Sunday, March 29, 2009

House Renovation: Dirt Basements

Rotten Beams

I thought we should share a bit about the house renovation on this rainy Sunday afternoon. Greg has been down in the basements (we have a front and back basement) working on repairing rotten beams and decaying foundation walls for most of the winter. The basements are all dirt. We would love to even out the floors and pour a cement slab floor. We could then move all our water heaters and furnaces (remember we have two because it's a two-family) into the basement. Right now, the space is full of rocks and large amounts of dirt that needs to be removed. We have been brainstorming ways to get the dirt of the space. The only direct access to the outside is through a small window.

Pile of Dirt in Back Basement

Below is Greg's version of our basement renovation and some of his creative ideas to deal with our dirt problem. He left out the part where he was trying to convince me to buy an old treadmill from craigslist. He thought we could pile the dirt and rocks onto the treadmill from the basement and then have them move out the window to the yard. I think his idea stemmed from the conveyor belts you see at the airport. Great idea but we could only find really large conveyor belts that were way to expensive for the job. Part two of this dirt problem: What to do with it once we get it out of the house?


Rock Wall Rebuilt in Basement

Check out my wall—I'm not talking about Facebook. It's a stone wall I rebuilt with some of the rocks I found in the basement. Orginally, the basement window was probably used as a coal chute. I found a lot of old coal scattered in the soil around the space.

craigslist ad for vacuum truck

In the process of fixing some deteriorating footings holding up some rotted posts, I have accumulated a large pile of dirt and rocks. The plan was to shovel the pile through the window, easier said than done. I had no responses to my Craigslist Ad and I didn't have the money to pay someone to do that anyway. Instead, I ordered 100 sandbags on ebay for $50 to manage the dirt pile.

Tubes to Fill Dirt.

I needed some help filling these sandbags so I built this tool from 12' of an 8" C size sonotube. The bag fits inside the tube and the top of the bag rolls snuggly over the top so it will stay open. The box on the right was my prototype. The shopping cart I found discarded in a dumpster makes the perfect soil screen and limits the rocks in these bags because I have other plans for them. I've also got plans for the full sandbags.

Related Posts:

Bathroom Really Gutted!

Wood in Den Stripped

First Floor Bathroom & Roof

Tackling Floors and Clogged Drain


  1. You two are tireless! I've never heard of a more impressive and devoted pair of homeowners. Cheers to your hard work. May the dirt leave the basement!

  2. Wow, I am just amazed at your perseverance. But maybe post your "ad" around town, maybe there are some young starving college kids you can get to haul stuff for a couple of days.

    I also really like your idea of saving the large stones to make a pretty stone wall!

  3. OH MY GOD!! I am SO impressed. The work you are both doing in the basement (x 2!!) is messy, hard work - not for the faint of heart! The homeowners before us did exactly what you are undertaking. So we were lucky to have the poured concrete floor with french drain/trench around the edge when we moved in. Furnace/hot water and loads of storage now. We had to do additional beam/joist/sill/dollies though. The fun never ends!! Your hard work will pay off!

  4. With so many people out of work, I was wondering if you
    could trade services with someone who knows about this
    kind of work. I was listening to NPR the other day, and
    they were talking about" out of work people" trading services.
    I just love that idea!. Good Luck!

  5. Wow! Be careful about removing too much dirt. Looks like you avoided a cave-in. Good Luck.



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