Several years ago I converted my wine cellar into a root cellar. I had less interest in my cheap Spanish red wines and more interest in other ways of preserving food. Click the thumbnails to see a larger image.


Door open, looking into 4-foot wide root cellar.

Entrance door to root cellar.

Schematic diagram of root cellar ducting.



The room was there, under the basement stairs, when I started on the wine cellar project. One wall of the cellar is the cement block wall of the basement. I insulated the other wall, the ceiling, the staircase, and covered it up with drywall. I insulated the door and covered the inside of it with plywood.


Added thickness on door for insulation.

Interior looking at open door.

Potatoes tucked under stairway.




The root cellar was half finished when I started on it because of the wine cellar. There’s a definite pleasure in having things work out like that.

The recommendations I found for making a root cellar advised to build it next to a basement window, for easy access to the outdoor cold air. The sources said to have two openings through a panel that would replace the window. One opening high up to exhaust warm air to the outside and the other opening would accommodate an elbow and a vertical duct that went down from the second panel opening to the floor.


Normal way to duct a root cellar.

In my case I had some distance to go from the window to the root cellar. I used insulated flexible ducting to keep the warmer air of the basement from contaminating my precious cold air coming in from outside. And to keep the cold air from cooling the warm air in the basement.


Window insert panel with holes for ducts.

Insulated flexible ducting installed.

Insulated flexible ducting on floor before installing.

The basement window was modified by taking out the glass, putting insulation in the space, and covering both sides of the window with exterior plywood. 6-inch galvanized ducts connected the inside to the outside.


Insulated flexible ducting connects here.

Vertical down duct.


Told you so.



Plastic segments cut from protein powder containers, supported by deformed coat hangers, support the flexible ducting, which behaves like a fat, flexible anaconda snake. I take great pleasure in being able to salvage anything that would otherwise wind up in the trash or the recycling bin.

Support cut from plastic container.

Coat hanger stretched into loop.



The "anaconda" suspended from ceiling.

It seemed to make sense to me to follow the recommendation of having a high-low ducting arrangement, until I did it that way. I don’t know what happened to the warm air because the cold air poured in through both ducts. I left them that way because it gave me more control over temperature. Two circular plywood plugs can either close both ducts, open both ducts, or close one and leave the other open. The geometry of my ducting apparently disallowed the cold/warm airflow of a more conventional root cellar.



Upper plug, ditto.

Lower plug inserted into duct.

On the outside, the ducts ended in a window well.

I tried using a computer cooling fan to hasten the flow of warm air out of the cellar. That didn’t work.

I tried adding height to the outdoor warm air exhaust duct, thinking that it would draw the warm air out, like a chimney. That didn’t work, either. I salvaged a squirrel cage blower with a motor on it and that didn’t work, either. It did make one heck of a racket upstairs, though. I didn’t bother to photograph the squirrel cage apparatus.


Original ducts in window well.

This fan later found use in a solar collector.

The chimney.

What did work was waiting for the temperature to get substantially lower outside. That worked really well. With my not-so-fancy-but-functional wooden plugs I can keep the root cellar at about 38°F for most of the winter.
Sometimes the smartest thing to do is nothing, and just wait for Mother Nature. There’s another definite pleasure in having things work out like that, too.