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Making a cellar nice (Read 1305 times)

Omar15

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Making a cellar nice
August 30, 2022, 10:38:10 am
Just moved into a new place in Sheffield and it has a cellar  :) Some of the previous owner's stuff down there was slightly mouldy so I guess it can get a bit damp. Its got painted walls made from brick and stone with a floor that looks like concrete. I'm planning on putting a board down there, but I wanted to make the space a bit nicer - at least cleaner and drier - first. A lot of the stuff I'm reading talks about using "breathable materials" in a cellar so my plan was to:

1. Ask someone to sandblast the existing paint off the walls - some of the paint is bubbling off at the moment - I guess from damp.
2. Lime plaster the walls and paint with some sort of breathable paint. Looks like "earthborn paints" have some good ones for cellars.
3. Ask a pro to move/tidy the electrical wires and water pipes running through the ceiling.
3. Paint the floor with a breathable epoxy (I had no idea these existed).
4. Get a de-humidifier down there plus a fan by the coalhole.

Does this sound sensible, or am I just over-complicating it? I'm very grateful for any advice.

petejh

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#1 Re: Making a cellar nice
August 30, 2022, 11:27:33 am
Interested to see other's responses to this topic as I'll be dealing with some old stone house/damp issues later this year.

There's some information on various websites by builders/renovators who specialise in historical buildings, not sure of their credentials. This person seems quite animated about breathability, and avoiding modern materials in old houses:
https://www.heritage-house.org/damp-and-condensation/managing-damp-in-old-buildings.html
(I should add he comes across a bit of a nutter on the whole topic of damp and surveys etc! But interesting nonetheless) 

From what I gather it makes little sense to apply a 'breathable' epoxy on the concrete floor (unless it's limecrete?) in the hope it will make it breathable as the concrete itself isn't breathable? Happy to be corrected though.
Seems to be v.important in buildings of this type to manage moisture from cooking, showering and just breathing by having good airflow. Unfortunately that doesn't fit in well with high costs of energy.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2022, 11:35:02 am by petejh »

Paul B

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#2 Re: Making a cellar nice
August 30, 2022, 12:49:37 pm
Seems to be v.important in buildings of this type to manage moisture from cooking, showering and just breathing by having good airflow. Unfortunately that doesn't fit in well with high costs of energy.

For airflow, I recently bough a Vacmaster airmover (the one with remote for using with a static bike). It makes my previous fan look/feel terrible by comparison and in the recent heatwave did a really good job of creating airflow up the house. If you don't need the remote then they're even cheaper (£70 vs £100) although mine was on offer (bizarrely during the first hot spell). One of these on a timer (/smartplug) might work quite well?

I previously didn't have an issue in the garage with moisture but the 'barn style' doors had gaps which I sealed with garage threshold rubber stops. In hindsight this was a massive error and I'd generally have said the space was incredibly dry (even with two of the walls retaining earth to about shoulder height).

https://www.cleva-uk.com/products/vacmaster-air-mover
https://www.cleva-uk.com/products/vacmaster-cardio54-fan

Putting a finish on concrete makes the environment generally more pleasant by getting rid of dust IMO (I'm thinking garages here; the Leyland paint is shit though, I'm told Bradtite is the way to go).


SA Chris

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#3 Re: Making a cellar nice
August 30, 2022, 01:18:30 pm
If the floor is reasonably flat and solid you could put down the interlocking black "gym flooring" tiles? We did this to a double garage and it wasn't horifically expensive, but made a lot of difference to comfort.

SamT

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#4 Re: Making a cellar nice
August 30, 2022, 03:00:41 pm
Note.. Dehumidifiers use a LOT of electricity and if being used for this purpose, i.e. to keep a cellar dry, then you need to leave them on 24/7.   And given current fuel prices skyrocketing.. this woudl be the last thing I'd be wanting to do.

Insulating the hell out of the floor above your cellar so your living room above is vaugly warm in winter would be high on my list (no reason why you can't do it while you're installing the board).

tomtom

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#5 Re: Making a cellar nice
August 30, 2022, 03:55:59 pm
We've just done this in the house we moved into...

We went for a 'partial'/half arsed/10% of the price cellar conversion...

Couple of points - alot depends on where you are and how it drains. The foundations of our house are on sand - so anything wet in the cellar will drain away - can't say how it will be in Sheff... likely sand/rock? Second, concrete floors are not great - as any moisture from the walls drains/runs (even slowly) down to the bottom then hits an impermeable layer (the concrete) and then causes a damp patch around the wall/concrete edge. The original flooring (probably) was bricks laid into the mud/sand or flag stones - so this moisture would simply soak away.....

So, we had the concrete broken up - and the floor dug out by 10-15 cm (NOT below the footings). Then a damp course was laid (thick plastic sheet) that went up the walls about 30 cm - then an inch of kingspan - then fresh concrete. On the outer walls that got damp - we fixed damp proof membrane (£250 per 10m by 2m roll) that has a large dimple every 4-5cm or so on the wall facing side which creates an air gap with the wall. This was then tucked into the floor damp course (on the wall side) so any damp can condensate on this - run down the memebrane and into the other side of the wall**. This took a couple of hours to fit.

