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Our Amish Friends Build a New Ice Storage House

Updated on April 13, 2012

These highly insulated ice storage houses use modern day materials to supply ice year round

Block ice is still being harvested in the winter and stored in these ice houses to provide a family with a year round supply of ice. Ice is still being used to refrigerate, cool drinks and make old fashioned ice cream.

These highly insulated ice storage houses use modern day materials to supply ice year round.

Using no electricity or refrigeration, just like they did in the 1800's, ice houses stay cooled from the mass of ice harvested and stacked inside them during the winter months.

With modern efficient materials the Amish are finding new ways to build old time self-sufficient structures, finding this Ice house under construction was a real treat for us.

The Amish live in a non-electric world and use old fashioned ways to preserve food without modern day refrigeration.

Although some use gas and battery solar powered refrigeration, these Amish still depend on ice to make it through the spring and summer before new ice can be frozen and harvested.

We were visiting several of our Amish friends and vendors on a new product tour when we looked out in the back yard and found this ice house still under construction in Southern Ohio.

Ice houses date back into ancient times where snow would be packed away to keep things cold, it was not until the late 1700s and 1800s that harvesting blocks of ice in the winter and storing it away for use throughout the summer for refrigeration.

The insulation needed to protect it from melting was a challenge, now with the use of Styrofoam blocks the Amish are building new ice storage houses that will keep ice all through the summer and on into the next winter months.

Using 20” thick Styrofoam blocks the Amish set first set a layer of the blocks on a concrete slab for the floor and then stack up blocks for the walls. When the walls are completed the top is covered with another row across the. It is just like they would be building and igloo, except using the Styrofoam blocks instead.

After the blocks are stacked metal strap binding used to bundle lumber and crates is used to tie it all together. A chainsaw is run down each joint and expandable spray foam seals the joints creating a large Styrofoam ice box on the ground.

The door is cut in at a bevel and the door is also beveled so that it will seal in tight as the door is closed. A cargo door latch is used to hold the door in tight, rubber membrane lining is used as a door seal as well as for the floor. A floor drain is added for the ice that does melt.

The Styrofoam block is then covered with another exterior building with standard gable roof to protect the Styrofoam. Some Amish build these ice houses in the corner of another existing building.

Mice are the most concern as they love to tunnel into the Styrofoam to reach the food stored inside. The ice house is left open around the outside to patrol for mice and other potential animals.

To keep from using ice from potential polluted water, wood frames are made out 2x6 boards and then lined with rubber membrane lining close to the ice house to make a watertight pond. When temperatures drop below freezing long enough to freeze the pond solid, the ponds are flooded with fresh well water to the thickness of the desired ice.

After being frozen solid the ice is cut into blocks and then harvested and stacked into the ice house for spring and summer use. One ice house can serve a large family or several families. The Amish will generally have second and maybe even third generation families living on the same property.

Well we didn’t walk away inspired to build our own ice house, but it was a fascinating visit and a story that I had to write. We did find the Ice Tongs to add to our products. These are actually very popular for chef’s and ice carvers to move blocks of ice to produce ice sculptures.

Tongs measures (9 x 14 x 6 open to 15 wide). The weight of the ice in combination to the hand held handle securely embeds the tongs into the ice to hold it in place.

Since the winter was mild in Ohio the ice was not able to freeze to the thickness they would have like to have, but in volume they have enough stacked away for the summer. We visited them in early March so they still had some freezing nights to harvest a few more batches.

You can purchase the ice tongs at Cottage Craft Works Many more products have been added from this trip for those seeking to find back to basic self-sufficient products and ideas.


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      2 years ago

      I think it was on a tv program, I saw some preppers (?) freezing 5 gallon buckets of water, lidding them and storing them inside an ice house. Besides keeping the room cold, the water stayed contained, clean and ready for use when ever they needed to defrost a bucket.

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 

      6 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Sometimes the old fashioned way of doing things has a lot to recommend it. This article on an Amish ice house is fascinating. Thanks


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