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Basement Finishing Q's and A's

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Where to Begin | Walls | Insulation & Soundproofing | Vents/Moisture Issues | Floors | Bath | Heating | Soffit Construction | Wiring

Finishing a Basement

I am starting a project to finish our basement. Of all the things I need to do, like carpeting, building walls, ceiling, etc.. which one should I do first ?

When finishing the basement, the walls would come first. If you are hanging a suspended ceiling, it would attach (on the edges) to the finished walls, and the floor need only be finished up to the walls.

The first thing to do is to cover your existing exposed foundation walls with a good sealant to make sure you don't have any leakage. then measure every thing ,so that you can make a good blue print for yourself to follow. It wouldn't hurt get a cad program for this need (and believe me there will be some changes before you done). Get a good book if you've never framed before, you'll need to know how to make your corners and there will be some handy stuff you just need to know (believe me you don't want to have to rip stuff down because you didn't have a stud there to support drywall or something.
Unfinished Basement as Storage We're planning on using the unfinished basement as storage for books, papers, clothes, toys, etc. The basement has the oil tank and the tankless water heater. It currently has some seepage due to lack of gutters. Is it safe to use this unfinished basement for storage after we put in the gutters? Or will the inherent dampness of basements cause trouble for the books and clothes? Can I put an indoor/outdoor carpeting without finishing the basement? Well, yes, first eliminate the water source. Gutters may be the only thing you need to fix, but maybe there is more. The books etc. will certainly be ruined in the high humidity inherent in a basement unless you lower it with a dehumidifier. You may not need to run it in the winter, but you will definitely need to run it in the summer. (this assumes you have a winter and a summer??) So use the dehumidifier if you store anything down there even if you have NO leakage. As for the carpet, yes indoor/outdoor works best. The dampness and moisture from the floor over time would ruin anything else. Here again though the dehumidifier will help prevent mold and mildew.



Basement: Finishing Order for Walls

We would like to finish out our basement, but at this point only want to frame and drywall. Our insulation is already attached to concrete around the entire perimeter via concrete studs. Should we take this down? Alternatively, frame on the other side of it? What is the order in which you finish a basement? Example: frame first , and drywall second?

What I am not sure I understand is why you don't use what is there. If I understand correctly, the studs and insulation is already in place. Therefore ,what you would need to do is wire the walls as they exist now for your outlets and switches and then attach the drywall to the existing studs?

To be sure, the order is.. frame the walls, install the wiring and then insulate (though in your case the wiring has to be done after the insulating) and then drywall goes on the studs. Usually before the drywall is installed, you need the building inspector to check the wiring. If there is a specific problem with you're existing studs/insulation.. let me know..


WALLS

Anchors | Construction | Dividing Walls

Furring Strips

Read a response to question on building recreation room in basement with interest.
What would you think of using furring strips onto cinder block walls to attach sheetrock to? If using furring strips, would they leave enough room to run wiring and for electric boxes in the walls?


What part of the country do you live in. If it gets cold in the winters and heating bills add up, I would recommend stud walls rather than furring strips. Just because you can pack R-19 or R-21 in there. But I have seen a lot of articles using furring strips. (they often use the poly insulation boards between the strips) Will the furring strips leave enough room for electric boxes, though? Not the standard variety. But have you ever seen the ones mounted on the outside of the walls? The wire runs in channels and the boxes are mounted to the wall. I have never gone that route, but check out the options (at home depot for instance) and you can get an idea of what they look like. For standard wiring you would need a 2x4 wall. (you can use 2x3's even, but build the wall away from the blocks to give you the clearance.



Furring Strips, 2x4s, or 2x2s

I'm in the process of finishing my basement. As a first timer, I need some help. I'm putting sheetrock up over the walls and need to know if you need to use 2x4's or are there other options, i.e. 2x2's or even furring strips ?

Seasoned pros will use nothing but 2x4s.
Reason is that you can get a straight wall, insulate properly, and have the necessary depth to install electrical boxes and plumbing if needed.



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Steel Studs

I am contemplating finishing my basement using steel studs instead of wood 2 x 4's. Are there any tricks I should be aware of for their installation?

Wow - where do I start? I used steel in my basement and would do so again. I followed a thread on the Fine Homebuilding forum a while back. One suggested using pressure treated 2x4 on the floor, then thin insulation, and then the bottom channel. I like that idea. It's more work and a bit more expensive, but it does allow you to nail the baseboards.

