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Old 09-12-2008, 10:26 AM
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Default Building A Cellar



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I've seen a few threads here about people building underground cellars or shelters and thought I'd add my experience to the pot. My wife and I are finishing up our cellar. It's been a lot of hard work but we're sure it will pay off.

We live in North central Florida out in the country. Our land is heavily wooded so we selected an area for the cellar near the house yet out in the woods so the cellar's construction wouldn't be easily observed. WOur plan called for an 8X8 foot cellar with a ceiling height of around 6 1/2 feet. The cellar it self would be drapped with 6 mil platic sheeting to keep the water out.

Around January we took our shovels out to the woods and started digging. We'd dig every other day or so a little at a time. Our hole would be 10X10 to give us room to construct the cellar.

After we got down about 4-5 feet we ran into a problem. We could no longer throw sand out of the hole without dirt falling in. The combined depth of the hole and the dirt piled up on the outside we couldn't throw a shovel full of dirt out of the hole. To solve this problem we constructed a ramp which would later serve as the stairwell. Until then we used it as a loading ramp for our garden cart. We'd hook the garden cart to our riding lawn mower and back it down the ramp. Then we'd fill the cart with dirt and drive it out of the hole and dump the sand. This worked real well.



Once we had the hole about deep enough we started construction. We used ground contact pressure treated wood for the floor. We framed the walls with a 1 foot spacing on the joists and used pressure treated plywood for the exterior. The roof has 2X12's spaced at 1 foot covered with 3/4 inch pressure treated plywood. We then drapped the top and sides of the box with 6 mil plastic sheeting. The way we draped it we have lots of overlap. The roof alone has 4 layers of plastic.







We constructed a stairwell in the ramp we used to bring out the dirt. I then installed two 2 inch PVC pipes for ventilation. This was a mistake. I misread information on ventilation pipe sizing. I then went back and installed two more 4 inch pipes. This will give me more than adequate ventilation for the cubic feet we have.





I painted the interior walls and ceiling with exterior latex anti-mold and mildew paint and installed some shelves. Last week we started moving our stock into the cellar and covering the cellar with the sand we dug out. We draped plastic sheeting over the top and extending 2 feet out from the sides to keep water flowing away from the cellar. We still have a ways to go on burying it but we'll be done soon I hope.





It's a neat cellar. Underground with ventilation. Not easily observed once we plant local bushed around it. When the leaves fall from the trees later this year the ground will blend in with the rest of the forest. A perfect place to store our supplies.



We got our first test of the cellar when tropical storm/hurricane Fay came through. We got a ton of rain. We didn't have any problem with water getting in the cellar.
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Old 09-12-2008, 10:38 AM
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IMPRESSIVE!!!!! Congrats on a job well done!!!
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Old 09-12-2008, 10:46 AM
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Dude you are a God I've been looking for somehting like this o show my wife thanks man.

Now I just need to figure out how well this idea would do in my enviroment we are -40F come winter and I am worried about freezing in the winter your method handles my water issue but not my cold issue.
I've never seen one from start to finish and inside as well.
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Old 09-12-2008, 01:36 PM
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Great job. What is the temperature inside on an average hot day? Thanks.
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Old 09-15-2008, 08:16 AM
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Great job. What is the temperature inside on an average hot day? Thanks.

It's been running 10-15 degrees cooler than the outside.
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Old 09-19-2008, 08:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by compboy View Post
Now I just need to figure out how well this idea would do in my enviroment we are -40F come winter and I am worried about freezing in the winter your method handles my water issue but not my cold issue
It might not get all that cold underground, the ground is really good at moderating temperature. You could try burring a remote sensor thermometer probe before the ground freezes, then check on it during the coldest days of the year - then you'll know how cold your underground sheltor w. You'll probably still need to plan on some kind of heat source, but not as much as you would above ground.
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Old 09-19-2008, 10:17 PM
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Beautiful job - I really want to build a cellar and this really helps with the basics. I've got a lot tougher dig in permafrost, tree roots, rocks (boulders), etc. but you give me hope...I appreciate that your wife was involved too! We haver termination dust (new snow) on the mountains today so I will be taking contact00's suggestion with the temp sensor to see how it goes this winter. Thanks for the post!
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Old 09-19-2008, 10:50 PM
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Pictures are very impressive. Great job. I am amazed at the soil conditions for Florida. Where we live the water table is so high it is a real task to put in in the ground without floating.
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Old 09-20-2008, 12:17 AM
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Looks nice, I wish I could build one, but the city would never issue permits for one.
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Old 09-20-2008, 02:47 PM
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Pictures are very impressive. Great job. I am amazed at the soil conditions for Florida. Where we live the water table is so high it is a real task to put in in the ground without floating.

Our water table is 75 down so that wasn't a problem. The land here drains exceptionally well. Rain just doesn't pool. It's rain a lot here since we completed it. Tropical Storm Fay dumped a ton of water on us and the cellar stayed dry.

