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RyanBruner 09-16-2008 08:11 AM

Basement advice
Hello, everyone. I'm new here. I've browsed around a bit, and some nice information. So, hopefully I can get some useful advice.

Right now, we have an unfinished basement that I'm hoping to start finishing work on next month or so. Earlier this spring I already framed out a section that serves as a utility/storage room. The remainder is poured concrete walls and floor.

During the winter it is downright freezing, but the primary use of the basement will be for the kids to play. With the exception of the utility room and one additional small craft room (one wall and door), all walls will simply be along the outside perimeter.

The basement is dry. In fact, in the past week, with all the rain, I never even heard the sump pump running once. They did a lot of waterproofing during construction. So, I plan to do pad and carpet. But the walls is my concern, first. And the ceiling is something I won't even tackle this year. I'll leave it open for now, and probably a year from now add in a drop ceiling. (Wall height is only about 7' 4", however, so I might change my mind on that.)

Anyhow, for the walls, here is my plan, and I'm hoping you can tell me if this all makes sense:

1. Rather than frame walls, I was planning on doing furring strips (2x2s), mounted with tapcons. Question here: Do I need to have a bottom plate, or should I mount furring strips horizontally along the bottom and leave a gap above the floor out of concern of possible moisture issues?

2. Install electrical outlets. (Not too many..I already have 3 outlets installed using conduit. So, I'll probably have to install about 4 or 5 more total.)

4. I'm not sure about insulation. What would be the most cost-effective choice for insulating the walls with furring strips? I'm trying to keep project costs down right now, but do enough to make sure the kids don't freeze!

5. Lighting and ceiling, as mentioned, will be tackled in a future project. However, there is a fresh-air intake pipe on the opposite side of the basement from where the furnace/utility room is. I presume I'll have to cut holes the utility room walls and add some vents between the rooms to ensure the fresh air moves freely. But the pipe that comes down from outside (as well as some of the plumping piping)...would it be best to frame around these, or simply leave them exposed and drywall around them?

6. Carpet and pad I'll install myself, but do you recommend doing anything to the concrete floor first? I can't afford, nor have the basement height to really put in a subfloor. I was wondering about rolling out that same plastic/foam sheeting used under Pergo floors as both a moisture barrier as well as added insulation value. Does this make sense to do?

Thanks, all. Sorry for the long post. Trying to give a complete picture. Any/all suggestions greatly appreciated.

inspectorD 09-16-2008 04:28 PM

Welcome Ryan
So you want to finish the basement, sounds good.
Just a few things to let you know first.
Concrete basement walls have no insulating value what so ever.
The R value of an exposed 10 inch wall is about 1.
So any foam board insulation you put in against the wall is going to save you money in the future. Check this site before you waste your money on a cheap basement finish.

Save now or pay later. My advice is to make it better even if you need to spend a little more up front by waiting a little bit until you have the funds.

Have fun.:D

handyguys 09-16-2008 04:29 PM

I'll address things using the numbering in your post...

1) I do not like doing furring strips. It doesn't leave enough room for electrical boxes and insulation. you also cant make sure your walls are plumb and straight, you are at the mercy of the concrete pour.

2) Think about how you will use the space. Its easier to add an outlet now rather than later. Plan your lighting now, in particular switch locations. Make sure you have switches at the top of the stairs for the basement lights. Remember - kids are forever leaving the lights on.

4) Most cost effective is fiberglass bats. But you would need to follow my advice in #1 to use them. XPS rigid would be what you use between furring strips.

5) Your furnace and other mechanicals will have specific fresh air requirements. Make sure they are met.

6) Just use a good pad that will not absorb moisture. It costs more, it can even cost more than a cheap carpet.

OK - Before you go any farther listen to a podcast series on finishing a basement. Much of this is covered there

Good luck

Rosesarered 09-16-2008 04:32 PM

I can only respond to the flooring question. Carpet is generally not recommended over concrete subfloors (especially is the concrete is fairly new) because concrete emits a lot of moisture which allows mold and mildew to form under the surface. I would recommend sealing the concrete with an appropriate sealer and also purchase carpet that has a primary AND secondary backing which can help to protect the carpet from moisture. There are some types of carpet fibers that are mold and mildew resistant (nylon, polypropelyne, olefin) some even for outdoor use. You may want to look into those as well. If you need a good installation guide, there is a basic one and an advanced one for carpet at this link.

RyanBruner 09-17-2008 10:26 AM

Thanks, all, for the advice.

I definitely want to use some kind of insulation. Would a 2x3 framed wall be enough thickness for some batting? (I haven't checked to see what thicknesses are available.) I'm not really concerned about the straightness of the walls...they are pretty good. So I figured furring strips would be the cheapest solution. But if that means paying more for insulation, it makes sense to do framed walls. 2x3s are cheaper than using 2x4s if I can get away with it.

As far as lighting...I only need to add one switch. Switches are already in place for the rest of the current lighting, which will remain until I swap out the current lights for something more substantial like fluorescent or something...but the switches won't change then either.

I'm afraid I don't do podcasts. I MUCH prefer reading, because I'm not time-bound. (Basically, if it is a video or podcast, you can pretty much guarantee I won't see or hear it!) But if I can find time to listen, I will.

