How to Finish the Floor of a Yankee Basement
LESLIE: Jack in New York needs some help with a crawlspace. What can we do for you?
JACK: Well, I have an area that is – was a crawlspace and we dug it out. And so it’s – we have about a 7-foot ceiling now. And I put some gravel in it and I wasn’t going to do anything but now I want to expand my shop. And I don’t really have access to where I can put concrete in it. And I was wondering if you would have any ideas.
TOM: Well, first of all, Jack, since you dug it out down to 7 feet, how did you support the soil under the foundation wall?
JACK: We left a step. This dirt that was in there was so compact that it was almost impossible to dig it out, so we weren’t too worried. But we did leave a step around the foundation, the footer.
TOM: OK. Right.
JACK: There’s about 2½ foot – we went about 2½ foot below the footer.
TOM: That’s what we call, in our part of the country, a “Yankee basement” where it’s dug out. It’s not a joke; that’s actually what they call it. They call it a “Yankee basement” or, well, sometimes a “root cellar,” where basically you take the interior perimeter of the foundation wall, move in about 2½, 3 feet and then dig down there. So you leave this sort of berm of soil to support the foundation that’s under the footing.
So, options for cleaning – for finishing that floor. Why can’t you get concrete into the floor? Because most times, there would be a situation where they’d set up a chute that goes right through a window and pour some concrete into that floor. That’s clearly the easiest way and fastest way to create a floor in a basement.
JACK: Yeah, I agree with you but I really – the time to – the expense of the concrete and having – you know, doing a whole project would be pretty pricey.
TOM: How big is the floor area?
JACK: Well, it’s about 25×15 and then with an 8×8 jut to – on one end of it. So it’s L-shaped, basically.
TOM: Well, I don’t have any quick ideas on how to create a hard-surface flooring when you don’t want to put concrete down there. You could frame something but I mean it would be very temporary. I would really prefer that you put concrete. And you don’t have to do – it doesn’t have to be 6 inches thick. I can be 4 inches thick and pour it in sections. But I really think you should just budget for and use concrete down there because anything else you do is going to be very substandard. It’s not going to contribute to the value of your house.
JACK: I hear you. Yeah, it sounds like a foot (ph) I was afraid I was going to hear.
TOM: Yeah, OK. Well, look, you got all the hard work done digging it out. I would just budget for and save up for some concrete. Get a mason to help you or get somebody that’s used to finishing concrete. And get it all poured and it’ll be done in a day.
JACK: Oh, yeah, sure.
TOM: It has to be done in a day because the concrete’s going to cure.
Alright, Jack? Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.