From the Forum – Enclosing basement-level space under row house sleeping porch


Enclose basement-level space under row house sleeping porch:

My husband and I are seeking to enclose the basement-level space under the old sleeping porch of our row home in Hill East as a DIY project. We would like to use the space more as a shed for bike storage and other garden equipment/tools than as a completely finished space in our house. Making the space secure and protected from moisture are our main concerns.

At this time, our plans are to frame walls using pressurized wood and covered with sheeting, a vapor barrier, and siding. We also plan to add a basement-size window. However, we are getting stuck on the right venting approach to use. Is passive venting sufficient?

Has anyone completed a similar project for your house? Any advice or lessons learned that you could share with us? Materials used? Is venting even necessary?

Please see the attached picture. (As FYI, we are planning to move the AC unit out of the space and move the downspout so that it runs along the side of our house rather than the center)

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7 Comment

  • I’m not sure why you’re planning on doing such an extensive build if you’re just looking for a shed to store bikes and garden tools. I would just build a fence around the area with a lockable gate going down the steps.

    That said, looking at your plans it sounds more like you’re looking to build on a “cold room.” Web searches using “cold room” should help you find answers you’re looking for. Also, you didn’t mention any plans for sealing in flooring–something you’ll definitely want to look more into if you’re trying to seal this space in entirely.

  • Something structural like that would likely require plans and permits. It could be tricky, especially if you are enclosing drain that currently catches a lot of backyard rainwater.

    This area of my house is enclosed with cinder blocks. I think whenever it was done, probably in the 50s, they had to dig out and move a drain to be positioned just outside of the back door.

    • I wouldn’t bother with permits, unless you have neighbors that are out to get you. (I fully acknowledge that permits would be required, I just wouldn’t bother with them.)

      I would be concerned mostly with ground water intrusion. As ebgb said, you would want to seal the floor i think. Would you have a new exterior door? Where would the exterior wall be?

      BTW, is that an electrical wire in the top left of the photo? it needs to be protected from undue wear (or somesuch language) per the National Electric Code. Should be attached to the structure.

  • I dont think you’ll successfully keep the water out.

    Why not just accept that there will be water and do something that will give you the shelter you need for tools but things are off the ground and it drains well?

    • ah

      +1 to this. You could hide stuff with lattice or something stronger. Put on a gate/door with a lock. If you enclose it it will be totally damp. Perhaps use plastic sheeting on the insides where water splashes in.

  • Do you plan on moving the ac compressor? Given that the compressor generates significant heat, that could be a problem for the planned construction. Also as to permit requirements — I would strongly suggest that you get them. In areas like the Hill, where the city knows significant construction projects are going on, inspectors will be going around and checking at random. You do not want to get flagged and slow the project down.

  • Here are some answers to the questions and a little more into the moisture concern.

    1. We are worried about the humidity in the proposed enclosed space and not water accumulating on the floor. The clogged downspout storm drain pipe just outside the proposed enclosed space was responsible for most of the water you see in the picture. We have relocated the downspout and plan to remove that storm drain pipe. We also intend improve the drainage of our backyard by removing impervious surfaces and enhance grading away from the house.
    2. We would have a new exterior door added just at the bottom of the steps.
    3. That is not an exterior wire at the top left of the picture, it is part of a cable lock.
    4. We spoke with a company that works with relocating storm drains and fortifying basements against water. We were interested in relocating a drain to the landing at the new exterior door. They told us that there would not be significant water accumulating in the landing to justify relocating the drain. But we could check back with them in the future.
    5. The AC Condensor has been moved out of that space.
    6. We want a structure that is more secure than a fence or lattice, we want to continuity with the existing walls above the new space, we plan to add ceiling lighting and a few outlets (wiring to be enclosed in conduit and secured), and we are interested in the challenge of enclosing a space.
    6. Working on permits.

    So think about garden sheds and musty basements; what can we do about eliminating or reducing the humidity and moisture in the air of a newly enclosed space? We were thinking about vents that could circulate the air. Would sealing the floor help? We wanted to keep the current floor drain in the enclose space as a back up if water does penetrate the space; is that a good idea?

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