Can I use a cement base for crawlspace door?

Discussion in 'Bricks, Masonry and Concrete' started by jmr106, May 1, 2016.

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  1. May 1, 2016 #1

    jmr106

    jmr106

    jmr106

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    Soon I'll be tackling the issue of an old wooden crawlspace door. Whoever put it in didn't exactly do a stellar job at it. The top and both sides have gaps in between the wood and the bricks above and foundation stones on the side. The bottom has a very large gap between the door and the ground, which I presume they left because the door would drag on the ground otherwise. So yes, this indicates that the surrounding ground is a little above grade and slanting towards the house a little.

    Below the base of the outside of the door, there are two squares of cement side by side, buried into the ground about flat with the ground that goes under the door. Just on the inside of the door all the way down (maybe 3 feet in length) to cinderblocks that line a dug out hole in the crawlspace, there is what appears to be a thin layer of grey cement. I would take a guess at 0.25 to 0.50 inches thick. It increases in slope as it goes down. So when the water gets to the edge of the door, it essentially hits this cement and has an easy path down. It runs down, goes into the open tops of the cinderblocks and comes out of the wall.

    This door is only a minor contributing factor of another issue of water entering the said hole, but I still want to fix it. I'm concerned with the issue of some water running under the door when it rains. Trying to install a drain and punch through the wall is an enormous task. I'm thinking that it would be much easier to simply rebuild the door with a cement ledge under it.

    This is a door that someone apparently built on their own. I can't tell quite how it is attached. On the sides, I'm not sure that it is attached to anything. It appears that the cement "holds" the two side pieces of wood in place, at least on the bottom where it comes into contact with them.

    My idea is to line some boards against the inside and outside of the foundation walls, forming an area where I could pour cement and let it set to form a ledge maybe 3" or a little more deep and be wide enough to go as far as the inside of the foundation rocks. Then build the door on top of that, so that the door is no longer at ground level and there is a little levy of sorts keeping water flow out until it can soak into the dirt outside.

    I don't know too much about cement. How many different types are there? It appears that they used grey cement inside. That would look really tacky, considering that the foundation rocks are more of a white color. What kind of cement do they use on typical white sidewalks, for instance? I'm looking for something that color or closer to the color of the foundation rocks. Any ideas on the best way to do this?

    I'm thinking of maybe some kind of rubber between the new door frame and the bricks/foundation rocks. I should be able to screw the wooden sides into the foundation rocks with the material already in between them. They nailed the entire existing door together. I prefer screws. Also, they put hinges on the outside. I prefer the hidden, inside hinges that aren't accessible. Lots of reasons for that. I'm not kidding, there was a homeless guy sleeping in the crawlspace of the house next door before when it was briefly vacant. People are weird around the neighborhood. I'd like to figure out a way to put a padlock hinge on it that can't be unscrewed somehow, or perhaps I need to nail only that part with some type of nails that can't be easily removed. Still working on that.

    Note that a cord does currently run to the basement to power pumps, because there are no plugs down there. I'm working on an electrician to install a proper plug somewhere down there so that this cord can be gone. Wondering how well trying to attach the wood to the foundation rocks is going to go and what the best method/screws to do that would be. I'm not sure what the stuff is in between the top of the wood and the bricks above (last photo). Whatever material they used when they built the house.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2016
  2. May 2, 2016 #2

    KULTULZ

    KULTULZ

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    [​IMG]

    ...woo... :hide:

    How is your field mice problem?

    Have you considered a prefab metal door and frame with a concrete apron?

    [​IMG]

    Your electrical is not code either... ;)
     
  3. May 2, 2016 #3

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    I wouldn't worry about colour. Your door frame might be held in with the concrete blocks but the common trick is to drill a 3/16 hole into the foundation and insert a piece of with and drive a nail into it
    At the top I think we can see a piece of steel, holding up the brick.
    Air tight for the door isn't important as you have a vented crawlspace, with lots of moist air you would like to get out and the furnace and water tank need fire air.
    There are security screws that are made as one way, you put them in but the way the head is made you can not take them out.
    A three inch curb will not be very substantial for strength.
    Any guess or hint at how deep the footing is?
     
