Basements allow for extra storage or living space, but these underground rooms require different upkeep than the rest of your home.
Whether you’re dealing with excess moisture or want to install a new flooring system, there’s much to learn. Here’s everything you need to know about maintaining a dry and comfortable basement.
How to Keep Your Basement Dry
Excess moisture and water leaks are two of the most common problems with basements. These conditions can lead to mold growth and a musty smell.
Figure Out Where the Water is Coming From
The leading cause of water in the basement is rainfall. Find out where the water is coming from by examining the cove joints, wall and floor cracks or holes, and windows and doors.
Other possible causes of basement water include broken pipes, water overflowing from sinks or tubs, and sewer backups.
Prevent Basement Flooding
In the event you’re dealing with flooding rather than a bit of water on the walls or floors, you must take immediate action. The top causes of basement flooding include faulty sump pumps, broken pipes, or insufficient waterproofing systems.
Waterproof Your Basement
If you want to prevent your basement from flooding or turn it into a livable space, waterproofing your basement is one of the best choices you can make.
There are several steps in waterproofing which can include the installation of a basement floor drain and sump pump if you don’t already have one. In the event of water entering the basement, the floor drain gives it a place to exit, and the sump pump moves it away from the home’s foundation.
You’ll also need drain tile to move water away from the home before it can enter. Other waterproofing steps include sealing the basement walls and evaluating landscaping, windows, and doors.
Waterproofing a basement is a large job. If you’re unfamiliar with the steps, consider hiring a basement waterproofing company.
Basement Maintenance: Humidity and Mold
Along with water leaks, excess humidity in the basement can lead to mold growth on drywall, rugs, wood, and other surfaces.
Controlling Basement Humidity
If your basement smells musty, it’s a sign you have mold or mildew, so controlling humidity levels should be high on your priority list.
One of the easiest ways to keep humidity levels in check is to use a dehumidifier. Try to keep the humidity level around 50% in the summer and 30% in the winter.
To find mold in your basement, look near areas prone to water leaks. Mold can look black, green, or white. As long as the mold isn’t extensive, it’s a job you can tackle yourself.
To remove mold in the basement, kill it with a mold-killing product or bleach spray and remove it after the product has had time to work. If mold is covering large portions of the wall, floor, or ceiling, call in the experts.
Caring for a Basement Floor
Unfinished basements have concrete floors, but that’s not your only option. You can add other types of flooring if your basement is well-waterproofed and stays dry. Since basements are prone to leaks, waterproof floorings such as vinyl and epoxy coatings are good options.
Cleaning a Concrete Basement Floor
If you have concrete basement floors, clean them at least once per year to eliminate dust, dirt, and mold.
To start, sweep up any debris. You can then treat mold, clean stained areas, and eliminate efflorescence. For regular cleanings, mop with Borax and hot water. Use a soft-bristled brush to eliminate build-up.
Adding an Epoxy Coating to a Basement Floor
Epoxy basement floor coatings make your concrete floor water-resistant and upgrade its look. There are three different kinds to choose from: water-based, solvent-based, and solid.
You can install an epoxy-based floor coating yourself, but expect the process to take 3-6 days. If you don’t feel comfortable DIYing the job, hire a contractor to do it for you.
How to Keep Your Basement Warm
If you use your basement as living space, keep it warm by adding a heating source, wall insulation, and ceiling insulation, depending on your needs and local building codes.
Adding Ceiling Insulation to a Basement
If you have a heated basement, you can add ceiling insulation to retain the heat. But if your basement doesn’t have a ventilation system or heating, don’t add ceiling insulation. It can reduce airflow and lead to potential mold problems.
Insulating Your Basement Walls
Add insulation to basement walls if the area is heated or used as a living space. Without insulation, heat will leak through small cracks in the walls.
Resort to local building codes, as many zones require a certain thickness of insulation. You can choose between foam or rigid foam insulation.
Heating Sources for a Basement
Basements are cold in the winter. Without a heat source, taking full advantage of your liveable basement may be difficult.
There are many ways to heat a basement, and some of the most popular include space heaters, baseboard or wall heaters, wood stoves, pellet stoves, and radiant floor heating. Wall and ceiling insulation and leakproof windows will prevent the warm air from escaping.
Basement Construction and Bedroom Conversions
A new or unfinished basement often features concrete floors and block walls. You can upgrade your basement to a living space but must adhere to local building codes.
Adding a Basement to an Existing Structure
Adding a basement to an existing home is a challenging feat. While there are benefits like creating extra space and increasing resale value, the cost may not be worth it.
To add a basement to your home, you’ll need the proper permits and a reliable contractor. The contractor will lift your house to pour the basement walls and replace the house after basement construction.
Creating Safe Basement Bedrooms
Basements provide the prime opportunity to increase the number of bedrooms in your house. But your basement bedroom must meet IRC safety codes.
The International Residential Code requires two methods of egress for a basement. The first is a bedroom door, and the second is a window that inhabitants can escape during a fire. A basement egress window must be at least 20 inches wide and 24 inches high. It must also have a window well large enough for emergency crews to enter the home.
There are also basement bedroom size requirements you must meet.