Renovating a full-height basement can be a relatively simple and economical way to increase the living space of your home. It remains to be seen if your basement lends itself to it.
Before undertaking renovations, you must first ensure that the basement is high enough and that it is sufficiently dry and healthy. A basement renovation project must therefore be accompanied by an inspection that will identify any problems.
- Do you have to bend over to avoid hitting your head against a beam or duct?
- Are there intermittent or permanent traces of moisture or mold on the floor or walls?
- Do clothes and objects stored in the basement give off a persistent musty smell?
- Are there cracks in the walls or floor the width of a pencil or cracks that appear to shrink or widen?
If you answered “yes” to any of the previous questions, you should budget the costs to address these issues and contact a foundation contractor.
You will need to obtain a building permit if you intend to change the structure of your home, modify the windows or exterior doors or carry out a house extension,for example, a self-contained apartment.
The building permit ensures that the proposed amendments meet the minimum standards established to protect the health and safety of occupants. To provide a good living space, the basement must be high enough to allow a 6-foot (1.8 m) person to stand despite the presence of light fixtures or ceiling fans.
To grant a permit, most municipalities require that there be at least 2.1 m (6.8 ft) between the finished floor and the ceiling; this minimum height is also the height provided by most electricity codes for the installation of a ceiling light.
Some authorities tolerate limited obstructions, such as beams and ceiling fallout covering heating ducts.
Check with your municipality’s technical services for minimum regulatory heights.
It is essential to correct the situation if there is moisture or water infiltration into the walls or floor, as a wet or wet basement is not a suitable living space.
Moisture problems can damage the most expensive renovations and make a basement uninhabitable.
Moisture on the walls and floor can come from holes or cracks in the foundations; poorwaterproofing of the foundations on the outside of the walls; poor drainage on the perimeter of foundations and soles; or a slope of land that directs water to the foundations.
The presence of water can also be explained by the fact that the surface of the water table is superficial, which exerts hydrostatic pressure on the walls and floor. It is often necessary to clear the surface to see the condition of the wall behind the finishing coating.
Here are some ways to fix common moisture problems.
Cracks in foundations
Although small cracks can be repaired from the inside, when it comes to larger cracks or other sources of moisture, it is best to correct the problem from the outside. Such work often requires the use of heavy machinery to excavate around the foundation walls to the soles.
Once the walls and the top of the soles are exposed, it is possible to plug small holes and cracks with a waterproof cement grout. If the cracks are large and appear to be moving, seek advice from a structural engineer on the best way to repair them.
Drainage around the house
Water can seep through the basement floor, appear at the site of cracks and holes, and accumulate around the perimeter of the basement at the junction of the floor and walls. If the problem is frequent or seasonal, a malfunction of the foundation drainage pipes may be the cause.
One of the drainage pipes along the soles may be crushed, obstructed or missing. It must then be repaired or replaced. In order for groundwater to be captured, drainage pipes must be punctured and placed so that their bottom rests below the basement floor.
Some builders enclose drainage pipes in a case made of a geotextile membrane to prevent fine particles from blocking them. The pipe and its case must be covered with at least 100 mm (4 inches) of uniform crushed stone without debris and this layer of stone must extend to the foundation walls to create an area that drains freely.
An unobstructed pipe length must be sloping and should connect the French foundation drain to the sewer that drains rainwater to remove the water that accumulates around the soles.
- Ensure that the foundation wall is covered with an uninterrupted oil coating that provides a watertight barrier, or a water-resistant membrane in the presence of hydrostatic pressure.
- Apply the coating from ground level to the top of the soles.
- Cover this coating with a free-draining drainage membrane or material to create the drainage area mentioned in the previous paragraph.
- When relocating the land, give the land a slope that will keep the water away from the foundation walls.
As an additional precaution, create a “dam” of clay around the foundation walls, just below the level of the plant soil, to keep the water away from the house.
- By addressing the structural problems of the foundations, you will go a long way to ensuring the safety and sustainability of your home.
- If you plan to do more renovations, your chances of success will be much greater with a solid foundation.
Are you planning to transform your basement?
don’t hesitate to ask the right questions to a foundation specialist