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Old 09-18-2016, 08:25 AM   #1
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Cutting a floor hatch to access a basement


I have a 3m x 3m basement under my ground floor bedroom which has no access at present. I know it has electrics I can see a switch on a side wall, so it has been used at some point for storage and a boiler. All I have is a small 9" square hole in the bricks which I can shine a torch in the rear wall outside. I couldn't access or make this hole bigger without using structural props etc and I need the access from inside the house.

The location of access I hope to cut will be at the rear of my bedroom through existing 7mm laminate flooring, which has 2cm pine floorboards under it. The laminate is the old type glued together not the new type which clips. I believe there are 2" x 4" joists supporting (this is the standard for the age of house) but I cannot measure distances between the joists and this is my problem. I know there are also cross beams across the bedroom side to side supporting the joists and I have measured their distance from the rear wall and can tell there is space for the hatch between them.

The problem is I just cannot locate the joists. I do not want to rip up the laminate and floor boards damaging them for the whole room because this is a one bed appartment and I live in the bedroom with my wife and month old son.

We are unable to re-floor the whole bedroom with new laminate because we cannot find it now on the market to match the laminate in the rest of the house.

Is there a way we can cut the laminate from above accurately with a circular saw so that I can use the square cut out to make the "lid" for the access hole? I was planning to make a frame beneath this to enable it to bear weight and hinge it to one side. NB I can't drill from below which would be the obvious answer to give accurate measurements.

Any ideas most welcome I'm new to this site hoping someone out there might have some way of measuring without damaging my flooring so I can still make the access hatch out of it.

I have recently acquired a stud/joist depth detector which works "bleeps" but I cannot be sure of its accuracy which would need to be very accurate before I cut or drill.

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Last edited by piplewis; 09-18-2016 at 08:27 AM. Reason: wrong uom
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Old 09-18-2016, 09:21 AM   #2
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Re: Cutting a floor hatch to access a basement


I would drill a small hole from the top, then use a wire probe to estimate where the joists are, then use the stud detector, to try to pinpoint better.

Then before I cut, drill a few test holes until I know exactly where the joists lie, then cut very close to them for my hatch.

Drill small holes and you wont ruin the flooring much.


ED
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Old 09-18-2016, 09:48 AM   #3
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Re: Cutting a floor hatch to access a basement


My suggestion would be.

1. Lay out your cut lines perpendicular to the floor joist.
2. Using a saber saw, make a plunge cut through the laminate and the floor boards
beneath using the shortest blade that will cut through both.
3. Change your blade to the longest blade you can find.
4. File off the teeth of that long blade beneath the thickness of the laminate and
the floor boards.
5. Starting in your plunge cut, cut in each direction until you feel the joist.
When the portion of the blade that has the teeth removed hits the joist your
cut will stop.
6. Lay out your cut lines parallel to the floor joist.
7. Make your plunge cut.
8. Cut these lines with the long blade, keeping the blade twisted slightly toward
the joist. By keeping the blade twisted slightly toward the joist, the joist will
guide the cut.


When making your plunge cut, if you lay down a straight edge about 1 to 1 1/2" thick (2 x4) on your line, it will help to stabilize the blade until you get into the wood. Stick it down with double sided tape.

PS
If you can't find a very long saber saw blade, just make your plunge cut wide enough to get a hand saw started. You will feel the joist with a hand saw.
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Last edited by hkstroud; 09-18-2016 at 09:54 AM.
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Old 09-18-2016, 03:03 PM   #4
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Re: Cutting a floor hatch to access a basement


Get one of these, and you should be able to see where you need to go.


http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/4011060...&ul_noapp=true
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Old 09-18-2016, 08:11 PM   #5
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Re: Cutting a floor hatch to access a basement


Using the 9" hole from the outside, can you stick in a trouble light and a camera and take some pictures? Doing that you should be able to guess at the spans, and pick up a reference point from something that goes through.
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Old 09-19-2016, 04:13 AM   #6
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Re: Cutting a floor hatch to access a basement


thanks. I have one similar from ebay unfortunately the 9" hole is too far away and too near the underside of the floor so viewing is very limited and the light strength is too weak even with a strong torch from the hole. I tried sticking it onto a piece of timber and it's just too clumsy to move about. also the picture keeps flickering so no real progress can be made.
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Old 09-19-2016, 05:48 AM   #7
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Re: Cutting a floor hatch to access a basement


Thank you so much for such a comprehensive thought-out, step by step answer.

Using the saber saw/jigsaw and filing off the teeth below thickness required is insightful and seems a wise approach. I don't have a power sabre saw but I don't think using a hand saw is an option for me because of the clean cut I need. So I'll pick one up - hopefully it will only cost around $100 for a decent one that can cut through really neatly and I can get blades for.

What do you think between these two? http://www.drapertools.com/product/2...20Work%20Light or http://www.drapertools.com/product/4...LED-Work-Light

One question: I guess exactly how many teeth I file off the blade depends on how far down the machine sends the blade on its max downward stroke, is that correct? I wonder whether the manufacturers spec will tell me this - I fear it won't.

