Cinder block is an excellent building material. They are strong, weather resistant, fire proof and relatively inexpensive. All of these characteristics make them an appealing item for the prepper and homesteader. There are however a few things to keep in mind when working with cinder blocks. They are heavy, 38 pounds a piece for a standard 8 inch block. This means that they need a good foundation, or “footer” to sit on. Secondly using the right mortar is important. You can buy premixed type S structural mortar or you can mix your own using 1 part portland cement to 6 parts sand.
1. Root Cellar
Because of their strength and water resistance, blocks are the ideal material for building a below-ground food storage area, or root cellar. Below ground, the stable temperatures and high humidity act like a natural vegetable crisper. This lets you store large amounts of garden produce such as apples, potatoes, cabbages, or onions cheaply for most of the winter.
2. Retaining Walls
Living in the mountains where flat land is hard to find and erosion is a constant problem means we need lots of walls for leveling land and holding back dirt. Retaining walls need to be strong to hold back the tons of dirt and water that press against them. This means reinforcing the block by filling the chambers with rebar and concrete. Also, it is necessary to put drain pipes that run behind retaining walls to help water run around the walls to help prevent them from failing in heavy rains.
3. Ovens, Stoves And Grills
Whether its just two blocks with a cooking pot set on top and a fire in the middle or a pit smoker big enough to fit a whole hog cinder blocks can be used for outdoor cooking. The biggest problem with using blocks around a fire is that the high temperatures can cause the blocks to crack. Filling the chambers with sand or concrete helps reduce the chances of this happening.
4. Cistern/Water Storage
You can make an open water storage tank above or below ground using cinder blocks. Just keep in mind water is heavy so the base needs to be a thick concrete pad of 6 inches. Because of the weight of the water, the blocks will need to be reinforced with rebar and concrete. Concrete and blocks are porous so water will seep through them with time. To make the cistern watertight treat the inside of the cistern with a thin layer of pure portland cement. This will fill in the small holes that the water seeps through.
Blocks can be used for makeshift shelving, two blocks and a board is all it takes. They are not pretty but they are strong. Don’t go to high though because they can become unstable if you stack too many shelves on each other. This is a favorite one of broke college students.