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HELP! Need a creative mind :)

George George
December 4, 2018
last modified: December 4, 2018

Hello! So, this is my basement entrance. I've been working on this project for a long time and I did everything just the way I wanted, but I can't figure out how to deal with this. So, this is an apartment in old, historical building in the center of my town. And it has this old wine-cellar-type of a basement and this is how your enter it.

Now, Originally, there was just the staircase that goes down straight from the floor. So, I decided to make this metal cover for it, so that nobody drops in there in the darkness, and it has a tiny gate-like door that you can open to enter the basement. But the problem is, this whole construction is located in the entrance of the apartment, so, the very first thing you see the moment you enter the flat is this damn, ugly construction and it's just driving me crazy.

The other problem is, there is a very high level of humidity in the basement and sometimes the smell comes up to the apartment, which is not the best thing, as you can probably tell :)

So, the ideal solution for this project would be a method, that could help me make the basement entrance as less noticeable as possible, as small as possible and also, create a barrier for the dump smell.

Hope someone has the answer for this cause I am all drained of ideas and the current situation is not working, obviously :)

Thanks in advance

Comments (38)

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    Could you maybe post some pics from outside to show where this entry is located I am finding it hard to get my beaarings as to what and where this is Maybe some pics of the apartment space too.

  • George George

    there is no outside. You enter the apartment through that orange door, and that weird entrance is the entrance to the basement. It's a staircase that goes straight down to the basement. I'll take some more pics and post them later as well

  • PRO
    Johnson Flooring Co Inc

    That's quite an elaborate fence and gate. I might have gone a different way. How often do you access the basement?

  • George George

    Not very often. It's like a wine cellar down there, as I mentioned already. So, there is no necessity to constantly open and close it. Maybe once a day or smth like that.

  • Nick

    I can't tell from the pictures, but would a trap door access work?

    I would also try to address the humidity independently from the aesthetics. Unless you need the humidity for wine storage.

  • George George

    Nick thanks for the suggestion. Originally there was a trap door but I removed it. Cause if you have a trap door on the floor, then the entrance on the wall stays open and it's simply ugly. it's like a huge hole on the wall for no reason. Then I'd have to do like a half door on the wall (only for the part that stays exposed when you close the trap door on the floor) and I think that's too many of doors already and it will still look weird.

  • George George

    That's why it's so difficult to figure out what to do with it, cause the entrance affects both the wall and the floor, as well, it's like somewhere halfway in between. and then there is the staircase, and the humidity, it's like a mission impossible almost :)

  • Nick

    OK, I think I can see it better now. You did too good a job of hiding it, so I hadn't appreciated that it affected both the wall and floor. If your cover is easily removable, it might help if you were to take some photos with the opening exposed.

  • Storybook Home
    What about a full length arched door that swings into the basement, and a removable flat metal grate for the opening to prevent falling down the hole. Then you can get rid of the safety gate so it doesn’t block the apartment entrance.
  • George George

    No it's not removable :)) I wanted it fixed as firmly as possible cause when somebody enters the door, if the lights are out, they might just fall into the entrance :)) But I do want it removed for good, it's really not very functional and I want to remove it, if I can think of something better than this. The construction itself does a pretty good job hiding the ugliness of the entrance, but since it's in the entrance, it's very uncomfortable, you enter the apartment and you run straight into the construction. I was thinking maybe covering half of the hole on the floor somehow and making the entrance smaller or smth like that. Cause now you can enter there without any problem, you won't even need to bend. So, I was thinking about making it smaller but not sure how the whole wall-floor situation will work in that case

  • Diane R
    I would go back to a trap door for the floor portion it will open up your space and keep the smell contained. Then a flush door for the wall portion that has no exterior handle, but instead has a push fastener (a catch with a magnet that keeps it closed). The door will disappear into the wall enlarging your space.
  • Janet
    This is a fascinating space and challenge. “Tiny” living, apartment style! Is your cellar waterproofed, or is moisture seeping in? Do you have electricity down there that you could run a dehumidifier? The iron rail might be better without the greenery, and the orange door way screening also draws the eye. I’m no pro, it’s just my eye, but this space is too much fun!
  • George George

    I do have the electricity down there but it's not waterproofed yet. I'm finding it hard to find a good product for that in my city, somehow. I did do 3 coats but the moisture is still seeping in. I also couldn't find any dehumidifiers in here so I ordered it online and I'm waiting for it to arrive. As for the "too much fun" part, this apartment is an Airbnb for the Tourists, and believe it or not, they enjoy it, so I stick with it :D

  • wednesday morning

    That really is an odd configuration! Is this in the US, because it does not look like it would be. Like others, I am having difficulty determining just what the situation is.