Keep the drywall 1/2-inch off the floor. Here are answers to questions I had when I started my basement.

Necessary tools:
Aircraft shears (tin snips)
combination square
utility knife
7/16 pan head drywall
screws
Cutting the studs ,snip the two legs of the metal channel then score the face with a utility knife. Bend the metal stud back & forth at the cut until it breaks in two.

Door framing:
I like to frame the door with wood studs to aid in attaching the prehung door. It is very easy to use wood with metal since the wood fits right into the metal stud after you flatten out the round-over edge on the metal stud.

Installing track:
Next to the wall, you can just use liquid nails to attach to the floor. Where the wall crosses the room away from the concrete, then you can use liquid nails with a fastener. Either shoot them in with a gun or use a hammer drill into the concrete and install a short Tapcon screw. If you have the gun, that would be easiest.

Insulation:
The fiberglass gives you twice the R-value at half the price. Just push it in between the studs and it stays in place. I did not use any vapor barrier, so you are on your own with that one.

Electrical:
The metal stud has cutouts in them for utilities. Make sure that all the cutouts are installed in line with the other studs. Just buy the grommets that fit into these cutouts and the wire fishes right through the holes with ease. No conduit is required.

To attach the outlet and switches,there are special boxes available but probably more expensive so I just use the conventional ones and attach them to a wood brace installed between the metal studs. Turn the 2x4 on edge and screw into the ends through the metal studs. Attach the boxes to the face of the 2x4.

Sconces:
The bad thing about metal is attaching things to the studs in the finished wall. If you know in advance that you will need to hang something heavy on the wall, by all means, install wood backers in the wall.

Ductwork:
Here is where metal studs really shine. You can just snip the legs of the metal channel to bend 90-degree turns in the stud. Wood requires alot of length so it doesn't split when nailing or screwing. The metal can be framed like a blacksmith job. It takes alot less room to frame around ductwork using metal. Be creative. Don't be afraid to use the floor tracks on there also. Since you use screws, you can disassemble and reattach if something is not level or out of square.

2x4s vs 2x2s

I am moving some walls in the basement and I found that they are 2 x 2 walls. Is there any advantage to using 2 x 4 walls when I replace them?

If you use 2x4's you can set them a little away from the wall and use 6-inch insulation in the space. This will certainly help keep your basement and house warmer in winter. You can use 2x2's if they are right against the concrete wall, but they are too small for an unsupported wall.

Installing Drywall

My son just got married and moved in a house. He and his wife want to finish the basement. It has cement block walls now and they want to finish it with drywall.
1. Can you direct us to plans for this type of project?
2. We need a procedure to waterproof the walls. Can you help?
3. When installing drywall, what is the difference between studs with 16 inch and 24 inch centers? When do you use which one?


There is a portland cement product called Thorough Seal (spelling may be off) which when applied to the block will seal it. If the basement is below the water table, it won't hold back the tide, but it does a good job of sealing out moisture. It comes as a powder, you mix with water and apply with a big stiff brush. I have had good results with this stuff.

If you have a serious water in the basement problem, let me know... that is a different animal.

As for studs, generally when building a wall, you go 16 in on center with 2x4 's and can go 24 in on center with a 6 in wall using 2x6's. The advantage of the 6 inch is you can put more insulation in there. For a basement wall, which is not bearing any weight, I would recommend the 2x4's (some even use 2x3's) set on 16 in centers and build the wall out from the cement blocks, so that you can still use the 6 in insulation. Since the cement block wall forms the other side, this works very well.

Insulation, Walls

I want to start building a recreation room and I have insulation with a barrier half way down, the wall,should I take this down. I see some people put some black paper product on the outside wall first. what is this and how do you fasten it to the wall. Do I put the insulation over top of this black stuff, than put plastic over the insulation. Do I hammer the insulation to the wall? and what kind of nails do I use. Poured basement. I want to do as much of the basement myself as possible to keep the cost down. Wood studs should they be 2x4's or 2x3's again to keep the cost down. I will be hiring someone to do most of the work but I would like to do as much as I can. Any assistance you can offer me would be appreciated.

You can use 2x3's to save money, yes. What you should do is build the walls standing off the foundation. If you live in a cold climate, set them out so the finish side of the wall is 5 1/2 inches from the cement. Then you can use R-19 (6 inch) insulation.

