Before you renovate, you should make sure that everything in your basement is in good working order. You may need to make repairs so that the renovations function smoothly and meet your needs now and in the future.
1. Make sure the basement is dry.
Is moisture beading on walls in unfinished areas? Are finished walls and ceilings showing water marks or other discolorations? You may have problems ranging from minor humidity and condensation issues to leakage of moisture coming in from outside the house. A quick way to identify whether the source of condensation is inside or outside is to dry a section of wall and then tape a large piece of foil over the section. Leave it for a day. If moisture beads on the outside of the foil, you have a problem with indoor humidity. If it beads on the inside, between the wall and the foil, water is seeping in from outside. Another clue that the source is outside is when the moisture appears after heavy rain or snowfall.
Temporarily dry out your basement by opening windows, turning up the heat, and bringing in a fan. Stop hanging wet clothes or storing damp wood in the basement. More permanent fixes include removing basement humidifiers, installing a dehumidifier if it is not already built into your heating system, fixing caulking and weather stripping, insulating cold water pipes, painting walls with a damp-proofing coating, and improving basement ventilation by proper placement of ducts and vents.
- Check the ground outside your house. Does the ground slope away and down from your walls? If not, it may be causing water to flow in towards your basement walls. Add soil etc. to change the grade.
- Check your seals around the dryer vent to the outdoors and the windows, as well as the rim joists where the walls meet the ceiling. Fix if necessary. Are window wells working properly?
- Are clogged gutters or downspouts sending rain down to your foundation instead of away from the house?
- If the above don’t work, you may need to consider such repairs as adding exterior drain tiles, waterproofing the walls, or adding interior drain tile and sump pump systems.
- Inspect your basement walls for cracks. Cracks can be something minor or a sign of serious foundation problems. Patch any minor cracks in your basement walls and foundation both inside and outside. Contact a renovation professional for an assessment of numerous or large cracks. There is little point in remodelling a basement only to have some or all of it undone later to fix your foundation. Contact a renovation professional for an assessment of numerous or large cracks.
2. Get rid of mold and mildew
These deserve special mention because some kinds of mold can make you ill. Some symptoms are merely annoying allergy-type symptoms such as sneezing. But, mold can also lead to neurological symptoms such as headaches, trouble concentrating, shortened attention span, memory loss and dizziness. These symptoms could be a sign that there is toxic mold growing somewhere in your house. If such symptoms get worse when you spend time in your home, this is a strong indicator of mold growth.
- Mold and mildew are a sign of excess moisture. Musty odours, peeling paint on the walls, and damp spots indicate you may have a problem. Look for black, green, grey, white, and/or fuzzy patches on walls, ceilings, around ducts, and wall and floor coverings. Besides fixing the moisture issue, mold and mildew must be removed. On non-porous surfaces, use a mold-killing product such as peroxide solutions. Porous surfaces like insulation, unpainted drywall, or carpets will have to be cut out and destroyed. Small patches of nontoxic mold can be removed by the homeowner. Otherwise, a professional is needed.
- Mold and mildew resistant paint and drywall can be used to prevent mold from returning, only once it has been removed (do not ever paint over mold). However, the most important preventative is keeping the basement dry.
- Here is a link to mold removal information and precautions: http://blackmold.awardspace.com/mold-removal-cleanup.html.
- Here is a video telling more about mold in the basement in general as well as clean up procedures:
3. Check ceilings
For signs of mold or discolouration which indicate moisture problems, as well as for structural concerns like sagging.
4. Hire a professional to design your HVAC system (heating, ventilation and air conditioning)
Cutting holes and screwing on heat registers without a sound knowledge of ducts and heat flow can create an imbalance in your whole system.
5. Check wooden structures such as joists and floors
Are they square and level? Still sound? Are joists sagging, cracked or twisted as happens in many older homes? Are the soffits that enclose ductwork and pipes still secure?
6. Check the state of your stairway
Given the potential dangers from stair falls, check that steps, posts, and railings are strongly secured; that steps are level and neither too short nor high in the rise, and that all rises are close to the same height; that stairways are well lit; and that no carpet runners are loose.
7. Check whether plumbing and electrical work are in good order
- If you have old knob-and-tube wiring (insulation-sheathed wires going into disc-like hubs), is the insulation worn or missing? Does the circuit board or fuse box appear tidy, clean and with no signs of rust? Are electrical outlets 122 cm (48 inches) above the floor? Faulty or out of date electrical systems can cause fires.
- Are any pipes leaking, or showing condensation? Are the wall and ceiling areas around them clean or are they stained and discoloured, or showing mold or mildew?
- Are pipes, ductwork, or other metals showing rust or corrosion? This shows a moisture problem.
8. Make sure your basement structures, electrical work and plumbing meet the required Building Code for your area
A Building Code describes requirements for all kinds of building work. These requirements ensure safety in the finished product, as well keeping to various other local standards for health and accessibility. In terms of finishing or renovating a basement, the codes apply to electrical work, plumbing, insulation and vapor barriers, and structural framing. These can be quite specific, in terms of window size or other exits, ceiling heights for different rooms, smoke and gas detection, furnace room clearance space around furnaces and water heaters, and furnace room venting (e.g., two vents, one about six inches above the floor and the other near the ceiling). Staircases also have their own sets of codes. If you are planning repairs, bringing things up to code is important. If you are planning a renovation or remodelling, bringing things up to code is also part of the building permit plan you must develop and file.
- The property owner is required to obtain a building permit to finish a basement or if making several kinds of changes to an existing structure.
- In Ontario, the Building Code is a provincial set of requirements, but the city you live in administers the process of getting a permit. For Ottawa residents, the City of Ottawa website answers many questions you may have about it.
- As well as filing an application and getting it approved, there are often several inspections that are required and must be scheduled both as the work proceeds and at the end of the work.
- Note that there are fees required for this process.
- Also note that hiring a professional Ottawa renovation contractor means that the contractor can arrange and conduct all building code activities on your behalf.
What the Ottawa renovation professionals at McArthur Construction can do for you
- Free evaluations and estimates for basement and foundation repairs.
- Obtain and file building permits, and organize inspections.
- Basement repairs, including interior and exterior foundation work; sub floor removal, repair and leveling; joists; insulation, vapour barriers and drywall; ceilings and stairways; and electrical and plumbing systems brought up to code, just to name a few.
Note that many repairs can be done as a part of the remodelling process. While some, such as drying out your basement, removing mold, and bringing wiring up to code need to be done first, others involving structural improvements might be best left until renovations begin.
Contact us for more information on how we can help. It would be our pleasure to assist you!