Your tips on guiding the blades are well noted.

Any guidance on these things would be useful.


Quote:
Originally Posted by hkstroud View Post
My suggestion would be.

1. Lay out your cut lines perpendicular to the floor joist.
2. Using a saber saw, make a plunge cut through the laminate and the floor boards
beneath using the shortest blade that will cut through both.
3. Change your blade to the longest blade you can find.
4. File off the teeth of that long blade beneath the thickness of the laminate and
the floor boards.
5. Starting in your plunge cut, cut in each direction until you feel the joist.
When the portion of the blade that has the teeth removed hits the joist your
cut will stop.
6. Lay out your cut lines parallel to the floor joist.
7. Make your plunge cut.
8. Cut these lines with the long blade, keeping the blade twisted slightly toward
the joist. By keeping the blade twisted slightly toward the joist, the joist will
guide the cut.


When making your plunge cut, if you lay down a straight edge about 1 to 1 1/2" thick (2 x4) on your line, it will help to stabilize the blade until you get into the wood. Stick it down with double sided tape.

PS
If you can't find a very long saber saw blade, just make your plunge cut wide enough to get a hand saw started. You will feel the joist with a hand saw.
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Old 09-19-2016, 08:29 AM   #8
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Re: Cutting a floor hatch to access a basement


Either of those saber/jig saws look fine to me. Being US of course I am not familiar with either brand. Just ensure that a really long blade is available before purchasing.

You can do the same thing with a reciprocating saw (sawsall). Using a sawsall would probably require more skill to get a straight cut. You would need to put down a edge guide. That would be a straight piece of wood taped down with double sided tape. Sawsall would be a faster cut.

To make the plunge cut I suggest that you pick up a oscillating multi-tool. It will give you great control for making the plunge cut.
Here in the US we have a tool outlet called Harbor Freight Tools. The sell really cheap tools. Most are junk, but ever once and a while you find one that is well worth the money. The Chicago Electric multi-tool is one of those and it is very cheap. About $20 US.

Your Machine Mart may be the equivalent of Harbor Freight. You could also try ordering on line from Harbor Freight but get battery powered. Corded will be 120 volts.

The multi-tool functions by vibrating back and forth a very small distance. This give you great control.

Yes, you would file off the teeth leaving an amount equivalent of the thickness of the floor. Most saber saws have a 1" stroke. Leave slightly more teeth than necessary when the blade is at the bottom of the stroke. All you really need is a section of blade at the tip without teeth to stop you when you hit the joist.
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Last edited by hkstroud; 09-19-2016 at 08:38 AM.
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Old 09-19-2016, 09:08 AM   #9
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Re: Cutting a floor hatch to access a basement


Might be helpful.

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Old 09-27-2016, 04:04 AM   #10
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Re: Cutting a floor hatch to access a basement


Quote:
Originally Posted by hkstroud View Post
Either of those saber/jig saws look fine to me. Being US of course I am not familiar with either brand. Just ensure that a really long blade is available before purchasing.

You can do the same thing with a reciprocating saw (sawsall). Using a sawsall would probably require more skill to get a straight cut. You would need to put down a edge guide. That would be a straight piece of wood taped down with double sided tape. Sawsall would be a faster cut.

To make the plunge cut I suggest that you pick up a oscillating multi-tool. It will give you great control for making the plunge cut.
Here in the US we have a tool outlet called Harbor Freight Tools. The sell really cheap tools. Most are junk, but ever once and a while you find one that is well worth the money. The Chicago Electric multi-tool is one of those and it is very cheap. About $20 US.

Your Machine Mart may be the equivalent of Harbor Freight. You could also try ordering on line from Harbor Freight but get battery powered. Corded will be 120 volts.

The multi-tool functions by vibrating back and forth a very small distance. This give you great control.

Yes, you would file off the teeth leaving an amount equivalent of the thickness of the floor. Most saber saws have a 1" stroke. Leave slightly more teeth than necessary when the blade is at the bottom of the stroke. All you really need is a section of blade at the tip without teeth to stop you when you hit the joist.
OK now I've got my saws.

1. I got this for my plunge saw http://www.domu.co.uk/vonhaus-oscill...20multi%20tool

2. I got this for my sabre saw http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Produc...er/4553515.htm

All I have to do now is work out the exact angle I can safely make my first cut. I have a reliable square and a steel edge so will take it from the bedroom back and cut perpendicular to the front to back shared wall with my neighbour. The other wall I think might have been added later so it might not be perpendicular to the joists. I am also going to assume that my joists are at 23"centres because the only two I can see are that. I think it's unlikely they are at 11or 12" centres. I hope this makes sense.
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Old 09-27-2016, 04:39 AM   #11
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Re: Cutting a floor hatch to access a basement


And I bought some Bosch blades at a discount with the deal which are http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Produc...4557.htm#bv_qa I hope they are long enough I think they are around 60mm so should be good.
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Old 09-27-2016, 06:40 AM   #12
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Re: Cutting a floor hatch to access a basement


Now I have decided to visit my neighbours 3 doors away whose semi-detatched 2-storey home has the exact same configuration as mine built at the same time 100 years ago or more, and see whether they can shed any light on the position of the floor joists in their rear bedroom which is in the same position as mine is. They might even have their cellar opened up already. But if this fails, I'll just have to rely on my beeper and the measurements I've made and just hope I don't plunge straight into a joist...
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Old 09-27-2016, 07:39 AM   #13
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Re: Cutting a floor hatch to access a basement


QUOTE:The location of access I hope to cut will be at the rear of my bedroom through existing 7mm laminate flooring, which has 2cm pine floorboards under it. The laminate is the old type glued together not the new type which clips. I believe there are 2" x 4" joists supporting (this is the standard for the age of house) but I cannot measure distances between the joists and this is my problem.

