I spent around $65 on this project.  If I had used the thicker 3/4" dowels or oak dowels, the cost would have been 75 - 80 dollars.  There are definitely cheaper options, I will show those as well.


My Costs

(7) 1/2" x 48" Poplar dowels                 $1.68 ea.      $11.76

(3) 3/4" x 5 1/2 x 8' Pine boards           $7.37 ea.      $22.11

3/4" x 2' x 2' Birch plywood panel                               $9.97

Minwax Polycrylic 11.5 fl oz                                        $11.97

(2) Paint cans                                           $5.38 ea.      $10.76

Note: Sandpaper, glue, etc. not included

TOTAL  (before tax)                                                      $66.57


LESS EXPENSIVE OPTION - I'm sure there are money saving options that I haven't considered...but here is one option to build the project on the cheap.


Use pine strips (square dowels) instead of the round dowels, cut from 3/4" pine boards.  I base the cost on using a 3/4" x 5 1/2" x 8' pine board.  You would cut four  3/4" strips (3" of the 5 1/2" total width of the board).  Cut the strips in half to make eight strips (you only need seven).  We'll say you have approximately half the board left.  The total:                                                               $3.69

If you used pallet wood instead of the pine boards, the cost of the wood would be entirely free.                       $0

Check the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store for deals on finishes.  Make sure you get one that actually seals the wood (not just a stain)                                           About $5

Use paint cans you already have.  Clean them out thoroughly and peel off labels.                                        $0

TOTAL  (before tax)                                                     $8.69 (it would cost even less if you use pallet wood to make the square dowels as well)

Urban Root Cellar - Green Living / Sustainability

We changed a few things on the version we built:

1. We use a French cleat to hang it on the wall.   This makes it easier to hang on the wall, solid / stable once it is on the wall, and easier to move if you ever want to hang it somewhere else.

2. Used paint cans instead of metal pails.  They are slightly smaller, but about the same height, so I think carrots will still fit fine in the cans (read the article at Mother Earth News if you don't know why I am mentioning carrots here).

3. I didn't use nails for the joinery.  The original plan calls for using nails to build this project, but I was concerned that the pine boards may split and I thought it would look better if there were no nails visible on the outside.  I used biscuits to join the wood panels edge to edge and also to join the sides to the bottom.  If you haven't used biscuits, they are really very handy and it may be a good option if you plan on getting into more woodworking projects.  Since there were already some dowels that showed on the outside, I decided to use dowels to join the back to the sides.

4. I used 5 1/2" pine boards instead of 11".  I had the 5 1/2" handy, so I wanted to use them instead of buying more wood.  It is easy to join them together, so I don't think this adds any complexity to the project.

5. I used 1/2" poplar dowels instead of 3/4" dowels.  I think they will do the job and cost about a $1.30 less each (saved about 10 bucks).

How Much Does it Cost to Build?

My friend Darrel found a plan for an Urban Root Cellar at Mother Earth News website and passed it along to me.  I thought it was a great idea and definitely something we would like to try to build.  Click on the thumbnail to the right to see the video of our build.  


Please check out the article / plan on the Mother Earth News website (see link below).  It is geared toward the novice woodworker and can be done with limited tools.