If you have a raised foundation and need extra storage space, then this is the blog for you! As my loving parents kept giving us all the Christmas decorations they no longer had room for (among lots of other stuff), we quickly realized that more storage was a necessity. I’m not big on crawling under the house myself, but my husband pointed out to me that the space under our front bedroom was completely open and ready to accept all of that stuff you only pull out once a year. The problem with the space was that we didn’t have any direct access to it, so we decided to make an additional hatch in the closet next to that room. Although this can be a great solution, there are some important things to keep in mind if you plan to do something like this. I will go into some of these precautions and also give some tips for making your crawl space storage the best it can be.
Moisture and Pests
Some crawl spaces are very dry and free of rodents and insects, while others attract lots of moisture and have lots of those pests. Ours had no signs of moisture or pests, so it was a good candidate for under house storage. As a precaution, we keep everything in tote boxes, and we don’t keep any of our sentimental items in this location because you just never know. Although many homes already have this (and it is a requirement of pest inspections), adding a vapor barrier over the ground is a good idea, even if you don’t plan on using your crawl space for storage (check out this article from the Family Handyman for more information on installation). If you have a significant moisture problem under your house (or if you plan on digging the area out), you could also look into installing a sump pump system, which pumps out the water as it accumulates (check out this video from This Old House for more information on this option).
When deciding on a storage space, it is important to keep in mind how you will access the space and how easy it will be to get your items in and out. The crawl space is where your plumbing and heating are typically run, so it is important to keep this as the first priority for the space. You also don’t want an access door in the middle of a room, so closets are typically the ideal location for access. If you don’t have an open area under your house with a close access point, adding crawl space storage may not be an option. In our case, the walk-in closet next to the bedroom was ideal for adding a hatch. Underneath the house thought, we had ducting running directly between the access point and the storage point, and a foundation beam with all the supports holding up our house (do not mess with foundation supports unless you really know what you are doing). The ducting was easy to move, so we bought a coupler and some extra ducting to reroute it behind our access point. Although the foundation beam was not ideal, we could still get through the beams easily, so we decided to move forward with adding our storage room.
Cutting a Hatch
If you have crawl space, then you already have an access hatch, although it might not be where you have storage space. If possible, I suggest making the space work around your existing hatch, but it you can’t, please consult a professional before moving forward with creating a new hatch. If you cut the hatch between floor joists, you will most likely be okay structurally, but if you need a larger opening, you may need to cut through a joist, which if done improperly can cause some major damage. We wanted a larger opening, so we had a professional come in to verify that what we were doing would not structurally compromise the house.
Another thing to keep in mind before cutting a hatch is that you will probably need to replace the flooring around and over the hatch. In our case, we were already in the process of changing the carpet over to wood laminate, so the flooring was not something we were concerned about. Along with the flooring, you should also think about what hardware you will use on the hatch door. You can purchase blind hinges if you want to make the door as discrete as possible (these can be pricey and are usually a special order item), or you can use traditional door hinges if you don’t mind the hinge sticking up a little when the hatch is closed. We chose to use the traditional door hinge because the hatch was in a closet and we weren’t trying to make a “secret” room. The handle is another thing to think of, and for this we used a standard pull handle, which actually gave the hatch a cool look.
Lighting it all up
Now what good is a storage area if you don’t have any light? One option is to take a lantern or flashlight with you each time you go under the house; although this will probably make you much less likely to actually use your storage area. The other option is to add permanent lighting fixtures that you can turn on when you go “spelunking”. We added a fixture very similar to the one discussed in the Garage Lighting blog, although we used single fixtures and instead of running wire through conduit, we just used Romex (I believe we spent around $50 to install the lights). It is important to use low wattage light bulbs because they stay cool, and also make sure the lights are placed where you will not accidentally hit them as you move stuff around in your space (you can also buy cages for your lights to help prevent accidental breakage). Every time we go under the house to get something out or put something in storage, we simply plug in our fixture, and our storage room is as bright as day.
It may seem like a lot of work, but if you have additional stuff to store, utilizing the space you already have under your house is probably a less expensive option then renting a small storage unit. Please feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.