How to Build a Springhouse

by Judy Kilpatrick

Springhouse refers to the refrigeration unit of households in days gone by. Before electricity was harnessed to power electric lights and household appliances, the family's water supply and food refrigeration was located outside the dwelling in a springhouse. The springhouse protected the water supply and channeled the water into a trough that was used for cooling foods and milk. The springhouse is still useful today as a means of going green to conserve resources or to provide refrigeration in areas remote to electricity. Springhouse design varies, but a very efficient design is the two-room springhouse, with a refrigeration room and a spring room.

Locate a free-flowing spring.

Divert the water flow from the spring temporarily while constructing the springhouse. Water can be diverted by simply building a trench to direct the flow of the water; or, the spring can be dammed up with an overflow pipe inserted into the side of the dam, directing any overflow outside the work area.

Excavate an area for the floor of the springhouse. This area should be a rectangle approximately 4 feet deep, large enough for two rooms. An area 6 feet by 8 feet is adequate. In the area where the refrigeration room will be located, at one side of the room, dig a trench approximately 2 1/2 feet wide and 2 feet deep.

Build forms in preparation for pouring concrete. Using 1-by-4-inch boards, construct a frame around the perimeter of the springhouse floor, blocking off the trench area.

Lay PVC pipe from the trench to the outside of the springhouse. This is the runoff pipe. Make certain that the water flow is directed away from the springhouse or other buildings.

Level the ground and pour a concrete floor.

Pour concrete into the bottom of the trench to create a 4-inch floor. Pour concrete for the building floor. Reinforcing bar should be pressed into the concrete, to strengthen the concrete and prevent cracking. Smooth concrete with a board and allow the concrete to dry thoroughly. Remove the wooden forms.

Using plywood and scrap lumber, build a box, without a top or bottom, with dimensions 8 inches narrower and 8 inches shorter than the trench. Insert this box into the trench, leaving even spaces on all sides.

Pour concrete in the space between the wooden box and the dirt wall. Place reinforcing bar in the concrete. Allow to dry thoroughly. Remove the wooden form.

Concrete blocks and stone have insulating qualities to help maintain a constant temperature.

Place concrete blocks against the far side of the trough. Tall food or liquid containers are cooled by placing them in the deep part of the trough. Shorter crocks of food are cooled by placing them on the shelf created by the blocks.

Build a 6- to 8-inch retaining wall around the spring to prevent dirt and debris from entering the spring.

Construct the walls and roof of your springhouse using construction materials of your choice.

Build steps leading down into the spring room of your springhouse. Locate a door between the spring room and the food refrigeration room.

Run pipe from the spring to the trough.

Items you will need

  • Free-flowing spring
  • Construction materials
  • Concrete
  • Reinforcing bar
  • PVC pipe
  • 1-by-4-inch boards
  • 1-by-8-inch boards
  • Plywood
  • Shovel
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Roofing materials
  • Guttering

About the Author

For Judy Kilpatrick, gardening is the best mental health therapy of all. Combining her interests in both of these fields, Kilpatrick is a professional flower grower and a practicing, licensed mental health therapist. A graduate of East Carolina University, Kilpatrick writes for national and regional publications.

Photo Credits

  • Water spring with old mossy gargoule and grass image by MaroÅ¡ Markovič from Fotolia.com