  4. May 2, 2016 #4

    KULTULZ

    KULTULZ

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    The crawl space vents (around perimeter) should allow sufficient ventilation during the summer, shouldn't they? The door should be sealed to the outside so as not to allow critters/weather in.

    I read that he only has sump pump(s) down there, no furnace or WH. The flooring should have a vapor barrier also.
     
  5. May 2, 2016 #5

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    You are little behind the curve on this one.:hide:
    http://www.houserepairtalk.com/showthread.php?t=20342
    http://www.houserepairtalk.com/showthread.php?t=19909
    http://www.houserepairtalk.com/showthread.php?t=20341
     
  6. May 2, 2016 #6

    KULTULZ

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    :eek:

    I didn't realize it was a continuation of that thread.

    Talk about a nightmare, that and the leaning garage... :beer:
     
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  7. May 3, 2016 #7

    slownsteady

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    1. not sure if it's code, but you could put an outlet inside the crawlspace, attached to an open joist so that it's up high.
    2. if you're really concerned about the look of the threshold, you could use belgian blocks buried into the ground and joined / sealed with mortar.
    3. The metal door sounds good, but you also have the option of framing the door in PVC lumber. I would consider either foam or mortar to fill between the stones and the framing.
    4. go as deep as you can below grade to make a good seal, otherwise water will seep under the threshold.
    5. I know you have a hard time finding low ground to drain to, but if you can, install a drain just outside the door and run a drainpipe away from the area. If not possible, raise the ground outside the door
     
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  8. May 3, 2016 #8

    KULTULZ

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    Running a proper circuit to the pump(s) should be simple as there is power down there now. Just run a separate dedicated 20A AFCI/GFCI (with alarm if the combination breaker trips @ the box).
     
  9. May 4, 2016 #9

    jmr106

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    No, that electrical definitely isn't up to code. :rofl: But my parents did that ever since the plug down there stopped working. I've looked for the elusive electrical plug that used to be there. I'm told that it stopped working (wouldn't surprised me if the moisture in the air killed it). All that I see now is a random black wire sort of hanging there. Doesn't seem to have electricity, but all breakers are on. Being an 80's or so breaker box (100 amp), various things are tied together. Everything seems to work, so I'm thinking that in the 90s when the first hvac company ran the wire to the breaker, they may have cut power since it is right above the hole. I suspect that moisture caused that outlet to fail. They first hvac people installed a light down there to help themselves work better (it had no light at all), but I think they ran that from the same circuit as the system. Simple 100 watt light socket, but very thick white wire.

    Pretty sure that branching off from that light wire for two pumps plus the heat/air and the light might be a bit much for that one breaker connection. Maybe I should ask about that in electrical? The light socket attached to the floor joist and branching from the furnace/ac is newer wire. Could an electrician just run another junction box from that?

    I wear P100 disposable masks when I go down there crawling around, but not just to change an air filter in the standup hole. I do it out of abundance of caution due to possible hantavirus.

    Can I buy a door like that made to dimensions or buy a premade size including the frame? Do they tend to be expensive? I don't like wood. Pretty sure that something, even if years ago, chewed the bottom of that door causing a big gap. I'd imagine there probably are a few down there. My mother couldn't do much after my father passed, and I have been the only son trying to help her with all of this house stuff and live my life, too. :-/ Essentially I live here for now with her, trying to do whatever I can to improve it until she sells it. Not too fond of the place.

    I could make a simple French drain that essentially would channel the water away from the door, but I don't really want to turn any grass in the yard into gravel. That would mean it would just channel it downhill to the dirt around the corner of the house. Which would help it not go in the door, but it would add to what seeps into the ground and ultimately into the crawlspace later anyway.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2016
  10. May 4, 2016 #10

    jmr106

    jmr106

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    That idea is just to keep any water from running under the door. The actual door frame I would like to attach to the top and/or sides of the foundation rocks themselves. No idea how deep the footing is.
     
  11. May 4, 2016 #11

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    So maybe a raised square just outside the door including under the door. Say 3 ft square, 3" above the ground level.
     
