Two Letters Re: Storage Without a Basement


I saw your entry and reply regarding the difficulty of maintaining preps and self in hot areas without electricity. You referred to Backwoods Home magazine, but you may want to just refer folks to “Zeer Pots” or “Pot in Pot” coolers:

I’ve used them and they work pretty well, especially when you stack the deck, as in the second article above. I don’t know if anyone has tried to scale them up to locker/container size, but I’d be interested in reading about it if you put out the word and got a reply. – T.J.

o o o

Good afternoon, Hugh,

On July 2 you posted a note from MM regarding basement-less storage, and one from PlainJanePrepper on a similar issue.

First, MM’s issue: You suggested “taking” a couple feet from adjacent rooms to build a hidden storage area. My builder, without realizing it, did that for me. He constructed a 30-inch wide linen closet adjacent to a bathroom that’s 7 1/2 feet deep with an 8 foot ceiling. I built a thin pallet to keep the boxes off the floor and filled the back 6 feet with my freeze-dried food. The front 16 inches is wire linen shelves from the local big box store with a light plywood back, painted to match the walls. Opening the door, one sees towels and sheets in front of a painted wall, without a hint of the 120 cubic feet of food behind it.

When it’s time to use the food, the wire shelves pop out, and removing 4 screws allows the painted 1/4 plywood panel to be removed. I wouldn’t store anything in that space I needed quickly, or that needed frequent rotation, such as canned food, but for things needing only annual or semi-annual access, it works well.

As for PJP’s problem, you’re right, without a basement there’s only a storage building as an option. I’d suggest making it as small as possible but large enough to add to resale value as a garden shed. A couple recent issues of Fine Homebuilding magazine (Spring 2014 time frame, which she can probably find in her library) had articles on building insulated slabs to reduce heat loss through the concrete in cold climates, and how to “hyper insulate” walls with two-part, closed cell spray-in foam. Having lived in the south for over two decades, I can testify that the same techniques used up north to keep heat inside during winter work just as well in the south to keep heat out during summer. Thick, tight walls, full of insulation, with highly reflective exterior coatings are your friend.

“Up north” one sometimes sees what is called a “cold roof” to prevent ice dams caused by heat escaping from the living space, melting snow which freezes into ice, blocking gutters and allowing water to seep under the shingles and into the house. It’s just a second roof, spaced a couple inches above the sheathing over the trusses or rafters, vented at the peak. As the roof warms in the sun, cold air rises from the eaves, taking with it any warm air that’s leaked through the first sheathing layer, preventing the snow on the exterior roof surface from melting. The same concept applies in reverse during summer, when a fly is placed over a camper’s tent; the fly shades the tent “roof” and allows air movement between the top of the tent and the fly. PJP might look into that type of roof construction.

Very bright white paint is your friend in the south, as is a white or aluminum-colored metal roof surface, whether single layer or “cold roof” type; make the building as air tight as possible. Any air infiltration will be hot and humid. Remember, before commonly available refrigeration, ice was harvested in the winter and stored all summer in very well insulated, ice houses, and they didn’t have the insulation and sealing technology we have now. – N.K.