What do you do with a dirt floor in the basement?

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We just bought a house which was built in 1910. I'm having the basement waterproofed. While they were digging the trenches, the workmen discovered that a portion of my basement floor is still dirt. (We all thought it was just yucky from the standing water and hundred years of filth.) The floor is not level. I'm afraid to put anything on top of the dirt because it will draw moisture, but I want to use the basement for storage. Any ideas?
  13 answers
  • They can install a vapor barrier, foam & pour a thin "rat" slab or a regular one depending on the height. If needed it can also be dug out more in many cases. As for leveling there are numerous ways to level a floor. As for which one is best for your situation, I would consult a contractor that would do the work.

  • Darla Darla on Oct 21, 2014
    Perhaps you could put down a deck-style floor with weatherproofed wood and spaces between the boards for ventilation. You could level it with those precast concrete footers. That would probably work fine for storage.

  • Jane Jane on Oct 21, 2014
    Thank you for your suggestions! Unfortunately I will be doing the work myself. I'm not sure what a "rat slab" is. What kind of foam would I use? I can't dig out the basement any more because the house was built without footers and I would be digging below the walls. The ceiling is 6 feet high, so I can't add a lot of material to the floor.. (I'm assuming that at one point this part of the basement was the coal cellar, or, since the rest of the basement has a concrete floor, that someone had to dig something up - perhaps a body?). Maybe I could use the precast footers as the feet for shelving. I'm thinking of using gravel to level it and putting a strong vapor barrier over it. like they did in my daughter's crawl space. Would it be OK to put pressure treated lumber on top of that for a floor?

    • See 1 previous
    • Melody Terry  Reif Melody Terry Reif on Jan 17, 2020

      Have you tested for Radon Gas?

  • Darla Darla on Oct 22, 2014
    Probably, but you would have to be careful because if you just laid boards on top, the boards could shift when you step on them. That's why I said to build it like a deck and level it with the footers. It would use up some height in the room, though.

  • Jane Jane on Oct 26, 2014
    I really appreciate the suggestions! Thank you.

  • Renee Seeling Renee Seeling on Apr 15, 2015
    I have a similar basement....most of it has concrete for the floor but, one room has dirt. There are bricks in part of this room. My plan is to lay a type of "deck" over the dirt after I lay a plastic sheet or tarp to keep the dust from blowing around. Right now, I am using this room as my workshop until the weather is "steady" enough to work in the garage again. As was said above, lay a vapor barrier down and then put a floor over that. It will help keep moisture out.

  • Jane Jane on Apr 15, 2015
    We ended up putting plastic down and then putting the foam puzzle pieces designed for playroom or workout floors. It looks great and even with the spring rains and snow melts no water has appeared .

  • Kristin Topping Kristin Topping on Jul 28, 2015
    You have lots of suggestion in order to have a good flooring works. Thanks for these tutorials! Helpful indeed.I really liked your thoughts and instruction that is very simple and inspiring. Nice job you have done.

  • Wendy turley Wendy turley on Sep 27, 2015
    I am curious as to what you did :)

    • Jane Jane on Sep 27, 2015
      @Wendy turley I ended up getting the rubber mats for playrooms and creating a floor out of those. If there is a problem, we just need to pull up one of the puzzle shaped mats. It has been almost a year, and the basement is DRY. The fun part was that I made a "yellow brick road" through the basement.

  • Sev48899474 Sev48899474 on Apr 10, 2020

    I have a horse barn that I'd like to use the dirt floor for a working shop and storage but I do not want a permanent solid floor in case I sell the property to a horse lover who wants the arena.

  • Lkr LibrarianLady Lkr LibrarianLady on Aug 24, 2020

    I have a question regarding a dirt floor in a basement. there is about a 10 by 10 room with a dirt floor I want to put a bathroom in there. What type of floor would I have to put in to support just a sink a toilet and a stand up shower


  • Christine Christine on Jul 28, 2021

    Going back to above flooring considerations, what about bricks for the floor, with sand between them? If there was no vapor barrier for a hundred years, and all is well, does it need a vapor barrier, wont that make condensation build up, the opposite? what about brick pavers or concrete slab pavers with sand between them, wont this breathe enough?

  • David Long David Long on Aug 18, 2021

    I have a similar situation house built in 1925. Dirt floor, with stone walls... in my case I would say it's very dry... even in in heavy rain seasons and long snow melt seasons I see no moisture on walls or floor whatsoever... anyway I was thinking of trying Linoleum as a cheap attractive remedy right over the dirt! I don't really see much of a difference in Linoleum VS a plastic sheeting vapor barrier... what do you people think???