When you think about finishing your basement, most people
start with the fun stuff – Where will we put the TV? What colour should we paint the walls? And let’s go
pick out some great tile! But before you do that, there are number of important steps to consider. They may not
be the most fun and you might not “see” them later on – but if you do them right – the rest of the
basement will look great for a long, long time.
the heat where you need it. One thing everyone wants to have is a warm, cozy basement. Before your walls go
up, ensure that your heat registers and fresh air returns are brought down to the floor. When new homes are built, and
basements are left unfinished, the registers are left at the ceiling. If you don’t move them down to the floor,
the heat will come out of the register, and rise right back up – never really warming up your space.
2. Do the insulation right. You
want your walls insulated from floor to ceiling. And you must have proper vapour barrier. You’ve got a few choices.
Basement building wrap is fine – it’s got the insulation and vapour barrier in one. You can also use spray
foam insulation, it’s got the vapour barrier built in. Spray foam is an excellent choice, but also the most expensive.
You can use insulation batts, but you must be sure to install vapour barrier between the insulation and the drywall. A good
contractor will discuss the options with you. This seems simple enough, but doing it wrong can have disastrous effects…
If the warm air from the basement meets the cold air from outside, it will condense, moisture will form, and mold will grow.
You may not notice it at first, but eventually you’ll see it, smell it, or feel it. You don’t want to risk
your family’s health, and you definitely don’t want the expense of removing the mold later.
3. Check for cracks in the foundation now.
Even new homes can have cracks. Pull the existing insulation blanket away from the windows and take a look. This
is where the concrete is the weakest and where cracks normally show up first. If you see something, you can do a garden
hose test (running water down the outside and see if it comes inside) and if there is a crack, you can normally fix it from
the inside (for solid/poured foundations.) It’s a lot easier to fix the small ones now than have your basement
floods in case of power outages. Most of us experienced power outages this winter. If your home has a
sump pump, it requires hydro to move the water out. Get a battery back-up system. The five hundred dollars you
spend now could save thousands later. And after you install it, let your insurance company know you’ve done it.
You never know – they might give you a break.
floor under your flooring. Many people like to install wood, engineered wood, or laminate flooring. And
why not - it looks great! Before you have it installed, take a look at your concrete floor and take the time to level it.
These flooring options click together – so if they are going over bumps and valleys, you’ll see it. You’ll
be unhappy with the way it looks, and even worse, it will likely come apart over time. Leveling the floor first involves
removing bumps and filling in the valleys. Having a good, level base will ensure your flooring looks good for the long
6. More on flooring.
And if you choose to install carpet (always a “warm” choice for a basement), don’t underspend on underpad.
Good underpad with mold protectors is available that is meant to be installed on concrete floors. If you’re on
a budget, this is not one area to overlook.
of Budget. Think long term. If you can’t afford to do absolutely everything you want now, I always
recommend that you do fewer things – but do them right. Rough in the bathroom now and finish it next year.
But if you do everything sub-standard, you’ll never be satisfied.
If you do these things right, your finished basement won’t just look and feel better, it will
increase the value of your home. And if you ever decide to sell your home, it will likely be inspected by a professional
home inspector – who will notice that the heating is in the right place, that you don’t have mold, and that your
house is a good choice for their clients.