You can buy faced insulation (faced with a paper vapor barrier) or unfaced and then use 6 mil plastic as the vapor barrier. Either way, you simply staple the vapor barrier to the studs, with a staple gun. If you don't have one, they are relatively inexpensive. I recommend the plastic vapor barrier, by the way.

Is your basement dry... as in very dry? If not, I would recommend sealing the walls first. There is a product called Thouro-Seal (spelling is not right) it is a Portland cement product and will do an excellent job of sealing out moisture.

Then you can build your walls nailed into the floor and the joists above. Framing around windows and doors should be in 2x6 so it will go all the way to the wall. You can use a pressure treated board for your bottom sill plate.

YES you can do as much yourself as you dare.


Removing Paneling, Fastening Drywall

We just bought a 60-year old house, and, among other things, the paneling in the finished basement seems to be rotted at the bottom. This appears to be from prior flooding, through the basement window.
My question is how difficult is is to remove this (it is thick, tongue-in-groove pine) and replace it with drywall?
How do I fasten the drywall to the concrete walls? Do I need to insulate between the concrete and the drywall, etc.?

How is the paneling fastened to the wall now? You should be able to pry the boards off. Starting at some edge and working your way along.

As for redoing the wall. I generally think the best bet is to build stud walls that run from floor to the ceiling (attach to the floor joist above). Make these from 2x4's set out from the wall and fill the wall with 6 inch insulation. I would recommend sealing the wall first with a good concrete sealer like Thorough Seal a Portland Cement product. Use 6 mil poly for a vapor barrier on the inside of surface of the walls (facing the room not the concrete)

For the wall, use pressure-treated wood for the sill plates.

Then you can drywall on the new stud wall.

One final thing. BE SURE you know the water damage was from a leaky window. You do not want to sink a lot of money into the basement only to find after the nest hard spring rain or winter thaw that the basement is below the water table.


Anchoring Studs to Concrete

We have a new house with a full basement under it. I am going to finish it out (i.e. drywall, drop ceiling, carpet etc.) My only stumbling block at this time is deciding the best way to anchor the 2x4's to the poured concrete walls. I am going to put the 2x4's on edge so I can insulate between the studs then drywall over them. What are some of the options I have for anchoring the studs to the poured concrete wall?

The solution is don't. Anchor the bottom plate to the floor (concrete nails work fine.. but are a bear to nail in) and nail the top plate to the joists above. A good trick is building the wall on the floor and standing it up. Make the wall 1 1/2 inches short (plus an 1/8") and after standing the wall up, slide in a double top plate. On the sections of wall that run parallel to the joists, nail in boards between the two joists to nail your top plate to.

Installing Drywall

I want to complete the basement with drywall, i.e. cover the four walls with drywall. I have measured the height and the length of each wall. So......how...

1) Do I calculate how many studs (wooden) will I require. keeping in mind that I need 16" apart or shall I go for 24" center?

2) Do I calculate how many sheets of drywall do I require?

3) Do I calculate how much of taping compound do I require?

4) Do I calculate how much tape do I require?

Stick with 16" on center.. that way you can use 2x4's. If you want to use R-19, 6-inch insulation, just build the walls a little ways out from the concrete.. and secure them to the floor and ceiling.

Figure a stud every 16inches.. means seven on an 8-ft run of wall. On corners. you will use three or four depending on how you make a corner. (You have to make it so among other things you have a place to nail the drywall to on both walls.

You have to remember to include the bottom and top plates. One thing too.. I like to build the wall on the floor and stand it up. Well.. you can't build it exactly the right height.. because it won't stand up. (it hits the ceiling joists) So I build it 1 1/2 inches short.. then add a second top plate to make up the difference between the top of the wall and the joists. As for drywall.. figure 8-foot walls.. even though they are shorter. You will have alot of waste, but it will make the job easier.. so.. divide the total length of wall by 4.. and you have the number of sheets of drywall.

Tape is cheap.. buy one or two large rolls. If you don't use the second.. you can take it back. Buy a 5-gallon bucket of drywall.. that should be plenty for just walls in a basement.

Dividing Wall

A friend and I are planning on building a dividing wall in his basement to create an extra room. The basement is mostly used as a rec room and is usually pretty noisy because of it. I was wondering if you could recommend an affordable type of insulation that will act as a good sound barrier so we can shield the new room from some of that noise.

