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old cellar - circa 1796

I recently inherited an old Cape - built in circa 1796.
The foundation is built of stones and topped with some very immense (?) granite blocks - it's really quite amazing!. My parents renovated the house in 1997 and lally columns and some new support beams were installed (some old hand hewn beams remain though).
My brother told me some of the foundation walls need to be re-podged (?sp).
What does this entail? Do I get a mason to do this work?

Also once I have the work done,would I benefit from using a dehumidifier down there? The cellar is not wet, but it is damp enough to keep a small colony of spotted salamanders happy :D. Would a dehumidifier dry out the the old wood too much?
Thanks for any help and advice!

Re: old cellar - circa 1796

First off, congrats on having such a rare gem!

I'm not a mason but I assume the goal is to re-PARGE the stone to maintain it's strength and prevent water/moisture from seeping through. In your situation I would break free any loose parging or mortar and covering with a hydraulic cement mix. There was an episode of ask this old house that covered a similar situation. This might also help tackle your moisture situation since the hydraulic cement may reduce the amount of water getting through the wall. If you feel up to the task, it is certainly something you can do yourself if you are comfortable, otherwise, a mason would do this kind of work for you.

Re: old cellar - circa 1796

My first thoughts or that the foundation was constructed before portland cement was available in the USA.
For repairs the use of portland or hydrilic cements will cause failure of the softer mortar.
The mostly mortar mixture would be a Lime sand mixture.
Check to see if some of the follow products will match the existing 1796 mortar.
Virginia Lime Works
US Heritage Group.
Or look for a NHL Mortar that will match the orginal mortars.

Mr. Burke
Re: old cellar - circa 1796

Just a note, Your moisture situation my be caused from the floor.
Is your floor concrete or dirt.? If dirt you might want to pour a 4" slab of concrete over a 30 MIL Plastic vapor barrier.

Re: old cellar - circa 1796

I would +1 Mr. Burke. Our basement has three separate sections. Two have concrete floors, and one is dirt. The dirt floor releases much more moisture into that space and the wood is in much rougher shape.

Eventually I plan to pour this section too, but I need to save some cash!! :-)

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