maybe 3.5 or 4 feet high.
The wall where the door is would be cement blocks. The other walls would some cedar logs standing on end to create a structure strong enough to support a roof of cedar logs. Outside of the cedar logs walls would be an insulation wall constructed with straw bale for much of the insulation. including straw bale on top of the ceiling and walls. On top of all that would be a moisture barrier, and then a layer say 1 to 2 feet of dirt. The straw bale hopefully decreases the amount of dirt required, and the dirt in part is just there for added concealment if possible. The floor would have a layer of sand and a drainage ditch downhill.

Any food in there would ideally be sealed in some kind of tough container if possible so as to not give off too much odor for animals and make it hard to get into. I think small metal trashcans would be good to store the food in ..

I found a straw bale root cellar based on cob on the web and some other similar things:
http://chroniclesofafarmgirl.blogspot.com/2007/08/root-cellar.html
http://chroniclesofafarmgirl.blogspot.com/2007/08/cobbing-root-cellar.html


« Last Edit: April 23, 2011, 07:31:46 PM by surfivor »

Offline Jb

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Re: root cellar with straw bale ?
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2011, 03:45:19 PM »
The moisture barrier on the outside surface of your straw bale walls / roof will prevent moisture inside the root cellar from escaping. If the water vapor condenses on the inside face of the plastic or inside the strawbales, you'll get mold and rot.
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Offline I.L.W.

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Re: root cellar with straw bale ?
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2011, 10:22:45 PM »
It's worth experimenting with, however I do see one problem:

Root cellars are usually earthen structures due to the transpiration of water through stone, sand and clay which provides an active cooling effect. Straw will insulate well, maintaining the temperature +/- 10° pretty easily, but an earthen structure will actually chill the area below the ambient outside temperature. It also helps maintain proper humidity (85-95% depending on what you store and how you vent) without providing an organic surface that molds and yeasts can get really thrive on. In a worst case scenario, the straw bales may actually begin composting, generating a lot of heat in the process, as well as releasing gases than may prematurely ripen stored fruits, wilt greens etc. The moisture barrier would block water transpiration and trap those gasses. As a general rule, the more dirt you use, the better off you are. An ideal system is 100% dirt if the climate permits it.

Maybe bailing up a material other than hay would work.  I've used heavy polyethylene mesh bags filled with chipped black locust wood to make levies on my property. Black locust is extremely rot resistant, and (at least for me) is an invasive weed I  have to brush-hog out every year, so there's ample supply.  Cedar may work well too.

I guess it depends on your climate, what you're storing and so on.  I'm sure there's got to be a way to do it effectively, but I don't know of anyone who's tried that approach (beyond the links you provided), let alone perfected it. With the traditional earthen cellars, there are over 3000 years of human experience to draw upon in designing your own system. 

An old friend of mine is an engineer who specializes in organic material construction. He mostly works with wood bridges and piles, but his background might give us some insight.  I'm interested to know how feasible such a system would be, so I'll e-mail him the link to this topic and see if we can't get a response. In the mean time, I'll read up on some of this, I need a new cellar myself.
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Offline Cedar

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Re: root cellar with straw bale ?
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2011, 01:36:08 AM »
I think it will depend on where you are, how cold it gets, what the humidity is, the rainfall you get..

I am concerned that your strawbales will break down and mold, also attract small beasts which you do not want living in it. As someone up above stated, moisture issues may be a problem. If they get damp and start to compost, they can also possibly generate some heat and MAYBE start a fire.

When I built my root cellar in upper B.C., Canada, I looked to what the gold miners and fur trappers in my area did 140 years prior as many of their root cellars were still quite usable if the door had been replaced. They were 100% log and dirt and had stood the test of time. There are so many standing dead trees up there from Mountain Pine Beetle, that is was an easily found and low cost building material for me. I decided time tested was the way to go. What is traditional to build as a root cellar in your area? Why or why did they build them that way? I am not trying to discourage you from your strawbale one, but before you put all that work/time into one....

I couldn't have done just log here in Oregon due to the rainfall and humidity, but when a friend and I were discussing how he ought to build his root cellar in Wisconsin, with his low humidity and water table, I suggested a log one for him as well, since he also had the material free for the taking off his land as well.

If you are building a crawlspace sized one, why don't you do block all the way around for "X" amount of courses or use broken concrete and a slipform wall type on the remaining 3 walls and keep the block for the front? How set are you on the strawbale? Have you gone and visited people/strawbale houses?

