Cold Rooms: Are they useful or just a source of problems?

Loucas Loucaides Cold Rooms, Home Inspection Tips Leave a Comment

Cold rooms were designed to be underground, typically under a porch, and their purpose is to be cold enough to store preserves and other food.

Since they are below a porch, they are technically underground spaces that are on the exterior of a home, hence they have no insulation but do have ventilation to allow for air exchange.

The way cold rooms have been built has changed over the years and we still find them in their original state from 50 years ago. In this blog post, we will talk about how cold rooms are supposed to be.

Stored items in a cold room

What should a cold room look like?

  • Cold rooms should not have any insulation. This defeats the purpose of the cold room which is to be colder than the rest of the house.
  • Cold rooms must have ventilation. This is usually a hole on the concrete with a vent cover at the exterior to stop the entry of pests. In the past, the building code allowed a small window to be the ventilation but this was not practical. Most of the time these cold rooms are damp and musty because no one would open the window.
  • Cold rooms must have a metal insulated door going from the house to the cold room, and this door has to be fully sealed at the sides and have weather stripping at the bottom. This stops warm air from the basement to enter the cold room.
  • There is usually one light fixture in this area to provide some light.

Common issues we see in cold rooms

  • The cold room is musty. That is usually the result of the lack of ventilation, a non-insulated door, the door not being sealed properly and sometimes there is moisture penetration from the exterior.
  • The cold room has styrofoam insulation in it. This defeats the purpose and typically this type of insulation has a low R-value which doesn’t do much anyway.
  • The cold room is used for the storage of personal items. There should be no organic material stored in a cold room. By nature, cold rooms are moist and cold and this will give mould the chance to grow.
  • The vent is closed up because the cold room is getting too cold. That will happen in the winter in Canada. Ventilation is needed in the cold room and should not be closed up.
  • A hollow wood door is installed. This is very wrong because the warm air will enter the cold room and create condensation in the cold room and will create an environment for mould growth.
Hollow door in cold room

Are you worried about potential problems in your cold room? Get in touch with us, we’d be happy to help.

FAQs

  1. Do I have to keep my cold room and use it as one? Not if you don’t want to. The cold room can be insulated properly and turned into a storage room.
  2. Can I remove the door completely? No, you cannot. The cold room is an exterior space which will be colder. 
  3. Can I use it as storage for food other than in glass containers? No, you cannot. The cold room is moist by nature and this will lead your food to spoil.
  4. Can I remove the wood from the cold room ceiling? Yes, you can. Typically, this wood was just used to form the concrete for the porch. It is not structural in any way.
  5. Is mould typical in the cold room? Mould is not normal in any space inside the home.
  6. Should I install a ventilation fan in the cold room? No, it is not required and not worth the trouble. All that is needed is a ventilation hole in the concrete or two if the cold room is large.

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