Root Cellar Question

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The Body
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Root Cellar Question

I live in an old house and have a unique situation I’m not sure how best to handle.  There is an underground room in my basement underneath the front porch that was originally used to store coal for the house’s furnace.  It is a large room – probably about 15’ x 20’ with probably about a 15’ ceiling.  It is extremely well built, appears to be dry but has probably not been touched for 70 years.  Being underground, I have thought about cleaning it up and storing food, water, etc down there.

The thing is there is still a large amount of coal in the room.  Spread evenly across the floor, it would probably be a pile about 2 feet tall.  I was wondering if anybody here knows if there would be an advantages or disadvantages of leaving the coal there? 

I have thought about disposing of it but also figured I could just install some kind of floating floor over top it, if there are any benefits of leaving it there.  I know nothing about coal and have no idea if there are any positive reasons to keep it around like – I don’t know – moisture control, attract/repel bugs or rodents, etc. – or is the coal just a dirty health hazard?

Edited by admin on 11/08/2014 - 06:06
Ratatouille's picture
Joined: 06/14/2011
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Coal dust

doesn't sound like something I'd want my family breathing. I'd move it to a storage building outside of your home, if possible. I'm no expert, but I grew up in a coal mining community; I know that breathing coal dust is bad for your lungs and health.

If it were me, I'd get it out of there and clean it up/seal it up as best as I could. 

stephanie's picture
Joined: 04/21/2011
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Hmmm yeah...I wouldn't want

Hmmm yeah...I wouldn't want coal covering my basement floor...coal is flammable, is it not? :-P

Eternal Student
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Interesting quandry

One thing to keep in mind that the coal will be very valuable, if/when the fuel supply is disrupted (either through price action, or an interruption in the supply chain). Thus, you might not only want to hang onto the coal, but add to it.

I'm not sure what I'd do if I were in your shoes, but your priorities and goals should guide you. If it's for a safe spot for food, I'd be leery of putting food in that location as it is. My concern is of whatever toxic crap leaks into the storage containers via contact.

I'm sure actions could be taken to minimize this. For myself, I'd hang onto the coal, and put my food elsewhere. But as Stephanie mentioned,  it's flammable. Coal dust is also explosive (and is probably what sunk the USS Maine, and started the Spanish-American war). Still, it can be kept safely; your pile is living proof.

Mike7.62's picture
Joined: 06/14/2011
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Move it out and pile it up.

Move it out and pile it up. It has good value for any blacksmithing activities, and as an emergency source of heat in a fireplace, chiminea etc.

I would NOT keep it in my root cellar, even with a floating floor, as the coal would grind under the weight and spread coal dust everywhere. It gets everywhere, and according to my mother who grew up in a coal town, gets into everything. Additionally, if it catches a spark it becomes an explosion /fire hazard.

Keep it, but move it.

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