Fiberglass batt insulation (look for some especially rated for noise insulation) works well. You can use it in combination with some building techniques, such as framing the wall with 2x4's that don't go all the way through to the other side. Also one side of the wall can have a double layer of sheet rock for added sound barrier effectiveness.


Soundproofing a Music Room

Could you help me on a problem please. We are making a music room and want to soundproof it. it is in the basement and has one outside concrete wall and we are making the rest. We have bought insulation drywall and some steel bars. how far apart do you place these bars?


Why did you buy the steel bars??? Not sure what purpose you had in mind for those.
The best thing to build a soundproof wall out of is wood. I was having a heck of a time describing this so I drew a picture. Go to http://www.handymanusa.com/soundproofwall.gif. I put a picture there that you can see what I am going to try to describe.

Use a 2x6 for your sill (bottom) plate and top plate. Build a double wall on these plates with 2x4s and stagger the studs such that half are at the inside edge and half are at the outside edge. (see you have to have a picture!) This way, the wood does not go all the way from one side to the other except for at the top and bottom. The insulation should pass in front or behind each stud to absorb the sound. Use 5/8 sheetrock. Other ideas to help, line the wall with cork or homasote. Use a suspended ceiling with insulation laid on it above.
Basically remember, sound travels through solids. The air gap filled with insulation will absorb sound.
If you are looking for even better sound proofing you can build two wall with the insulation between the two instead of staggering the 2x4's on a common sill plate. But with the 2x6 and staggered studs, you can go 24 in on center with your studs.


More On Soundproofing

Howdy. I am a musician, and enjoy playing the drums, electric guitar, and electric bass. However, the noise factor in my basement room is too much for the members of the house. It is a 12'x12' corner room, with two cement walls and two single layered-stud walls (one with drywall, one with paneling). It also has two half windows (1'x2') at the ceiling. I have no experience in this area, and I'm in need of the most effective soundproofing for the cheapest price.

BUT you need to do the ceiling more then the walls but the walls will help also.For a reasonable price try hard foam insulation panels that are either pink or white and COVER it with felt or other such THICK fabric. Other fabric to use would be upholstery fabric but NOTHING SHINY as that would just bounce sound off the walls. You need some sort of sound deadening. You will also find this increase the sound quality as the sound will not bounce back at you.We have fabric Mills here in my area that also sell what THEY CALL speaker fabric which is heavy woven felt but they usually only come in black.
Then hang the panels on the walls and ceiling. The other way to do something similar would be to nail up 1x2's and then insert the foam insulation between the 1x2's and then cover with fabric using a staple gun. No matter what you do will some how damage the walls. The other less sound proofing option are, just cover the walls with rugs and fabric, you can buy what is called "Fabritex" or something like that which is a roll on type texture which is sold in bags at places like Home Depot. It is really thread fibers and other soft items that you add some paste too and roll on the wall....maybe it is called WallTex"...you get the idea. That will help to some extent and it looks nice also. This maybe your best option because of the look but then again the ceiling I would maybe do in acoustic tiles which will help a bit.


Still More on Soundproofing

I am planning to finish my basement and would like to know the best way to soundproof it. Any suggestions?

From all directions?? Use a studded wall all the way around. Keep the studs off the walls, leave a gap between them and the concrete wall of at least an inch. Fill the walls with fiberglass. You can use six inch..

Buy Type X sheetrock (made for soundproofing) and hang it on your walls with resilient channels. These hold the sheetrock off the studs. Fill the ceiling with insulation. And a suspended ceiling with acoustic panels will keep the sound from traveling up/down... Or if you want a sheetrocked ceiling.. again use type X and hang it with the resilient channels.

Basement/Foundation Insulation

My house has a full unfinished basement, cement block walls & cement floor, with an 8-foot ceiling. There is a small area under the pantry and between the garage, which has a smaller raised crawl space, which has a cement floor and a 4-foot wide opening to the rest of the basement. This area of the house is always cold or hot and although there is a heat/ac register in the floor, it doesn't do the trick. What type of insulation (Rigid insulation on the foundation & cement floor or insulation under the floor) can I use down there to make their area more comfortable?

With a lot of exposed wall, the cold will come right through. So insulating will help significantly.

You can't do much for the floor at this time, and typically with insulated walls, you can warm the place up where a carpet on the floor will make the room comfortable.

