Remodeling Your Basement: Questions for your Contractor

Written by PermaDry on . Posted in Waterproofing your basement

So you’re going to do it, make that cold dark unfinished basement a living and usable part of your home. This is a great idea and one of the best improvements you could make in your home. Every 1,000 square feet added living space to a home boosts the sale price by more than 30 percent, according to the 2005 study for the National Association of Realtors. But a basement remodel is more than a little framing, paint and carpet. What keeps basement remodels on track and valuable is to have a plan and ensure you check out some of the more important aspects of what could go wrong.

Who is the contractor?

Are you doing the work, acting as the general, or are you hiring a general contractor to act on your behalf? A contractor sets the schedule, gets the right people in at the right time and in the right order and when one contractor messes up another’s work (it happens more than you think), they take care of the issues. It costs a bit more, but when issues arise your project does not come to a halt while you try to figure out who to point the finger at.

Drawings, What Drawings…we don’t need no stinking drawings!

Have a plan. Draw it out or hire an architect. Planning where everything goes from walls to lighting makes a difference in the end. A poor layout will wreak havoc for years to come.  Make a plan, because things will change as the room comes together but at least you know how far you have moved and what affects it has on other parts of your project.

Foundation and Floor

You need to ensure the floor and walls are in good shape and that you will have no structural or below grade water issues in the future. The conditions of your concrete walls and floor will tell the story of what is happening to your house.

Wall Cracks – Small cracks in the foundation wall are common. A little settling or concrete shrinkage and cracks will appear. If cracks are larger at the top and smaller at the bottom, or one wall is going forward and the other wall is moving back (offset), or the crack is wide enough to fit your fingers into it, your house is shifting and moving. Call a professional to inspect and correct any potential foundation and structural issues.

Basement Water and Moisture – You may have, maybe you have not seen water but it is only a matter of time before every unprotected basement takes on some waters. Basements are buried in the dirt, the same dirt that gets saturated when heavy seasonal rains hit your area routing excess water into any space it can find to relieve the pressure….your basement.

There may be a white fluffy like powder on the walls (efflorescence). This salt like material is residue left over as water or moisture comes through the foundation wall leaving behind salts and lime in the concrete mix.  It is an indicator water is building around the structure or has come in through the walls into the basement.

Wall Coatings – Coatings are not all that they are hacked up to be. Prevention of water claims made by coating companies are soon revealed to be limited, as well as the application and surface preparation process is extremely detailed, costly and time consuming. Surface coatings help to limit the amount of moisture penetrating the foundation walls but will not stop water under great amounts of hydrostatic pressure from entering the basement.

Drainage Solutions – Drainage based solutions are probably the best as drainage routes water away from the foundation before it can build pressure and cause flooding in the basement. General rules for good drainage include; route roof drains away from the house 10’feet or more; install either a exterior drainage or interior drainage system lower than the basement slab floor with the aid of a sump pump or gravity discharge line. Also, cover walls with a heavy gauge vapor barrier to stop moisture and prevent wall leaks from damaging carpet, finished walls and personal items.

Permits – Three good reasons to always invest in the permitting process. One, it is harder to sell a house that has a recent remodel that lacks copies of permits for review by the buyer. Number two, inspectors are there to protect your health and safety and to get bad contractors off the street. An inspector sees tons of framing, electrical and plumbing work in a week, and their knowledge in what is right and wrong will protect you from faulty workmanship. Three, if you are acting as your own general contractor, this is one way to ensure the subs you hire are doing the best job possible. As a general rules of thumb, If it has to do with health and life safety, and could cause extreme harm or property loss if not done right it probably needs a permit.

Having Fun – Lastly, have fun. Any home repair project can have its headaches from time delays to cost overruns to not agreeing the right color of the walls with your spouse. But think of the fun and great time you will enjoy your new space once it is all said and done. It is fun remodeling a house and the enjoying the great times to come.

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