Finishing basement - need advice, exploring options

williamsemJune 24, 2013

Let me start out by saying this project is in the very early planning stages, so any advice about things to avoid, definitely not do, or are against code is appreciated and welcome, but please no yelling, nobody is in imminent danger at this point.

We need to do some serious replacement work in our finished basement. It was finished when we bought the house and we have not done anything else to it. it is dry, with a sump pump, and we use a dehumidifier. The carpeting needs to go, we had a sump pump failure several years back that caused just enough water in the basement to soak the carpet. We had it dry pretty quick, but I am suspicious of it. We also had a air conditioner issue that soaked a small area for a while before we found it. Since the mini flood, the yard has been properly graded and the sump pump gets significantly less water when it rains. I do not expect this to happen again as we also now have a generator for power outages.

On top of that, I currently have one 4 foot section of wall open due to significant mold due to a leaking outside faucet. It didnt spread much past the wet area (the 4 feet included all the mold plus clean edges), so I don't think it's a larger mold issue, but there is a residual light ring just above the bottom frame stud that I believe goes all the way around due to wicking from the one mini flood mentioned above.

And the walls are full of that cotton candy type of insulation, which, from my understanding, is not a good choice for below grade walls.

---So here's what I need help with---
I know this basement cannot be counted as living area because there is no egress window. We also are not in a position to install one any time soon. So I had a difficult time getting answers about permits as they got hung up on the lack of egress window, ignoring the fact that the room is already finished and I need to replace what is there. I am also NOT trying to get is classified as living area.

The way I see it, I have three options
1) remove everything and leave it completely unfinished. I don't even want to consider this as the walls should be insulated. It would be a shame if this ends up being the only option
2) remove everything and replace with rigid insulation and suitable floor. I like this option, but not sure how to do it right.
3) remove everything and go for completely finished basement with egress window to get permits. Not a fan of this either as we would not be able to accomplish this for a number of years, and I need to replace the floor now as well as do something with the opening I have.

Can anyone suggest how to go about properly working on a space that I'm not claiming as livable space? I absolutely want to persue permits when the time comes if that is appropriate, but not as living space (so no egress window).

If I'm able to move forward with redoing the walls and floor, any advice? I am intrigued by the Thermex that doesn't need drywall over it, but can that be paneled over to cover the shiney covering? Is it better to just reframe it all and use other sheets plus drywall?

If it matters, this area is not used as a regular hang out space. It is mostly storage, laundry area, and houses our air hocky and pinball tables. It's about 800 sf if I had to guess, divided into a utility area, laundry area, and two smallish rooms.

Any and all comments and advice are welcome and appreciated. I need to gather enough information to start figuring out what this will really entail before I can decide how to go about getting it done and when we could take it on.

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It seems you have made the decision to update the space. I totally understand your desire to do the update over time on your schedule. DIY'ing everything?

Here would be my probable event sequence.

Sounds like your basement was dug before a requirement for egress windows so a grandfather clause should prevent your having to install one provided, as you say, this isn't living space.

Develop a scale drawing for everything in the finished space. Include walls, lights/outlets/switches and any features to build around (stairs / mechanicals) or added (Powder Room/Bar etc.) Place masking tape on the floor for wall location(s), can lights and anything else planned. This will force you to completely think through the build, develop a materials list and enable you to begin shopping even before beginning the project. I'd include a back-up sump pump as further protection for the investment.

Remove the carpet.

Remove the existing drywall and insulation. Now you can inspect the existing studs and the construction quality. Possibly you can leave many in place. Kill any mold and replace any infected studs.

Now is when you need to think about permitting. Know the requirements! Talk with them, submit the plan for review and approval. You'll probably need plumbing/electrical/insulation and final inspections.

HVAC? If you have forced air at minimum install a cold air return. Generally minimal heat will be necessary for a basement except seasonally (spring/fall) when auxiliary may be necessary. I installed an electric fireplace to accomplish this.

Any plumbing required? You don't mention the need.

Proceed with electrical. Inspection upon completion.

Have expansive foam insulation installed professionally, then have the insulation inspection.

Drywall. Not familiar with Thermex so can't advise.

Final inspection.

Recarpet or tile the floors. Trim the doors/walls.

I'm sure this is a simplistic overview absent more specific facts. Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 5:13PM
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Since budget seems to be a big concern, you might want to avoid Dupont Thermax, a high-end commercial product.

Ditto closed cell spray foam, which will likely cost at least four times more than diy installed XPS (extruded polystyrene) or EPS (expanded polystyrene).

I've successfully installed low pile commercial carpet directly glued to new basement floors. I would be dubious though on using it on an old floor, but would instead suggest Delta FL followed by plywood. Or, keeping that budget in mind, simply concrete floor paint and area rugs that can be regularly lifted and cleaned. Nothing rubber backed!

Whether its' grandfathered in or not, I would add an egress window or door to any basements I planned to use. The consequences in case of fire are too grim (and common) to contemplate.

Here is a link that might be useful: Building Science Corp. on basements

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 11:37PM
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Thanks, fnmroberts and worthy. I appreciate your comments. Definitely things to ponder as we explore options.

While there is currently a W/D hookup and some outlets, the plan is to leave all that stuff as is. I don't want to add/remove any walls, replace windows, etc. We just really need to get rid of that carpet, and I'd rather replace the batting insulation with something suitable as my understanding is it can cause problems below grade. No sense in patching my 4 foot gap if I should be replacing it all.

Plus given what we've seen in this house, I'm not sure I should trust the walls down there to be built right. Given what we've already put into this house and how little time we are/would actually spend down there, it's a project I'd DIY as much as I could. I wouldn't cut corners with things, but wouldn't go top of the line either.

I'm almost crazy enough to try a DIY egress window, but not quite! I'd definitely plan for one so it's easier down the road, but unless we end up spending some time down there it might get put off indefinitely. It's a finished area, but not to the point of being a functional additional floor. Ceilings are on the low side, heating is not great, and it's a bit dark. Fine for laundry or a few rounds of pinball, but not a place to really hang out.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 12:20AM
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