    Do those stairs to the basement descend straight down, like a ladder?

    Is your apartment part of a larger house, or what? It looks like to enter this apartment you step down into the room. It looks more like an outside door than an entryway from another interior. Do you rent or do you have enough interest here to invest in this property? That would make a difference in what you might do to make it better.

    As far as the dank smell....that seems to be inherently the nature of a cellar. Does it have exposed earth in it? You might try a dehumidifier, but it might not be enough.

    You say that you use it maybe once a day? May I ask what it is that you use that space for? It looks quite awkward to get down there and back up. I can hardly imagine using it for storage, seeing as how it is so awkward and, as you say, wet.

  • George George

    The property is mine, so I do want to invest in it so that I can solve the problem once and for all. The stairs go straight down, and this is the first floor, so the stairs go underneath the ground and there is a small, old style wine cellar down there. it's built with bricks underneath the ground (so that wine can be well preserved in cold area). The apartment is a part of 5 story building. No, it's not in US, it's in Georgia (Country), Tbilisi. Georgia, for those who don't know, is located in between Europe and Asia, and is the mother land of wine, so the old wine cellar in my apartment is actually known as one of the artifacts of our history and is under the observation of our government. But I do get to decide how the entrance will look and work, cause it's my property. No, it's not exposed to earth but the moisture still seeps in. I was thinking about doing several more coats and plus the dehumidifier. Hope it works. As I mentioned above, I don't live there, it's an airbnb for the tourists, and you know, every new tourist wants to go down and check out the old wine cellar, so that's the main purpose of the door. We don't drag in or out anything :)

  • Nick

    I was guessing the Balkans, so was out by several hundred miles. I love Tbilisi and love Georgian wine. If I had a Georgian wine cellar, I'd be using it more than once a day!

  • wednesday morning

    I see that you said that it is rental property. In that case, close off that hole in the floor and put a lock on it! There is no need for any tourist to go down there. That is just inviting injury! You don't say where in the world this is, but I'll bet that you could still be held liable where ever it is.

    Revealing that this is a rental is important as to what suggestions that you might get. Don't let the tourists down there!!!! And, don't let them trip over it!!

    i guess you must have some type of concrete or stone walls down there? As long as they are surrounded by damp earth, they will be damp. Do you have some drain to drain a dehumidifier? If you don't, it will have to be emptied very often. Most of them only hold maybe a couple of liters, or so. I run one in my walk out basement in the summertime and it often needs to be emptied twice a day. If it is an old building, it has had a long time for moisture to seep through whatever it is that make the walls.

    Is there any way to create a fan assisted ventilation to the outside, like the ones in bathrooms that vent to the outside? I have an inclination to think that you are fighting a formidable force with that moisture in an old cellar/basement.

  • wednesday morning

    If it is a part of the intrigue of staying in the apartment how about installing a grated covering and having some lights that just light up the space so that it can be seen but not accessed?

    Good luck! It certainly is awkward.

  • mimimomy

    This is too cool. There are no windows out of the basement?

    If you want to keep it, I think you need to look at some of the totally clever ideas like for an rv or small apartments.

    For the floor portion, if you had a rim around the interior of the opening you could set a cover with the same floor pattern into it so it would virtually disappear. On the side where it opens down into the basement, it might need to be a removable support, or part of the "lid."

    Then you could hinge a door to the wall portion. The door would prevent the lid from being pulled up when the door is closed. You could make the lid hinged or just drop in.

    To enter it you would first open the door in the wall fully, then lift the lid.

    I can't wait to see more pictures!

  • George George

    Thank you for your suggestions :) No the staircase is quite long and nothing is visible from the apartment itself, one needs to get down there to see it. I don't want to close it cause it's like a heritage from our past and tourists love it, so I want to keep it :)

    Nick thank u for love and support :) Next time you visit Tbilisi let me know and I'll let u taste some wines from my ancient cellar :)))))

  • George George

    Ah also, I did create a tunnel and installed a fan, but what happens is, the cellar is quite deep in the ground, so the tunnel is like 2 meters or so, I installed a fan and I thought it would help but the humidity simply condensates on the walls of the tunnel and comes down dripping, ruining the fan itself, the cellar and most importantly my nerves :D :D

  • PRO
    Johnson Flooring Co Inc

    I'd go back to a trap door and add something on the wall to block off the top of the doorway, like a full height door. The trap door could even be hinged to the door that hangs on the wall. For access the trap door would swing up then the door would swing to one side or perhaps be opened like a sliding barn door. I like the hinge idea better because you could put some weather stripping on the back of the door so when it rests against the wall it would help with the musty smell.

