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Doors for the cellar

One of the long-term projects I've been wishing to complete is to fix the cellar entrance. The cellar itself is in good enough shape, but the entrance was rotten, only one door remaining. To function properly a cellar would need at least two doors, preferably three. The idea is that the main chamber has a thick layer of soil on top of it, and that the passage to the main chamber is divided into separate sections. As the layer of soil works as insulation, the main chamber would stay cool in the summer, yet above freezing in the winter. And to manage that stable temperature (around +2 to +6 °C) you don't want to let raw outdoor air freely flowing into the main chamber each time you open the door. So, more doors are needed. All these years I've been thinking about rebuilding the cellar entrance, as with its single door my cellar has been of limited use - it has only functioned late in the autumn when the outdoor temperature is anyway cool enough to store vegetables and stuff. And when the winter hits, that single door has not been enough to keep the freezing air out, so the main chamber froze every winter.

Well, this spring I collected some materials needed for the new entrance. I placed the materials near the cellar, thinking that some summer day I'll work with the project. Now it is autumn and the weather is getting cold. Sooner or later I need to dig up all the potatoes, and then I'll face the question; "Where to store all the potates?". They will be far too much to fit in the fridge, and the entrance hall of my house isn't yet cool enough to store potatoes for longer than a week. Luckily, I've had some free days and the weather was fine, so I decided to get the cellar renovated before harvesting the potatoes.

First I removed the old door and all the remaining old half-rotten planks. I used aspen logs to build the structure for the new entrance. For some reason aspen timber is rather resistant to moisture, it won't rot that easily. So I hope the new structure will last for a few decades. I've been storing some spruce planks which were left over from building my sauna - now those planks became the walls for the cellar entrance. The aspen logs were so thick that I could use a chainsaw to cut a few pieces away, yet leaving the log strong enough to support the weight of the roof. So I cut the top pieces to have a slightly curved shape, as I wanted to have a curved roof instead of a flat one. For the roof I used boards sawn from those storm-felled trees we were harvesting almost a year ago. Oh how I enjoy woodworking now when I have stacks of sawn timber at my yard - when I need a board or two I don't need to go shop for them at the sawmill, I can just walk to the stacks and pick what I need. I remember at times I was slightly frustrated when it felt that harvesting those storm-felled trees consumed way more time than I had thought, keeping me from pursuing the other projects I had hoped to work with. But I equally remember how I thought that "well, but you'll be happy once you have all the sawn timber and firewood this is going to yield." And that is so true - all that work pays off now.

I've some old unused rolls of asphalt roofing, and I thought the cellar entrance could use two layers of those to make it properly waterproof. When I had the wooden part of the roof constructed I realized that because of the curved shape some of the boards could use planing to remove sharp corners. For a moment I was thinking if I should borrow an electric planer from a neighbour. But then I thought about all those vintage planers I've been collecting - I picked one, spent fifteen minutes sharpening the blade and was delighted to see that this old tool was still perfectly usable, comfortable and efficient. I don't know for sure but I'd guess these planers date back to 1950's or 1960's. At those times tools were made to last for generations, no doubt.

And then the doors. I've never before built doors for a cellar. So I wasn't that sure how they should be. Or would it be a wise idea to leave a small trap-door for the cats to freely pass in and out, so that they could keep the mice population in check? How thick should the doors be? Do they need to be more or less air-thight, or is it okay if they let a minimal air through? As far as I understand it would be good to have some sort of air ventilation in the cellar, otherwise the air will become too moist for keeping vegetables. Again I decided to go on with my DIY-philosophy; if I don't know something then I just experiment based on my best guess. So, this year I build the cellar doors this way, and the coming years I will see if they work properly or if they need to be improved. (Wait, did someone ask: "exactly which way is he going to build those doors?" Nope, no-one asked that? Well, I'll tell you anyway: The doors are made of two layers of boards. One layer has the boards vertically, and the other horizontally. The vertical boards are 32mm thick, the horizontal ones are 22 mm thick, which makes the whole door about two inches thick.) Browsing through all the disorganized junk in my shack I found a pair of unused hinges, still wrapped in the packaging. Those made the hinges for the outmost door. For the inmost door I used a make-shift solution; two straps of leather. And there is a third door also, at the moment it doesn't have any hinges at all. But I believe that I can find a few pairs of old hinges which I can reuse. So, that remains to be done before the new entrance will be fully usable.

Yesterday I applied two layers of asphalt roofing - just in time, for today it is a rainy day. Well, this makes me feel satisfied. This has been one of those non-finished projects which has occasionally given me the uneasy feeling of "I really should learn to better manage my life to get these things done!". Seems like my life isn't completely messed up, for after all I got the cellar entrance done just in time. It only needs a little finishing touch, but I'm optimitic about that; fixing a few pairs of hinges isn't that massive a project and surely I can get it done before it will be time to harvest the potatoes.

The cellar entrance, all the old parts removed.
The cellar entrance, all the old parts removed.
The new structure starts to get shape.
The new structure starts to get shape.
The new entrance, almost finished.
The new entrance, almost finished.
A simple cross section of the cellar.
A simple cross section of the cellar.
299 users have voted.


A very interesting project. Thanks for sharing. :)
I only glanced at the pictures first and thought it was an elaborate toilet :P

Dan, Norfolk, UK.

Wow, very nice and useful cellar. Three doors system should be enought to keep "fridge" temperature inside main chamber. Anyway that will be perfect to storage not only potatoes. If you have so much wood maybe craft some shelves or crates and your cellar will become perfect place to storage jars with fruits, wegetables and mushrooms also always put a pack of beer inside so you'll have acces to cold beer any time - this is my lifehack, recommended :)


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