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Mistakes to Avoid When Developing your Basement

Finishing your basement boosts the resale value of your home and increases your family’s living space. You can add an entertainment room, home office, playroom, or a “granny suite.” You could even create a man cave! No wonder many people are eager to improve their subterranean space. Before you pick up a hammer and begin renovating, there are things to consider. Your basement is below ground level, dark, and prone to water damage. It‘s where you find heating ducts, plumbing pipes, the furnace, hot water heater and electrical equipment. A basement renovation requires careful planning and implementation. It’s not surprising that people make errors that turn their dream remodel into a nightmare!

  • Mistake # 1- Ignoring water seepage: Creating a perfectly dry finished basement is the goal.  Inspect for seepage over the course of a full year! Seasonal changes will uncover new or different problems. Look for yellow stains, white powder, black areas and cracks. Duct tape small, clear plastic sheets to the wall and the floor. If water drops collect under the plastic, you’ve got seepage and need to correct it before moving forward. Seal any cracks with a high-viscosity polyurethane polymer which bonds well to concrete and fills even hairline cracks. Apply waterproof paint to the repaired walls to provide additional moisture protection. Check the window frames to see if they’re structurally sound and sealed. Use caulking and weather stripping if necessary. Walk around your house to ensure that the soil slopes away. Install downspouts to divert water and clean your gutters and window wells to keep water from pooling along the foundation. Make sure you have a working sump pump in your basement. Now you’re ready to start the renovation!
  • Mistake # 2 – Using the wrong insulation and drywall: Instead of fiberglass insulation and a vapour barrier, cover your walls with rigid foam insulation. It has a high R-value and is impervious to moisture helping to avoid hidden condensation. Use mold and moisture resistant drywall and consider steel studs instead of wood. Seal and insulate the rim joists with closed cell spray foam to provide high insulation and an excellent vapor barrier. Though traditional methods of insulating are code compliant, there are now better ways to insure that your basement stays dry!
  • Mistake # 3 – Forgetting the exit: Law requires that your basement have a second emergency exit. The easiest way to ensure you meet code is to install a large window and window well. Check your municipal building code for details.
  • Mistake # 4 – Blocking access to equipment: Keep shutoff valves accessible in case of an emergency. Leave sufficient space around and access to the hot water tank and furnace so they can be serviced and/or replaced. Maintain easy access to floor drains.
  • Mistake # 5 – Forgetting to test: Test for radon and natural gas leaks to ensure a healthy environment. Any action needed will be easier and less expensive to do before the basement is finished.
  • Mistake # 6 – Not enough lighting: Even if you call it a man cave, dark rooms are not pleasant! Make sure you plan for lots of lighting.
  • Mistake # 7 – Not enough heat: No one wants a cold and dreary basement. Install a separate thermostat, consider a gas fireplace, put heating registers in the floor or use electric baseboard heaters.
  • Mistake # 8 – Not installing soundproofing:  As the basement is often the entertainment hub, soundproofing the walls and ceiling will keep the rest of the house quiet. It’ll also ensure that you won’t hear the constant hum of the nearby mechanical systems as you watch your movie.
  • Mistake # 9 – Not installing a subfloor and choosing the wrong flooring: A subfloor will create a space beneath your floor-covering reducing hidden floor condensation and keeping your feet warm. If you decide on carpeting, choose a synthetic fiber that is mold and mildew resistant and skip the carpet pad. Instead of hardwood, go for laminate flooring. Ceramic or solid vinyl flooring work well. Remember to use adhesive that is suited for damp areas.

Many finished basements have problems that could have been prevented. Take all the steps necessary to keep your home dry, safe and comfortable. Plan carefully! Most important, work with a professional! They will help you avoid the common pitfalls and guide you through the renovation process. Econo Basements offers quality workmanship and ensures you get the most out of your basement transformation. Offering a 5 year warranty on all work done, Econo Basements complies with Alberta’s building codes, does a free one year inspection and will even help you finance your basement modifications. Call them at (403) 768-0256 or email at