A Physician’s Guide to Sanitation – Part 2

How to make a dry cellar

Click here if you missed Part 1.

Old and New Houses

An old house is apt to be damp and out of repair; yet if the frame is solid it may be enlarged to advantage. Alterations, however, are usually costly. In such buildings one should beware of disused cesspools, old wall-papers, and damp cellars, and thoroughly fumigate and whitewash as a precaution. New buildings shrink as the woodwork dries, and cracks are caused by settling. Tons of water may be used in making mortar, and this water must evaporate before the building is dry. The old proverb is wise: “The first year for your enemies, the second for your friends, the third for yourself.”

The Back Yard

The back yard should be kept neat and sightly, and should not be made a dumping-ground for rubbish and litter of all sorts. Low spots that collect rain should be filled up and sodded; and vines and at least a few flowers and shrubs should be planted to give a pleasant outlook. Garbage should be removed systematically, and should be kept in tightly covered cans until taken away. Tea leaves, potato peelings, bones and similar scraps can be burned in small quantities under the grate-bars of the kitchen stove without causing any odor, and give as good results as the patent carbonizers attached to smoke pipes.


Many people nowadays not only take their meals out of doors in fair weather, but even sleep there. A good veranda is therefore equivalent to another living-room. If enclosed with glass at one end it makes a sun-parlor or conservatory. Most plans for country houses fail for lack of a good kitchen porch where servants can prepare vegetables and sit between meals and on pleasant evenings.


Thoreau says in his Walden, or Life in the Woods: “The house is still but a sort of porch at the entrance of a burrow.” Primitive man dwelt in caves, and the first colonial dwellings were simply holes in the ground, roofed over like the sod houses in the West. In former days houses had no cellars, but were built directly upon the ground and banked all around with manure in winter for warmth. A hole was dug in the side-hill, and walled in to store roots and vegetables, while a spring house or the well served as a refrigerator. Every dwelling should have a cellar to contain the heating-apparatus, store fuel, and for comfort’s sake. The cellar should have windows on opposite sides which can be opened in all kinds of weather for ventilation. Coal-bins should not be so high as to obstruct free circulation of air. Cellar walls should be whitewashed every spring and fall, and the ceiling should be plastered and all openings for soil- and waste-pipes closed with cement to prevent cellar air from entering living-rooms. The floor should be covered with six inches of broken stone, over which should be laid three inches of Portland cement. This will prevent “sweating,” which would result if the cement were laid directly upon the cold ground. The cellar drain should not connect with the house drain unless there is an intercepting trap fed from some certain source of supply, such as a refrigerator waste-pipe, or tank overflow, or a back-pressure valve trap to prevent sewage from backing up and flooding the cellar. It is not desirable to locate plumbing fixtures in cellars, as they are apt to be neglected so that their traps dry out. Ashes and garbage should never be stored in cellars. Refrigerators should not connect direct with the house drain, but should empty into a metal pan or into a sink in the cellar.

To be continued….

  • From The Standard Family Physician: A Practical International Encyclopedia of Medicine and Hygiene Especially Prepared for the Household. Copyright 1907 by Funk & Wagnalls.

5 responses to “A Physician’s Guide to Sanitation – Part 2”

  1. […] here if you missed Part 1 and here if you missed Part 2 of this […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s