Do you know what is under your house? We have a crawl space! Come see how we deal with our crawl space foundation.
We have talked about inside the house before which is all well and good. But what about under the house?
If a 115 year old house is still standing, it’s probably because it has a good foundation! But not all foundations are created equal. Our house has a crawl space foundation, and we’ve become very familiar with it during this renovation.
What is a crawl space foundation?
There are several different ways to support a house, and which one you have likely depends on your geographical location.
A crawl space foundation is simply a foundation in which the house is elevated a few feet above the dirt, but there is no excavated basement.
The house’s foundation has to support the whole structure, ideally without shifting or fluctuating throughout the seasons. What makes a foundation fluctuate? Water! Or more specifically, freezing water.
Therefore, areas that have really cold winters tend to also have soil that freezes really deep down. By digging a foundation below that freezing point (or frost line), this increases the likelihood of stable ground for a foundation.
Here in Kentucky, our frost line is somewhere around 20″. So in the winter, ground water will freeze solid down 20″ in to the Earth.
This is probably why we see a lot of houses that have both a crawlspace and a basement under them. Basements are a lot of work to dig out, especially in 1905. So you would only dig one if you had a really good reason to.
Our Crawl Space Foundation
So what do we have? Well we have a crawl space. But it’s honestly a crawl space in name only because there is hardly even room to crawl.
Originally this house had a stacked stone foundation. In 1953 it was mostly replace by a poured concrete foundation. But they didn’t appear to raise the house at all because it only goes about two feet deep into the ground.
The stacked stone supports still run under the load bearing walls in the house, but have been knocked through to make way for ducting and HVAC.
I can’t honestly say I’m upset about having a crawlspace versus a basement. Firstly, I do not need another 800 square feet of room to store stuff. And second, basements just perpetually creep me out.
How do we insulate our crawlspace foundation?
We don’t. HA. Hear me out.
The current best practice is far as I can tell is to encapsulate the crawl space. Which means to essentially seal and climate control the space as you would a basement.
The trouble is there is virtually NO ROOM in our crawlspace to carry out such activities. I mean there is literally no clearance. And the world of internet contractor forums basically told me I was an idiot for buying a house in which you couldn’t encapsulate the crawl space. Not helpful. I mean have you seen the staircase?
Actually we tried it in our hall. It was a horrific, two-week experience in which we put fiberglass and radiant barrier insulation under the floor. And the result was…no improvement.
A good amount of our heat goes up and out. So we put most of our efforts into insulating the walls and ceiling.
For the floors I buy 100% wool rugs off eBay and marketplace. These rugs combined with great, thick rug pads mean most of our floor is covered in the winter.
How do we access our crawl space?
We have one crawl space access in the closet under the stairs. But considering how tight the space is, we can’t actually access most of the house through that point.
Instead Brandon built these outstanding trap doors in the floor. We have one in the study, one in the pantry, and will put one in the dining room.
He built a box to support the cut floor boards, and also a support structure underneath the floor. Since the trap door sits flush with the floor, I found these AMAZING brass pulls that he recessed into one end.
I didn’t get good images and descriptions of making the trap door this time, but I will when we do one in the dining room.
What about tornado shelter?
Kentucky certainly isn’t tornado alley, but we get our fair share of tornado warnings throughout the season. Fortunately we haven’t had a big scare yet. But if we did, we have a place can go.
This is our root cellar. This space is on the list to be overhauled at some point because I would like to use it as a proper root cellar. But for now, it is a sweet little space under our out building.
I promise one day I’ll do a full tour of the root cellar. Right now this building is a mess and I need to clean it up like…a lot.
Is a crawl space foundation something to be scared of?
Absolutely not! As with any foundation, it can have its share of problems. But it’s no reason to not buy a house! So if you have a crawl space foundation (and even one you can’t encapsulate), welcome to the club. Still not a reason to not love your old house!
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