Saturday, June 2, 2012

Root Cellar Addendum

An email was passed along to me and I don't have a return address so I'll answer here. Maybe the answer is helpful to others.

The root cellar beams are not nailed to each other. They were lain down with 5" overlap on the center beam and an 18" overlap on the outside intentionally. Then 3 tons of dirt was laid over the top of them providing pressure downwards to hold them in place. I would have been happier with 6 tons of dirt but I began to distrust the strength of the center beam so I stopped. It will hold, I believe, but I want to see how it reacts between now and next year when we get the heavy winter rains.

In order for those beams to give way on anyone inside there would have to be 6" of sideways movement on the soil above them. The only thing that would cause that would be an earthquake or someone driving a battle tank over the top of it (and we wouldn't be sheltering inside in either of those circumstances).

I started to use nails and put in a couple of them before I realized that it was foolish. No nail could withstand even 1/100ths of the sideways pressure that it would take to shift those beams.

In addition, we do not live or hang out in the root cellar, at least not yet. I haven't even put food in there at this point because I want to wait a few weeks and make sure nothing shifts or holds. We're being overly cautious on that point, my friends who have built root cellars tell me, but I have not followed this process before (though untold millions of pioneers have) and I want to be cautious. The only thing that would force us at this point to seek shelter in the root cellar would be a tornado bearing down on us directly and in that event it would be far safer than in our plywood shack of a cabin.

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