Constructing Dreams: The Benefits of a Basement

Whether you plan to build or buy a home, remodel a room or seek ideas to expand your “green” footprint, we are all in the beginning stages of constructing our dreams. Each month, this column will invite you to look beyond the usual ideas and consider alternative, cost-effective and eco-friendly options. With so many topics to explore from top to bottom, room to room, inside and out, the goal of a vision is to take a firm step forward, and begin living the dream.

A basement is rarely included in a home’s overall square footage yet, considering the perspective, a two story home with a basement would increase the floor area by 50 percent. In thinking about the overall attractiveness of “space,” a homeowner could ideally create everything she may want or dream, such as rooms to suit new hobbies or a growing family. How about adding a secondary kitchen for baking, canning purposes, or entertaining? With a basement, the possibilities are boundless. And if you are fortunate enough to have a home with a “walk out” basement door, the possibilities increase in terms of a patio, a mudroom, or a location for the dog to exit and enter, especially on rainy days. The first step is to capitalize on the thermal efficiency, and ease your heating and cooling costs.

Homeowners often wonder how to increase their energy efficiency, and the place to begin is in the basement. In such a large space, the first goal is to immediately change the levels of indoor humidity. This action will deter mold development from rising and distributing around the house. The following questions may be a starting point.

  1. Do I see moisture on the cinder blocks? If so, your home may need to address its water barrier system, which is found on the outside of the basement. The solution is to determine how water flows from your gutters, and whether heavy rains cause pools of water to flow away or towards the house. You may need to install diverters, tubing buried underground, 15 feet from the foundation.   It is wise to have a professional evaluate your water barrier system, and provide you with viable solutions.
  2. Does the basement have a musty smell? If you are running a dehumidifier in your basement, ensure that it adequately covers the square footage. This one investment will often solve most dampness issues, and become a cost-effective means to protect against moisture damage. Not only will a dehumidifier maintain a dry basement throughout the year, but it may also prevent health issues from occurring.

DIY Projects:

  • Depending on the severity of your humidity problem, you may need to check all of the sources of moisture; therefore, check all of your vents, including the dryer vent, and loose ducts.
  • In addition to caulking windows and doors, seal small cracks or gaps around pipes with a concrete-patching compound. Slip foam insulation sleeves over hot-water pipes to prevent heat loss, and over cold-water pipes to eliminate condensation from dripping on the inside of the drywall or ceiling.
  • Check your joists and wood framed windows for sagging, rot or insect damage. You may need to seal your basement walls, and possibly your floor, especially if cracks are present. Be aware of the size of the cracks. If wider than a pencil, the problem may be structural and require a professional.

Insulating the Walls

Last month, the Constructing Dreams column discussed how insulation is more than just “pink.” With advancements in both materials and the consideration of time, insulation has become easier to install. Specifically designed for basement walls, an interlocking rigid system is appropriately called, “InSoFast” panels. Whether glued, clipped or screwed into the foundation walls, the installer can choose which option is best for him or her. Each rigid panel begins with an R-8.5 value; yet, installation of a second layer can increase the value, if desired. The “InSoFast” panels are just one option to reduce your home’s energy costs by 70 percent.

By learning more about your basement, it will become a wonderful space to spend time and enjoy!

Next month:   Let There Be Light!