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Root cellar problem  RSS feed

 
Posts: 30
Location: North Carolina
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I have a 200 year old house which originally had a root cellar that was about 12x15 ft.  Sometime in the last 30 years the house was underpinned with cement block and there is only a 2x3 ft entrance to the area. The drop is about 8 ft. My problem is finding a cheap way to access this area. At my age (almost 60) i can't see me digging this out. Everything i have researched has been extremely expensive. I am also concerned with support to an entrance. I thought about an interior access, but there is no where in that space that  can be accessed from the main floor. If anyone has an idea about a cost effective way to gain entrance to this area i would love to hear it.
 
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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Hi Sharon, can you attach a photo or two of the cellar and 2x3 hole?  I'm having a bit of trouble picturing your situation.  Is the root cellar outside the house, in the original basement, outside but sharing a wall with the new basement or something else?
 
Sharon Reece
Posts: 30
Location: North Carolina
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Well, i don't have any photos, but the root cellar is under a portion of my living room on the north side of the house. The 2x3 opening is just a wooden door adjoining the underpinning of the foundation with a 8 foot drop if you go in. There is no basement. At one time, i am sure there was a door to the root cellar that was filled in when the underpinning was done or perhaps before, who knows? There are no traces of a stairwell.  It is an antebellum house and i have very little history on it. It just makes sense that this area was probably used for a root cellar in the past. It has a compacted dirt floor with huge timbers lining it. Much to the chagrin of the plumbers i have had doing repairs, there is another "door" to access the underneath of the house in the far corner. Thanks for your thoughts.
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks for the added info.  So I think you're saying that the 2x3 door is on the outside of the house and it opens up into the root cellar that is under your living room.  If you dove in through the door you'd eventually land on the floor of the root cellar with a sore neck?

If I'm imagining that correctly, could you put a ladder or staircase in the root cellar so you can climb down that as you go in? 

What is surrounding the frame of 2x3' door?  Cement blocks?  Stone foundation?  Something else?  Is the bottom of that door near ground level?  I'm asking these questions to see if you could make the doorway taller (by lowering the bottom of the opening) to make entry easier...
 
Sharon Reece
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Location: North Carolina
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The bottom of the 2x3 door is ground level and yes there is cement block on each side. I could put a ladder inside to get down, it would be very difficult. Believe me i have heard that numerous times from repair guys that have had to navigate the area, lol. That being said, i just need a safe way for me to access and use the area for an actual root cellar.
 
Mike Jay
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I'm not thinking of an easier/cheaper way than to enlarge the entrance you already have.  Does the ground significantly slope away from the foundation in that area by any chance?

If I had what I imagine to be your situation, I'd dig down a simple staircase that ends up 3' below the current opening.  Then I'd cut out the foundation wall below the current door to make the opening 2' by 6'.  Then cover the whole staircase and opening with a Bilco style storm cellar door. 

If the foundation below the door is just cinder blocks or cement blocks it shouldn't be too bad to remove them.  But you'd probably want someone with a construction background to check it out before you start.

Once the door is bigger and lower, a simple staircase inside the cellar will get you the remaining 4' down to the floor.

Mind you, I'm imagining all this in my head so I very well may be mistaken about how it looks in real life...
Bilco.jpg
[Thumbnail for Bilco.jpg]
 
Sharon Reece
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Location: North Carolina
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The photo is what i wish it looked like, except with a single door. The ground is fairly level at that spot.  Thanks for your input, i appreciate it.
 
Sharon Reece
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Location: North Carolina
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Wow, i just checked the prices on these doors...the cheapest is over 600. and does not even include the steps. That's probably a good 2-3000. to get the area dug out, the cement base installed and labor. Way out of my budget. Guess i am out of luck. It's just frustrating knowing its there and not being able to use it. Thanks anyway.
 
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