Root Cellar in Basement: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Own

Are you weary of constantly wasting produce or just on the hunt for a more efficient way to keep your fruits and veggies in tip-top shape? Trust me, I know that feeling all too well.

Like many of you, my journey towards the perfect cold storage solution has been fraught with hurdles. But after much thought and meticulous research, it seems we may have hit the jackpot – building a root cellar right at home! Yes, imagine transforming our basements into an ingenious year-round preservation hub for our harvests.

In this article, I’ll walk you through a detailed step-by-step guide on constructing your own basement root cellar. Curious already? Let’s roll up our sleeves then and dive right into this fascinating DIY adventure!

Key Takeaways

  • A root cellar is a special room in your basement that keeps food fresh without using electricity by providing a cool and humid environment.
  • Benefits of having a root cellar in your basement include convenient storage, natural cooling properties, and cost-effectiveness.
  • There are different types of root cellars to consider: traditional ones dug into the ground, earth berm cellars created by piling up rocks and soil, DIY basement cellars using existing foundation walls, or standalone structures built outside the home.
  • When building a root cellar, important considerations include location (using northeast corner of the basement), cost (budgeting for materials and equipment), and retrofitting an existing home or adding to a new one.

What is a Root Cellar?

A root cellar is a storage area, typically found in a basement, that provides a cold and humid environment for preserving fruits and vegetables.


A root cellar is a special room. It keeps food fresh without using electricity. Many people use it to store fruit, veggies, and canned goods. The walls and floor can be made from dirt or rocks.

This helps the room stay cool and moist. The root cellar does not let light in so the food will not rot or grow mold quickly. Think of it as a big box buried under your home where you can keep your harvest safe for longer!


The purpose of a root cellar is to provide a cool, dark, and humid environment for storing fruits, vegetables, and other perishable food items. By creating these ideal conditions, the root cellar helps to extend the shelf life of produce by slowing down the natural ripening process and preventing spoilage.

The insulated walls and dirt floor of the cellar help to maintain a consistent temperature that is cooler than room temperature but above freezing. This cold storage area also protects food from fluctuations in outside temperatures.

Additionally, the high humidity levels in a root cellar help prevent dehydration and keep produce fresh for longer periods. With a well-designed root cellar in your basement, you can effectively preserve your harvest or store home-canned foods throughout the year in an energy-efficient way.


Having a root cellar in your basement has several advantages. Firstly, it provides a convenient and easily accessible storage area for fruits and vegetables, allowing you to extend the shelf life of your harvest.

With a root cellar, you can enjoy fresh produce throughout the year. Secondly, a properly constructed root cellar offers natural cooling and insulating properties, maintaining consistent temperatures that are ideal for food preservation.

This helps to prevent spoilage and maintain the flavor and nutritional value of your stored crops. Lastly, a basement root cellar is cost-effective compared to other methods of food storage, as it utilizes existing space in your home and requires minimal additional expenses for construction or renovation.

Types of Root Cellars

There are several types of root cellars to consider, including traditional root cellars, earth berm root cellars, DIY basement root cellars, and standalone root cellars.

Traditional root cellars

Traditional root cellars have been used for centuries as a natural way to store fruits, vegetables, and other perishable foods. These underground storage spaces are typically dug into the ground and have dirt floors, which helps maintain cool temperatures and proper humidity levels.

The thick walls of the root cellar provide insulation against extreme outdoor temperatures, making it an ideal environment for long-term food preservation. Traditional root cellars are often built using stones or soil piled up to create the walls of the cellar.

This type of cold storage is a cost-effective and efficient way to store harvested produce throughout the year.

Earth berm root cellars

I built my root cellar using the earth berm method. This means that instead of digging down into the ground, I piled up rocks and soil to create the walls of my cellar. It was a cost-effective and space-saving option for me.

By utilizing the natural insulation properties of the earth, my cellar maintains a consistent temperature throughout the year. The dirt floor also helps to maintain humidity levels, which is ideal for storing root vegetables and other produce.

It’s important to note that when building an earth berm root cellar, it’s crucial to ensure at least 4 feet of coverage when burying the walls, but having 10 feet is even better for optimal insulation.

DIY basement root cellars

Building a root cellar in your basement is a great way to store fruits, vegetables, and other perishables all year round. To create your own DIY basement root cellar, you can start by using the existing foundation walls as two sides of the cellar.

