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drying out old house dirt basement

 
                        
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Anyone have any ideas about drying out a damp partial basement? The main part of the house has a 6  1/2 foot ceiling (just joists)  basement, with a small concrete wall about 4 feet high running down the middle with the dirt still left between it and the foundation on that side. An addition on one end has only a crawl space on that side of the foundation. 

I cannot dig it out as the one end has the water and sewer connections, one side is very close to the lot line and the other side has the hydro and natural gas lines going into the basement.  An estimate to have a "proper" basement put in  was about twice the cost of the house. Can it be filled in up to the point of just being a crawl space again? The wiring and plumbing are both due to get upgraded so moving them up wouldn't be an issue. If so, what would be best? The water table is quite high here and the basement  gets wet enough most every spring to have rotted out the wooden stairs, which cannot be a good thing.
 
                        
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Location: Iowa, border of regions 5 and 6
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I think turning it into a crawlspace is your only viable option at this time.  Just make sure that if you do, make sure the crawlspace is sealed.  Sealing the crawlspace (including putting down a vapor barrier) is more energy-efficient and less prone to moisture and rot than keeping the crawlspace unsealed.
 
                        
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what should I fill it with? gravel or sand or dirt or does it matter?
 
                        
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Location: Iowa, border of regions 5 and 6
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I think you'll have to discuss that with a local expert.  All I know is that after it's been filled up, you need to put some thick plastic down as a moisture barrier and seal it, then apply some kind of insulation all over the new (and old) crawlspace so that the crawlspace is sealed and insulated.
 
                                
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you have the opportunity to do a good job installing underfloor insulation BEFORE any fill dirt is used to close out the old basement - much, much, much easier than trying to do the same job from a crawlspace -
 
                        
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Something occurred to me.. people make boats out of ferrocement. What about building a sort of ferrocement float ...with foot high walls that sit slightly out from the foundation walls.. that would normally sit on the ground but which could rise if/when water seeped into the basement? There might be some way to attach a flexible liner (swimming pool liner ?) between the walls of the ferrocement and the walls of the basement foundation.

It wouldnt be any more difficult to get the materials for ferrocement down there than anything else and that would at least keep the space usable.  Thoughts? 
 
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