Underground cellars have a variety of uses, especially in an off-grid location. They can be used for storage, for shelter, for survival, and other applications. The most common are root cellars for storing produce from the garden, wine cellars for storing beverages, and survival shelters for protection from storms or other dangers.
Underground cellars can be purchased pre-made and installed or a homeowner can create one. Underground cellar DIY can be simple or complicated, but most of the time will follow the same basic steps.
Because so much of an underground cellar build and installation requires careful planning, starting with a session to determine the location, supplies, and permits required is something to consider. If the property is inside city limits, permits are probably required for a large undertaking such as this. There are also many underground pipes and wires, so checking with the appropriate utilities to verify locations of these is definitely a wise choice.
There are several factors to consider when planning an underground cellar. A root cellar will require a certain level ofhumidity, temperature, and ventilation to provide the best preservation for food. A wine cellar will need additional cooling and needs to be protected with a vapor barrier to prevent mold and mildew. A survival shelter will require security, as well as ventilation and storage areas for supplies.
An underground cellar may not be completely underground. It may be completely underground, or it may be partly above ground. It can be accessed through the home interior or it could be a completely separate structure. It may be dug into the dirt, covered with soil, or it could be made of concrete. The advantage of soil is that it aids in maintaining the proper humidity level and temperature, especially when buried underground completely.
To create an underground cellar, the first component is “underground.” If the property on which the cellar is to be built is level, it will be necessary when creating a survival cellar to dig at least six to eight feet down, and as wide and long as desired.
A cellar meant only for storing the harvest may not need to be as large as one that is meant to house people in a pinch. A smaller root cellar should have a layer of gravel at the bottom and be lined with stones to help keep things cool and allow liquids to drain if they do end up in there. Place vegetables inside a tote or barrel and cover with hay or straw, then cover with a door of some type.
Some of the soil should be reserved to re-cover the shelter cellar when completed. If the property has elevation differences, it may be possible to essentially dig it into the side of a hill. Remember that supporting the sides and ceiling of the cellar will be crucial. Digging can be accomplished with a shovel, but it will be much easier to use excavation equipment.
It is also important to be aware of drainage – an area that floods is not a good place for an underground cellar.Finding out the level of the water table can help to determine the best location to put something under the ground.
At the same time, the cellar will need to be convenient or it will not get used, no matter how attractive the idea may be. Having it within a reasonable distance from a door to the main dwelling will make it easy to get to it in a pinch or in the case of a disaster or catastrophe situation.
Ventilation is extremely important when the cellar is to be used as a bunker. People cannot live long without oxygen. The air must be cycled and kept fresh, even when not being used for anything but storage. This means that air vents will need to be included, so the excavation should include space for these. An air filtration system should be installed, and extra air filters should be stored somewhere within the cellar.
Including running water is helpful, but if the general supply is interrupted, it would be there, as well. A rainwater catching system and filter are a good way to handle this. Placing the cellar near a creek, stream, or river could also aid in the quest for fresh water.
Creating a bunker large enough to include storage will be worth it in the long run. Though it will take longer, adding an extra room for storing fresh water and food, as well as other supplies, is a good plan. In the process, include a back door. One entrance and exit can cause the underground cellar to become a tomb.
Metal, bricks or concrete blocks, or concrete are all good materials to use to create the bunker. Wood can be used in a pinch, but is not recommended, as it will not last as long nor be as sturdy; it is likely to rot and will decompose, and it could catch fire.
While it is not required to hide the underground cellar, it can be a wise option. Keeping others from being aware of the place where fresh water, food, and ammunition is stored can keep it safe from those who would steal it. It can be hidden by covering it with grass or sod, rocks and bushes, or even a garden. The entrance can be hidden best if it can be accessed from inside the main home, but can also be disguised with a shed or outbuilding.
Resources for Underground Cellar DIY
This book from 1983 explains what is required to build an underground root cellar on your property.
This offers a lot of information in detail about how to build with as little actual materials as possible and still end up with an excellent underground location.
This covers everything from choosing a location to what sort of bunker to build and a lot more.
Create your own safe place that is defensible with plans and information from this handy guide.
Design and build an underground concrete bunker with the help of this planning guide.
This book shows a variety of bunkers around the world, as well as considering other options for bunkers that might not be one’s first thought.