As far as carpeting the basement: I'm curious if there is an alternative that offers some warmth. The floor is a huge area of heat loss (as are the walls). I'd think carpet is the best choice, presuming a dry basement (which I appear to have thus far). But I still do wonder about putting some kind of underlayment as I mentioned, like the stuff they put under Pergo flooring. Basically rolled sheets of plastic with a thin layer of foam. I'd think this would alleviate any potential moisture problems as well as give a small amount of insulation.

My one concern about that, however, would be if having plastic directly on the concrete floor, and if there IS some moisture, it couldn't breathe. So, rather than evaporating into the air, there would be moisture collecting under plastic and potentially leading to mold. Is that a legitimate concern?

Thanks again for everyone's help so far.

RyanBruner 09-17-2008 11:53 AM

I just did a bit of investigation in the area of insulation, and the price difference between batting, fiberglass, and just using foam sheathing is practically nil. For the wall area I have to cover (approximately 610 sq. ft), it all hovers in the $220-250 range (just for the insulation), no matter which route I go. This is based on pricing from home depot, comparing R-13 batting to 1/2-inch sheathing. (Actually, I don't know what the R-value is on the 1/2-inch, but according to information I've found, I should be shooting for at least R-11). 3/4" isn't all that much more expensive at home depot. About dollar per sheet.

Is there a better place to go for insulation in terms of pricing?

Also another question. When they built our house, they sprayed the basement walls with this white stuff. It is hard, like concrete, but very rough. Any idea what it is?

Rosesarered 09-18-2008 02:27 PM

Again, I can only respond to your flooring question. Before you take any extreme measures to protect your carpet from moisture, I recommend that you do a moisture test with a moisture meter. Moisture levels should not exceed 5.5%. To warm up the floor have you considered adding radiant heating under the carpet? If you do, I recommend using a frothed foam padding which, in my opinion is the best padding on the market. As far as your questions about using an underlayment, I have not seen that done before. It is more common that the concrete will be sealed, but it must still pass moisture tests first. I hope that helps. When you do start your installation, I recommend using the guide on the link in my previous post. It is very detailed and I think it will help to ensure your floor looks perfect.

inspectorD 09-18-2008 05:11 PM

Did you read the link I set up? It will cover all the bases to do the basement right. If you do it your way with the fiberglass against concrete, get ready for that musty smell.
Been buildin em for 25 years, I get to find out what works, and where you get problems. Then you get to do the basement twice.:D
Foamboard 2 inch is the answer, and continuous, no breaks with boards in between. Then build a wall off of that.

Anything that contains organic material in a basement , will eventually collect water. Sheetrock, carpets, wood. I would not put carpet in a basement, and keep the sheetrock 1 inch off the floor.
Just my opinion.:D

CyFree 09-19-2008 07:39 AM

My two cents:
Finishes made out of organic compounds are a very bad idea for below grade structures. Even if your basement is dry, it is still porous concrete buried in humid soil. It is is still colder than the outside and prone to condensation in humid days.
Not to mention the water accidents (burst pipes, leaky water heater tank, leaks upstairs dripping into the basement). With basements is not even a matter of if moisture will be a problem, it is a matter of when.
Drywall, sheet rock, wooden frames, wooden sub floors, spongy insulation made out of organic compounds, carpeting... they are all breeding grounds for mold.
And mold is not just a foul smelly fungus as Inspector D reminds us. It is a health hazard. Even the non toxic forms release spores in the air, which we then breathe. Mold spores and dust mites pellets (which also thrive in moist conditions) are the leading causes of indoor allergies and chronic upper respiratory allergy symptoms like asthma.
Considering your new basement will be a play room, where your kids will spend a lot of time, I would think twice before installing anything that will support mold and dust mite growth.
I agree with Inspector D, sometimes the apparently inexpensive solution will cost you much more down the road.

RyanBruner 09-19-2008 10:02 PM

I read the links provided, so thanks there.

I'm confused about a few things, though. I read on one site that talked about Fiberglass and how it does NOT wick moisture, which makes it ideal for use in basements. But you're saying the opposite.

Turns out I was wrong about the sheathing though. 1/2" is the same price as R-13 fiberglass batting, but that only offers about R-3. You need 2". But 2" costs twice as much, meaning rather than about $250 for R-13 batting, I'd have to spend over $500 just for sheathing. Not gonna happen, I'm afraid. So, fiberglass it is.

But as I mentioned up above, our basement walls have this white stuff sprayed all over them after they finished construction. It is as hard as the concrete underneath, but very rough. Any ideas what it is? It isn't on the floors, just the walls. Also, they water-proofed the exterior basement walls during construction (covered in this black tar-like substance).

I'll keep the drywall off the floor as suggested. Pipes won't burst, though. We have the newer plastic pipes that can safely freeze and thaw (according to my brother-in-law, who is a professional plumber). And water talk, if it would leak, is in the utility room right next to the floor drain. They did a good job on construction.

As of right now, we are planning on holding off on carpeting until we have finished the walls. Due to the extra costs of insulation and doing framed walls instead of furring, we'll hold off on the carpeting to meet our budget.

I thought about using the special drywall designed for moist environments such as bathrooms. It is more expensive, but I could possibly do it if I only did half the basement with it (bottom half) and installed the drywall horizontally. That will be a lot more work, however. Unfortunately, the way our house is laid out, I don't think I can get drywall sheets taller than 8 ft down the steps to the basement. I've love to buy 12 ft. sheets and install them horizontally. Not only would it save money, but it would be less work. But, alas, our house won't accommodate that.

Thanks again, everyone, for your input into this. You've been a great help.

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