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Old 02/19/07, 04:35 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 264
Garden shed with a basement?

The little cabin where I live does not have a basement. Tornados come through the neighboring counties several times a year. My best option at those times is to load up the dogs and cats and drive to a neighbor's basement.

I'm planning on building a nice little garden/tool shed--maybe 16'x16'--when I'm able, and I was playing with the idea of building it with a basement. Help me think it through: What problems do you see with this idea? Does it sound generally feasible or do you think it would be more trouble than it's worth? I know very little about sheds or basements, and I fear I may be overlooking some obvious points.
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Old 02/19/07, 06:10 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: nova scotia
Posts: 6,524
You know, this might not be a bad idea.! I don't have a basement either. I don't think we have tornados but just a few years ago we had our first really bad hurricane . who knows. we could have more. I also plan to build a shed this summer and I will be looking forward to some thoughts on this also.
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Old 02/19/07, 06:20 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Michigan's thumb
Posts: 15,887
Drainage would be an issue. You will probably have a professional do all or part of your basement, and this person would know what to do to keep water out of your basement. You can't just dig a hole in the ground and slap on cement. I lived in an old house at one time, stone foundation. The house was on top of the ridge, and the original builders had run a tunnel or pipe from the basement and out until it hit the slope. This kept the basement from flooding, though it did get damp.
Nothing is as strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength - St. Francis de Sales
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Old 02/19/07, 06:43 PM
In Remembrance
Join Date: May 2002
Location: illinois but i have a homestead building in missouri
Posts: 1,436
Sounds like a good idea to me. Might I suggest that you build it into the side of a hill if you have such a thing on your property with the basement opening on the downside of the hill. It could double as a root cellar as well.

Mus uni non fidit antro. ~ A mouse does not rely on just one hole.----Plautus
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Old 02/19/07, 08:21 PM
Dave in Ohio's Avatar  
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: OH
Posts: 128
Sounds like a good idea, if kept quiet could be used as a safe room, good place to store things that you don't want others to know about. It is something I will have to consider.
“When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” -Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)
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Old 02/19/07, 08:22 PM
north central Texas
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Texas
Posts: 300
It sounds like your main concern is protection from Tornadoes. I have lived in areas that get Tornadoes my entire life. If you are looking for information on building for tornado protection, Google Texas Tech U. tornado research. They have done extensive research on practical ways for the home owner to provide for tornado protection. Some are very economical. Texas Tech is located in Lubbock, Texas which was hit by a monster tornado years ago. So they had local examples of what worked and what didn't. Here we don't use basements as in the wet season, the water table is 6 inches below the surface.

Good Luck,

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Old 02/19/07, 08:32 PM
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 6,395
I knew of someone that had a homemade one like you are talking about that they used as a root cellar too. They built benches all around and put old tires on the floor to keep their feet out of the water because sometimes it got some at the bottom of it. Think about electrocution of a power line goes down.
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Old 02/20/07, 10:09 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Ar Ozarks
Posts: 881
Definitely pay attention to drainage. With some thoughtful design you could certainly end up with a great root cellar and cool room (use the damp to your advantage).

I lived in a house once that had a shed with a basement. The basement was 'hidden' and had water in it so we used it for storage. One spring we had some serious weather and when we went out to check on the shed contents we found the floor had been build just resting on a rim joist. After years of damp there had been some rotting and the whole floor tipped! All of our stored belongings were in the basement in 3-4 feet of water. What a mess! Perhaps that lesson learned will give you some insight to a better design.
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Old 02/20/07, 11:30 AM
pheasantplucker's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Ohio
Posts: 4,056
I agree with the idea of building on the side of a hill and using it as a root cellar. Perhaps keep emergency supplies, such as matches, candles, water, cots and blankets. Great idea. Good luck with the project and if you "pull it off" let's see some pics!
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Old 02/20/07, 11:41 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 2,002
In the past they were called "storm cellars" in tornado country, and I think that is a good idea. Might even borrow it when i do the gararge at "The Place".

I have ofter wondered why the double wide "manufactured homes" aren't required to have a cut out in the middle, say 12 X12, that you could put in a cellar/block house for a whole lot of reasons.
Then put the two haves together around the "Storm cellar."
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Old 02/20/07, 02:59 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Michigan's thumb
Posts: 15,887
Double wides can built put over a good foundation, either crawl space or basement. If you want your DW put on a basement, the manufacturer will include the door and steps into the plan.
Nothing is as strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength - St. Francis de Sales
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Old 02/20/07, 03:15 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Near Louisville, KY
Posts: 243
We did exactly what you are talking about and it works wonderfully. We built a 10 by 20 root cellar/storm cellar. We relied heavily on the book Root Cellaring by Nancy and Mike Bubel for the design.

