Tunnel between two houses

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Old 04-11-17, 10:07 AM
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Tunnel between two houses

I own two adjacent properties. The foundations are maybe 25ft apart and the mechanical rooms in the two basements are adjacent to each other.

I need to be able to pull wires (ethernet) between the houses. This can be done easily enough with a buried conduit. But I also thought it'd be nice to be able to pull water lines and such between the two houses. This would give me great backup should I ever need to replace a water line to one of the houses - within minutes I could source water from one house to the other. I could even pipe hydronic heating as a backup in case one boiler went down.

After I thought of all the useful things that can be done by connecting the houses, I figured why not just build a tunnel between the two? Something that a person could crawl though and various conduits could be installed. I know it's a little overkill but it also sounds like a lot of fun.

Any ideas on how to build such a thing? I could excavate and drop in concrete pipe. Or form and pour concrete. I'd probably want the top of it to be a couple feet under grade.

Anyways, I know it's a weird project but I'd love to hear ideas on how to do it.
 
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Old 04-11-17, 11:03 AM
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Yes, it's a weird project. I would check with your Building Inspections and Zoning Departments to see if it is legal to tie utilities together. Then don't think of tying electrical together without consulting a licensed electrician. As for connecting Internet between the two houses I would go wireless and spare the back breaking labor and legal issues.
 
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Old 04-11-17, 11:29 AM
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I would not tie the electrical systems together. The most I would ever imagine doing in that respect is to have the ability to supply electricity to a boiler or furnace in an emergency (suppose a tree takes out power lines to one house) and I'd probably just pull a wire on the spot if such a thing occurred. I also keep a portable generator on hand to handle such emergencies. I doubt most licensed electricians are even familiar with how to setup emergency backup power. Luckily, I'm an electrical engineer with a background in power systems.

I have several wifi bridges between structures so I'm very familiar with them. I would never use wireless between two structures so close - wired connections are so much faster and more reliable, and save energy.

I'll worry about the legal and cost/efficacy issues. I'm more interested in the mechanics of such a project, if anyone cares to give input. How would you build it?

Oh, and just in case anyone is wondering, no, I'm not trying to get everything to run off of one gas/water/electricity meter or anything like that.
 
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Old 04-11-17, 11:48 AM
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Do the two houses share the same deed? Not sure you could get a permit to tie the two together if they have separate deeds [even if you hold title to both]

If I was to do it I think I'd dig down, erect 2 masonry walls and then pour a concrete deck with rebar.
IMO the job would be cost prohibitive.
 
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Old 04-11-17, 12:07 PM
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As I mentioned my first thought was to dig down below freeze level and drop in one or more pvc pipes. Then I figured why not just drop in a 24" culvert or something that could actually be crawled through.

Thinking about pouring with concrete gives a flat bottom which would make it easier to roll something through, but it would probably be cheaper to just get a bigger culvert and fill the bottom of the tube to make it flat.
 
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Old 04-11-17, 12:33 PM
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I know conduit when buried is considered a wet environment, not sure what kind of moisture would develop inside a buried culvert.
 
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Old 04-11-17, 01:13 PM
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Easiest would be a small conduit. It would be easy enough to pull a Ethernet cable through and relatively easy to seal and make waterproof at either end. A crawl way is a slightly different monster. I have a compact excavator (track hoe) so it would be pretty easy to dig a big trench between the two and drop in some 16" or 24" culvert. Black poly would be my first choice especially if you can find a source locally to get the length you need in one piece. That way you'd only have the two ends to worry about sealing.

I would not worry about making the bottom flat. Unless your a youngster I don't think you'll find going through the tunnel fun so you'll likely do it extremely rarely. For that task I'd build a little cart with wheels that you could lay on. The cart would not need a flat surface and would make shimmying down the tunnel much easier. And it could come in handy when the revenuers come checking on your still.
 
