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The abyss under my guesthouse

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Arks

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As many of you know, I'm currently modifying a circa 1900 building to create a vacation rental "guesthouse". One of the rooms that will become a bedroom has a concrete floor that's rough and uneven. The architect decided to jackhammer it out and pour a new slab with a proper vapor barrier under it.
Yesterday the worker started jackhammering in the center of the floor. As soon as he broke through the 4-inch concrete layer, he almost lost his jackhammer into "black nothingness". They enlarged the hole enough to get a light and a head in and discovered they'd uncovered a long-abandoned cistern , and it's HUGE. For those who don't know what a cistern is, it's basically an underground water tank, a reservoir. In the old days before we had a city water system, people would build these underground holding tanks and channel rainwater into them to serve as a water source for the building.
This cistern is round, made of brick and lined with very smooth plaster. It's like an underground grain silo, 8 feet (2,44 meters) in diameter and 16 feet (5 meters) deep. It’s the size of the trailer of a tractor-trailer truck, sunk into the ground vertically! I calculate it would have held 6000 gallons (23.000 liters) of water. I cannot imagine why they stored that much water, unless they were selling it to their neighbors.
Anyway, what to do with it? The contractor wants to fill it in with sand and pour the new concrete slab over it. But it's such an amazing work of craftsmanship, I hate to think of it lost forever. One option would be to put a spiral staircase in it, light it, and make it a feature for interested guests to study. Of course the top of the stairs would need a rail around the opening like any staircase, and a child gate. But I know you're going to say that would be a strange thing to have in a bedroom.
Another option would be to cover it with a vapor barrier and concrete so it's capped off safely, but still there in case someone wanted to open it up in the future. I just hate to fill it in and forget it because it took such a huge effort for someone to build it!
 

JBloggs

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I saw your blog this morning! Way cool Arks. If this was still the era of the Y2K freakout you could have rain water collected for future survival.
Was there moisture/mould issues from this giant cistern?
The first indoor plumbin' in Arkansas. You know in some parts of Australia it is now mandatory to have a rain water collection system, similar to this, on all new construction. Typically in the front yard or such, underground. ( I am not talking about the outback, but the coastal areas) It all comes back around doesn't it.
 

Arks

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No, no moisture problems. I guess the 4 inches of concrete over it blocked it well enough.
We'll probably put a vapor barrier over it and re-cover it in steel and concrete and leave it alone. I can't bring myself to fill it in permanently. We'll get lots of photos while we have it open. It's kind of historic.
 

Innkeep

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No, no moisture problems. I guess the 4 inches of concrete over it blocked it well enough.
We'll probably put a vapor barrier over it and re-cover it in steel and concrete and leave it alone. I can't bring myself to fill it in permanently. We'll get lots of photos while we have it open. It's kind of historic..
Wine cellar?
 

Arks

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Yes, my thought too! But we can't serve wine and I'm not storing own down there. Guests would drink it!
 

YellowSocks

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Tornado shelter?
Kiva?
Spare bedroom?
I was at an innkeeper meeting once and someone asked if anyone else ever had dreams about finding more rooms. I do! All the time! Last week I dreamed there was this whole section in a basement under my first floor bedroom... and you've actually found one. Wow!
=)
Kk.
 

Weaver

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How about a meditation room, sanctuary, reading room?
OH and the best one, wish I had one: Cheese cave.
 

Arks

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Weaver wrote:
How about a meditation room, sanctuary, reading room?
I suspect they'll be up to hanky panky down there.
I really do think it could be a unique feature to offer. Nobody else has one!
 

Samster

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Very cool. That's a pretty large one. People here have found them under their homes near the river.
 

Madeleine

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saw a neat idea on HGTV- cover the hole with plexi so you can still see into it and make it a feature in the floor. It would need lighting. But it could be a real conversation piece.
(We have an inground pool under our driveway.)
 

Weaver

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Weaver wrote:
How about a meditation room, sanctuary, reading room?
I suspect they'll be up to hanky panky down there.
I really do think it could be a unique feature to offer. Nobody else has one!.
If it twer me, I would keep that feature alive and make it a real show stopper. So many possibilities.....
 

CafeMae

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saw a neat idea on HGTV- cover the hole with plexi so you can still see into it and make it a feature in the floor. It would need lighting. But it could be a real conversation piece.
(We have an inground pool under our driveway.).
Madeleine said:
saw a neat idea on HGTV- cover the hole with plexi so you can still see into it and make it a feature in the floor. It would need lighting. But it could be a real conversation piece.
(We have an inground pool under our driveway.)
I think I saw that special too. It was below their kitchen, and they had a portion with plexiglass on it maybe 2-3ft in diameter and had a switch to turn the lights on at night in the hole. Turned out really neat.
 

