The crawlspace of a home is the space between the concrete foundation of a house and the ground. In many homes, the foundation consists of concrete walls, meaning the crawlspace consists of bare dirt below the house. If your foundation is open, you can dig out your crawlspace by hand to create storage space or better clearance for repairs to the underside of your home.
The foundation of your house supports all of its weight, and digging around these supports can lead to a dangerous collapse of one or more walls. The experts at Seattle Press Online recommend using adjustable housejacks, along with steel beams and wooden planks, to brace or prop up any load-bearing walls in the crawlspace. Alternately, you must leave a specific amount of dirt undisturbed around the foundation walls. The exact size of this dirt buffer zone must be calculated by an engineer. The best way to keep your home and yourself safe while digging out a crawlspace is to use housejacks.
A heavy-duty spade or shovel is crucial for breaking up the compacted dirt in your crawlspace. You may have to use a smaller shovel or cut down the handle on a full-size spade if your crawlspace is very small and movement is limited. Even if you don't plan to dig much deeper into the dirt, a shovel is required for leveling the dirt floor before laying a finished floor says Komar.org. Scooping all of that dirt out by hand will take a lot of time and energy, even for a small depth, so wear gloves and knee pads if you will be kneeling to help protect your hands and knees during the digging.
Once you begin shoveling dirt out, you'll need something to haul it away with. A wheelbarrow may be the most common tool for this job, but it's not the only option. If a wheelbarrow can fit into the crawlspace, roll it next to where you are working and wheel it back out when full. If that's not possible, you'll need to fill a smaller container with dirt and transport it to the wheelbarrow just outside the crawlspace entrance. Asking a second person to assist you with this will make the job go much faster.
The Homeowner's Hub website says that a shop vac can be used to vacuum up the loose dirt as you dig and transport it to a dump box constructed of plywood, which may not work if the dirt is tightly clumped or full of large rocks that clog the shop vac's tube. Purchase a shop vac just for this job so you don't possibly break one you use regularly, which will cut down on the number of trips you'll take to drop off loads of loose dirt.