Then, construct the other two walls using studs and insulation. It’s important to consider factors such as location, cost, and ventilation when building your root cellar. Once it’s built, you can enjoy the benefits of natural cooling and insulating properties that will keep your crops fresh for longer periods of time.

With proper temperature and humidity levels, shelving organization, and regular maintenance, you’ll have an efficient storage area for all your homegrown produce.

Standalone root cellars

Standalone root cellars are another type of root cellar that can be built outside the home. These are separate structures specifically designed for cold storage. They can be built using various materials such as concrete, wood, or even old shipping containers.

Standalone root cellars provide a dedicated space for storing fruits, vegetables, and other crops away from the house. They offer insulation and ventilation options to maintain optimal temperature and humidity levels for long-term food preservation.

Building a standalone root cellar is a great option if you have enough space available in your backyard and want a separate structure solely dedicated to food storage.

Building a Root Cellar

When building a root cellar, it is important to consider the location, cost, and whether you are retrofitting an existing basement or adding one to a new home.

Considerations for location

When choosing a location for your basement root cellar, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind. First, it’s best to locate the root cellar on the northeast corner of your basement, using the existing foundation walls as two sides.

This will provide natural insulation and help maintain cool temperatures. Additionally, consider the depth of excavation – at least 4 feet is necessary for burying the walls, but 10 feet would be even better for optimal conditions.

Lastly, make sure there is adequate ventilation in your chosen location to prevent any mold or mildew build-up. By carefully considering these factors, you can create an ideal environment for storing your fruits and vegetables in your very own basement root cellar.


When building a root cellar in your basement, the cost can vary depending on factors like the size of your cellar and the materials you use. However, it is generally more affordable compared to building a standalone root cellar or retrofitting an existing home.

You can save money by using the foundation walls of your basement as two sides of your root cellar and constructing the other two walls with stud and insulation. Additionally, using rocks or soil for the walls can also help keep costs down.

Remember to budget for any necessary equipment or tools you may need during construction. Building a root cellar in your basement is a cost-effective way to create a cold storage area for preserving fruits, vegetables, and other harvests throughout the year.

Retrofitting in an existing home

To create a root cellar in an existing home, there are a few things to consider. First, you will need to find a suitable location in your basement. Look for a cool and dark area that is away from heating ducts or direct sunlight.

Next, think about the cost of retrofitting your basement to accommodate the root cellar. You may need to invest in insulation, shelving, and ventilation systems. It’s also important to ensure proper airflow and humidity control in order to maintain the right conditions for storing fruits and vegetables.

Finally, keep in mind that building a root cellar outside of the home or using existing foundation walls can be another option if retrofitting inside is not feasible.

Adding to a new home

When adding a root cellar to a new home, it’s important to consider the location and cost. You can integrate the root cellar into the basement by using existing foundation walls. Two additional walls can be built with insulation.

This method is efficient and helps preserve your harvests for longer periods of time. Excavating should ensure at least 4 feet of coverage when burying the walls, but 10 feet is even better for optimal conditions.

Building a root cellar in your new home provides a convenient and sustainable way to store fruits, vegetables, and other foods while taking advantage of the natural cooling properties underground storage offers.

Building outside the home

To create a root cellar outside your home, you can build a standalone structure. This can be done by using materials like rocks or soil to construct the walls. Another option is to use prefabricated root cellar kits that are specifically designed for outdoor use.

These kits often come with everything you need, from the walls and flooring to the ventilation system. Building outside the home gives you more flexibility in terms of size and location, as you don’t have to rely on an existing basement or crawl space.

Plus, it allows for easy access without disturbing the rest of your home. Just make sure to consider factors such as insulation and proper ventilation during the construction process for optimal storage conditions.

Tips for Storing Fruits and Vegetables in a Root Cellar

To store fruits and vegetables effectively in a root cellar, it is important to maintain appropriate temperature and humidity levels, avoid ethylene gas build-up, and ensure proper shelving and organization.

Temperature and humidity levels

In a root cellar, maintaining the right temperature and humidity levels is crucial for successful food storage. The ideal temperature range is between 32 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 4 degrees Celsius).

This cool environment helps slow down the natural ripening process of fruits and vegetables, extending their shelf life. Humidity levels should be around 90-95% to prevent produce from drying out.

To achieve these conditions, it’s important to monitor and adjust ventilation as needed. A damp cloth or tray of water can help increase humidity if necessary. Regularly checking and adjusting the temperature and humidity ensures your stored crops stay fresh for longer periods of time in your basement root cellar.

