Filling in a cellar?

(28 Posts)
Goodwordguide Thu 10-Jan-13 17:50:18

We've been recommended that we have the cellar on our (potential) new house filled in as it's so damp - often has standing water, woodworm etc. the house is large so cellar not really needed for storage plus it has a very restricted height so would never be used for anything else.

Does anybody know in particular if this is recommended in old houses (200 years+)? And what material do they use? I had just assumed that all old houses had damp cellars. It's well ventilated at least.

Many thanks for any help

PigletJohn Thu 10-Jan-13 20:02:25

who made the recommendation, and what do you know about their qualifications and experience?

nocake Thu 10-Jan-13 22:04:46

Why do you want to fill it in? If it's too damp to use just leave it empty.

And woodworm has nothing to do with damp and should be treated irrespective of what you do with the cellar.

Goodwordguide Thu 10-Jan-13 22:05:18

He's a very experienced a member of the Inst. of Struct. eng. and someone who specialises in timber frames.

It wasn't a direct recommendation for our house ( he hasn't seen it yet), more a phone conversation along the lines of 'houses that age will always have damp cellars and hence danger of woodworm etc [which we have] and filling in the cellar is one of the best ways of dealing with it'.

I just wondered if this is correct with ref. to old houses plus if anyone else had experience if this.

Thanks for any help you can give.

Goodwordguide Thu 10-Jan-13 22:07:03

I thought you get woodworm in damp timbers (moisture content of 20% plus), therefore one way to treat it is to reduce the dampness.

The cellar has standing water, though not all year round of course.

Goodwordguide Thu 10-Jan-13 22:07:56

Should add, the woodworm is in the sub-floor timbers, visible in the cellar.

nocake Thu 10-Jan-13 22:25:55

So you actually need to determine the damp content of the timbers and decide if you're going to treat the woodworm (cheap) or fill in the cellar (not cheap).

You could also take steps to reduce the damp and make the cellar more usable.

Goodwordguide Thu 10-Jan-13 22:38:25

Yes definitely will have timbers surveyed. I just wondered if there were anypros and cons of filling cellars as I don't think I know of anyone having done it before.

The cellar is only 1m in height so not even great for storage.

ISeeSmallPeople Thu 10-Jan-13 23:35:59

1 m??
that's not a cellar, it's a crawl space.
And it often has 'standing water'??

Get someone to actually look at it.

Monty27 Thu 10-Jan-13 23:38:46

Ooer I've just been watching creepy stuff on ITV3 Dark Matters lol

Goodwordguide Thu 10-Jan-13 23:52:42

Yes, I was a bit hmm at them describing it as a cellar. It will be looked at... And it is very creepy...

ISeeSmallPeople Fri 11-Jan-13 09:46:00

We came across a body in our crawl space. We had a proper cellar under 2/3 of the Victorian house, & a hole into the crawl space under the rest.





It was a dressmaker's dummy. But the screaming from the builder was loud! He clearly thought otherwise!

Goodwordguide Fri 11-Jan-13 10:03:04

grin

Maybe I'll store my mannequin down there... And a few of DD's old dolls...

PolterGoose Argentina Fri 11-Jan-13 14:39:06

We've got a 200 year old house with a cellar, though ours is just about ok to stand up in. It is definitely wet down there, but before we moved in some form of drain and cap was installed and the groundwater no longer penetrates to extent of getting puddles. According to old neighbours our cellar used to always flood and it didn't during recent floods (worst ever here in over 40years) so whatever was done has fixed it.

We have increased, and will increase further, the ventilation down there. It is very handy having the space for concealing wiring, plumbing etc. as we have mostly solid floors and no cavities. Ours is just there, too wet for storage, too awkward to ever consider converting into usable basement, but very popular with ds and his friends who run around in the dark with torches grin

Goodwordguide Fri 11-Jan-13 14:41:02

Thanks polter, i will investigate a drain and cap

Floggingmolly Fri 11-Jan-13 14:42:59

If it's damp, just get it tanked.