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Old 04-11-17, 02:07 PM
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What you want is called (generically) a utilidor. They can be had pre-cast in any of numerous sizes, generally a reinforced concrete U with a separate lid that is sealed in place with tar. I doubt that the cost would be worth it.

Along the legal lines...your contract with cable TV or Internet service providers generally will have a section stating that service cannot be shared with separated residences.
 
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Old 04-11-17, 04:06 PM
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Being that I am involved with my township's planning committee I would strongly suggest a call to your city/township/county building dept and discuss the concept of what you are thinking.

There is no way you want to try and do something of this magnitude without plans or approvals, this is not just a deck, or a minor home improvement you are considering, it's structural integrity of foundations, buildings, and the utilidor (I like that name).
 
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Old 04-11-17, 04:33 PM
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I guess I should probably rule out concrete due to impractical cost. Looks like I can get 20ft poly or 24ft galvanized culvert pipe, both of which will be a bit short for my project. I definitely want it to be completely waterproof.

I don't see any reason why buried pvc pipes shouldn't be completely waterproof. I know for electrical code conduit is still considered a wet environment, but if I run my own pipe I have confidence it'll be waterproof.

I once toured a ~$5million home with the builder and he showed me a secret escape tunnel off the basement mechanical room. I think he used something like 60" culvert and had a round hatch. That'll bring out the youngster in you even if you're old I wasn't allowed to see where the tunnel exited but I got the impression it was pretty far from the house.

The builder told the owner that he used recovered culvert but actually bought them new at great expense. The very wealthy owner is the builder's brother so I guess he's allowed to spend tens of thousands of his dollars on fun surprises.
 
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Old 04-11-17, 04:46 PM
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Being that I am involved with my township's planning committee I would strongly suggest a call to your city/township/county building dept and discuss the concept of what you are thinking.

There is no way you want to try and do something of this magnitude without plans or approvals, this is not just a deck, or a minor home improvement you are considering, it's structural integrity of foundations, buildings, and the utilidor (I like that name).
I'll concern myself with those issues when I figure out what I want to build. No one here is able to advise me on my building department but people can advise on materials and methods, which is what I'm asking about. FYI, structurally, this is far less significant than installing a new window. Anything I do could be easily down-converted to an empty or filled inert pipe in the ground. We have those all over the place already - abandoned sewer, water, gas lines, as well as old drain tile and cisterns.
 
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Old 04-11-17, 05:01 PM
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Since this is out of the box anyway maybe a shared storm shelter connected to each building. After all they do have tornadoes in Illinois.
 
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Old 04-11-17, 09:14 PM
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I suppose an intermediary structure could make easier to argue that I'm not connecting the houses, but that's a substantially larger project. Now you're talking about something you can stand up in and since my 7ft basement is already stands 3ft proud of grade, that would result in either a visible structure, or me digging really deep. However, you have reminded me that my tunnel ought to have an escape hatch to the outside, covered in tall grass.
 
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Old 04-12-17, 08:00 AM
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FYI, structurally, this is far less significant than installing a new window
Your opening a large diameter hole in two basement foundations and equating that to the installation of a window?
 
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Old 04-12-17, 10:06 AM
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Your opening a large diameter hole in two basement foundations and equating that to the installation of a window?
Not equating, I'm saying the window is a much bigger deal. A basement egress window would require a 30x50" or larger cut through the foundation, usually up to the sill plate. If done in the wrong place and/or not reinforced properly that could cause big problems above. An above ground window cutout could also cause huge problems if you don't consider the loads above and header it properly (not to mention all the other zillion problems that can happen with a bad window install, like water intrusion and rot).

A 24" round hole through the bottom 1/3 of the foundation wall is unlikely to cause any structural issues. Even in a block or brick wall round holes are quite stable. I'd probably put a fat steel lintel in anyways.

I think you need to spend less time sitting on the planning committee and more time in the trenches building stuff.
 
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