Are you planning on a Basement Finishing project? There are things you need to know before you start your basement remodeling or finishing project.
The EPA has a guide that deals with basement finishing.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) insti-tuted a guide for safely converting your basement into living space.
It outlines six areas of concern in basement remodels:
Moisture Control issues,Radon,Ventilation,Combustion Appliances,Flooring
Moisture Control Issues
Before beginning any conversion of basement space into living space, check the basement for leaks or other signs of moisture problems. Because damp basements promote biological growth, including molds, they are not healthy places to live in. Thus, any moisture problems should be corrected before you proceed to finish the basement.
Correcting moisture problems may be as simple as redirecting downspout runoff away from the foundation. It may involve re-grading the ground around the house so that it slopes down away from foundation, or venting the dryer to the out-side (something that should be done in all homes). Sometimes, however, there are more extensive problems which can be expensive to correct. In any event, the problems should be addressed before you begin other work.
You should test your home for radon.
Because EPA recommends testing for radon on the lowest lived-in level of a home, even if you’ve previously tested, if you have not tested in the basement, you should test again. Fixing a radon problem will be easier and less expensive before the basement is finished.
Good ventilation protects both your health and your home. The basement should be included your home’s ventilation strategy. If your home currently has no mechanical ventilation this may be an opportunity to install a system.
General recommendation for combustion safety should be followed. Because you are changing the basement and effecting how air moves in the home, you should have a professional check how any combustion equipment, pre-existing as well as new, operates after you have finished work in the basement to make sure that it isn’t back drafting.
Flooring must not only be resistant to harm by water, but should also prevent water which does get on the floor from penetrating to the area immediately below the surface (e.g., the padding beneath a carpet) where it can be difficult to dry and can lead to mold problems or cause damage.
Do not install carpet near water sources or areas where there is a chronic moisture problem such as around sinks, tubs, showers, and toilets. Basements may require special attention in this regard. There are two potential problems with installing carpet on a concrete slab. The first is the possibility that water in the form of liquid water and/or water vapor will come up through the slab, causing chronic dampness in the carpet leading to mold growth. This problem is not unique to carpets, and it highlights the need to address moisture up front.
The second is that concrete slabs, especially those without insulation underneath, are often colder than the air in the basement. In fact this is a situation which may be more likely with carpet which insulates the slab making it even colder. In this situation, moisture in the air can condense on the cooler slab, exposing the carpet to moisture and promoting mold growth.
For the same reason the EPA warns against installing carpet,
the Basement Health Association also warns against installing traditional sheetrock in the basement. Even with a finished basement, there is still a risk of leaks. There are four basic items a basement finishing system should and should not be. A basement finishing system should not be made of organic materials or made of fiberglass insulation. It should be either be a true vapor retardant or have a vapor barrier installed on the foundation wall and tied into a basement drainage system as well as pass fire rating and have a fire retardant.
Livable Basements: Codes, Trends of Basement Windows
When you are converting the basement to living space, one of the most important parts is the windows.
The safety codes require any basement with a bed-room is required to have an egress window large enough for family members to escape from the basement in case of a fire and large enough for firefighters in full regalia to get in.
Each basement bedroom must have a window whose lower ledge is not more than 44 inches from the floor and has at least 5.7 square feet of clear opening space. The window well itself must be a minimum of three feet away from the foundation wall.
A window not only makes the basement safer, but it also adds natural light to make the space more comfortable and appealing. In some cases, large window wells can be terraced away from the window to give the room even more light and a feeling of connection with the outside.
You can find egress window wells with built-in stairs, ladders and handrails. These are required if your window well is more than 44 inches deep. You can also find these safety items sold individually that you can add to your existing window well if you wish.
Another safety feature is to cover window wells to prevent children or pets from falling into an open well. Such a cover needs to be sturdy enough to hold the weight of a person, but light enough for a child to lift in the event it is necessary to escape from the basement. If you want natural light and ventilation, metal grilles can be used. Domed window-well covers are often made of a polycarbonate material.
Some covers are made with a metal (typically aluminum) frame-work and clear polycarbonate to let in natural light. Window well covers can also come vented for air circulation and sloped for drainage.
In addition to safety and function, window wells are becoming more of a focus for design.
Manufacturers are coming out with more options for decorative window wells. You can find window wells that look and feel like real stone in almost every variety and color.
There are also options to enhance your existing window well with decorative liners and scene setters. Decorative window well liners are most commonly nonstructural, semiflexible manufactured plastics molded to look like rock. We have found other liners of landscape paintings. It gives the basement a view to a faux vista of the woods, lakes, mountains or waterfalls.
Though you need to use some design discretion here, there are window well liners for any look you can imagine. There are even some window wells that incorporate both beauty and safety. Some stru-tural decorative window wells have steps built from the manufactured stones.