Despite the obstacles, converting that dark, scary place into comfortable living space is much cheaper than adding on.
Synopsis: Basements don’t have to be the damp repositories of unused furniture and cartons of old books. The authors describe the process of turning a basement into a comfortable living area, with details on how to handle new air intakes for fuel-burning boilers and furnaces.
Until we spent some time in Florida, where slab-on-grade and crawlspace foundations are the norm, we didn’t realize how good we Northerners have it. The full basements that many of us take for granted—a fringe benefit of having to dig deep, frostproof footings—give us plenty of room for mechanical systems, storage and extra living space.
Converting a basement into comfortable living space can be a challenge. There are obstacles to wrangle with, building codes to comply with, health and safety concerns to address. And there’s moisture.
When we’re called in to evaluate a basement, we identify the problems, and we discuss them with the owners before we start wading into the design process. If the basement has any history of flooding or if high levels of radon are present, we call in specialists. Solutions for both moisture and radon problems must be put in place and be time-tested before any basement-finishing project can begin.
There’s about 300 gal. of water in the walls and slab of a freshly poured 1,000-sq. ft. concrete basement. During the first year or two, most moisture will move into the house because the damp proof coating and under-slab vapor retarder limit drying into the earth. It’s good to wait at least two years before finishing the basement of a new home.
All the basements we finish have adequate systems in place to prevent bulk water intrusion and flooding, but that’s no guarantee they’ll stay bone dry. Water vapor from the ground can still…