The Home Beautiful

Is Your Cellar a Dungeon Keep?

ANNE ELIZABETH WILSON February 15 1927
The Home Beautiful

Is Your Cellar a Dungeon Keep?

ANNE ELIZABETH WILSON February 15 1927

Is Your Cellar a Dungeon Keep?

Cellars need not necessarily be gloomy caverns of miasma and deadly damp

The Home Beautiful

ANNE ELIZABETH WILSON

THAT dog, ma’am,” said the new maid dubiously, as she watched the disappearing haunches of Nancy sloping toward the foot of the cellar steps— “that dog is goin’ to sicken of rheumatism. I say it’s cruel to ask a dog to sleep in a damp cellar.” My mind traveled swiftly to the comfortable box which rejoiced in the certainly dry, but not overheated atmosphere of our basement floor. “That dog,” I replied in kind, “is a living exponent of the new cellar movement. If there were a room provided I could sleep in that cellar myself.” Though she regarded me with horror, her successor delighted in a sitting room of her own and sleeping quarters which we built into the house which followed that one—on the basement floor.

The Cellar Fetish

THE conception of cellars as caverns of miasma, mildews and the deadly damps which creep at nightfall should be a thing of the past. Modern building methods have done much to revolutionize our ideas of living comfort, but I know of no other department of domestic economy which has undergone a more sane reconstruction than that of the basement floor. Insulation, cleaner fuels and workmanlike supervision of the exclusion of water, during and after building, have banished a long supposition that to live ‘next the ground’ was unhealthy, or resignation to a perpetual tomb-like atmosphere, in what may well be a very livable and useful portion of the house, proper.

The future of a cellar is made or marred, as a rule, in the building. In the first place, it is necessary to see that all soil water is carried away from the foundation by means of weeping drains placed at the base of the outside walls at construction. These are fabricated of porous tile, and connect with local drains. The next treatment of the outside wall, is the applying of a double coat of cement, tar, or special waterproofing material. This double coating is sufficient for brick walls; stone walls have to be very much more heavily protected on, account of their greater tenddency to seepage. If water still penetrates, inside coatings of cement or waterproofing are necessary.

While the foundation is lying open, in process of construction, it is the responsibility of the contractor to keep the excavation cavity free of water. Following rains or flooding from any other cause, he

is obliged to keep his pumps working until the water is drained away.

In the laying of the foundation walls themselves, a ‘damp course’ of slates embedded in asphalt or tar is required at the grade line or under the first floor joists. Otherwise, dampness rises in the walls by capillary attraction. Foundation walls themselves require specially compact and solid construction.

The house built on a ravine offers special opportunities for developing the basement floor into the living plan. Such houses may be actually designed on two levels. The fronting level will have the usual basement depth, but the rear will open directly on the ground level. This gives an excellent opportunity for planning a flagged court or terrace reached directly from this floor. In eastern Canada, particularly, this type of construction has proved popular owing to the large proportion of ravine lots in residential areas.

The Cellar As Part of the Room Plan

'T'HERE is no reason why the ground floor should lie as waste space in the planning of the rooms of the house, particularly, in the bungalow type of dwelling, where there is room for no upstairs for servants’ quarters.

By means of insulation, installation of suitable radiation and the wholesome ventilation and current-drawing of a fireplace, these rooms may be ensured as much comfortable warmth, dryness and general healthy atmosphere, as any other in the house. The basement billiard room or play-room, a general ‘liberty hall,’ is a gift of the gods in a small house where sound is likely to carry. Here the boys of the family may indulge in pursuits, noisome or noisy, unmolested and unmolesting. By the same token, it is the most admirable location for the maid’s sitting room in a small house.

The cellar deserves as much space-planning as any other floor. One of the first choices of space, away from the immediate vicinity of the furnace, should be the trunk and odd furniture room. It should be partitioned off from the rest of the cellar, but need not be situated away from the hot-water pipes. Its door should be equipped with a good lock, for cellar pilfering by tradesmen and casuals is not a rarity.

