1870 house, stone foundation - what about the basement?

gp193June 1, 2012

We are considering buying an old house that is set on a stone foundation, and the basement is a little scary. I don't have much experience with old homes, so I am hoping that some of you may be able to allay my fears.

The basement has stone/mortar walls and a concrete floor. It is divided into several small areas and houses the laundry, furnace, oil tank and hot water heater. The floor is uneven, has some small cracks, and slopes in various directions. There is a sump pump.

Here's why the basement scares me: there is efflorescence on the stone walls and visible moisture on the floors and the area where the walls meet the floor. I think there is a bit of a runoff problem on the outside of the house.

Is this just your average old basement, or is this something to run from? I would really like to use the basement for storage, as the rest of the house is lacking in that department. I am also worried about having the major systems in a wet basement that looks like it could flood. Is there really a way to make this sort of basement more "finished", at least by making it whitewashed, clean and drier? Or is this just what we'd live with if we buy such an old home? Any potential hazards I haven't mentioned here?

Thanks for your advice!

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Before the mid-20th Century, basements were not looked on as potential living and dry storage places. However, limestone and rubble basements can be converted for such uses from the outside or from the inside. For one approach to inside insulation, waterproofing, see here.

The efflorescence and visible dampness point to specific exterior issue that will have to be addressed. You just factor it into your price.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 8:49PM
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Efflorescence is actually lime leaching out from the mortar between the stone. This can only happen if water is present. The solution is to remove as much water as possible from the area. This can be accomplished by installing an interior drain tile system.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 11:02AM
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