Joey Camb

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Im with the lighting and plexie glass brigade. Ill have to take a photo of something similar we discovered in my street - an ancient well so the council made it into a feature with lighting and a plexie glass cover that way anyone can see the feature and it isn't lost. I am sure this could be done for your tank.
 
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My B&B still has a cistern but not in use,its outside. Has a heavy wood top, now with pots on it. Its my kitchen herbs garden. Also have a rental with a well in the back sun room, was outside the house years ago but as the house grew it was swallowed up by the house. It is covered up with a heavy wood top. My well is in the parking lot but covered by a cement slab and gravel. Old homes have all sorts of quirks.
 

Arks

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I like the lights and plexiglass idea too! That way I could bypass, for now, the expense of building stairs down into it and worrying about the extra cost of liability insurance for people to go downt there, but it could still be seen and appreciated, and it would still be there if I ever decided to make greater use of it in the future.
I'll just have to convince the architect that his engineer can come up with the proper grade and thickness of plexiglass to be safe to walk on.
 

Silverspoon

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I love the idea of plexiglas and lighting as well. One of my big disappointments was destroying the cistern that was in the basement of this old house when we put the addition on. We were told that there was no way to get a foundation for the addition without sacrificing the cistern. I always wonder if we might have been able to save it with a more creative solution like you are considering. Go for it! It will make a unique feature for your B+B and, the way the climate is changing, you may need it for water storage one of these days.
 

gillumhouse

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Could it be a suite? Rather than a spiral staircase, a staircase that goes around the wall with the TV and chairs (perhaps hide-a-bed chairs or sofa) that would make it usable as a second bedroom for a family or 2 men/women needing 2 beds and privacy. Other than than, I like the plexi idea - but you would have to explain it on your description. Someone with vertigo would NOT like that room!]
Other than that, you might want to retain it as a possible cistern again. One never knows what will happen with water systems - could be used to water your landscape and save on your water bills.
 

EmptyNest

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Could it be a suite? Rather than a spiral staircase, a staircase that goes around the wall with the TV and chairs (perhaps hide-a-bed chairs or sofa) that would make it usable as a second bedroom for a family or 2 men/women needing 2 beds and privacy. Other than than, I like the plexi idea - but you would have to explain it on your description. Someone with vertigo would NOT like that room!]
Other than that, you might want to retain it as a possible cistern again. One never knows what will happen with water systems - could be used to water your landscape and save on your water bills..
I don't think I would want to climb down 16 feet to be in an 8 foot round room... and no windows....sounds like torture chamber to me. No way! Personally, I like the plexiglass idea or just cover it all up.
 

Samster

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Could it be a suite? Rather than a spiral staircase, a staircase that goes around the wall with the TV and chairs (perhaps hide-a-bed chairs or sofa) that would make it usable as a second bedroom for a family or 2 men/women needing 2 beds and privacy. Other than than, I like the plexi idea - but you would have to explain it on your description. Someone with vertigo would NOT like that room!]
Other than that, you might want to retain it as a possible cistern again. One never knows what will happen with water systems - could be used to water your landscape and save on your water bills..
I don't think I would want to climb down 16 feet to be in an 8 foot round room... and no windows....sounds like torture chamber to me. No way! Personally, I like the plexiglass idea or just cover it all up.
.
I agree, Catlady. Four words come to mind, "Silence of the Lambs".... creepy.
 

Arks

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Could it be a suite? Rather than a spiral staircase, a staircase that goes around the wall with the TV and chairs (perhaps hide-a-bed chairs or sofa) that would make it usable as a second bedroom for a family or 2 men/women needing 2 beds and privacy. Other than than, I like the plexi idea - but you would have to explain it on your description. Someone with vertigo would NOT like that room!]
Other than that, you might want to retain it as a possible cistern again. One never knows what will happen with water systems - could be used to water your landscape and save on your water bills..
I don't think I would want to climb down 16 feet to be in an 8 foot round room... and no windows....sounds like torture chamber to me. No way! Personally, I like the plexiglass idea or just cover it all up.
.
I agree, Catlady. Four words come to mind, "Silence of the Lambs".... creepy.
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Samster said:
I agree, Catlady. Four words come to mind, "Silence of the Lambs".... creepy.
Yes, I'll need to keep a throw rug to put over the "window" for people with vertigo who find it unsettling, but I think there are a lot more people who would find it fascinating to inspect.
Indeed, going down there would not be for people with claustrophobia. My brother won't go into a cave to save his life, but I love them.
 
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