Cellar is now not damp - and whilst we've only had it in summer - the floor is warmer (insulation really works). Total cost was about £3k or so (not including a new window). £500 for the concrete, £2-300 for the insulation/floor damp proof, £250 for wall stuff - rest was labour. Digging out is just hard manual work. It was about 2/3 of a skip full. Its a 8m by 5m room though.... so not small... A proper job - with electrics, pipework hidden, walls boarded and plastered, new ceiling, skirting boards, arc etc.. would be c.£15k

** this is 'officially' not allowed - you should have drainage channels along the bottom of the wall leading to a sump and a pump - but we are never going to have any water coming up through the sand - the floor was like a dry beach when it was dug out...

I expect this may be too far for what you have in mind - so I'd take the paint/stuff off the walls with a stiff brush and an old hoover - live with the damp and ventilate. Make sure there is a through flow of air.. even a simple bathroom extractor positioned right will enable some air from outside to come in and go out. Dehumidifier might work - but you'll probably spend 6 months of having it on just to dry out the brickwork. Just try and store stuff away from the walls.

Paul B

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#6 Re: Making a cellar nice
August 30, 2022, 04:09:31 pm
So, we had the concrete broken up - and the floor dug out by 10-15 cm (NOT below the footings).

It's always worth noting that bearing capacity calculations include an overburden term; assuming the material adjacent to and above footings isn't doing something positive for you is, well, an assumption! If you can envisage driving a wall into whatever it's founded on, the surrounding earth will heave; if you've got something above that then all of it needs to heave (a quick way to stabilise slopes for instance is to pile mass on the toe; you'll see Councils doing this a LOT). Likewise when you sink a sheet piled cofferdam, the bottom frame is often replaced with concrete to act as a prop; it can be doing this in basements too (keeping your walls from moving inwards)! Basements are very tricky and if you're in doubt about this (anyone) try and get PI for design; messing around with 1200T cranes (which themselves may be lifting £M bridges) is viewed as significantly less risky.

mark20

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#7 Re: Making a cellar nice
August 30, 2022, 04:51:18 pm
I've build campus boards in two Sheffield terraced house cellars - both are pretty damp. One gets rain come in via the coal shute and the other gets a small amount of water come up from underneath during really heavy rain. The quick/cheap things that I have done that seem to make a difference-

Empty cellar out, Remove any dirt (that holds moisture) from the floors, break off damp old lime plaster which is barely stuck to the wall and holding in moisture, Line floor with 'hollow rubber mesh' matting to keep things directly off the floor

Take as much crap out as possible, and keep stuff raised up from the ground on plastic shelving and away from the walls. Anything like cardboard/cloth/pads suck up moisture. Leaving plenty of space for air to flow

Clear out space around air bricks (the spaces around mine were full of dust, dirt and broken bricks - big difference since this was cleared out)
Unblock the coal shute if it's blocked. I put a slab, raised on bricks, over mine so rain doesn't directly come in, but allows good airflow.
Probably want to insulate the underside of the floor whilst you're down there.

Keep wood away from floor - my (campus) boards are hanging from the floor joists, and kick boards mounted on batons against the driest wall, kept just off the floor. Painted the batons and back of the kickboard in bitumen paint. Seems to work quite well.

I find that just by having a couple of hours a week down there, with the fan on, it makes a reasonable difference to how dry it is compared to how it used to be. But having said that, re-plastering, painting the walls/floor would be a complete waste of time. Sounds like you may have a drier cellar than mine ?

tomtom

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#8 Re: Making a cellar nice
August 30, 2022, 04:56:18 pm
@paulb our structural engineer was fine with it..

Also worth remembering that given the present weather - your cellar probably hasnít been as dry since 1976!

Paul B

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#9 Re: Making a cellar nice
August 30, 2022, 04:58:05 pm
@paulb our structural engineer was fine with it..

Ask a Geo engineer just how scary that sentence is.

mr chaz

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#10 Re: Making a cellar nice
August 30, 2022, 05:03:56 pm
@paulb our structural engineer was fine with it..

Ask a Geo engineer just how scary that sentence is.

 :lol: Scary? Yes. Surprising? No.

tomtom

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#11 Re: Making a cellar nice
August 30, 2022, 05:11:34 pm
He was quite risk adverse - one internal wall had to be re-built (in engineering bricks) from the first floor down to the cellar (including a small concrete pad and new footings).

spidermonkey09

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#12 Re: Making a cellar nice
August 30, 2022, 07:58:08 pm
Would the counter argument from the structural engineers be that nothing is ever safe enough for a geo?

mr chaz

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#13 Re: Making a cellar nice
August 30, 2022, 08:54:48 pm
Sorry going way :offtopic:
Some would probably say that  ;D
But my experience is structural Engs appreciation of geo varies from reassuring to occasionally scary, and I would argue that the former relies heavily on the latter, and not so much the other way round
#groundup (or down in this caseÖ)

Donít get me started on Architects  ;)

Paul B

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#14 Re: Making a cellar nice
August 31, 2022, 02:24:58 pm
Would the counter argument from the structural engineers be that nothing is ever safe enough for a geo?

My fault for the OT but I've never come across a Geo engineer undertaking structural design but I've often come across a Struct. engineer undertaking Geo. design, usually foundations. One of the most common insurance claims in the industry is low height retaining walls designed by someone without a Geo. base.

 

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