Feedback on How to Build an Ice House

Readers from Minnesota and Kentucky share their memories and perspectives on how to build an ice house, make ice, and store ice.

| January/February 1973

Your article on ice houses in MOTHER EARTH NEWS reminded me of the way we used to make ice up in Lake-of-the-Woods.

First off, our Minnesota ice house had its door several feet off the ground, so that you needed a ladder to get in. (Cold air flows down . . . entrances that reach all the way to the ground tend to let out all that good chill.) The building was double walled with sawdust as insulation, but I suppose hay, straw or rock wool would do as well.

To make ice, we used to wait until January when it was good and cold (-20° Fahrenheit). Then we spread a sheet of polyethylene plastic in the bottom and up the sides of the building. Next, we just laid pipe or hose from the lake and pumped in about a foot of water. (Didn't matter if there were a few small holes in the plastic . . . at 20 below the water froze before it could leak out.) When the ice was good and solid, we laid on another sheet of plastic and pumped in more water . . . and so on until we were within a foot of the building's top. Finally, we covered the whole frozen mass with 12 inches of sawdust.

Then, when we needed ice in the summer, we just shoveled aside the sawdust covering and scored the ice with a saw. A few quick blows with an axe and we had our block . . . after which we scooped the insulation back into place.

The plastic kept the levels of ice from freezing together, and could be peeled off (and saved for reuse the next winter) when we were done with a layer.

Some very important points to remember about ice houses:

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