root cellars in Texas

Discussion in 'General Food and Foraging Discussion' started by sgtrunningfool, Feb 27, 2013.

  1. sgtrunningfool

    sgtrunningfool Well-Known Member

    It seems that in almost every root cellar discussion someone mentions they can't have one because they live in Texas. Is this true and why? I am moving to the San Angelo area and would like to build one. I was wondering if this is myth. Thank you
  2. Country Living

    Country Living Supporting Member

    Heat and humidity. Terrible combination.

  3. PackerBacker

    PackerBacker ExCommunicated

    What about them though? That's why you can't have a root cellar?

    It's not hot under ground and humidity is your friend for a root cellar.
  4. Boomy

    Boomy Archive of Useless Knowledge

    My area is high water tables and ???????
    There are no basements from Houston to the Valley. North of us, I don't know.
  5. GaryS

    GaryS Member

    Not many basements in East Texas, but there is no reason you couldn't build a root cellar. There are many underground storm cellars all over the state. However, I would use concrete, seal it well, and provide powered ventilation. And don't place it in a low spot, as torrential rains are common here in summer.

    Long, hot summers will heat the soil much deeper than in northern states, so you won't have as much natural cooling as is desireable.

    One final comment. We have nearly every poisonous critter in the country somewhere in our state, and they love to find cool places during the hot months. I've seen scorpions squeeze under a door that has full weatherstripping around it, and I once found a 15" copperhead slithering down a hallway in the house. I have no idea how he got in, but he found a way...big mistake for him! A blindsnake also found his way in, but he was probably small enough to squeeze by the weatherstripping.

    The new house we just built has a concrete "safe room" in the center of the house that functions as a storm cellar and pantry. It's isolated from the central heat and air, but attached to the slab, so it should be cooler than the rest of the house, and it has no opening to the outside that might invite unwelcome visitors to cool off.
  6. cowboyhermit

    cowboyhermit Supporting Member

    Thank you for making this thread, I just asked the question in another one and then saw it asked in another one yet.
    I posted this in the other thread but anyways, a root cellar does NOT need to be below ground level. Even in places where digging was easy many root cellars were constructed above ground for various reasons, the main one being water table issues imo. To build one above ground requires a lot of material but the work very well.
  7. catsraven

    catsraven Meoww

    Clay soils that expand and contract. Texans have a hard time with foundations cracking because of it. When its been dry you can see the ground crack and see quite deep down into the ground. High water table in some places and lime stone bedrock close to the surface.
  8. emilysometimes

    emilysometimes Member

    Hardly anyone in Texas has a basement due to the soil conditions Catsraven mentioned. That being said, my grandparents and great-grandparents built root cellars/ storm cellars on their land. Both are still there and in decent shape after close to 100 years but they are FULL of black widows and scorpions.
  9. cowboyhermit

    cowboyhermit Supporting Member

    It seems to be a matter of it being difficult to construct a below ground structure for various reasons, obviously it is possible but not easy. Also you will not reach as cool a temperature as more temperate climates, still much cooler in the summer and a stable temperature. None of the problems mentioned with below ground construction relate to above ground root cellars though.
    For what it's worth it is not very easy to build a root cellar this far north either, frost line can go down past 6 feet :)
  10. Caribou

    Caribou Time Traveler

    I know what you mean Cowboy. Frost line around here can go down up to 400 feet. (Not a typo)
  11. cowboyhermit

    cowboyhermit Supporting Member

  12. Blackjack1

    Blackjack1 New Member

    I joined this forum because I get so tired of hearing the "water table to high" or "clay soil" remarks from people that don't have a clue really. It is amazing what people will say without knowledge or being challenged.

    Here is why there are few cellars/basements in Texas - $'s.

    When you put in a foundation in northern and/or colder climates, you must get below the frost line. The frost line in many of those places is 4 feet - well if you must pay to dig 4 feet, it is not that much more to go another 4 feet to double your square footage. In Texas the frost line is like 18" or less, you have to dig another 6 1/2 feet or more to have a basement - makes no sense here - makes tons of sense in those colder climates. Same clay issues and water issues but for little additional $'s you get a basement.
  13. Davarm

    Davarm Texan

    I went to visit my grandparents(98 and 99yo) yesterday and our conversation drifted to how they kept food when my grandmother was a young girl in the 20's.

    She said that they did indeed have a cellar, made of oak logs and sandstone, but in the summer it didn't keep anything cool, it was mainly to keep foods through the winter as an outside storage area. She also said that it was "pretty deep" but since it was 80+ years ago and she was a young girl, pretty deep could have been anywhere from a few feet to 10-15 feet.

    According to her, it was in a stand of post oaks that kept the area shaded in the summer and in sandy soil(they lived less than a mile from the Brazos River).

    Almost 15 years ago when we moved onto our property we had a septic tank put in and they dug down almost 10 feet to install it. The sandy-clay "soil" was so hard and dry, they parked the back hoe and brought in a jack hammer and at the bottom of the pit - the soil was by no means "cool". It was in September at the end of an average summer so in this area it looks like to get a cool cellar you would have to go down more than 10 feet.

    To me, these bits of info says that a root cellar is possible in our area but not really practical as a means of "cool storage" in the summer.
  14. Country Living

    Country Living Supporting Member

    I surmise from your statements, if you are from Texas, you live in the panhandle. We don't have root cellars in my part of Texas because of what Dave said and the water table IS too high.

    You stated the only reason you even joined this forum is because you were so tired of hearing..... from people who don't have a clue. Be very, very careful about casting disparaging remarks on the members. We don't take such things kindly when they are without merit.