Our crawlspace was nothing of the sort: there was really no room for crawling, and the floor joists in that part of the house were resting right on the dirt. To offer the wood some protection, and to allow for ductwork and other modern niceties under the floor, we decided to dig out the crawl space.
This involved pouring concrete footers for the new floor joists to rest on, and then digging a trench deep enough for the main duct and the geothermal tubing to run under the joists. We didn’t want the walls of the trench to fall in, so we gradually sloped the dirt down to the bottom of the trench.
The whole process took about three months and was incredibly grueling. The footers were hand-poured using a wheelbarrow (fortunately we had a cement mixer, on generous loan from our friend Chris)–no fancy cement trucks for us! Then we hand dug the trench and entire crawl space over several weeks, lowering the floor of the crawlspace by eight inches over a 500 square foot area. We shoveled the dirt into the wheelbarrow and then wheeled it out to the yard, where we dumped it in a pile. Much gratitude to John (who for some unfathomable masochistic reason seems to enjoy coming to visit us) and Clay (who carried many bags of cement and buckets of dirt).Of course, once all this was done our contractors were able to come back to finish off the installation and finally turn on our central heat!
The crawl space dirt was full of rocks, large and small. The larger ones are in a huge pile on our patio right now while we debate what to do with them. We used a few as stepping stones, but we still have about 95% of them waiting for a purpose. We filtered most of the dirt using a sieve rigged up from hardware cloth to remove the smaller rocks, and then distributed the soil in the backyard before planting grass seed. It raised the overall level of our 1500 square foot yard by about four inches.
The yard soil was nice and level at first, but after some heavy rains it has settled into a rather uneven lawn. We’re contemplating pulling some of this soil off to use in raised beds for the garden. But we’re still undecided. For one thing, it took three months to sufficiently grow the grass from seed, and we’d be starting over. Secondly, we’re just not sure if a more level backyard is worth hours of manual labor.