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Instant Cheap Easy Root Cellar: Roll in Place and Cover with Dirt

By: Everett S

round-culvertThis picture is of a “green cabin” design. You know, one of those eco-style, chic concepts that never actually goes anywhere because who would really want to LIVE in a concrete culvert… The point is we can take this could-be-but-probably-won’t-be green living idea and adjust it to suit an off-grid, self-sustaining lifestyle by turning it into an instant, cheap, easy root cellar.

box-culvertIn reality you’re not going to “roll” a big round, cement culvert into place, but would bring it in on a truck and lower it down with a crane of some sort. Therefore, other than looking a little cooler, there are no advantages of using one of these over a square culvert, which would be much easier to work with (think adding shelves and a door) and are often less expensive.

Either way you would want to bury it into a north-facing hillside and somehow close up the back opening to keep weather, water and rodents out. One advantage you might have with the round style culverts is additional strength, but if you’re only mounding up a few feet of dirt around the box culverts you should be fine. That’s what they’re made for after all. Just be sure to check with an engineer first to discuss the depth at which you can bury these things.

If anyone comes up with ideas for sealing the second opening I’d love to hear them in the comments below! I’ll start: Board up with wood, attached insulation and vapor barrier to the back of the wooden boards, follow up with another layer of wood. Alternatively, you could construct a form and pour in concrete.

The main trouble you would have to overcome is getting one of these culvert makers to give you just one. They’re probably used to dealing with large commercial and municipal clients. Then again, maybe you could find a leftover one on a large building site for cheap. They might be happy just to have someone haul it off.

If you want more easy, cheap root cellar ideas, check out our Ode to Preserving article from last year.

Category: Renewable Energy

Comments (3)

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  1. Maureen says:

    Easier than concrete culvert would be a piece of large diameter CMP (corrugated metal pipe) Much lighter and easier to handle. Ideas for filling in the ends: ferrocement covered with that super sticky 3′ roll tar roofing used in roof valleys OR (my personal favorite) the underground building systems used in the “$50 and up underground house book” (uses posts, boards and heavy builders plastic). Or just use the technique for the whole thing and forget the thing and forget the pipe. Or if they are cheap in your area, you could buy a steel shipping container and bury it. Better coat the outside with tar paint first. All buried steel should be coated before burial. I don’t know what soil loadings would be acceptable for the square sides of a shipping container, but it’s a lot less than a round, corrugated pipe. Any of these would may a dandy compost worm/mushroom growing shed/potato storage/fallout shelter.

  2. 2012 Consciousness Shift Resources (is a link) says:

    I wonder if tyvek would be a sufficient water vapor barrier when a cement structure is used?

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