  • Nick

    I agree that you should keep it accessible, as it is too historic a feature to hide. Can you put a door at the bottom to act as a barrier for the smell? Wine storage needs a reasonably high level of humidity, so you might not be able to eliminate the damp smell, but at least contain it within the cellar.

    Maybe rather than try to make it less noticeable, the solution is to create a feature out of it. The metal barrier is in keeping with local architecture, but I am not so keen on the artificial vines or the orange screening. The grating and lighting, perhaps a grated gate instead of the orange screen, could work. Maybe something with the head and chime of an old barrel or a Georgian rug. I think whatever you do needs to go higher than the top of the entrance. Good luck with it.

    I used to visit Tbilisi a lot in the 1990s, but have not been back since. I'm overdue a visit I think.

  • alenm3

    George, can you post more pictures of the space? I think I would take out the wrought iron piece and instead, do handrails to the right and left of the opening. Then, at the bottom of the stairs I would put a door. Does the cellar have windows that you can open and ventilate the space from the outside?

  • George George

    Here are some more pics. Those are the pics that I have in my phone. There are visitors in the apartment right now so I can't take new ones but I'll be posting a lot more pics tomorrow, when I get a chance to take the new ones. As for the door, I also had the same idea and installed a door. but the problem is, I didn't install it exactly where the brick tunnel starts. Cause as you go down the stairs, the ceiling also gets lower and lower. So, since the ceiling is not even, the door would not open properly, it would simply get stuck because the ceiling would be lower than the door. So this is what I did.

    But as you can see, there still is some part of the tunnel with the brick walls remaining in the apartment area, which causes the dump smell. I painted it white since the walls in the room are white to help with the interior but it got washed away pretty quickly by the humidity leaking through the walls.

  • hollybar

    No real advice,but this is one fascinating dilemma :-) I wonder if a paint additive for odor control could help?

  • wednesday morning

    So that is a picture of what is at the bottom of those stairs? There is a door there?

    From your initial post I was imagining a very rough and unfinished area. that was accessed from a hole in the floor that lead straight down. It looks like there is a drying rack and an ironing board down there. The stairs must be quite steep.

    Then, I assume that the door leads to where the wine was stored? So, there IS a door that blocks off the wet area that gives off damp smells?

    It is an unusual arrangement and many of us are having trouble seeing what it is.

    It appears to be more finished than what I thought.

  • George George

    So, to expain in more details, when you open the gate door and start going down the stairs, there is like 3 steps that go down and then there is this tiny space you see on the pics. It's like half squre metres or so. So, what I did was, I used this space to place the door here to isolate the wine cellar from the rest of the apartment and I used this space to store some necessary stuff for the tourists. But, as you can see, there still is relatively small area with those brick walls left to the side of the apartment, and even that is enough for the dump smell to come out into the apartment. I painted it white to create more finished look and also make it look like a part of the apartment but it's not working well, which leads me to the decision that I should somehow find a way to isolate the whole tunnel from the apartment and the barrier should start straight from the entrance, otherwise I'll always have the strange odor problem in the main space

  • alenm3

    George, is it possible to have a fixed half moon on the archway (taller people might have to duck down a bit to pass thru the doorway)? With a fixed top, you can have the bottom of the door to open in or out (depending on space). I don't know if I'm making myself clear. I'm thinking like a dutch door, with the small top fixed and the rest opens/closes. Is that doable in your space?

  • chiflipper

    Activated charcoal will solve your odor issue and help with dampness. The process to change regular coal / BBQ briquettes into "activated" is rather simple...and I suspect the "oven" facility needed would be available in your area. Just Google "How do I make activated charcoal" for the directions.

  • wednesday morning

    No matter how you place it, George, that is an awkward configuration of space, as per our modern sensibilities. Folks in the past had no such notions such as we have today. If it was awkward, that was just the way it was. You lived with it.

    Do you know for sure that the smell you detect is coming from the cellar? Perhaps, just perhaps, it is part of the fact that this building is old and has been absorbing odors and moisture for a very long time? Is it possible that the damp or dank odor is just inherent in the nature of the old walls and such? Are there other apartments within the same building where people are living that could give off living smells?

