How about a Cold Room in the Basement? - Econo Basement - Basement and Garage Services Calgary - Featured Image

How about a Cold Room in the Basement?

There is something fundamental about the urge to store food in the fall. We see it in many animals and we feel it ourselves! The cold room is the answer to this impulse. A cold room is a cool subterranean space, usually located in the basement, ideal for storage of vegetables, fruits, nuts, preserves, beverages, and bulk purchases. It’s an old fashioned idea that’s once again on the rise as it‘s a convenient, inexpensive and energy efficient method of keeping a large number of items cool. It’s particularly popular with those who seek self-sufficiency and/or support buying local.

How to build a cold room in your basement:

You can create a cold room in your basement by walling off and insulating a corner area. The concrete walls will provide the cooling action while insulation will keep cool air from other basement rooms. Find a certified contractor who specializes in basement finishing and has built cold rooms. He will help you build a cold room uniquely suited to your needs.

  • Choose a corner location for maximum exposure to exterior walls. The more concrete, the better. Ideally one of the exterior walls will have northern exposure.
  • Install two 4 inch dryer vents to create a siphon effect letting you regulate the flow of outside air into the insulated cold room. Choose vents with manually operated dampers (to control air flow) and internal screens (to prevent insects and animals from entering) and install them at least 10 inches apart. Caulk well.
  • Run ductwork (dryer pipe or PVC pipe) from one of the vents to the floor to direct cold air downward. Cold air will flow in one vent and down to the floor while warm air will rise and exit via the other vent.
  • You may wish to install a small exhaust fan to supplement air flow (optional).
  • Frame the walls and doorway. 
  • Insulate the interior walls with two inch extruded polystyrene foam board as it’s moisture tolerant, reasonably priced, easy to work with and perfect for evening temperature swings.
  • Use polyurethane construction adhesive to secure the foam board applying a continuous line.
  • Do not insulate the exterior walls.  
  • Add a plastic vapor barrier on the warm side of the structure. Tape the seams.
  • Cover the outside with panelling or drywall. Do not finish the inside walls.
  • Insulate the ceiling of the cold room, starting with a vapour barrier and then rigid foam insulation. 
  • Plan your shelf layout for maximum air movement. Ceiling mounted metal shelving works well.
  • Install an insulated door sealing the base with weather stripping. 

Tip: Clean and maintain your cold room regularly. A build-up of dust or debris provides food for mold.

What to store in your cold room: 

A basement cold room is a perfect place to store garden produce, non-perishable food items, products bought in bulk, and beverages. It can help preserve the foods from your garden as well as those bought at a local farmer’s market. Fill your cold room with:

  • Root crops: onions, garlic, parsnips, beets, turnips, rutabagas, potatoes
  • Other vegetables: tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, winter cabbage
  • Fruit: apples, pears, oranges
  • Flower bulbs awaiting spring planting
  • Beverages: wine, beer, carbonated soda, bottled water, homemade apple cider
  • Preserves, jams, canned goods
  • Non-perishable foods: nuts, pasta, cereal, rice, oatmeal, coconut, beans/lentils (in air tight containers)
  • Temporary storage of overflow from holiday meals; Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc.


  • Only store clean, intact, unblemished fruits and vegetables as they are less likely to rot.
  • Examine your stock occasionally to find and remove spoiled items.
  • Vegetables and fruits can be stored from a few days to several months.
  • Most non-perishable items require storage in air tight containers. 
  • Rotate stock to avoid creating outdated items.
  • The ideal temperature for a cold room is between 2 and 10 degrees Celsius. 
  • The ideal relative humidity is between 85 to 90%. 
  • If your humidity level is too low, occasionally spray the floor with water. 
  • Use a battery operated thermometer/hygrometer to help you monitor storage conditions.

If you have a want/need to keep a large number of items cool for an extended time, a basement cold room may be the solution for you. A passively cooled room is an inexpensive, convenient and energy efficient solution to the need for cold storage. If you’re interested in constructing a basement cold room, call the Calgary basement experts, Econo Basements at (403) 768-0256 or email at We have the experience, knowledge and proficiency to help you achieve your dreams.

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