As for what to use... well there are a couple ways you can go. Blue poly rigid panels offer the highest R-value per inch, and can be glued right to the wall. Then you can sheet rock right over them. You can build a wall and use fiberglass batts as well. Fiberglass is cheapest, and by building the wall out from the block wall a little bit allows you to use 6-inch R-19 batts. It would be good to insulate all the way around including the crawlspace.

Unfinished Basement as Storage

We're planning on using the unfinished basement as storage for books, papers, clothes, toys,etc.
The basement has the oil tank and the tankless water heater. It currently has some seepage due to lack of gutters. Is it safe to use this unfinished basement for storage after we put in the gutters?
Or will the inherent dampness of basements cause trouble for the books and clothes? Can I put an indoor/outdoor carpeting without finishing the basement?


Well, yes, first eliminate the water source. Gutters may be the only thing you need to fix, but maybe there is more.
The books etc. will certainly be ruined in the high humidity inherent in a basement unless you lower it with a dehumidifier. You may not need to run it in the winter, but you will definitely need to run it in the summer. (this assumes you have a winter and a summer??) So use the dehumidifier if you store anything down there even if you have NO leakage. As for the carpet, yes indoor/outdoor works best. The dampness and moisture from the floor over time would ruin anything else. Here again though the dehumidifier will help prevent mold and mildew.



Vapor Barrier

Is it required to put a vapor barrier on a new wall in basement even though the wall will be two inches away from concrete foundation?

Required?? no, but recommended. The idea is to keep the moisture from moving through the insulation. If the wall is cold, when the moisture is in the insulation it will condense. The condensation will make the insulation wet and it will lose its insulating ability. Also, the wood in the wall will get wet and the repeated wetting and drying of the wood will cause it to rot.

I also recommend putting plastic on the cement side of the wall too. the reason here is different. Here it is a matter of reducing the dampness and humidity in the basement. If there is a vapor barrier on the inside of the wall, the same problem of wetting and drying the wood can occur and cause dry rot of the wood.

The 6 mil plastic is relatively cheap. It is worth the cost and effort.


Sweating Foundation

I have a house that has a wooden foundation. It is 7 years old and the basement is bone dry we have a well drained soil. The problem I noticed it that in the unfinished basement, water condenses on the inside of the plywood when it is cold out. (it can be seen when the plastic and insulation are peeled back)
The floor is cement and the basement is heated but unfinished. From the outside in the wall is made up like this Outside membrane, 3/4 pressure treated plywood attached directly to the studs, with regular fiber glass insulation in-between the studs, and a clear plastic holding everything in. I was checking out to see how well insulated it was in the winter and frost was in-between the insulation and the plywood.
Any suggestions? Should I be worried?

If the wall is cold, the moisture in the basement will condense on it as it would any cold surface. The wood of you foundation will not be adversely affected by the condensation. What is your floor in the basement? Is it cement or dirt or wood too?
The frost on the plywood will have no ill effects. That plywood is rated for ground and moisture contact and should be ok.

However, I am wondering how the moisture got in there. It shouldn't. Was the insulation wet at all? If it is then your vapor barrier is not enough of a vapor barrier, the insulation does not insulate well when it is wet. And you should check that all holes are sealed (as best you can) You could put another layer on even.

If the insulation is dry, and the frost on the wall is the only moisture, then you probably are ok in all respects.


More on Vapor Barriers

Maybe you can give me a tip. I also plan to finish a basement. Your advise on the vapor barrier was a good one that I did in our last house.
However this house has a full poured concrete basement and no finishes applied at all. It is damp down there in the summer but I don't see any specific signs of water coming in or up. What is the best painted or brushed on finish for those walls? One difference is that I plan to just put up strapping directly on the wall and styrosheets between them and a finish sheetrock or paneling over this. I suppose the poly could be put down first? What about mold or mildew after a few years?

An excellent product I have used with success is Thorough Seal. It is a portland cement product. You mix it up and brush it on. It effectively seals out moisture. (It is too rough to use on the floor I think)

If you put a piece of plastic on the floor and leave it there for 24 hours, when you pick it up you can tell if you have moisture coming up through the floor. If it is wet under there, you do. It is evaporating as fast as it comes through.. and making the basement damp.

One thing you will probably have to do is run a dehumidifier down there all summer. That will handle the moisture problem and the mold and mildew.

