Can A Crawl Space Be Used As A Root Cellar? [And How To Do It]

Your crawl space is integral to the foundation of your home. It acts as a barrier between your home and the ground and gives you a place to put your pipes and ductwork out of sight. But what if it could be more? What if it could also function as a root cellar that can store your fruits and vegetables? Stay tuned as we give you what we've found from our research on this topic.

Yes, a crawl space can be converted into a root cellar with a little work. You can achieve this by following these steps:

  1. Cut an opening through the wall.
  2. Dig soil out of the crawl space.
  3. Level the floors.
  4. Put in flooring.
  5. Add shelves.
  6. Install a door.

If you grow your own produce or simply want to store food long-term without taking up all the space in your kitchen, this DIY project may be for you. Keep reading as we dive into the details of how to turn your crawl space into a root cellar. We'll also give you other options to help you maximize the use of your crawl space.

Crawlspace with visible insulation on the wooden membrane, Can A Crawl Space Be Used As A Root Cellar? [And How To Do It]

How To Convert Your Crawl Space Into A Root Cellar

A crawl space is a great place to store food. It maintains a cool temperature that will help keep your canned goods in good condition and extend the life of your produce. However, you will need to set up shelving and be able to access it easily to perform proper food storage rotation. So you'll need to put in work in your crawl space to achieve this.

Insulation under the crawlspace of a house

Follow the steps for this DIY project:

What You'll Need

  • Circular saw
  • Chalk
  • Shovel
  • Bucket
  • Rake
  • Trowel
  • Sledgehammer
  • Water spray
  • Concrete or your choice of flooring

1. Cut an opening through a wall

First, you'll need to cut through the wall to gain easy access to your crawl space. Remove the cinder blocks starting with two blocks from the top row. Take out two half blocks and one full block from the middle row.

If dirt is blocking your way to the blocks, remove it. Then, remove two full blocks from the bottom row.

Use chalk to mark either end of where you want the opening to be. Put on a face mask to protect your lungs from dust and dirt. Then, grab your saw or power cutter to cut through the wall.

Once you're done, knock out the remaining blocks in the center with your sledgehammer. Be careful not to knock out any blocks that are near the edges of the opening.

2. Dig soil out of the crawl space

How much soil you dig will depend on your target size for your root cellar. This step will be rather time-consuming, so be prepared. Use a bucket to save the soil you're digging out for later use or disposal. Make sure the depth is uniform as you continue digging.

3. Level the floors

Use your shovel and rake to level out the dirt on the floor and get rid of any bumps and rocks. Some experts also recommend pouring sand over the soil that should go up to about five inches thick. You can compute how much sand you need by measuring the length and width of your crawl space and multiplying them to get the square footage.

4. Put in flooring

This will depend on your choice of flooring. Concrete is a common choice for crawl spaces, and for this, you'll need to follow a few steps. Spray dry soil with water to help it compact well. Then, mix your concrete with water; there should be approximately six gallons of water for every one cubic foot of cement.

For best results, use a plate compactor to further compact the soil and strengthen the dirt base. Finally, you can pour in your concrete and spread it out using your shovel. Start from the opposite end of your wall opening and work your way towards it. After covering the floor with concrete, use your trowel to smooth it out.

There are other flooring options for your crawl space such as tile, wood, and laminate flooring. However, these may require you to have a vapor barrier installed before you put them in.

5. Add in shelving

Now you can add your shelves and storage bins. Typically, root cellar shelves are made of wood. However, since your crawl space often gets exposed to moisture, it's best to steer clear of these.

Metal shelves are a good choice, but they may be prone to rust. Plastic shelves and bins may be the most ideal option for crawl space root cellars.

6. Install a door

At this point, you can install a door to give you access to your crawl space. Set up the frame first, then install the latch and hinges, followed by the door lock. Use a screwdriver to secure the door into the frame. A barn door is an easy-to-use and time-saving option for sealing your crawl space.

Tips To Optimize Your Crawl Space For Food Storage

Fiberglass insulation in the crawlspace with a dehumidifier

Now that you've turned your crawl space into a root cellar, you want to start storing away your food in it. However, crawl spaces face plenty of issues that regular storage spaces do not. Here are some tips to make your crawl space the ideal food storage space:

Keep pests and rodents away

It's extremely important to keep your produce in airtight containers with lids. This way, pests and rodents won't find their way to your food.

Other tips include sealing gaps and cracks where they can enter your crawl space. You can also set traps and invest in organic pesticides. Make sure to schedule professional extermination on a regular basis.

Seal against moisture

While it can be quite costly, encapsulation is a good investment for your crawl space in the long run. It can protect against water damage and mold and mildew growth which can affect your food, your home's structural integrity, and your health.

Provide adequate ventilation

Proper ventilation is one of the most effective ways to stave off moisture and keep your produce fresh. Options for ventilation include installing an exhaust fan or using the air from your HVAC system. The most effective way to ventilate your crawl space, according to experts, is by installing a dehumidifier.

Learn more about your ventilation options by reading this informative article: "Do Cellars Need Ventilation? [Including Wine & Root Cellars]."

Can you use a crawl space as storage?

If you don't want it as a root cellar for your produce, you can also use your crawl space as a storage area for any items of your choosing. These may include:

  • Clothes
  • Unused items
  • Appliances
  • Tools
  • Gardening equipment

Keep in mind, however, that you'll need to ensure your crawl space is suitable for storage. You will need to install a vapor barrier and proper flooring. You will also need to insulate and ventilate it properly. In addition, it's best to seal your items in containers before stashing them away in your crawl space.

What should not be stored in a crawl space?

While a crawl space can work as a storage space for some of your belongings, there are items that are sure to suffer damage or attract pests if they're stored in this part of the home. These include:

  • Books
  • Photos
  • Toys
  • Documents
  • Wood furniture
  • Rugs and carpets
  • Flammable objects

Is it possible to convert a crawl space into a basement?

Yes, it is possible to convert your crawl space into a basement! This is a great way to add both livable space and storage space into your home. However, be prepared: this kind of project will take a lot of time, money, and even paperwork.

A ray of light showing in the crawlspace

To achieve this, you will need approval from an engineer and from your city. You will also need to install walls, flooring, house framing, foundation piers, plumbing, and stairs. Because this is a labor-intensive project, you will require professional services at some point.

The cost for turning a crawl space into a basement can go up to about $100,000 on average. It can take around six to eight weeks as well.

For a more extensive overview of this topic, take a look at this article: "Can You Convert A Crawl Space Into A Basement?"

In Closing

Crawlspace with visible insulation on the wooden membrane

Turning your crawl space into a root cellar is a good way to make the most use of that often-forgotten part of your home. However, you will need to put in a bit of work to remodel your crawl space and make sure it's suitable for food and produce storage. The time and effort you put in will be worth it once you finish the project and enjoy a root cellar ready for use.

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