Avoiding ethylene gas build-up

To ensure the longevity of your stored fruits and vegetables in the root cellar, it’s important to avoid ethylene gas build-up. This gas is naturally produced by many ripening fruits and can cause other produce to spoil more quickly.

To prevent this, separate ethylene-producing fruits like apples, bananas, and tomatoes from other items. It’s also a good idea to regularly check your stored produce for any signs of overripening or decay and promptly remove any affected items to prevent the spread of ethylene gas.

By being mindful of ethylene gas build-up, you can maximize the shelf life of your stored fruits and vegetables in your basement root cellar.

Proper shelving and organization

To ensure the best storage conditions in your root cellar, it’s important to have proper shelving and organization. Sturdy shelves made of wood or metal are ideal for holding your fruits and vegetables.

Make sure they are secure and can support the weight of your produce.

When organizing your root cellar, keep similar items together. Group fruits with other fruits and vegetables with other vegetables. This will make it easier to find what you need when you’re ready to retrieve them.

It’s also a good idea to label your containers or bins so you know exactly what’s inside. This will help prevent any confusion or waste. Additionally, regularly check on your stored produce and remove any spoiled items to maintain a clean and healthy environment.

Maintenance and Care for a Root Cellar

Regular maintenance and care for a root cellar is essential to ensure optimal conditions for long-term food storage.

Insulation and ventilation

Insulation and ventilation are important factors to consider when creating a root cellar in your basement. Insulating the walls and ceiling of the cellar will help maintain consistent temperatures, which is crucial for proper food storage.

This can be done by using materials like foam board insulation or fiberglass batts. Ventilation is equally important to prevent moisture buildup and mold growth. Installing vents or fans will allow fresh air circulation and help regulate humidity levels.

Ensuring proper insulation and ventilation will create an optimal environment for storing fruits, vegetables, and other perishable items in your basement root cellar.


In my root cellar, proper lighting is important to help me navigate and find what I need. I make sure to install bright LED lights that consume less energy and produce little heat.

This way, the temperature in the root cellar stays cool and doesn’t affect the storage of fruits and vegetables. I also place the lights strategically so that they illuminate all areas of the cellar, including the shelves and corners.

It’s essential to choose lighting fixtures that are durable and moisture-resistant since root cellars can be damp environments. By having good lighting in my basement root cellar, I can easily locate and retrieve my stored goods whenever I need them without any hassle or inconvenience.

Regular cleaning and storage rotation

To maintain your root cellar and keep your stored fruits and vegetables fresh, regular cleaning and storage rotation are important. I recommend cleaning the root cellar at least once a month to prevent any build-up of dirt or mold.

Use a mild soap solution and warm water to scrub the shelves, walls, and floors. Rinse thoroughly with clean water afterwards.

When it comes to storage rotation, make sure to regularly check on your produce and use up anything that is starting to spoil. This will help prevent any spreading of rot or decay to the rest of your stored items.

It’s best practice to organize your fruits and vegetables by type and date of harvest, placing older produce towards the front for easy access.


Now you know how to create your own root cellar in the basement! With this step-by-step guide, you can have a convenient and efficient storage area for your fruits and vegetables. By following the tips for temperature control, proper shelving, and regular maintenance, you can preserve your harvest for longer periods of time.

Start building your own DIY root cellar today and enjoy the benefits of having fresh produce all year round!


1. What is a root cellar in the basement?

A root cellar in the basement is a cold storage room set up underground for fruit and vegetable storage and food conservation.

2. How can I create my own DIY cellar?

To create your own DIY cellar, you need to map out the basement setup, consider humidifying properties, manage root cellar temperatures against freezing temperatures and make provisions for food retrieval.

3. Does it only work for preserving harvest?

No! While often used for harvest preservation, a basement storage system like this serves as general home food storage. It is perfect not just for fruits and vegetables but also other foods too!

4. Are there any benefits of an underground cellar versus above ground storage?

Yes! An underground or basement renovation into a celler maintains cooler temperatures compared to above-ground locations due to its natural insulation from direct sunlight.

5. Will all types of fruits and vegetables be safe in my DIY Cellar?

Most foods will be fine if stored properly within your cold room, ensuring they are kept at right temperatures avoiding freezing while maintaining humidifying properties perfect for their conservation.

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