My Summer Project – Crashstead Survival

Here’s a photo essay of one of my summer projects.

This is a root cellar that I’m building, albeit slowly. Moving all of this dirt (several times) is hard work:

This thing is pretty big as root cellars go, finished dimensions will be 13 x 24, but the hole is quite a bit bigger. It’s at least 35 feet long right now and 15 wide. I had to go oversize so I had room to install posts and sheeting.

I didn’t like this first “dig” attempt for several reasons. I could not auger in the post holes I wanted no matter how much I tried, the PTO (power take-off) unit on the tractor worked just fine, but the ground was too hard. Basically, I had no way to set the cedar posts I was planning on installing.

So, try #2 had me doing a little trench work. I also located a bunch of cedar posts, which I plastic wrapped the bases to help protect from moisture.

The posts were already limbed and mostly dry, but some of the ones I’ve put in were pretty heavy.

A center post was installed, for a ridge pole, this is the first of several to come:

Looking down from the top with the side walls going up:

Sidewall posts nearly done. The top log was spiked in to each post with galvanized spikes.

I decided to speed things up by lifting the top logs onto just three posts, which was a balancing act challenge, but it worked. I then simply spiked in the remaining posts, clearing out just enough dirt underneath to let them fit:

Compression from the weight above (tons) will push all the posts down more or less evenly, but it doesn’t have to be completely level. Center height will be fairly tall I think, over eight feet, but we’ll see if I have to make any changes when I get to that point.

The uneven ground above has all been removed now and the floor is almost level.

Sidewall posts and top “plate” installed, nearly there now with the basic sidewall construction:

This took several days, working by myself. It’s hard work, and I’m nice and sore now. I’ve got more done, the sidewalls of plywood are installed, but forgot to take pictures, more to come.

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9 thoughts on “My Summer Project – Crashstead Survival

  • August 25, 2008 at 4:57 am
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    Nice.
    Was wondering if your going to put spreader poles from side wall to side wall(horizontally at the top of your poles) to keep the pressure from backfilling blowing the walls in? Are you using EDPM to cover the outside for waterproofing? Drain tile around the base of your root cellar?
    A friend of mine had a 10,000 gal fuel tank he cut in half the long way and set it on top of a few row of cement block, put a door in the end and two vents up through the top. He only had a foot of soil on the very top, said he should have used some insulation down to about 4 feet to keep the frost out.
  • August 25, 2008 at 6:39 am
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    Citizen, your papers please!
    (shuffle shuffle shuffle)
    Well, I don’t see a permit for this here hole here.
    You will have to come with us … NOW boy!
    (insert evil laugh)
  • August 25, 2008 at 8:22 am
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    This will be quite a cellar when you are done. How much soil will you have overtop when you are done?

    Has anyone on the board used a 20 or 40 foot shipping container as a root cellar? They aren’t cheap and there is certainly a potential problem with rust out but they would save a ton of work.

  • August 25, 2008 at 8:33 am
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    I have a former neighbor who buried a (new) 40 ft shipping container. He had planned to put 3-4 ft (or more) of earth over it. Buy the time he added just 1 foot the roof was buckling (caving in). He added a row of 4×4 posts and 4×8 beam down the center and still never reached 2 ft depth (dry soil).
    OTOH He also buried 2 each, 20,000 gallon (former) in ground fuel tanks (one for misc dry storage, the other for water – We (I) figured out a way to seal the water tank interior for potable water use – long story, nasty job). Anyway, these eventually had 20 ft of soil over them and have had no problems.

    Also, I’ve seen ‘ol timer’ root cellars in ME, MT and BC just crudely dug into a hillside with on;y crude logs and matt of ‘sticks’ to hold back the soil (no walls at all). These had endured at least 100 years and were still perfectly serviceable (but perhaps not ‘safe’ to stay in for long)

  • August 25, 2008 at 8:49 am
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    Mike Oehler would be proud 🙂

    I just used my new haddon lumbermaker to make my first 5″x5″ cedar post last weekend. I highly recommend it over the beam machine because of its 6″ track.

    Where I bought land, there are no building codes so I’m able to go underground, strawbale, cordwood, cob, ect. I’m going to utilize passive solar as well but feel like time is running out and I need to atleast get my foundation in before the end of the year.

    The only thing I’m having trouble deciding is how far back from the road I want to be ( because of plowing snow and driveway construction costs ). But the SA Admin voice is telling me, get out of view of the street or obstruct the view of the house by curving the driveway. Any tips?

  • August 25, 2008 at 9:24 am
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    I’m going to put a center ridge pole down and a layer of logs down each side, and then sheet all of these, they’ll serve as gables / trusses.

    If necessary, from the inside of the structure, I can install truss supports, but at the moment, I’m not planning on needing these. The weight will be a factor.

    Frost line here is a couple of feet, if you pack dirt down, it’s less. It’s also less if you keep your dirt dry, this is a technique used in the more “modern” underground building structures, dry dirt does not create the humidity / moisture problems and stays at a more even temperature.

    By tarping the entire perimeter of the cellar out about ten feet from each wall, the perimeter will stay considerably dryer then normal, and thus the interior will be drier. I expect to have dry floors and walls, even in the spring melt.

    I’m simply going to use tarps for waterproofing. I’ve looking into 4 mil plastic sheeting, it’s unbelievably pricey these days (petroleum product) for just a tiny little roll. However, Costco has plastic tarps pretty cheap, they’ll last just as long at a fraction of the cost.

    The cellar sits on the very edge of a ridge top, and there won’t be any runoff to speak of, just direct downward moisture (snow and rain). The amount of water will not be that great at this elevation and with the layering, encircling tarps in place, the cellar will be sitting under mostly dry dirt, year round.

  • August 25, 2008 at 1:39 pm
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    Impressive, even at this early stage, and a whole lot of hard physical labor makes my arms hurt. Also, it puts my approximately 8’X 10″ cellar to shame. I’m rebuilding a 100+ year old cellar made of limestone boulders so the hole is already there but the trees that have grown into the sides and collapsed walls have to be dug and cut out.

    Tips for redalert. Think, too, about satellite surveillance so if you have cedar or other coniferous trees, place one or more buildings under them, if possible, especially small buildings, and especially root cellar. In dense vegetation they might not even be detectable. Well, hopefully not.

  • August 27, 2008 at 12:05 pm
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    Thanks Lynda,

    I’m not worried about the govt if thats what you mean by satellite surveillance, I’m more worried about the golden horde or roaming bandits when TSHTF. I’m a nobody in the eyes of the govt, I’m just some guy storing food and building a house. I’m no threat to them whatsoever. I think the govt is more concerned about people who are protesting or getting in their way. I see China as being their shining example of what they want here.

    Anyways, Admins root cellar inspired me, I have quite a few stacked 8 ft logs I can use so I might have a go at something similar to his. Im curious though how tall the logs are on the sidewalls, they look around 6′ tall each.

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