An icehouse of some kind or another is indispensable to every country-house where ice is not delivered by the regular dealers, or where it can not be obtained when wanted.
There should be no regular floor to an icehouse, - a sand or loam floor being the best, with a layer of sawdust or planer shavings four or five inches deep, makes an excellent foundation for the ice to rest on; and it is not a bad idea to sprinkle a thin layer of sawdust between every layer of ice as it is being packed away.
The size of an icehouse will depend somewhat on the number of persons who will have to be supplied from it; but as a rule, when the members of a family do not exceed eight, a building 10 by 14 feet, and 10 feet high at the plates, will contain quite sufficient for all household and dairy purposes. If possible, build the house on a slightly elevated spot, and have a drain made from one of its sides leading down to some layer draining a lower ground. Where convenient, lay a couple of tiers of brick or stone (the latter is to be preferred) for a sort of foundation. See that this brick or stone work is level all round, and in a fit condition to receive the ends of the studding. Cut the studding for the two sides to the proper length, and enough of them to stand about three feet apart. The studs for the ends may be left uncut, and stood up in their places. A doorway, 4 feet wide, should be left in one end, and the bottom of the door should be at least 3 feet up from the ground. A door 4 by 5 feet will be quite large enough, and it should be hung so as to swing on the outside. Nail good hemlock boards on the inside of the studding, keeping the lower edge of the first board close down to the brick or stone work. See that the joints of the ends of the boards are "broken," - that is, have no two but-joints come on the same stud unless there is one or more boards between the joints. Board the inside walls around the four sides to the height of the side-studs, and then board the outside in the same way. When this is done, put on the roof, which may be formed of two tiers of sound boards, or it may be made of shingles and boards together, which may be of an inferior quality. Some people insist on filling in between the boarding of the walls with sawdust, tanbark, or other like materials, but this is not at all necessary, as the air confined between the walls acts as a much better protection than any of the materials named, and the filling is apt to rot the siding.
After the house has been well boarded up, strips of pine about two inches wide should be nailed up and down over the studs on the outside boarding, and common siding or weather boarding should be nailed on these strips, thus inclosing the building a third time. This operation leaves an air-space between the siding and the boarding of about one inch, which adds greatly to the effectiveness of the building for preserving ice. This would give a thickness to the walls of about eight inches, which is made up as follows: weather boarding, one inch; air-space, one inch; hemlock boarding, one inch; airspace between boarding, four inches; inside boarding, one inch. The studs used in the building are intended in the foregoing description to be 2 by 4; but when expense is not so much of an object, 2 by 6 may be employed. Double doors - that is, a door on the outside and one on the inside - would make the house much more effective than if only one door was used. A ventilation must be made through the roof similar to a chimney: this may be ornamented to suit the taste.
If a permanent icehouse of a more expensive nature is required, then stone or brick may be employed for the outer walls, and a slate or shingle roof may be put on it; but when brick or stone is used there should be a board wall inside all round, with an air-space of three or four inches between it and the stone wall. An icehouse should never have windows in it, as the admission of light is objectionable. The floor, in the case of a stone or brick house, should be made of concrete or cement, and should be lower in the center and at one end, so as to permit the water to flow to the drain, - w,hich, of course, would have to be provided in any case.
A wooden icehouse may be made to look quite ornamental and pleasing, if properly built and nicely painted; and if cedar or chestnut is used for sills, it will last for thirty or forty years.
And now a word about packing ice. The first thing necessary is to place a layer of sawdust, spent tanbark, or straw, on the floor or ground, to a thickness of three or four inches, and on this place the ice, which will be cut in square blocks. Keep the ice as solid and compact as possible, and leave a space of about four inches between the ice and the boarding; and, as the blocks are built up solid fill this space with sawdust. Fill up all the chinks and openings between the blocks with small pieces of ice, or pack them solid with sawdust. Everything depends on keeping the air out from between the blocks. When the house is filled, or as much is packed in as is intended, the whole should be covertd with a coating of sawdust not less than two feet deep. When any of the ice is removed for use, or for other reasons, the part exposed by the removal should be carefully covered again.
Care should be taken of the sawdust, as it may be used for many years. Pine sawdust is the best.
After the house is filled and properly closed up - or, in other words, when the ice is "harvested," - the earth should be banked up against the building all round, so as to prevent any air from getting under the sill or into the building at any point.