    Are there windows in the apartment? From the photos, one gets the sense of a small, windowless apartment. But, we have not seen the rest of the apartment. Surely, there must be some way out of the apartment other than the door, like in case of a fire?

    I don't know how liability laws are there, but my first inclination would be to NOT let guests go down there. You never know what they might get up to or what their capabilities are.

  • ninigret

    i love dilemmas outside the US... you really get to see new things. this one, all i can think is monty python when they say

    "and now for something completely different".

  • wednesday morning

    George, do you do a lot of airbnb?

    Good luck with a solution to your odor and logistical problems! You might not find any real answers that you can apply.

  • George George

    Alen3 Actually I've been thinking about the same idea, making it smaller and making people bend when they enter it :) But if I go with that, I'll most likely choose to shorten the entrance portion that's on the floor. Because that'd give me more space for the actual entrance to the apartment.

    chiflipper Thank you for your suggestion :) I did not know about the whole activated charcoal trick and I'll definitely use it. Yet, it would be better if I could find a final solution to the problem, but I guess I'll just have to live with it and try as much as possible to make the smell as less noticeable as possible.

    wednesday morning You are wright, The smell can be caused by the whole apartment and not just the wine cellar, yet, when I installed the door down there, the smell did decrease significantly. But it still remained. So, since I still have a small portion of that brick wall tunnel open to the apartment, I'm guessing that is the main source of the smell. Yes, there are windows in the apartment, but they are quite small (you won't be able to crawl through them in case of fire). I'll be posting some more pics of the apartment since everyone's interested :)

    And these are the windows

    And since everyone got so intrigued, I'll also post a pic of the wine cellar down there. So, this pic was taken when I started renovating the old cellar. when I bought the apartment, the cellar had been painted in white by the previous owners (and the government was not happy about it). So, what I did was, I peeled the whole painted off the brick walls and then covered them with transparent sealer (which was suggested by the biggest local store I could find). I also did some electricity down there and that's when I took this picture. Nowadays I have wine racks and the shelves down there, and I a tiny wine table in the center for people to enjoy the wine in the old atmosphere. And just old traditional furniture and decoration. But I wanted to show you this pic so that you can understand the type of the building that this is. Even though it looks pretty modern from the outside (the building), it hides some really ancient stuff inside :)

  • George George

    wednesday morning Yes I do do a lot of airbnb :) I've been wanting to take new pics or maybe a video to help everyone here understand the space better, but I could not cause the tourists are constantly in there and I don't want to weird them out by going there and taking pics like a freak :D

  • wednesday morning

    Aw!!!!! Now I see what you are talking about. I had no idea! I thought you were talking about a dank cellar with dirt floors, giving off rank odors.

    This is quite a different story.

    I take back my advice to close it off, now that you have shared with us what it really is. Maybe you should consider some option to make the entrance more accessible, rather than trying to do anything else with it. You have invested in it with all of that brick restoration work that you did.

    Still, it is an awkward access and would it be assuming to think that you have purchased only the apartment and not the building? So, you don't have the room to make major structural changes such as making that entrance bigger?

    The apartment looks nice, but, I have to tell you that it is a little unsettling to be in a place that has but one way to get out. In the US we are accustomed to the idea that it is unlawful to create a sleeping area in such a room and it is illegal to rent it out.

    The apartment looks nice, though. Not having windows would be a consideration factor for some, but you seem to indicate that it is not a problem.

    Good luck. I guess it is something that will just have to be lived with in order to keep the historical advantage. After all, it seems that is the way it was originally.

  • Nick

    You've done a great job with the wine cellar. The apartment itself is very small and I'm curious if it was originally a wine shop that have been converted. I would make the cellar the major feature of the property. Georgian wine is not as well-known as it once was, but I imagine anyone visiting Tbilisi will be aware of the history. First I would check that the damp is not unhealthy and that there are no mould spores. Unless the smell is overpowering, I would make sure that potential renters understand the cultural significance of Georgian wine and the history of the building and the cellar. Explain that wine storage requires humidity and that staying in such a historic building means accepting the humidity (you can reassure them there is no health hazard). You've already blocked off the main part of the cellar, but it might be that you cannot totally eliminate the damp smell from the apartment area.

    I'm out of ideas for dealing with the cellar entrance. I can't speak for everyone, but if I were renting your place and knew in advance about the wine cellar, I would happily accept the damp and the awkward entrance as a trade-off for being able to taste Georgian wine in a historic cellar.

  • alenm3

    Wow, George, what a beautiful wine cellar you have there! I was imagining something entirely different. It's really cozy and inviting. What a cool gem!

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