When done correctly, a finished basement is a cost effective way to add valuable living space to your home. This blog is a general guide to help you save money and have a successful home improvement project. Every home is unique, however, these basic principles will apply to almost every home in our service area.
If you are planning this type of home improvement project, you will save a lot of money in the long run by first properly examining your basement for potential areas of failure and necessary upgrades. For example, here in the Pike County PA area moisture penetration, insect/animal activity, and high levels of radon are all common issues for home owners. It is much cheaper for the home owner to address these issues right in the beginning their project.
Let’s look at your basement from the bottom up.
Anyone looking to finish a basement should already have a concrete basement floor. Take a good hard look at the quality of the concrete work and any defects in the floor such as: cracks, moisture penetration, or uneven areas. Those items need to be addressed prior to framing and with a consideration of what type of flooring will be going on top of it. You can use concrete stain and sealers to finish your existing floor if it is in good enough shape, or, you can use it as subflooring for another type of flooring system. If you do not already have a concrete basement floor, give us a call and we’ll make sure your project gets off to a great start.
You need to understand what your foundation is made of, and when it was built, so you can assess the remaining lifespan of that material. No home owner benefits from paying for a finished basement if it floods or molds over in a year because of a failure in the foundation.
Whether your basement is made of cinder block, concrete block, poured concrete, or stone you are looking for the following issues: cracks, rotation, disintegration, moisture, missing mortar, and caulk. No one should be using caulk to fix defects in the mortar. That is a band aid fix that will fail much faster than simply replacing the mortar.
Basement Windows and Basement Doors
Now is the time to make decisions about whether or not to change or upgrade the windows and doors. Prior to considerations about insulating your basement or adding basement heaters: look at how the age of the windows or doors will affect heating efficiency. In addition to that, also look for rotting of the frames and look at the general functionality of the items. Do you have good ingress and egress? Do your existing windows and doors match your idea of how you’d like your finished basement to look?
Take a good look at the sill plate, floor joists, and main beam for rotting or warping and for insect or animal activity. Also take a look at the main beam supports. Check the spans on your supports and make sure you have proper support for your beam, especially if you plan on later renovations upstairs.
Electrical and plumbing issues for the entire home should also be taken into consideration at this point. Any work that may need to be done there to bring things up to code is far more efficiently done prior to finishing the basement. The same goes for moving any utilities (water heaters, holding tanks, etc.) that are currently housed in the basement.
Take a look at our Basements page for repair options and great basement finishing ideas!
When you have those areas of your basement ready you will be in a good position to continue with your project.
The specific needs of your home should dictate the types of construction methods used to frame and finish it, but, these videos from This Old House are good overviews for what comes next.
How to Frame Out Basement Walls - This Old House
How to Frame Walls for a Basement Room - This Old House
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If you have a specific topic you’d like to see us cover, leave a comment below.
Either way there is nothing nice about unconstrained water in a home.
If you are in our service area (and even if you are not) we can usually diagnose the issue pretty quickly based on when the home was built. Different decades used different construction standards and we have been waterproofing basements long enough to pinpoint the issue quickly.
1. Take photos for us from the inside and the outside.
This helps us to determine where it came from. Puddling along the foundation is different than water coming in low along the basement walls or (God forbid) coming up through the basement floor.
2. Get the water out!
As fast as possible! Borrow a shop vac if you have to. Then get some fans and a dehumidifier because the next major crisis you will have is going to be copious amounts of mold and that won't be pretty or healthy. Then wipe down everything that got wet.
3. If it flooded once plan on it flooding again.
You have to fix basement water problems. It is NEVER a once in a lifetime thing. Also, never ever rely on a sump pump. Firstly, they all burn out eventually and that little tid bit of info will only come to your attention when it does not kick on and the water is coming in through the sump pit. Secondly, you need a power backup for them because any storm that is bad enough to flood your basement is certainly bad enough to cause power outages. Even with an in-line generator for the sump pump.....they still burn out.
4. Keep electrical items up.
Anything that can cause a current in your flooded basement needs to be up on something. Concrete blocks make great pillars. Just get it above the highest known water level until you can get it waterproofed. If you have low electrical outlets I would have an electrician disable them until the problem is solved and proved to be solved for a couple years.
5. Gravity is your friend!
There are a number of ways to approach a leaky basement. The all time best way is to have drains that are gravity fed. No power necessary! Water flows in and water flows out and hopefully this can be done around the perimeter of the home in an effective manner. Bringing water into the basement to sump pump it out is less than ideal. Sometimes you can seal the outside of the basement walls, sometimes you can seal the inside of the basement walls, it depends on where it is coming from. Go back to #1 - take the photos and then email or call us and we can help you! Visit our Basements page for more information.
Eight ways water can get into your basement.....and subsequently ruin family heirlooms, floors, walls, your real estate value ........and possibly your life. OK, maybe not your life, but, we can all agree that any unrestrained water in your home is a disaster so here goes:
There are two routes water takes and some possible ways to remedy the situation:
- Route A: water coming down above aka surface water
- Ventilation vents - your best option is just to remove these.
- Windows and window wells - remove, replace, or change the outside grade.
- Steps, Bilco doors - usually you can change the door or change the outside grade.
- Downspouts - run them away from the home.
- Route B: water that comes up from below aka ground water
- through the floor - if you have a dirt floor pour a concrete floor, if you have a concrete floor there are a few ways to fix this but it depends on how the floor was installed so it is a tougher issue to talk about here, call us for that one.
- through the sump pit - a bigger pump, deeper pit, or backup electric can fix that.
- through the walls - probably you will need to dig out the foundation, repair, tar or parge the walls, and install drains, BUT, depending on the amount of water you may be able to paint on a water sealer.
There are a lot of variables to how to repair these things. Your foundation type is a big factor as well as the outside grade. Feel free to call or email photos of your particular problem. Often the issues can be remedied with a simple inexpensive fix. Once in a while the situation calls for going full tilt and installing everything known to man to keep the water at bay. Those situations are not the norm though.
Bill Pearn Masonry Blog
Quality construction does not only build structures, it also builds: town pride, small business opportunity, beautiful neighborhoods, home equity, and ultimately better lives.
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