PolterGoose Argentina Fri 11-Jan-13 16:02:05

There is no advantage, as far as I can see, to tanking a space you won't use and tanking can bring its own problems, unless carried out very well which costs a lot of money, seems a bit pointless on an over-sized crawlspace confused

PigletJohn Fri 11-Jan-13 17:05:00

if it's a 200 year old house, then it is probably built with lime, not cement, and porous bricks or stone, and probably a bare earth floor. It might not be possible to tank it effectively, and water would probably still collect.

Usually a lot of subfloor ventilation, with extra airbricks (one every two metres all round the house is not too many) will remove average damp, but if the floor of the space is very wet, there may be a problem with high water table, broken pipes or drains (this is very common in houses over 50 years old) or water draining towards the house from flat paving or leaking gutters. If you have any of these causes I would always try to cure it first, since filling the space will not remove the source of damp. It might be unusually damp at the moment due to exceptional rainfall. The old airbricks, if any, may well be choked with cobwebs and dirt, or some idiot may have blocked the with slates.

One thing I would advise against is constantly pumping it out. This tends to remove soil particles with the water, resulting in a hole under the house that it might eventually subside into.

Goodwordguide Fri 11-Jan-13 18:01:17

I just wrote a reply that has vanished ... Grrr...

Yes, it's definitely lime and well-ventilated. External guttering needs replacing so that could be an issue, plus it has been terribly wet recently. And the vendor did say it was dry and she didn't seem to be the lying type (but then, I'm very naive!).

Thanks again for the help

GrendelsMum Fri 11-Jan-13 18:10:24

If it's an older building, how about asking SNAB for specialist advice? If you're planning to buy an old house it's worth joining and going on their homeowners course.

I have to say that I really can't work out why filling a cellar would help with a timber frame?

Goodwordguide Fri 11-Jan-13 19:59:37

Good idea grendel, thanks

bureni Fri 11-Jan-13 20:34:08

If the floor has water and woodworm probably best to remove all the wooden flooring and replace the entire floor with a proper concrete floor fitted with modern insulation and damp/water proofing, this would be much better in the long term and also inspect ALL timbers in the building for wet rot, damp rot and infestation.

PolterGoose Argentina Fri 11-Jan-13 20:46:19

No, no, no, bureni, why on earth would you replace something functional and integral to a building with whatever a 'proper concrete floor' is supposed to be confused

Old houses need to breathe, that is how they are meant to be. The use of modern materials like cement, concrete and acrylic paints can all cause irreparable damage to historic buildings.

bureni Fri 11-Jan-13 21:12:37

I have a building which was constructed in the 18th century and a concrete floor has done it no harm but in fact has given the entire building a lot more strength, these old buildings only need to breathe to keep the timbers dry but if the floor timbers are removed then there is not a problem.

ClareMarriott Sat 12-Jan-13 15:50:58

Goodword In your original post you've asked for our suggestions regarding filling in a cellar when you mention a " ( potential ) new house " How long along the process of buying this property are you if there are suggestion that the cellar could be filled in ? Personally, older houses are not for me, but have you lived in one before so are aware of the hazards/joys of living in one ?

Goodwordguide Sat 12-Jan-13 17:35:53

We're pretty far along eg, have school,places etc, but I'm always cautious given the tortuous house-buying process in the UK.

We haven't owned a house this old before - we lived in one abroad but it was very different due to different climate, different hazards etc. It is a learning process to some extent as all houses have their 'quirks', to put it euphemistically. I just wondered if anyone had experience of this as we personally have not filled in a cellar before and would not have thought it was the simplest solution.

PigletJohn Sat 12-Jan-13 17:48:31

it's not the first thing I would look at, especially if it is not very deep. I would start by looking for gutter or downpipe leakage, water running towards the house from paving and broken gullies, and leak from pipes or drains.

If the groundwater round the house couldn't be lowered even by putting a french drain round it, and improving subfloor ventilation couldn't keep it dry, I might reluctantly patch up any cracks or defects in the subfloor walls, line with thick poly, and barrow in shingle. You would have to take up all the downstairs floors so it would be quite a lot of work.

Goodwordguide Sat 12-Jan-13 17:58:50

Thanks piglet - I hace a hunch it is linked to the guttering, which we will get fixed - will see what happens after that.

Cheers

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