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The room at the bottom of your house: Is it a basement or a cellar?

Had an interesting e-mail the other week from Jo. She writes, “Is it basement or cellar? My definition of cellar derives from childhood when people’s lower levels were unfinished, often had dirt floors, were dank, cold and often smelly. There might have been one of those monstrous furnaces with ducts reaching across the entire cellar like arms of an octopus. It was where people stored root veggies and their canning over the winter. Often, there would be rats so rat poison would be ‘set’ out which definitely added to the foul odor.”

She continues, “Basement, on the other had, is finished–a concrete floor, in the least– and can be complete with just shelves, ‘warsher’ & dryer, off-season clothing storage, furnace and coal bin or oil tank and hot water heater that often had it’s own little furnace built in at the bottom and had to be fed coal. Today’s basements are completely finished and furnished as bedrooms, baths, bars & kitchens. They can be the home’s theater and other entertainment center. It would be interesting to know what your readers have to say, particularly in York’s older homes.”

I know from my experience, our “cellar” at the home I grew up in had a dirt floor – with boards for getting to the aforementioned “warsher” and dryer when it rained too hard! – and our house now has a fully finished basement, complete with carpet and heat and all that good stuff. And, much like Jo, I see a difference in what I call them that matches its level of construction.

So what say you? What’s in your house? And why do you say that?

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