Dear PoPville – Beautifying/Closing off Back Space underneath a Rowhouse

“Dear PoPville,

I had a question about renovations on a Petworth Row House. The area in question I don’t know the name of. It’s the are at the back of the house under the sun room build out. I find that trash, leaves and animals tend to accumulate under that space and I was wondering if you know or seen any interesting renovations that people in the area have done to make it more appealing?”

Anyone have a similar space? Did you do anything to close it off/beautify it?

22 Comment

  • Ah yes, the trash hole/rat hole. We bricked ours off with cinder blocks. Not that creative or useful, but better than accumulating rats and trash down there.

  • I could use suggestions for this space as well. Any luck turning it into storage somehow? I’d love to have some storage space for hoses, weed wackers, etc.

    • This is what I use our space for. The smaller space opposite side is perfect for a little Webber grill in the winter months/rain. Obviously need to keep a close eye on it.

  • Don’t brick it off. Where are the ladies of leisure supposed to take their johns?

    You would be suprised how often that happened at our place when we first bought in Columbia Heights 11 years ago. Atleast a couple times a week. Hasn’t happened in about 7 years though.

    • +1
      I picked up more spent condoms than I could count. And they didn’t leave a cut for the house.

      A light on under the porch 24/7 solved the problem.

  • I’d be curious to hear Popville’s thoughts on this as well. I’m looking for someone reliable to do some work on this part of my house as well.

  • Our home had quite a bit of “dead” space beneath the deck and adjoining kitchen (formerly the sun room/sleeping porch in the old days). We excavated enough to build a new room off the back of our walkout basement and under our kitchen, and adjacent to that we built a patio under the deck with lighting and a retaining wall that doubles as bench seating. The price was high (about $23k or so, not counting the cost of moving our heat pump which used to be under the kitchen), but we’ve gained close to 180 square feet of interior space plus another 250 square feet of three season outdoor space.

    Happy to send pics by email to any interested parties looking for inspiration…

  • Those interested might also want to check out this previous discussion on PoP regarding digging out this space for additional storage:

    Matt N.: Did you have any drainage or support issues on the way to your new outdoor space?

  • Ask yourself what John Wayne Gacy would do.

  • Leave Paterno alone you loser!

  • Do you like mushrooms? It would be a great spot to grow them because they require shade. There are several ways to farm mushrooms including, for example, inoculating logs with mushroom spores. And there are plenty of online, free informational resources.

  • Possum Corral!

  • I’ve seen some remodeled homes (open houses) where it was excavated below the addition and bricked in or given a concrete floor and used as outdoor space (not bad in nice weather when it rains). You could even put a larger window in the basement for better light, if you wanted to.

    I’d love to see the pics that Matt N. has, though!

  • Support wasn’t an issue since we didn’t need to touch the existing footers or support columns (we poured concrete around them). We also built the patio without obstructing the existing drainage system, and we graded the pavers so that any water that got under the deck would run towards the drain.

    Our backyard is atypical in that our parking pad is at a higher grade than the rest of the back, and is graded such that runoff from the alley can’t make anywhere near the house. (Further, we built a concrete apron at the threshold of the alley and pad to make it even harder for storm water to get to the house.) We also have a fixed roof over our deck which further shelters the area closest to the house. Even during torrential downpours you can stand under our deck and remain pretty much completely dry.

  • we actually just dug out most of the “trash” and top soil then put white gravel to cover up the dirt. Then I put in some white diagonal lattice work to block off the area for our dogs. Make sure you slop it away from the house if you can.

    It took me a few hours to excavate the space and then a few to nail in the lattice work and paint it. This was done fast, cheap and looks much better. Anyone could do it in a weekend. Very entry level stuff…

    I wouldn’t pave it now though. You may want to do an addition in the future. And if you pave this area now you would it would cost you 2x more to excavate it for footings down the road.

    • ah

      This is what I would do (and have done with a deck).

      Gravel plus lattice. If necessary you could put chicken wire on the back of the gravel to keep out animals, but I think they’ll only go there if there’s an attractive place to hide and burrow. Gravel won’t be.

    • Did you put anything under the gravel to keep weeds from growing?

  • forgot to say the most important thing… your going to have to go to the dump in maryland to get rid of the soil, DC will charge you up the butt to remove it!

    Good luck!

  • andy

    you can put plant pots down there if you don’t have a shed under your back sun porch.

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