The root cellar was dug right next to our pole barn. We then added an overhang to the pole barn which extends over the root/storm cellar. There is an alcove area before the door to the root cellar. The root cellar door faces to the front. The garden shed door is on the right side. The garden shed itself goes over the root cellar. On the back is a garage door that leads to the lawn mower/wheel barrow shed

We absolutely love it, and wouldn't change anything about it - except to make it bigger of course! We have spent several hours down there during tornado warnings. We keep our canned goods down there. There is also water down there. We store our sealed wheat there, as well as all of our root crops. There are candles and matches. During hunting season we hung 3 deer carcasses down there to age, and all of our hunter friends were so jealous. We pull the truck up to the alcove area, hang the deer in the alcove area, skin it, then carry it straight down to the root cellar.

Because the garden shed is on top of the cellar, we did not have to cover it with dirt to get the extra insulation needed for a root cellar. The protection from the garden shed keeps it insulated enough from the sun.

Drainage was defintely the biggest issue. The first storm, we had an inch of standing water in it. Turns out one drainage tube was blocked. We got that fixed pretty easily. There is drainage built in under the cellar and around the cellar.

The concrete slab ceiling was amazingly easy. They built three temporary load bearing walls, then they put metal sheets on top of those walls. The concrete was poured directly on the metal sheets and the rebar that was in the side walls was bent into the wet concrete. A week later, they removed the temporary wood walls. The metal remains in place. I think the concrete is 8-10 inches thick, but I don't remember exactly.

Our only problem was we hit bedrock a bit earlier than expected, so the root cellar is only 5 feet 4 inches high. That's no problem for me b/c I'm only 5 feet, but others have to bend over.

So, you aren't crazy. Just make sure you've got the drainage handled and you should be fine. I love having a place to store food. And with having 8 young children, I feel much safer having a safe place to go. When we hear a tornado watch, we start to get ready. As soon as we are in a tornado warning, we go down. Jim usually brings our little tv, so we've actually watched a couple of movies down there. The one thing I keep meaning to put down there, but keep forgeting, is a potty bucket and some toilet paper.

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Old 02/20/07, 03:54 PM
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Location: Wisconsin
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Any pic's? sounds intresting.
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Old 02/20/07, 03:58 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 7,807
if you did in side of a hill it could be dug with an end loader

but either way digging the hole is the most daunting task

concrete block filled with mortar just have to keep them level and plumb

or pour concrete several inches at a time this is how my basment was poured in 1909
with ply wood you could probably do 16 at a time wothout to much ectra bracing
footings are easy just fill a trench with concrete and leave rebar sticking out

keep it square and kerosine makes a good form release

i figure you mean to do a wood floor in main level of shed
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Old 02/20/07, 04:41 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 264
Lots of good feedback here; thanks for the encouragement and information. I'm glad I'm not the only one who's had this idea.

Drainage--excellent point. My neighbor's basement tends to flood every hard rain, so I will work on figuring out how to avoid that.

Is there a significant difference between the construction of a basement and a root cellar, or is it just what it's used for?

I live on a hill, and it might be possible to dig it into the side of the hill--only right now that hillside is a forest, and it would be a little farther from the house than I'd planned.

The most obvious and immediate use is storm protection, but I'd considered the possibility of using it as a safe room and/or storage place as well. I'd like it to be comfortable enough that I could put a cot down there for occasionally bad nights. (In other words, not flooded and not black with mold from the damp.)
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Old 02/22/07, 12:27 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: near Edmonton AB
Posts: 3,717
You've had lots of good ideas, I'll just toss one more your way ... you might consider the Insulated Concrete Forms if you want something simple to set up. They go together like Lego, kinda, and you fill the insides with concrete: when you are done you have insulation and concrete all together, nice and solid. My crawl space is built with those. Still needs a floor, of course - my floor was gravel, then that solid foam insulation stuff, then concrete poured over and smoothed flat. I have weeping tile around the outside of the crawl space for drainage, but we're fairly dry here.

The ICFs are not cheap, but if you haven't got forms etc to hand for pouring a traditional basement type structure, they can be very handy. Sometimes the convenience is worth the cost - plus, you do get insulation on both inside and outside this way.
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Old 02/22/07, 10:15 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Ar Ozarks
Posts: 881
My house and basement are made with ICF's and we're very pleased.
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