I am posting mine cellar pics here to maybe give you some more ideas. I figured since my material was free other than chain saw fuel, the cellar may as well be bigger, so it ended up at 12x17' with just short of a 6 foot ceiling by the time I dumped sand on the floor.











Mine was all log, including the roof, with mill felt over the top and then eventually 24" of dirt. The intake and hot air escape vents were off a single wide trailer. Nothing but the sealer was bought for this project, which ended up to be about $32.00CA.  There was some 6" and 8" spikes laying around which is what the roof was attached with on the ends to keep any of the logs from rolling.

The coldest it got outside the root cellar was -45C/-49F and although I did have to cover my spuds up with sleeping bags over the top, they came through just fine in the cellar. I do not remember what the inside temp was, but it was just below freezing. I did used to keep a thermometer and a hygrometer in there.

In hindsight, I would have put electric lights into it and I would have let the soil spill around the sides more instead of holding it back with the extra logs.

Cedar
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Offline surfivor

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Re: root cellar with straw bale ?
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2011, 08:46:16 AM »


 The other option for me is to use cement blocks. I have plenty of logs on my land, including a good amount of cedar, but I may decide not to cut them for this purpose if I can afford the cement blocks instead.

 I don't think I would dig into the ground as it is wet in places. When the snow was melting, I dug 18" into the ground and there was water.

 I guess I would have dirt trucked in and rent a bobcat to move it onto the top of the cement blocks. I might have liked to use one piece of machinery to do that plus hugglekultur. I am not sure if I would need a mini excavator for hugglekultur or not, or if I could just pile logs on the ground and use a bobcat to bury them. Can a bobcat dig anything ? My impression is that it is a loader to move dirt around.


Offline Cedar

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Re: root cellar with straw bale ?
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2011, 10:44:08 AM »
The top three pics are above ground root cellars I personally have been in, but these are not my photos of them.





The two photos above is a root cellar dating from the 1860's, it is stone with a wooden floor (kinda like pallets but narrower) down the middle like a walkway) as I believe they have a higher water table there and I know their ground is very stony/concrete-like mountain soil, not to mention they have no hills on their property. This is actually the largest root cellar I have been in. I saw no intake, but they had 2 wooden vents in the roof with slider boards to allow more or less heat/air out.
If I build another root cellar and I am able for materials, this is my inspiration. I LOVE this one..  If I was to 'duplicate it', I would utilize broken concrete chunks for a free material.

This root cellar fed hundreds of people over the months each year. It belongs to an old roadhouse which was very active feeding and giving a person a bed for the night for seventy-five years.




The photo above is also a root cellar lacking a hillside, so they made one. Where I was at this was commonly done with log, but this one is 100% poured concrete with soil/grass over the top. I think it was made in the late 1950's or early 1960's. My own root cellar, I never planted anything on it. Soon it was growing its own things like Fireweed. Daisy and other flowers, eventually the grass came in. You couldn't just order a load of concrete up there at that time, so I am pretty sure they hand mixed it in a wheelbarrow or something as the concrete feels funny. (I am not 100% sure this is the one I am thinking about, but if not, it is it's twin and each root cellar is like a snowflake, they are all different).



This cellar is in Nebraska or somewhere and is Finnish made. We had several of these type up north too (although less rough looking, even after time has passed) which makes sense since there were many Finnish people to immigrated to the area. I noted that they were strange huge 'molehills' and it actually did take me awhile to catch on that they were root cellars (to give myself a little credit, the doors were facing the north and the main house on most of them).

Good luck with your project and please posts pics when you are working on it! I had a root cellar addiction for the longest time.

Cedar
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Offline Cedar

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Re: root cellar with straw bale ?
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2013, 10:58:14 AM »
Tis the season... for root cellar prepping anyway. I had to find the photo I knew I put in here as I need to take our old root cellar at the farm, clean it, build holding totes for potatoes, carrots, parnsips, apples and whatever comes in.

I have broken glass on the floor in there which needs to be cleaned up and I figured out the shortest route to string an electrical cord in there so I can see what I am doing without having a mile of cords I have to find.

Much to Z's chagrin, I have been collecting pallets for the last few months and this week is the week I am tearing them down and making something similar to ....



..for my storage bins. I hear-tell the easiest way to get pallets apart without destroying them is by a Sawzall. Building these bins will be alot easier than I was thinking they would be as I believe they are built square (now I do, in looking at the photo again) and the set of legs closest to the wall are set up on something like bricks or something to elevate the back. I know I do not have to do this, but it looks cooler with them slightly tipped.  ;) Now to see how practical that 'coolness' will be.

Cedar

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