How to Make a Homemade Ice House or Ice Box

Concerns about pollution, global warming and high energy costs are driving more and more consumers to look for ways to decrease their carbon footprint and their electricity bills. Two hundred years ago, homemade ice houses or ice boxes were arguably the most important structure on the homestead. Today, they provide an ecologically responsible way to reduce both your environmental impact and your bills. Construction is simple; you can make your own homemade ice house over a weekend.

Step 1

Select a place to build your ice house; the shadier the better. Near a garage is ideal, if you have one. Not only will the building provide extra shade, but also you can increase your ice house’s protection from the sun by installing an awning or overhang on the garage.

Step 2

Decide how much ice you need to store in order to determine how big to make your homemade ice house. The ice must be stored at least 15 inches from the walls, so to store a 2-foot-square block if ice, your icebox must be a minimum of 54 inches square. Take the square footage for the ice you desire to store and add 15 inches to your measurement to obtain the appropriate dimensions to make your homemade ice house.

Step 3

Dig a square hole for the outer enclosure that is at least a foot deep and slanted toward one corner to allow for drainage. If your icebox will be 54 inches square, your hole should be 57 to 60 inches square to allow room for insulation. Line the completed hole with a layer of cinderblocks and cover them with flooring planks.

Step 4

Use a mallet to drive two-by-fours about a foot into the ground, 10 to 12 inches apart, around the perimeter of your hole to frame your ice house walls. Ensure they are level. Cut five plywood sheets 60 inches square to form the outer walls and lid of your icebox. Attach the walls to the frame with a hammer and nails placed approximately 3 inches apart; set the lid piece aside.

Step 5

Erect a second walled enclosure 3 to 6 inches inside the first, according to your measurements, repeating the process for constructing the outer box. Ensure the tops of the inner two-by-fours are 15 inches below the top of the outer walls and your plywood is 54 inches square. The inner and outer structures should be identical except for size.

Step 6

Fill the space between the walls of the inner and outer enclosures with sawdust or straw to insulate your homemade icebox.

Step 7

Attach the extra 54-inch plywood square to the top of the inner box with hinges and repeat for the outer structure to form the doors that will make your ice accessible. Ensure the hinges are screwed in place securely. Cut strips of rubber from old tires and attach them along the hatch edges, where they meet the frames to help ensure airtight closure.

Step 8

Nail roofing shingles to the outer lid as additional protection against the sun; ensure you don’t inadvertently nail the lid closed. Paint the outer enclosure white to reflect sunlight and your homemade ice house is ready to stock.

Things You Will Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Shovel
  • Cinderblocks
  • Two-by-four boards
  • Mallet
  • Flooring planks
  • Saw
  • Plywood sheets
  • Level
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Hinges
  • Screws
  • Screwdriver
  • Old tires
  • Roofing shingles
  • White paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Cement


  • Give your homemade ice box extra stability by pouring cement around the two-by-fours, at ground level. Allow it to dry according to manufacturer's instruction before attaching the walls.

About the Author

Based in Arlington, Texas, Michelle Diane has been writing business articles for six years. Her work has appeared in newspapers nationwide and on diverse digital outlets including Bounty, Breathe Again Magazine and LexisNexis. She is a University of Texas graduate and a presidential member of the National Society of Leadership.