How to Dig Out a Crawlspace
LESLIE: Next up, we have a call from Jeannette in Wisconsin.
How can we help you?
JEANNETTE: Hi, I’m looking for the best way to dig out a crawlspace. How far can we dig toward the stone wall without weakening it and having it cave in? Because this is a really old farmhouse.
TOM: So you have an old farmhouse that’s on a crawlspace foundation and you want to hand-dig a basement. Is that what you’re saying?
TOM: OK. This is what we call in the northeast a Yankee basement and it’s something I’ve seen many, many times.
LESLIE: Or a root cellar.
TOM: Or a root cellar; that’s correct. Yeah. And generally, what you need to leave is a good foot of earth, maybe 18 inches of earth. But the way to do it is to dig it out, to pour a footing, to build up a block wall so it’s up above the footing line of the crawlspace, and then to backfill that with soil so that you have kind of a foundation inside of a foundation, Jeannette. The only downside of doing this is you’re going to end up with a really small basement area. Are you looking to do this to create a finished basement or just a storeroom or what?
JEANNETTE: We wanted to get the dirt out because it’s so close underneath that it’s rotting out some of the wood.
TOM: Well the answer is then you need to stay about 18 inches away from there and you want to do it one side at a time and you’re going to need to actually put a new footing in, build up a block wall, and then backfill that so that you have proper support. Because while gravity does a great job, if you get water that works against that wall, it could cause a failure of that footing under the crawlspace area. That would be bad.
JEANNETTE: That would be bad.
TOM: Alright, Jeannette.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.