  12. May 5, 2016 #12

    KULTULZ

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    The furnace (elect?) should be on it's own breaker(s) as should the WH be on it's own breaker. Sump pump(s) are usually on a dedicated circuit(s), now AFCI/GFCI required. The pump circuit should also have an alarm if power is lost and a high water warning alarm.

    The lamp/outlet circuit should be on it's own dedicated 20A circuit as it is not allowed to be on the furnace supply circuit. Simply fish a new cable along where the other cables run through the flooring.

    Don't be grabbing onto any cables down there as the surfaces are wet/damp.

    You do have some complicated problems. I really feel for you... :(
     
  13. May 9, 2016 #13

    jmr106

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    I could extend some type of cement square pathway under the door and for a little distance outside of it. Anybody have any tips on the best way/proper way to do such a thing? I haven't done much cement pouring. Also, the main concern: how do I keep water from going "around" the edges of where the cement square would have to meet the foundation rocks on the sides of the door?

    It is a bit of an odd setup. I have noticed with newer houses (like in the prefab metal door pic), the crawlspace door cutout space itself is a considerable distance off from the ground. Since this is a 1950 house, they put the bottom of the crawlspace door at ground level for some reason.

    I'd like to do this with a prefab metal door in mind. It would be pointless to put in a new door without elevating it first, of course. I love that critters can't chew their way in from the outside like they can with a wooden door. However, I still need to figure out how to elevate that door and get something under it that will keep the water out and actually last. Also...I have noted that there are some differences in the sides of the foundation rocks. They're not level. Because the foundation is some type of rock material of various sizes, there are places on the side of the door where the current wood frame is not flush with it because the rocks stick out a little further in some areas than others. I need to find some way to bridge the gap between that and a new door.

    Just to get an idea of what I'm working with, I measured 36" from one side of the actual foundation rock to the other side of the foundation rock on the other side of the door. Obviously, because that isn't flush, I can't get a door of that exact measurement. Even if it wedged tight in there, there would be big gaps because of the rocks that stick out a little further than others. 32" tall from the cement blocks outside of the door to the very top of the door (which is flat and flush, of course). So the door would need to be a bit smaller than those measurements and have some type of barrier between the frame and door to flush things up. I have no confidence in stuff like foam to fill the gaps.

    On the inside of the door, this is what I'm working with:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    There are two probably 12" x 12" or 14" x 14" blocks outside of the basement door currently, buried in the ground so that their tops are virtually in line with the floor entering the crawlspace. Just under the door, they meet with a thin layer of grey-looking cement that goes on a downward angle all the way down to the cinderblocks that form the hole inside. So to do anything with that, I'd have to break that up. I know there is dirt underneath, and that probably is a quarter inch or half inch of cement at best, based on what I can see from the side of it. Very bad...essentially a direct path for the water to run right under the door. So that's why I want to stop it. Granted, a bunch of other things are being done (new gutters, longer extensions, etc.) to keep water away from the foundation, but I'm trying to put a stop to any potential critters and also the water at the same time.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2016
  14. May 9, 2016 #14

    slownsteady

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    You are going to cement or mortar the threshold to the sides. In essence, the base of your door is going to become part of your foundation. The threshold has to be higher than the existing ground around the doorway, and the puddle that forms there will rise to the height of the lowest point before it flows over that spot and moves away. The threshold could be a foot high, but if it is lower than the surrounding area, water will still overflow it. So, obviously, you have to design drainage into the area outside the door.
    You also need to find out what is below the threshold. Water will seep under the base you build unless you go deep enough to meet your foundation or rocks below or provide some way to deflect the seepage.
     
  15. May 9, 2016 #15

    jmr106

    jmr106

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    Since someone cemented over the original dirt inside of the basement door, I presume that a little bit of water is likely going under that thin layer of cement when it rains anyway. In that case, it would just be going down under the cement to meet the wall, sink into the dirt and come out of the wall to get pumped out.

    I could still build a french drain there that simply runs from under the door to around the corner of the house, right up against the house. Around the corner of the house is only about 5 feet away. That would lead the water into that part of the yard to perhaps seep into the yard later and perhaps end up being pumped out. But it would hopefully keep it from going under the door, at least.