Next comes the arrangement of the food storage room. Here, stall-like bins may be built in over the open earth for winter storage of vegetables—or the cellar floor may be covered with packed clay. Shelves at a comfortable reaching height for drying whole fruit or jars of preserves, may be erected. Provision may be made for any other supply which one might wish to purchase or store in quantity. The only stipulation for the selection of the location for the food room, is that it avoid the heating pipes. It may be separated from the rest of the cellar

either by brick walls or a wooden partition only.

In many wellknown homes where entertaining is carried on to a considerable extent, the basement is utilized regularly, and is equipped for special uses. A dancing floor has been laid in the basement of one large house. In another, the stairs from a large hall, which is always thrown open for dancing, lead into a large concrete room, which in turn leads by a door into the ‘working’ portions of the cellar. Here supper is always served, leaving the upstairs rooms of the house free for dancing. One particularly deep cellar accommodates a single badminton court. In a billiard room which has been converted into a sort of general utility living room, one white wall is kept bare for the use of magic lantern slides, and, latterly, amateur motion picture films. The boys of the family have worked up a sizable neighborhood business with their ‘movie shows’.

The laundry in the basement is still the most desirable location, particularly where washing machinery is employed. Laundry work carried on even near the kitchen j usually makes confusion, and there is i always the undisguisable wash day smell I that permeates things. Then, too, there is ! a particular saving of steps and energy to the laundress when the basement floor is level with the yard. For carrying clothes out-of-doors, a hamper on wheels may be used.

Accessibility And Lighting

GOING down the cellar stairs, in most old houses, was a hazardous proceeding. Steep as the descent to Avernus and correspondingly dark, they were the favorite casualty grounds for old and young. Open-faced steps, narrow spaces, solitary rails that waved and wobbled— such was the downward progress to dim depths.

It is an easy thing to have a complete cellar switch at the head of the stairs, and not a great expense to have good-sized, easily graded, solid-backed and„ wellbalustered steps leading to upper hall-way or kitchen. Why it should be necessary to erect something close kin to a ladder for this purpose, I have never understood.

And the windows! Cellar windows can be as attractive as any others in the house —from the outside, as well as the inside. Insist on goodly-sized basement windows when you build, and you will have done much to insure yourself against dampness and gloom. It is not a mere affectation to hang attractive little dotted Swiss, muslin or scrim curtains in your cellar windows. It links them up with the rest of the house, when seen from without, and adds considerable cheer within. In these days

of oil-burners and clean fuel generally, there is not much soilage.

Reclaiming An Old Cellar

A/T ANY old cellars may be dark and cold and dreary, but they are in all likelihood well-built and easily can be improved. Larger windows may be knocked into the walls, electric switches installed. A coat of whitewash will make things cleaner and dryer. Where dampness may have gathered, from lack of ventilation and warmth, a little chloride of lime sprinkled about the base of walls and corners will help to sweeten the atmosphere and absorb moisture. Raised slat floors keep trunks, boxes and furniture dry.

Some of the greatest table delicacies come from cellars. Take mushrooms, for instance. If you can keep your cellar at about 56 to 60 degrees—or at any rate, can get a certain part of it to remain at that temperature, you can grow them admirably. When the spawn first goes in, it requires a temperature of around 70 degrees—but when it begins to germinate and the fertilizer, in which it is laid, to ferment, the beds themselves generate enough warmth for the lower temperature. Rather shallow boxes of any size will do. The earth, already seminated with the spawn, is procurable from large growers. The earth should be kept moist, by sprinkling or wet newspaper. Dark is not necessary for mushrooms’ growth, although they do require the conditions usually attendant on darkness, that is, stillness of air currents, and retention of moisture. If you are growing mushrooms for your own consumption, only, it is wisest to have a fairly small box and renew the earth often—for once the spawn ceases to produce, it must be replaced. It knows no ‘second spring again.'