"The Pit" or future wine/storm cellar or mechanical room
Our old house has a brick foundation and tall crawlspace. Under the family room we have what used to be a boiler room (approximately 14'x14') that was accessed through an outside set of stairs. Two walls of the "room" only go up to ground level and open to the crawl space, while the other two are full height to the floor joists. The walls are also brick, and appears to be on a concrete slab, giving the room/pit an overall height to the floor joists of approximately 8 feet. The slab always appears dry and has no signs of water seepage. The brick is also in fantastic condition, from what I can tell. This space actually has an old water heater down in there that is not in use and has since been replaced with a shorty 40 gallon unit in a closet on the first floor.
Sometime during the house's history, two rooms were added and built on a slab, at ground level (each on the full height walls, which were exterior walls) and they closed off the stairs that accessed this room. It is now only accessible through the crawl space and is a ton of work to get to.
We've been thinking of opening up the floor to this room through an adjacent closet to put in a small stairwell so we can easily access this space and make it usable for our mechanicals (water heater) as well as create a nice place for wine/canned food storage and in addition provide some shelter from potential severe weather. We would have someone come in and extend the wall height up to the floor joists above.
Here's the questions...
- What about egress issues, since the room is basically not accessible to the exterior of the house and would have no windows? Could the crawlspace be utilized for egress?
- How about drainage? Would a tile system of some sort have to be added and/or maybe a sump of some kind in case the water heater would need to be drained and or leaked?
- How about ventilation and air circulation? If we are going to do wine and canned good storage, I would like to keep the temperature fluctuation to a minimum.
- Would a building inspector laugh at me for even thinking of this?? :eek:
I have a feeling this project would be a HUGE undertaking, but as things are now, we have basically no place to add a larger water heater and a place to run from severe weather. Would be nice to use this space if possible.
Any input on something like this would be helpful! It all seems very complicated... :eek:
A crawl space does not satisfy the requirement for an opening for emergency escape and rescue, But, you are making a storage/utility space and with most codes you are not required to have an "opening for emergency escape and rescue", nor are there light and ventilation requirements for the storage space. The utility aspect, domestic hot water heater, may require combustion air. Check your heating appliance specifications. See your local Building Dept. about if the requirements for the stair to a storage/utility area. Stairs can take up a surprising amount of space and if the local code allows a higher rise or narrower width to the stair you might want to consider it. I think that any Building Inspector will take you seriously, it sounds like a good project. If your soil conditions allow for it a floor drain to a dry well is a good idea. Good Luck.
We do not have natural gas in the home, so we have an electric water heater. So, that might also improve our ventilation situation.
Keep it coming! I appreciate any info and/or thoughts!
No big deal if you have a min. 3x12' area to dedicate to a staircase on the main floor and below in the 14x14. This reduces your 14 x14 to a 14x11 or so.
No combustion air necessary for an electric water heater.
Plenty of storage space down there and having a storm shelter might not be a bad idea.
Water heater has to be taken in and taken out. Draining it for repair/replacement would take longer and a utility pump, and usually not all water can be drained. Small stair that'll fit into a closet may not be enough. At least more chance for an accident.
Enclosing the space for storage means temperature and moisture control, at least. It will have to be built to the fire and electric code.
Lacking a convenient access, I would spend the money on separate shed or a bump out along the garage. Super insulate the water pipes.
If we move forward with this, it's worth it to us to spend the money and utilize the space, versus adding an out-building, of sorts, to the house. Thoughts of a "secret door" or "moving bookshelf" sort of adds to the whole character of the concept.
Assuming all electrical and fire codes have been met, what would be the best way for moisture control? Sump and pump? Not sure if the slab is sloped or not. I suspect that it might not be.
The closet we're thinking of using would actually allow us to start the stairs outside of the space, and descend down by modifying a portion of the "pit" wall, and taking up very little floor space in the 14x14 area. It would be a little bit of work, but it would work out well, access-wise.
You can always cut in a sump pump pit if you need it. May want to plan on where to run the pipe, however.
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