    How deep would the foundation rock be on average for a house this age? I could perhaps dig down until I hit that foundation rock and make a pour from that area up to the height where I would want it (provided that it isn't x feet deep), maybe even including a square exension area outside of the door.
     
  16. May 9, 2016 #16

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    There is a solution for all this.
    Forming up the concrete pad. On the inside a 2x4 across the opening with a stake down into the dirt behind the 2x4 and 2 2x4 as angle braces run back on an angle to a floor joist maybe five or six feet away.
    On the out side 2 2x4s 3 ft long and one 2x4 5 ft long set the 5 ft piece 3 ft from the wall and the 3 footer back to the wall and make it all slope 1/2" lower than the one on the inside.
    You could leave that wood there and add to it to make a door work and seal it up for critters, replacing would only be slightly better with just different work. I wouldn't think one way would be easier than the other.

    I wouldn't go to much money on the door, something can be made out of used metal exterior doors, if you can find the right sized door and a local door shop.
     
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  17. May 9, 2016 #17

    jmr106

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    I'm actually looking at maybe going with this particular company.

    https://www.customcoversinc.com/custom-size-crawlspace-door-frame-flange-mount.html

    They make custom doors and frames, but their rates seem pretty reasonable considering the more direct fit. They just ship it to you so that you can install it yourself. Any thoughts on that? You send them the requirements and required photos before they'll do any estimates on the door. I played around with some of the features and picking different sizes and it didn't seem too bad. Anyone ever heard of them before? I like that it would already be sturdy, wouldn't need to be built and would already have locking mechanisms built into it. Apart from the cement work that I would need to do for the base, it seems like it would save a lot of time and money compared to trying to build one myself. I don't have a lot of confidence in my ability to build a door or frame. I can do a lot of handy things, but I don't think it would be very good if I did it myself.

    They make the frame for a fairly exact fit, but I can't go too exact because of the odd foundation stones that vary on the sides by about an inch at most. I'd still need to find something to true it up. I don't really want to go with any kind of wood between it. These doors are welded aluminum frame with a solid 1/2" thick Polymer door that is water and weather resistant. The affixing point on those frames is at the bottom and top of each side, so apparently I wouldn't have to worry about drilling anything into the upper (brick) area at the top of the door.

    The whole door lifts off from the frame when you open it, so there are no hinges to mess with or having to worry about the door swinging out and blocking any work that I do outside. While there is a big financial undertaking in a lot of this stuff, I'm kind of prioritizing and picking away at things one thing at a time. This is one of the sources of water flow, and since I don't want to regrade the entire back yard, I need tackle this before I do any inside work. If I did the gravel and cement inside to fill the hole (still working on that hvac flipping thing), for instance...and this water flows in and over the wall on top of the gravel with cement that the (closed) sump basin would be in, it would be a pretty interesting problem. It wouldn't reach the basin to be pumped, so I'm trying to make sure I put focus on this one first. Plus, I'm going to be working down there more in the near future, and the issue of mice is bugging me from a health perspective.

    Would it be feasible to get a custom door/frame like this, affix the new frame directly to the foundation on the sides, then grout or cement around the inside and outside of the frame to seal up the differences in the uneven foundation edges? Would that work just as well as any kind of insulating material (rubber, etc.) that could go around the door frame between the frame and foundation?

    The door/frame would be similar to this:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2016
  18. May 9, 2016 #18

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    We would probably want to add a little curb at the door for the bottom flange. That would be easy in the great scheme of things.
    They have likely seen foundations like yours, send them a picture and see what they say.
    If they have no ideas, I have a few.
     
  19. May 9, 2016 #19

    jmr106

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    I hoping to add maybe a 4" or so curb under the new door, above the ground level. Granted, after I dig down and see what's under that door and find the foundation. I wouldn't really "lose" much or any clearance off from the overall entrance, because the frame on the new door isn't anywhere remotely close to the thickness of those two boards at the top of the current door. It seems like the access space would be a little larger. I'll see what they say about it.
     
  20. May 9, 2016 #20

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    I just checked, your frost depth is only 5" so for a 4" high curb you just 4 up and 6 down under ground. easy enough.
     

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