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Has anyone with a 1930's house got a cellar?

(21 Posts)
Palomb Fri 17-Jun-16 17:04:24

My new house has a cellar and I love it! Having never had a cellar before though I want to ask some questions about what's normal.

My cellar has maybe 6 steps going down to it and the bottom two always have mud and water on, not smell or anything. There's a hole
In the bottom step that kind or oozes silty stuff. There's a channel that runs round the edge that I presume is a drain to channel this water away and it ends in a hole in the tiles. The hole has standing water in it and my exploratory prod with a knitting needle show its maybe 9 inches deep and full of mud. None of this has changed over all the rain we've had.

I'm not concerned about any of it just interested in all cellars are the same?

Heratnumber7 Fri 17-Jun-16 17:14:17

Not all cellars are wet, no. Most are dry.

whois Fri 17-Jun-16 17:42:24

It isn't uncommon to have a wet cellar. In Sheffield the terraced often have little ditches going through the middle to channel any water, and it can rise and fall with the water level.

Palomb Fri 17-Jun-16 17:46:31

It's not all wet and doesn't feel damp at all, just this bottom steps little bit of ooze.

wowfudge Sat 18-Jun-16 05:56:59

Can you stand up in your cellar? Six steps down isn't much. We had a 1930s house with a cellar, but there was a full staircase down to it.

Is your house near a river or another source of water?

Palomb Sat 18-Jun-16 08:44:01

Yeah I can stand up in it but dh can't.

We're about 100m from a small river but were up a steep hill. No flood risk.

Hassled Sat 18-Jun-16 08:47:30

1930s house but no cellar - I would love a cellar. The storage!
Next door was virtually unchanged for years until recently (elderly neighbours who died) and they had a little room off the kitchen filled with coal.

MrsHenryWinter Sat 18-Jun-16 08:48:27

My aunt has a cellar that has drainage channels round it. They ran out to a ditch about 500 metres away (they live in an Edwardian villa in the country) it did have to be cleared as it flooded their cellar.

If you can afford it, I would be tempted to get someone to have a look at it to make sure it's draining properly.

PigletJohn Sat 18-Jun-16 10:55:58

actual water and mud can be caused by leaking drains and water pipes, which should be repaired. Do you have a water meter? Leaks can also be from your neighbours. You say you are uphill from the river and rain does not affect it.

Your pictures suggest it was well (and expensively) built. However if it turns out to be water table, it is not really fixable. Ask around your neighbours to see what they get, and if they have attempted fixes.

The hole in the floor ought to go to some kind of drain, in which case it should not be muddy. Does it seem to be lined with glazed clay pipe (like a "brown betty" teapot? There is a fair chance that you will have a "manhole cover" nearby, though the drain would have to be lower than the floor of the cellar (rule 1 of drains, water only flows downhill). It looks like the cellar was built with a laundry sink, so there should be a drain. Clay pipes often crack, break and leak well before they are a hundred years old.

Palomb Sat 18-Jun-16 11:42:31

There's isn't a sink, just the old slab that runs the whole length of the wall. Yes the drain just looks
Like an old terracotta pipe but it is definitely full of muck. You're right about the manhole - it's on the drive, about 4m away from where the drain is. The surveyor couldn't lift the cover but all the other plumbing seems to work fine also, the guy who owned this house was a plumber so I'd hope where wasn't a problem with the drains - if there was it'd smell anyway wouldn't it?

Our neighbour said she didn't have a cellar.

MiaowTheCat Sat 18-Jun-16 11:49:13

Mid/late 20s house and no cellar here - some of the terraced ones further down towards town of a slightly earlier period have them though.

PigletJohn Sat 18-Jun-16 13:35:42

the tiling and the slab made me think it was for laundry, but I suppose it might have been e.g. a butcher's room. In country areas small builders used to work as undertakers.

If you are lucky the floor drain might just be blocked and could be rodded clear (there is probably a yard gulley in the concrete floor, which is a bit like a U-bend) but I am still concerned about the source of water and suspect a leak, perhaps near the kitchen.

Have you got a water meter?

Palomb Sat 18-Jun-16 16:31:45

No water meter.

Will have to see what happens over the next year or so. It's obviously been in this condition for a long time looking at the limescale deposits around the steps.

I had another look at the drain and it isn't terracotta - the actual down pipe is black rough bitty earthenware. Will try giving it a poke with something more substantial than a knitting needle.

PigletJohn Sat 18-Jun-16 16:47:14

if you are fond of gardening, dig a pit uphill from your house and see if the ground is surprisingly wet, maybe it is running down the hill towards your cellar.

If you have someone with good ears, get them to stand in the kitchen at a quiet time while you turn the pavement stopcock on and off. A leak makes a faint hiss, you don't notice it until it starts and stops. A plumber knows other ways.

You can use a ladle or serving spoon to scoop mud out of a drain, or a wet and dry vac.

Palomb Sat 18-Jun-16 16:51:07

I will investigate and see what I find smile thank you

NewLife4Me Sat 18-Jun-16 16:58:22

Yes, we have one exactly the same, all ours do along the street.
Don't be tempted to try and dry it it and line it as they are not meant for this and can cause serious problems with your foundations.

We have a civil engineer who lives next door, who warned us when we moved in.
The only problem we have is if it's a really hot summer with a draught as it dries out and then can smell. Make sure your air bricks are cleared of debris and webs etc so that a good air flow goes through, this will minimise any smell.
The water will rise and fall as the water table does in the area, you should have a little well towards the back or side that will drain it away.
If you have chimneys make sure they are capped, as if birds fall down to the cellar they can honk a bit after a while.

Palomb Sat 18-Jun-16 19:24:00

That very reassuring, thank you! I'm sure it's just one of those older house things. I've always lived in 80's houses so it's all new to me smile

Palomb Thu 28-Jul-16 17:01:42

Righto, Piglet John I could really do with some advice If you're still about. I had a day off today so I decided to see if I could work out what's going on with this water and I think I've figured out that it's a drain under he garage sad. The hole pretty much pumps out water when the tap is run in the kitchen and when the upstairs toilet is flushed. Not good eh!

What do I need to do? How much is this going to cost?

PigletJohn Thu 28-Jul-16 19:12:21

If you think you have a broken drain, ask around for a drain company, you want someone who can do a CCTV survey as well as taking up all the drain covers and looking down all the drains. If they serve more than one home, you can get the water co to do it.

It is very common for old clay pipes to break, usually at the bend of a yard gulley, and the rest bend where an underground drain turns upwards to connect to a soil or downpipe. IME they are always broken, but perhaps there are some somewhere that aren't.

Very often you dig up one to replace it, and find the socket of the next one is also broken. So you dig that one up, and find....

A modern drain specialist might be able to reline old pipes by poking a rubbery liner up them.

Offer your drain man a mug of tea and a doughnut. You might be surprised to find he eats it without taking off his rubber gauntlets, while standing in the manhole.

Palomb Thu 28-Jul-16 20:08:54

Thanks. It all sounds very expensive sad I wonder if this kind of thing is covered on home insurance?

Will get some doughnuts in and let you know grin

Palomb Thu 28-Jul-16 21:40:15

A drain guy has just been out on the home emergency policy dh has on one of his bank accounts. He's books a drainage survey booked tomorrow. A Fingers cross it doesn't cost more than a grand to fix as that's all the policy is up to.

He said it's definitely sewage which is fabulous considering we're all been treading it round the house for 8 weeks envy

No doughnuts were to hand.

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