Basement renovation is a very simple and economical way of creating an additional living space in your home. Traditionally, basements are used as recreation rooms but a growing trend today is to renovate the basement into a self-contained area that could be used as a home office or space for rent. Whatever your purpose is for remodeling your basement, a crucial aspect of your project is to make sure that it is a clean and sanitary area for the health of anyone who would be using or occupying it.
In line with this objective, dealing with moisture problems is essential. The presence of moisture is the most typical problem that homeowners encounter in their basements. Moisture can enter the basement from outdoor sources but indoor activities can also produce it.
The soil surrounding the basement’s walls can hold a high level of moisture coming from the water that is seeping down from the ground level or from a water table that is high. Gravity can force water to enter a basement or it can seep through the foundation’s cracks and crevices. In addition, water can also be wicked up from the soil underneath the basement floor or walls through hydrostatic pressure. During summer, warm humid air outside can enter houses and condense in the cool environment of basements. Moisture can also be produced by day-to-day activities of household members and so can be locked inside the house.
Some of the common moisture problems in basements are stagnant water, leaking foundation cracks, efflorescent or white powdery surfaces, wet and rotten wood surfaces, damp and moldy surfaces and coverings (carpets), water-damaged finishes, condensed water on fixtures, wet insulation, high level of humidity, and stuffy or musty odors.
Renovating your basement is an ideal start to creating a healthy environment inside your house. A healthy house also contributes to making an entire community healthy. When evaluating your basement renovation project, make sure to consider the following:
First, keep in mind that your house is a structure that is made up of several elements that are interacting with each other and these are more than just the walls that surround you, the floor underneath your feet or the roof over your heads. Aside from these basic structural elements, other important components also affect the house like the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system, for example.
Moreover, the members of the household and the environment outside are other factors that also influence the state of your house. Renovating your basement offers a great chance for you to improve your house’s condition. By dealing with existing moisture problems in basements and preventing future ones as part of the renovation, homeowners can ensure that the entire structure of their house remains durable in addition to improving indoor air quality.
As mentioned above, the accumulation of water from various sources leads to moisture problems in basements. Controlling the entry of water into the basement is an essential consideration when planning a renovation no matter what the source of water is, whether it’s a leak, seepage, condensation, or any other source. Remember, the two effective ways to control the level of moisture in basements are: first, prevent it from entering and second, extracting the water vapor inside to the outside.
Of course, there are moisture problems that are unique to a household. A thorough assessment and investigation by a qualified professional may be necessary in your situation in order to determine the moisture problem as well as the appropriate solution. Nevertheless, below are some of the common concerns and situations that homeowners face with regards to moisture problems in basements, including renovation suggestions to consider.
1.) Water drainage problems: The window wells are not draining properly or the downspouts, eaves troughs, grading and roofing fail to direct water away from your house.
In the case above, consider installing drainage system below the wells of the windows. Also, make sure to repair roof leaks, slope the grading and direct eaves troughs and downspouts away from the house. If you fail to improve how your house drains rain water, you would continue to face the risk that a large amount of water will leak into your basement or flood the drainage system of your basement. Water accumulation in the window wells will also lead to water leaking into the basement through the windows.
2.) Foundation problems: There are cracks in the foundation where water leaks through or the floor is not completely made of concrete.
To fix small cracks on walls and floors, patch them up with a cement-based product or try a foundation crack repair kit. There are also products commercially available to repair large cracks. If the cracks are expanding, numerous or severe, it is recommended to consult a specialist or a structural engineer.
Any basement renovation project should include the repair of foundation cracks because as long as water is able to penetrate these cracks, the condition of the house will continue to decline. Severe or expanding cracks may be a sign that the house has a serious structural problem and is not entirely secure.
For floors that are partially made of concrete, consider making the entire floor area concrete because dirt floors are major sources of moisture. Just be sure to install concrete flooring over a sealed moisture barrier.
3.) Flooding problems: Wet spots on the walls, water puddles on the floor, a floor drain is positioned at the floor’s lowest point, and a functioning sump pump in an uncovered pit.
A recommended solution to the above is waterproofing the exterior of foundation walls and installing a drainage system around the perimeter of the basement. Check that the floor drain installed has a trap and be sure that the cover of the sump pit is sealed tightly. Moisture and gases from the soil can be released from open sump pits. For areas that often get flooded, avoid putting in installation or using finishes that will be susceptible to water damage. These materials are easy breeding ground for mold and can create more problems during a flood cleanup.
4.) High level of humidity: the air in the basement is humid and stuffy; water has condensed on the windows and other surfaces; air does not circulate properly; there is inadequate heating system in the house; warm humid summer air enters open basement windows; the clothes dryer is not exhausted outside properly; wet laundry is dried in the basement.
If the above conditions are present in your basement, then you can indeed expect to have a high humidity level. To remedy this, make sure that you put in energy efficient windows when you renovate the basement and install cold water pipe insulation as well as wall insulation to make the surfaces warmer and discourage condensation. Also, be sure that the basement has proper and adequate ventilation and heating.
In addition, use an air conditioning system or a home dehumidifier during the summer to lower humidity levels. Make sure that basement windows are closed to prevent warm humid air from entering. The exhaust of dryers should be directed outside and avoid hanging wet laundry in the basement.
5.) Storage problems: Clutter in the basement including organic materials that easily absorb moisture.
Obviously, the solution to the above is to clean your basement. If you have a lot of items stored there, it is time to sort them out and dispose of items that you no longer use or are just simply garbage. Basement clutter covers surfaces and makes it hard to spot damp areas where molds can grow. Consider building shelves and other forms of storage as part of your renovation plan to help you keep the basement clean. Refrain from using cardboard boxes as storage because these can easily get dam.
Resolving the moisture problems of your house’s foundations will certainly improve the stability of your home as well as get rid of serious hazards to your family’s health. A successful renovation of your basement to a clean and comfortable space is an excellent start to other renovation projects.
Some of the tasks involved in basement renovation can be done without professional help such as cleaning up the basement. You can do more on your own, however, if you have good handyman skills such as repairing the roof and downspout, grading or landscaping, fixing foundation cracks, cleaning up small mold growth, removing damp finishes, carpets and insulation, installing storage shelves, cold water pipe insulation and dryer exhaust.
It is best to leave the following jobs to a professional renovator: repair of exterior drainage problems, repair of large foundation cracks or other major damage to the structure; cleaning up extensive mold damage and installation of HVAC equipment.
In assessing the problems in the basement that needed to be fixed and setting priorities for the basement renovation, it is important to identify all the problems first and then come up with options to resolve them. Study these options and weigh their advantages over their disadvantages in order to choose the best solution to the problem. Always consider the labor required and whether hiring professional help would be best. Of course, do not forget to come up with an estimated cost for every option that you consider so you stay within your renovation budget.