Foundation Help

Old 03-08-12, 10:39 AM
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Foundation Help

I have a home built in 1872, with a double brick foundation and dirt floor. There is also dirt approximately 5 feet high and 2 to 3 feet out from the foundations walls - the rest of the basement is dug down to approxiumately 6 feet. What I would like to do is dig out all the dirt right to the foundation walls but suspect the dirt is there in part to prevent or help prevent the brick foundation from buckling inward. If that is the case, could I dig to within 12 - 18" of the brick wall, build a block retaining wall? This would mean I would have a block wall, 12 - 18" of dirt, then the brick foundation...then I would top the dirt off with concrete, effectively forming a "shelf" around the entire basement. I realize this will take up space, but only used for storage anyway. Any comments or alternative suggestions would be much appreciated.
Old 03-08-12, 12:10 PM
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Have you located the footer underneath the brick foundation wall? I don't think you can plan anything until you know if there is a footer, how deep it is and how wide it is.

When you excavate inside a foundation wall you have to start thinking of the foundation as a retaining wall. When the foundation was supported on both sides by earth it only had to carry the weight straight down of the house above. Remove the dirt on one side and the wall must also withstand the side pressure of the dirt outside pushing in. It's probably OK when the ground is dry but when it's saturated with water it can generate tremendous pressure.

I have seen your idea done where a knee wall is built inside the dug out area. I even saw a very nice one where they poured concrete over the dirt shelf making a very nice, clean storage area. I would have to say it is quite possible but I would not rely solely on the advice of an online stranger that has never seen your crawl space.
Old 03-08-12, 02:44 PM
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I agree you should get a local expert to look at it for you! My grandfather did the same thing to his old farm house back in the 50's, maybe early 60's. His house had a field stone foundation, I don't know if it had a proper footer. His original cellar only had about 4' of headroom so he dug down around 3'
and blocked up a knee wall to just above the bottom of the stone foundation wall. He then poured a concrete floor including the shelf at the top of the block. I think the shelf was about 2' wide.

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