Quote:
Beautiful job - I really want to build a cellar and this really helps with the basics. I've got a lot tougher dig in permafrost, tree roots, rocks (boulders), etc. but you give me hope...I appreciate that your wife was involved too! We haver termination dust (new snow) on the mountains today so I will be taking contact00's suggestion with the temp sensor to see how it goes this winter. Thanks for the post!
It's a tough dig. We hand dug ours and it was a chore. However, the benefits in physical conditioning can't be beat. We can probably throw a shovel of dirt further than anyone in the county. We dug a little at a time. It never looks like your getting anywhere while you are digging but when you go back out there the next day it's evident.

I just moved some ammo into the cellar to free up space in the house. We're stocking the shelves a little at a time. I have three 5 gallon pails full of rice and pasta I need to finalize and move out there.



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Old 09-20-2008, 03:04 PM
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Do you or are you going to add any lighting inside? Maybe a battery kit for solar?
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Old 09-20-2008, 03:22 PM
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Do you or are you going to add any lighting inside? Maybe a battery kit for solar?
Right now we have a Energizer Weather Ready battery LED lantern in there. It provides enough light to work around in. Also, having the door open lets in lots of light.

At night with the lantern on and the cellar door open it's really spooky going through the woods to the cellar. That light coming up from the ground in the blackness makes you go - "Oh oh - zombies!"
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Old 09-20-2008, 03:51 PM
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Are there termites in your area by chance and if so did you treat the wood or use some kind of chemical termite repellant/poison?
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Old 09-20-2008, 05:26 PM
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We don't have many issues with termites in this area. I guess living in the woods they have plenty. However, the wood used is pressure treated - termite resistant - not termite proof. I also treated it with borax which termites don't like. The whole structure is also wrapped in thick plastic sheeting. I treated the area around the cellar with an insecticide that kills termites.

My main objective in doing this was to keep incests in general away from the cellar.
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Old 09-20-2008, 07:21 PM
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Living in East Central Florida, I'm looking to do the same thing. How is the humidity down there? Stored food loses some shelf life if its stored in high heat, high humidity conditions. This is why I don't have my "stash" in the garage. Any duhimidifier? If you didn't get any water damage with Fay, you never will. We got 22 inches here in Orange City and we had no flooding problems, however down the road in Debary, they are still pumping out water.

Great job and thanks for the pics. Gets me motivated to start mine. I need more room though. Any acreage for sale by you?
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Old 09-20-2008, 08:08 PM
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Bloody fantastic. You're an inspiration. I think the solar power/lighting suggestion bears considering, however you might want to keep any batteries outside. Maybe built another mini-shelter nearby and run LV wiring.

Heck, even garden solar LED lights would be better than nothing. They are unobtrusive and cheap and not easily seen.

Well done.
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Old 09-20-2008, 08:14 PM
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Here is a recently built root cellar system from Survival Acres...

http://survivalacres.com/wordpress/?p=1475

wouldn't take much to make it into a bunker...

creativity is the key...
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Old 09-20-2008, 09:03 PM
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How much for you to come to South Dakota and make me one just like yours? What do ya say arisinwind?
Old 09-20-2008, 09:30 PM
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Living in East Central Florida, I'm looking to do the same thing. How is the humidity down there? Stored food loses some shelf life if its stored in high heat, high humidity conditions. This is why I don't have my "stash" in the garage. Any duhimidifier? If you didn't get any water damage with Fay, you never will. We got 22 inches here in Orange City and we had no flooding problems, however down the road in Debary, they are still pumping out water.

Great job and thanks for the pics. Gets me motivated to start mine. I need more room though. Any acreage for sale by you?

Humidity can be a problem. 90+ degree 99% humidity days can really cause issues in the cellar. When that very warm high humidity air cools you get condensation. The way to control that is through the ventilation pipes. On high humidity days I shut off the pipes. I just place a cap over the openings. This prevents air from circulating in the cellar. When the temperature is low and humidity is low (usually at night) I open the pipes and cool dry air enters the cellar. So far it works pretty good. Temperature in the cellar has been in the 70's with humidity levels running 40-70%.

I did place a dehumidifier in the cellar when we first started using it to dry out the air. After the initial drying it's been easy to maintain.

If you read about cellars on the internet you'll find they aren't "build and forget". There is some management to them. You have to manage temperature and humidity, insect or rodent infiltration, and check your stores to ensure they are still good. Maintaining temperature and humidity depends on your climate. In some climates you may need to provide heating in the winter because of extreme temperatures. In other climates you might have issues with water leaking into your cellar. How you manage temperature and humidity also depends on what you store in your cellar. You may want higher humidity if you use your cellar to store vegetables. You may want lower humidity to store items made of leather or metal. I figure it all depends on your climate, your soil type, and how your cellar is built.

Understanding how the ventilation pipes work can help keep your cellar in good order. Make sure you have enough ventilation for your specific volume of cellar. Too little ventilation and it will be hard to manage the cellars temperature and humidity.

I bought a digital temperature and humidity gauge at Wal-Mart. $7. Works real good.

I learned a lot researching cellars and building this one. I'm very pleased with it.

As for land available around here. There is plenty. Most with signs that say reduced. I figure with the economy getting worse the prices will fall further.
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Old 09-20-2008, 09:35 PM
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I reckon you could write an illustrated HowTo document and share/sell it maybe arisinwind. You've almost done it with this post.

Also, just another quick thought, you could use a very small solar setup to power a small 12VDC fan to circulate air in there.

kind regards, Herne
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