If you’re like many homeowners, you’ve “oo’d and ah’d” over the spectacular home renovation programs on TV and may now be considering finishing your own basement space. It’s time to start using the extra square footage for more than just storing holiday decorations or boxes with long-ago forgotten contents. While the design possibilities are endless, you’ll need to consider the unique challenges finishing the lower level of home may present. Whether your plans include a game room, home office, entertainment center or kids playroom, there are some basic things that can’t be ignored while finishing your basement:
1. Condensation problems. You probably realize that basements are prone to moisture and condensation issues; so before you start shopping for that big screen television, you’ll need to make sure your basement is reliably dry all year long. While most homeowners understand the need to repair concrete gaps and cracks, liquid water isn’t the only concern you’ll have – musty air may indicate moisture is being trapped and mold spores may be present. Don’t ignore that damp feeling as you walk down the stairs to the lower level. It’s important to determine whether you have a condensation issue or a larger waterproofing problem. Securely taping 2-foot x 2-foot plastic sheets in several places along the walls and floor will provide a good test. If after 48 hours water vapour has collected on the underside of the plastic, you’ll need to coat the concrete with a waterproof sealer or paint before covering the area. Running a dehumidifier will also help dry the air.
2. Insulation Issues. Another moisture-related component is basement insulation. Choosing wall and floor insulation that is designed to resist occasional moisture will keep the space safe for years. A popular option is an extruded polystyrene foam insulation that fastens to basement walls without studs. Below-grade use wall board is then fastened to the foam in a variety of ways. There are several insulation products on the market, but 2-foot wide panels with OSB bonded to one side is a convenient choice. They can be fastened directly to the concrete walls with masonry screw anchors. Wall board can then be screwed right to the OSB with no need to add 2×4 studs. Don’t ignore the ends of floor joists where they meet the top of the basement walls, or condensation can build up between the wood and foam during winter months. Cut and apply construction adhesive to attach pieces of foam over the spaces between joists. Leave about 1/2-inch clearance, and then fill with expanding polyurethane foam.
A similar foam insulation can be used for the basement floor. Several dense, foam-based subfloor tiles are available that don’t require wood support strapping. Other subfloor insulation products are designed to sit on plastic or rubber. Either style works. Just be sure the product you select is made for concrete flooring and moisture-resistant.
3. Sump Pump and Lateral Back-ups. Being prepared for power outages may protect your finished basement from a major disaster. Install a battery back-up system or high-water alert on your sump pump. Once walls are erected and your sump pump is hidden away in a mechanical room, it’s easy to ignore the potential risk of overflows. Power outages can happen at any time, whether you’re home or not, and a back-up system is a wise investment. Basic battery-operated units are available for a reasonable cost and pump between 2,100 and 3,000 gallons of water per hour. High-tech alert systems now come with Bluetooth connectivity and apps to notify you when you’re away from home. It’s a great option for added peace of mind.
If you don’t already have a backwater valve connected to your main drain lateral, you’ll definitely want to consider adding one. This is the last line of defense against sewage water back-up during high-pressure situations. A gate valve will close if the lateral backs-up and prevent sewer water from entering your home. Protect your investment of time and money, don’t ignore this possible danger.
4. Cleaning Requirements. While you’ll like prefer to do anything other than clean out your gutters and window wells, but it’s important to keeping your finished basement dry. Removing leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts will keep rainwater and melting snow runoff running smoothly and prevent overflow. The same goes for cleaning out window wells and keeping storm sewer grates clear. Don’t forget to seal basement windows with caulking and weather stripping or clean out drains regularly to reduce build-up.
5. Exterior Issues. Before finishing that basement area, there’s one more task you must do – walk around outside. Over the years, it’s likely you’ve made some modifications to the original grade of your property. By adding decorative flowerbeds, pools, decks and patios, you may have inadvertently adjusted the grade to flow toward, instead of away, from the foundation. Settling and gutter overflow can also allow water to lie along foundation walls and needs to be corrected. The ground should slope away from the house approximately 6 inches over 10 feet to allow for proper drainage. Gutter diverters are also an excellent way to reduce flooding risk.
It’s tempting to jump into a basement remodeling project quickly. It’s so much more fun to cover the ugly concrete with fresh, new products and to see the space transform into a place that’s attractive, inviting and fun. Unfortunately, ignoring the potential threats listed here will jeopardize your investment and your health. Taking the time to prepare the space properly will ensure your finished basement is truly a great space for years to come.
Author Bio: Jon Labelle is an expert in home improvement efficiency and the remodeling industry. He’s a proud dad, blogger, dog lover and sports fan.