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Old 03-25-2013, 06:32 PM
 
Location: Somewhere in TN
710 posts, read 1,800,201 times
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So, my husband and I are considering a 1925 American Foursquare in Knoxville. It's been rehabbed after being foreclosed, by a guy who fixes up houses and usually rents them. This one is too big to be a rental and too nice, so after the guy spent eight months on it, it's on the market.

Anyway, we looked at it yesterday and it has a cellar with a partial dirt/partial concrete floor. I was unable to check out the whole area because the stairs had no railing and were steep (obviously that would need to be remedied), but I could see that at least one of the walls was dirt. The cellar looks to be maybe dug out after the house was built, possibly. It does not span the entire footprint of the house, and the only things down there besides vampires and monsters and snakes and werewolves are a furnace and water heater. Since I never look at those in my house now, to me that equals: Never going down to the basement/hanging garlic in the doorway to ward off the monsters.

But I'm a grownup now, and grownups need to worry about stuff like...foundation and moisture,maybe radon? Ok basically what do I need to worry about? The house looks great, feels great, and I think it would work for us. I just don't want to bite off more than I can chew and I'm wondering if this might be in that realm for us...
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Old 03-25-2013, 07:02 PM
 
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Foundations in the early 1900s are built like forts. That house will likely be standing for many years. Basements didn't have concrete floors back then. Those were added later. It's not uncommon for one side of the floor to be left dirty. I'm not sure what you mean by a dirt wall. I've never heard of that unless they literally built the house into a hillside. I live in a region with extremely hilly terrain and many old houses. I've never seen one built into the hillside with out four walls, but I suspect it is possible. There will always be moisture in a basement with a sandstone foundation. That's normal. It doesn't mean there will be mold. As for radon, have it tested. If there is radon, it's an easy fix.
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Old 03-25-2013, 08:07 PM
 
Location: Knoxville
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What you have is a cellar. Its really a tall crawlspace, and not finished living area. While we do have a fair amount of radon in Knoxville, for the most part, its not as high in crawlspace homes (depending on the area). If this house is in the 4th/Gill area, radon is probably not a concern.
There are many houses in Knoxville where someone has dug out a crawlspace to get more area under the house. Sometimes, the digging gets too close to the footing, and affects the stability of the foundation.
You really need a home inspector to take a look at it. Flippers many times make things look great, but cut corners on the bones. Get an inspection.
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Old 03-25-2013, 08:15 PM
 
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In my region, homes built in the early 1900s have huge sandstone foundations with walls 2-1/2' wide, sometimes wider. They aren't crawlspaces.

You can't have a finished basement with a sandstone walls. Well, you could but it's not wise in moist region.
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Old 03-25-2013, 10:48 PM
 
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Been there done that with a home so old the city didn't know when it was built. It had a flagstone foundation stacked and the cellar dug for half of the footprint of the house with a two foot crawlspace for the rest of the footprint. The stacked flagstones did move over the century and the floor sagged at the edges of the house. Dirt wall and cement floor. Very large 8" rodent holes into the sides of the dirt wall. Everything we put down there molded. Scary. During a tornado my preschool niece begged me not to take her down there, "Please I'll be good forever!" I compromised not making her walk and held her! ha ha

The guy who bought it from us put in an apartment down there! and rented it out to a young woman. Never saw what he did to finish it or how, but yikes.

Get it checked out for all your concerns.
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Old 03-26-2013, 06:23 AM
 
Location: Somewhere in TN
710 posts, read 1,800,201 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hopes View Post
Foundations in the early 1900s are built like forts. That house will likely be standing for many years. Basements didn't have concrete floors back then. Those were added later. It's not uncommon for one side of the floor to be left dirty. I'm not sure what you mean by a dirt wall. I've never heard of that unless they literally built the house into a hillside. I live in a region with extremely hilly terrain and many old houses. I've never seen one built into the hillside with out four walls, but I suspect it is possible. There will always be moisture in a basement with a sandstone foundation. That's normal. It doesn't mean there will be mold. As for radon, have it tested. If there is radon, it's an easy fix.
Picture going down some steep wooden stairs. You get to the bottom and part of the floor is dirt. The walls are also literally dirt. Like you went down some steps into a hole somebody dug. It is not something that would ever be convertible to living space, but that is fine--I don't need the space. Just for it to be safe/sound etc.

Don't worry-definitely getting it inspected. I forget sometimes that people try to forego that sort of precaution/info. Not us! We have always gotten a lot of info from home inspections we've had done. Worth the money,for sure.
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Old 03-26-2013, 09:12 AM
 
43,012 posts, read 96,898,802 times
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I'd plan into my budget a future build of a concrete wall after buying the house. I'd want to concrete the other half of the basement floor too. Eliminating the dirt will keep the moisture and mold down. Mold lives in dirt.

We looked at a house that had half concrete half dirt floor. It wasn't a deal breaker for me, but I would want to finish that. When I was a teenager, I dated a guy whose grandmother's basement was all dirt floor. I remember looking down the basement stairs and thinking that was weird. It's where she did her laundry, if you can imagine that.

I can understand how it would be impossible to control a rat problem, like Kayekay said happened, in a dirt wall situation.

I can't find pictures of a dirt wall in the basement, but I can find people talking about it. Many pour a concrete wall or lay a concrete block wall.
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Old 08-08-2014, 09:32 AM
 
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I have a 1914 home with a dirt basement. There remains a wall of dirt (almost to ceiling, about a 2 foot clearance), that takes up a large portion of the basement. Is there any method to taking this hard (almost like concrete) dirt out to create more space? There are small windows (presently) to the outside. Is there a method, like a vacuum, that can carry the dirt to a truck to clear it out?
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Old 08-19-2014, 01:03 AM
 
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my cousin has lived in a home with a dirt floor/cellar for many years. Are these healthy? She's always sick and I've told her she should move. How responsible are landlords when it comes to this. Isn't there a health code they have to abide by?
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Old 08-20-2014, 08:27 AM
 
Location: In the woods
3,315 posts, read 9,164,198 times
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We own a 1929 American Foursquare and luckily, our basement is finished with a concrete floor and cinderblock/concrete walls.

However, my neighbor next door has dirt walls. She had a problem last year with a possum digging a tunnel from the outside and broke through the dirt wall and trying to build a nest. She had to call a critter controller. Not only did they remove the animal, they had to fill in the tunnel with bricks and large rocks.

Have someone come in and give an estimate for finishing the floor, including a sump pump if needed. And the walls. Not sure what the proper procedure is for the walls since you'd want to ensure against seepage from water (there are some expert builders on this forum so someone may have suggestions!).
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