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Where to site a root cellar in existing basement

 
Posts: 25
Location: Northeast WI
6
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Hello! I've been looking at installing a root cellar into my basement and keep going back and forth between two locations. I was hoping maybe someone here might have some insight for me.

My two locations are:

1) The old cistern for the house. It is on the north side of the house and has 3 walls that are not shared by the rest of the basement. It is mostly walled off from the rest of the basement except for a doorway and some space at the top. I'm thinking this would keep it nice and cool, except I wouldn't be able to put ventilation directly in this room. The foundation is fieldstone and brick, nearly 2 feet thick, and I don't know if I can or should attempt to drill through it. I was thinking I might try to run ventilation to the next nearest window, but this would add at least 5 feet of extra, horizontal pipe to any vent shafts. Is this a good idea or will air stagnate more easily like this? I've included a picture for reference.

2) A room which is walled off from the rest of the basement by cinderblocks. This room shares 2 walls with the rest of the basement and has 2 exterior walls. However, one of these walls faces south and the other faces east. There are two windows in this room that could be used for ventilation. I think it would be much easier to ventilate this room than the cistern, not to mention the fact that it is a little better situated for access. I am worried, though, about the southerly exposure and the shared walls with the basement. It is closer to the furnace than the cistern is.

My two real questions here then are:

Should I avoid long horizontal stretches of pipe in root cellar vent shafts?

How detrimental is a southerly basement wall/shared walls with the rest of the basement?

Much thanks for any info you can give me.
rootcellarsm.png
[Thumbnail for rootcellarsm.png]
 
steward
Posts: 11821
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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Hi Ben, looks like you have two great choices!  How much of the foundation is exposed on the south side of the house?  Or in other words, if the root cellar would be 8' high, on the outside of the house, how many of those feet would be covered by soil vs exposed to air/sun.

Same question for the north side.

You're trying to balance the heat provided by the house and the coolth provided by the earth and the frigid provided by the winter air against any exposed foundation.  Do you know how cold the cistern room is in winter normally with the door closed?

Last question.  In the cistern room, above the foundation, is there a rim joist that you can drill through?  That's how I ran vents into my basement root cellar.
 
Ben Reilly
Posts: 25
Location: Northeast WI
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Roughly 2 feet of the foundation is above ground on all sides of the house. South side does get some shade in the summer from a tree, but not that much.

Neither room is particularly air-tight currently, but they both stay about the same temperature. I've put a thermometer in both rooms and checked them at various times. It seems they stay the same overall temp as the basement as a whole. It might be worth trying to isolate them more and see how the temps do then.

That's a good idea about drilling through the joist. There is space above the foundation I could do that in. I didn't think of that as an option, so it might work. That would leave the vents at least 2' above ground, so I'm not sure if that would affect cold air intake at all.
 
Mike Haasl
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My root cellar stops being cool enough to be useful around mid May.  But it's on the North side of my basement with a foot of foundation (cinder block) exposed above grade.  So it's hard to compare.  I'd probably go with the cistern room but you'll probably do well with either.  I do have a small fan on my intake pipe to force air circulation in the fall to get it to cool down quicker...
 
Ben Reilly
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I think I'm going to go with the cistern, at least as the main cold and humid room. For things that like it a little warmer or drier, I'll probably put them with the canned goods and other more stable food storage. I'm not able to find much info on whether the vent inlets being a few feet off the ground will be detrimental, but it seems like a lot of buried root cellars have somewhat tall vents, so it'll probably be fine.
 
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