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Old 10-13-2014, 12:17 PM   #1
mattlikesbikes OP
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Crawlspace work - removing dirt

Experts -

I've got a 1929 duplex, brick construction on a footing with pier and beam. We've had it leveled but need to have a few more piers put in. The leveler wants us to have some excavation done so he has easier access. I want more clearance myself so I can repair a few soft spots in the subfloor.

Anyone have insight on using a good sized workshop vacuum to pull loose mostly dry dirt? I need a new workshop setup (wall mounted bigger unit) and thought maybe using it with a 20-30ft flex hose and a cyclonic separator might make getting dirt out easier. Pulling on a level surface and not up. All together I probably want to eventually move 3-5 CY. I am ok with slow if it means I can stay fairly stationary rather than running buckets back. I currently have 12-18" of clearance. I want a consistent 18" around the edge and along the main beams.
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Old 10-13-2014, 12:29 PM   #2
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Maybe try a venturi-style vacuum that runs on compressed air, instead. Or let the neighborhood kids run their RC excavators under there to clean it out.
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Old 10-13-2014, 12:49 PM   #3
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I've done about half of the exact same job on my similar vintage house usingmud mixing tub, the kind commonly used by tile guys. I question how slow your idea would be. Digging and filling a tub then crawling backwards pulling the tub, emptying and moving with a wheelbarrow is significantly less than fast. Add in moving lights and hassling with dust masks and I think you are into a great idea.

Of you end up doing it the hard way a short handled trench shovel works best. It's ready to handle in a confined space and the long narrow blade holds a good amount of dirt without getting to heavy. a baseball cap with LED Lights in the brim coupled with a couple of halogen work lights will let you see what you are doing. The Tulle mixing tubs work great and laying down some craps of OSB makes sliding them in and out a breeze.

Good luck
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Old 10-13-2014, 12:51 PM   #4
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I've seen the airknife excavators work in my day job. Pretty cool stuff. i reached out to a few contractors to see if they could do weekend work. I'm happy to get down there and break the material up so that the vacuum extractor just pulls the loose material.

But yeah, no desire to either run pulleys or slide a low tub back and forth.
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Old 10-13-2014, 01:07 PM   #5
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Sometimes there is no substitute for elbow grease.
I have excavated tons of crawl spaces with everything from baking sheets on a rope , to shovels and pails, to small tractors (terra-mite) to 24” wide excavators.
It doesn’t seem to matter what machine is used at some point someone has to physically move the fill to its final destination.
I have found that it is just easier to dig it by hand and carry it in managable loads to wherever it needs to end up with the least ammount of stops in between. (handle it once).
You would be amazed at how much work one man can do if he puts himself to it.
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Old 10-13-2014, 01:34 PM   #6
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What about hiring a vac truck service?


A truck like that should be able to pull out the amount of dirt you are talking about in a couple hours.
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Old 10-13-2014, 02:27 PM   #7
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I reached out to a couple rental folks about the vac truck options. Like i said I am happy to dig my trenches and pile soft stuff to the side.
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Old 10-14-2014, 05:48 AM   #8
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5 cubic yards! That's a damn dump truck full!
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Old 10-14-2014, 07:33 AM   #9
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I've used a regular (albeit beefy) shop vac to excavate 20-50 gallons of dirt at a time from holes cut in a concrete slab. This method was chosen because it's easy to go deep in a relatively small hole, and more importantly, it's much neater than slopping shovel loads out of the hole and into a drum or bucket or wheelbarrow. Where I was working, dirt and dust control were important. It can be done, but a couple things:
-it's slow
-you'll still have to break up the soil
-the hose will clog and you have to shake it out periodically
-the vacuum container/body gets heavy.
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Old 10-14-2014, 08:59 AM   #10
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See if you can find any information on how John Wayne Gacy did it.
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Old 10-14-2014, 09:40 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soldier311 View Post
5 cubic yards! That's a damn dump truck full!
That is my worst case. Assuming that I need to excavate the full length of the wall 2ft wide and 1ft deeper than current, so 50x20x1/27 = 3.7CY. I expect I will have less to dig than that.

The next project will be where to put it.
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Old 10-14-2014, 09:46 AM   #12
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when i was younger i use to do this type of work it takes two people. get a square plastic pail 12"x12" by 6" deep, put a whole in each side of the pale, tie a rope so some one can pull it out and empty it, and a rope so you can pull it back in.
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Old 10-14-2014, 10:08 AM   #13
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Years ago I owned a house with a crawl space like that. All the houses on that street were like that. My neighbor decided he wanted a full basement under his house, so he went back to his dads farm and got an old screw type grain elevator. He knocked a hole in the foundation wall put the bottom of the elevator thru and started shoveling into it. He worked const. during the summer and was laid off all winter so that's all he did that winter. No matter what, you will become friends with a shovel.
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Old 10-14-2014, 11:05 AM   #14
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Like this

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Old 10-14-2014, 12:40 PM   #15
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How much of a rush are you in? LOL

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