__________________________________________________ _____________

You seem to know the thickness of the laminate and sub floor as being 27 mm thick. Using a 1 mm drill bit extended from the drill chuck about 30 mm, locate the 2X4 joists. After locating those, set a portable circular saw depth to 28 mm and cut the hatch out.
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Old 09-27-2016, 08:10 AM   #14
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Re: Cutting a floor hatch to access a basement


Looks good. I think you will enjoy using that oscillating saw. Good price on jig saw also.

Draw your first cut line perpendicular to the joist parallel to the wall. You can make a straight cut with a jig saw if you take your time following a line but you will get a better cut if you use an edge guide. Measure the distance between the blade and edge of the foot of the saw. Tape down your edge guide that distance from your line. Your joist may or may not be exactly perpendicular to that line and may or may not be perfectly parallel to one another but that doesn't matter. What you want to do is cut out your laminated flooring such that it fits back in the hole exactly. That is more important than it being exactly square.

After making your two cuts parallel to the wall and know where the joist are you can use the oscillating saw to cut out the laminated flooring in the other direction, leaving the floor boards under neath. That will make you breath a little easier having the laminated flooring that you are going to reuse out of the way. You can then cut the floor boards with jig saw.

Suggest making some practice cut in some scrap wood with both saws to get the feel of the saws. Including making plunge cuts with jig saw.

Let us know how it goes.

PS
Make sure that the access hole you are planning to make is large enough for your needs. If necessary you can cut through a joist and then reinforce the joist from underneath if necessary.
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Last edited by hkstroud; 09-27-2016 at 08:17 AM.
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Old 09-27-2016, 09:53 PM   #15
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Re: Cutting a floor hatch to access a basement


I did exactly the same thing in my house. Let me tell you how I did it. While others have mentioned some of these points, please bear with me.

First you decide roughly where you want the hatch to go. Mark the area with masking tape, or chalk.

Drill a 5/16" hole near the center of the imagined hatch.

Take apart a wire coat hanger. Bend it into an "L" shape, with the bottom of the L about 16" long. At the top of the L, bend about 3" of wire in exactly the same direction as the leg of the L.

Insert the leg of the L through the hole. Holding the wire vertical, slowly rotate the wire until the L hits something. Stop. Using the little bend as your guide, draw a line showing the path of the leg. Rotate the wire in the opposite direction and repeat.

Remove the wire, point the leg in the opposite direction, and repeat. Your marks should now look like an "X". Setting the leg atop the marks, mark where the leg ends on each mark. Now you know which direction the joists run, and exactly where they are.

Look at how this compares to your outline of where you want the hatch to be. It's probably that you'll want to repeat the entire procedure on the other side of one of the joists you've found.

Mark the floor exactly where you want the hatch to be. Set up a piece of angle iron to guide your circular saw, allowing for blade clearance. Set the depth of cut to slightly more than the floor thickness. Make the cuts as best you can. Finish the corner cuts by hand, using a keyhole saw.

(If you did as I did, and placed your cuts directly over the joists, you'll want to use a milti-master to finish the cuts.

With cuts made all around, firmly screw a simple handle to the piece you want to remove. Use a pry bar to lift this end up - you'll almost certainly be fighting the nails holding it to a joist in the middle. Once the piece is just a little above the floor, you can slip another pry bar under the piece itself. Remove the piece, complete.

Now you should be looking at a hole with ONE joist across it. You will want to enter the crawl space and cut that joist back, about 3/4", from the edge of your opening. Again, some of this cutting will be by hand, and somewhat difficult. The multi-master will help.

Using metal joist hangers - 3 per side - attach pieces of matching 2x's to finish boxing in the opening. These end pieces will also use joist hangers to support the joist you cut, and transfer that load to the joists on wither side of the opening. If your opening is smaller than the full width of two joist bays, you'll need more hangers and wood to finish the "box."

The piece you removed will probably not be suitable for use as your new hatch. I found two layers of 3/4" plywood match the original floor in stiffness, and to be pretty close in thickness. You can recess your hardware into the top plywood layer, and cover it with a throw rug; there's hardly anything left to stumble over.

I attached my hardware with through bolts. On the 'nutty' side, I used metal plates, rather than flat washers, and elastic lock nuts (NyLocks).

For hardware, I used ordinary (large) barrel hinges, a gate latch (projecting part of the padlock hasp removed), and a folding handle much like you might see on an old steel trash can.

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