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No basement, want no interior VOCs, looking for low cost exterior climate control for paints, caulking and their ilk

KJGInMA | Posted in Green Building Techniques on

I have nearly finished construction of our slab-on-grade house in zone 5 MA.

We have neither a basement, an attic nor garage. All the interior space shares the same air, with a tiny utility room. Interior air quality is important — the house is all pine and cement. No plywood, no mdf, no chipboard, no OSB; essentially, no glues or resins. No combustion equipment .. all electric. Very few plastics, no carpets, no paint. What we breathe matters.

So, the trouble is that I still have the need to store temperature-sensitive products, which are hazardous, or at least give off smells. Cans of paint, stain, caulk, lubricants and so on. Not OK for storage in the house.

Being green-minded and wallet-light, I am looking at the several feet of added final grade fill as an opportunity for ersatz root cellaring.

The answer could be as simplistic as dumping a truckload of “sand” strategically now and later excavating by hand to bury several vertically positioned lidded galvanized/plastic trash cans. I can see a few pitfalls (pun, intended) with this strategy, so maybe a fill less likely to cave-in on my efforts would be better. The aesthetics of such might be reminiscent of coldwar backyard bunkers, ugh. Tripping hazards galore. Also I am concerned with corrosion inside among the cans of paint. Still, it addresses the need.

Thus, I am looking for clever ideas or pointers from the green building community. Not much fancier and not much more costly than cans & bermed soil, and not involving objects too heavy for me to lift (ie, concrete sewer pipes or septic tanks).

BTW, the final grade is above the natural surface, which has such a high water table that a two foot hole will fill with groundwater for many months of the year. The only hope is for above ground. Someday, I might make a beehive-shaped above-ground root cellar using sandbags, but this is not the year for it.

Thanks, GBA!

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  1. user-2310254 | | #1

    Can you build a carport with an attached storage area? If so, you could install a small DIY mini split to keep the space at the desired temperature.

    Putting your storage underground might be a problem if you also need to control moisture.

  2. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #2

    With no specification of the tolerable storage temperature range or total volume required it's hard to come up with cheap or intelligent solutions.

  3. Jon_R | | #3

    I'd use a interior closet, air seal it well and then install a small exhaust fan (providing an always negative pressure wrt the house interior). Add a UPS for power failures and an alarm so you can run for the exit if the fan fails.

  4. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #4

    It will be vastly cheaper to give away your partially used containers of paint, etc. and buy new when you need more. Why spend money to store a few dollars worth of stuff?

  5. KJGInMA | | #5

    Stephen -- not holding onto much fiddly material is an idea I had not thought of but it is a good plan to reduce down to essentials. Also, reduce half-used cans to smaller containers. However it does not seem green and pennywise to discard/replace Eventually I will come to some materials that cannot be replaced on-demand. Some of my products are lubricants, glues and paints but other things might be fish emulsions or garden products that do badly with temperature extremes.

    Dana -- I think the equivalent of an unheated Yankee basement, 20-40 degrees in winter and humid, would be a reasonable range for most of the cans and tubs. Much better than the wild swings of below zero and over one hundred that the shipping container offers.

    Steve -- building a carport is a large infrastructure expense, and would also encourage clutter. I have several unheated and unelectrified shipping containers so insulating someday is in the long-term. I guess the simplest of all is to find a neighbor with space in their own garage/carport/barn and 'rent' space for the winter.

    Jon -- inside the house is a no go. There is no interior space that could be walled off atmospherically and I am seeking a completely passive approach if possible. Personally, I don't much mind the smell of WD40 and friends, but Sweetheart is very sensitive.

    This is the approximate amount of effort and moulah I want to devote to this endeavor -- I don't want another over-engineering project on my list. Some 55 gallon plastic drums, with lids removed so as to retain their strength, small holes poked in bottom to let out water that might seep in; peastone for drainage underneath, bricks or peastone inside to raise items away from potential moisture, some kind of weatherproof reusable 'flashing' for the lid (perhaps EPDM ratcheted around the top) to keep out snowmelt and rain. Items wrapped in plastic bags to reduce corrosion and moisture damage. Build a little decking over the barrels to avoid tripping hazards and eyesore.

    Thanks for the ideas and engaging with me, everyone.


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