Wednesday, October 19, 2022

The Scary Basement

I feel like this blog post needs Halloween music to go with it!  You see, like most old houses, the basement is something that makes you think about slasher movies.  It’s dark.  It’s full of cobwebs.  And we’re pretty sure there are/were animals living down there.

Dirt floor - check.  Asbestos on pipes - check.  Low head room - check.😂


The basement stairs appear to have been an afterthought – they’re more modern with poured concrete walls and must have been put in much later.  There is an exterior door, which was probably the way they entered the basement for decades.

Oddly enough, the stairs appear to have been built into part of the original kitchen, because there are old cabinets on one side of the stairs – including a window that looks out to the sunporch.   And on the other side is a window into the current kitchen.  So strange!  
Cue the spooky music now!!

At the bottom of the stairs is a window – but when you lift it open it looks into another crawl space that also has a window.  Why?  There appears to have been an addition onto the dining room at some point in time. 


But the dominant feature in the basement is all the ledge.  Ledge is the granite rock that exists along the Maine coastline.  It’s extremely hard and difficult to remove and in this case it appears that some previous owners just poured concrete around it.  The center is still exposed ledge with tree trunks as posts, supporting the living room floor.

Tree trunk posts!

The ledge was encapsulated in concrete around the perimeter


Under the kitchen is a crawl space.  This is a rubble foundation – the term for small stones that were sometimes laid dry, sometimes laid with mortar.  Ours appear to have mortar and are in surprisingly good shape.  No scary bows or sections needing major repair (that we can see).  See - sometimes we get good news!

Some of the rubble foundation is exposed, some of it has been parged with concrete, to create a smooth surface.

There is a giant forced-hot air furnace in the basement, with lots of ducts extending all over the basement (It makes me think of a spider with lots and lots of arms).  

So much ductwork!!! 

The ducts appear to have been added at different times and the heating experts I’ve brought in think it’s dubious it would have provided balanced heat throughout the house.  All of the ducts are wrapped with what looks like asbestos tape at the joints, so once again we’ll have an asbestos remediation project ahead of us.  Oh, and the furnace doesn’t work and has a hole in the exhaust that was apparently pumping exhaust fumes into the basement (very, very dangerous, but the basement was so drafty, maybe that kept the danger low??).  Needless to say, that will have to be removed.

Giant old furnace with lots and lots of ductwork snaked all over the basement

And behind the furnace and water heater there is something that looks like a burlap curtain.  Why??  What is it hiding?  No one has been limber/brave enough to climb back there to see what's behind Curtain #1 (does anyone remember Let's Make a Deal??)

What's Behind Curtain #1???

And finally we have what we’ve affectionately called the ‘hobbit’ door. You would have to be pretty tiny to walk upright through this door! This was probably the original entrance to the basement, before the interior staircase was added.  The glass windows provide some nice light, but as you can see at the bottom of the door, there is lots of room for critters to come and go.  We need to fix that, but it’s great to have an exterior entrance/exit for getting work done down there. 


The 'Hobbit Door' provides ventilation (and critter access) at the bottom!!! 😂

Will we be fixing it up as a finished basement?  Very doubtful.  This isn’t a basement that was ever designed to be living space.  But there will still be a LOT of work done down here - we will be updating all the systems, eliminating asbestos and providing energy improvements as part of our renovation.  Not to mention installing a new heating system.  Once it’s a dry, insulated space, it should provide the appropriate foundation for all the other work we need to do.

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  1. Wow! You really have your work cut out for you! Good luck! Maybe there is buried treasure, one can only wish.

  2. lots of ledge in the neighborhood. Our basement is half ledge!

  3. What sort of energy efficient heating system do you have in mind? I just purchased a 90 year old antique built on ledge. The house, which needs a serious upgrade, also has no central a/c. I would love to have no fuel (oil or gas) stored in my home but don’t know if this is feasible given the cold Maine winter. Can you comment?


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