Yesterday my dad and I finished a huge project—the crawlspace pit—a big job that had been lingering in various states since the house was completed two Mays ago. The pit is on the backside of the house between the chimney and the porch. When the house was nearing completion, we weren’t satisfied with the way my contractor proposed to finish its entryway. So we decided to take this job off his list of responsiblities and put it on ours. Where it sat, for more than a year. But now it’s done and here’s how it all went down.
My dad had visions of creating the mother off all pits—big enough to get in and out of relatively easily and that one could pass tools and equipment through (a lot of my house systems are in the crawlspace, including the interior HVAC unit, dehumidifier, and water heaters). The pit would also have to deflect water from the nearby downspout, and keep critters out of the crawlspace.
The unfinished pit shortly after moving in last June. Pretty, huh?
The base of the old air unit, propped up with a 2×4, made a temporary door that sufficed until a snake decided to make his home in the crawlspace and freak me out. And each time it rained, I had a red plunge pool that made a nice habitat for other local wildlife:
Last fall I’d had enough of the animals and Dad and I started the project. We poured a concrete footer underneath the opening, and he framed in and built a rock-solid door. We also poured the floor of the pit, and designed it to have a sunken drainage sump that was big enough to fit a pump into should we still have water collection problems when it was all done. This all was a bit tricky as we were trying to join our new concrete up to the jagged edges left when the builder made a hole in the original house foundation. We had to be meticulous in pouring the patch job that would join the old foundation to the new pit walls.
Dad formed the exterior pit wall last Thanksgiving, and got some of the rebar reinforcement tied into place. And then it got too cold to pour concrete, and the pit sat like this until last weekend. Man, it was ugly!
We took advantage of the long July 4 weekend to re-attack this project, prompted, in part, by the recent mousecapade. The area around the doorframe—which was to be filled with concrete—was perhaps letting the little guys inside. So Dad formed the interior wall, I learned how to tie steel and bend rebar using the tractor bucket . Here’s the completed form enclosing the rebar reinforcement, right after I got greasy up to my armpit painting the plywood with motor oil to help the finished concrete release.
We spent two almost-12-hour, 96-degree days transporting, breaking up, mixing and shoveling almost 1,000 pounds of concrete into the form. I spread most of it with my hands, and rodded down each batch. Hey, it just wouldn’t be a holiday weekend without a Stalag–like labor camp—just like last year!
Then came the worst part, chiseling out the nails on those 2×4 braces on top so we could remove them and finish the surface underneath. I say this is the worst part because it’s the only part where I hurt myself (other than general muscle strain), beating my hands up so that they still hurt. But this bunker is rock-solid!
The form sat a week until yesterday, when we removed it and finished the concrete off with a stone. I have to say I think it looks great, and the best part is the relief I feel at having this major undertaking completed. Here’s the pit once we backfilled with dirt around it. It’s got a great drain that’s embedded in the floor in a thick bed of gravel. Again, it will fit a sump pump should the need arise:
Now a nice, big, clean entry into the crawlspace! If this doesn’t raise my property value, I don’t know what will!
The crawlspace pit was a year-plus, torturous project for both my dad and me, but I am thrilled with the outcome. Thanks, Dad, for a great pit and for teaching me all about concrete—a new medium for me and one I find I rather enjoy!