I think you can put the poly on the walls first also, as long as you didn't plan on gluing the furring strips to the walls. This will protect the wood against the walls from the effects of the moisture.
Use a pressure treated sill plate, if you are using one at all. (good idea so you have something to nail the sheetrock to)


Finishing Basement: Moisture Prevention

We recently moved into a ranch style home and want to finish off part of the basement. I have a fairly good handle on how to stud out the walls and drywall, but my question pertains to prepping the concrete walls and floor. The walls are cinder block and have been painted. Since I am going to be putting a wall in front of it, is there anything special I need to do to insure I have no problems with moisture in the future. Currently we get absolutely no water in the basement, nor is it damp. The same goes for the floor since it will be under a carpet. Should I seal the walls and floor with some sort of sealant?

The other question I had pertained to our gas hot water furnace along with the adjacent hot water heater. If I build a wall around these, how much space should I leave on the sides and front to allow these proper circulation?

Since you have no problems at the moment, and the walls are painted, I wouldn't recommend sealing them any further.

Cover the inside of the wall with 6 mil plastic.
For the floor, use a carpet and pad that will handle any moisture coming up through.

I am not sure about the space for your furnace. 36 inches to a wall is a good rule of thumb, but your local fire dept. will probably give you better advice if you ask them.


Musty Basement

Dh and I have just purchased a 1914 brick home in Chicagoland near the lake. Needs lots of work. The basement is dry. No leaks. But it feels damp and smells musty and like an old stale house. We are removing most of the wood walls to open the area up, and this has made an improvement already. Suggestions for further improving the smell, ventilation, dampness?

Basements have a natural tendency to be damp since they are cooler and therefore the relative humidity goes up. In the summer months you should always run a dehumidifier.... that will help.
Also.. what is on the walls. Are they finished? And that is what you are taking down? What covers the cement. If the cement walls can be sealed, then a good basement wall sealer is Thoru-Seal. It is a cement based product, and does a good job of sealing out any moisture from coming through the walls.


The dehumidifier will help right off the bat though.

The cement walls in the basement are exposed, except for a few places that there are wood firring strips and paneling, which we are tearing down. We are also taking down wood interior walls, poorly constructed, hiding spiders , musty smelling, and inhibiting fresh air flow. So, you're saying that the dehumidifier is our best bet right now? I hesitate to seal the walls b/c they feel bone dry, and I'm not sure how much, if any, that contributes. I suppose the basement is acting like a cool glass in the humid summer air? So air flow, as in vents in basement windows, would not play a significant role? We are thinking of going with glass block windows one of these days. No plans to "finish" basement, we are perfectly happy with it just being an old basement, although less damp. clean, and better smelling would be lovely.

Yes the dehumidifier will remove the dampness and with it the mold and mildew which contribute to the musty odor. Ventilation would only help if you had enough... a little will just introduce moisture laden air to a cool place. So go with the glass block windows..

Sealing the walls is relatively inexpensive... and not too hard (especially once you get everything off the walls. But you may only want to go that step if you plan to put walls back up, otherwise you can leave them as is.


Insulated Crawlspace Vents: Open/Closed

looking for a good insulated crawlspace vent that can be opened for ventilation during summer, and closed during winter months.

Because of modern building codes regulating the ventilation of crawlspaces because of radon concerns, most jurisdictions require you to keep crawlspace vents open at all times.

I suggest contacting your local code enforcement office to get their advice in this matter.


Fiberglass Insulation Has Mildew Problems

We insulated our basement two years ago, but recently we found out that it could give problems of condensation and mildew seeping through the dry wall and make the basement room feel mildew. Have we done anything wrong by putting the fiberglass insulation against the wall and paper against the dry wall?

No, you did right. However, basements have moisture problems because they have a high humidity level due to their cooler temperatures and moisture flow through the concrete. One of the best things you can do to combat the mildew is keep the humidity level down. Run a dehumidifier down there all summer.

Carpeting

I'm putting carpeting in the basement. The cement floor is in good shape, no cracks, no dampness. Do I need to apply a sealer to the cement before laying the carpet? I'm using commercial grade 18" square carpet tiles with the backing already on.

Considering the cost (minimal) I would seal the floor.


Using Power Nailer on Floor

I am planning a remodel in the basement of my house and want to install studded walls. My question has to do with using a power nailer to attach the studs to the floor. Am I risking cracking the floor in my basement by using one? Are there other alternatives to attaching studs to the floor? I'm pretty new to all this and would appreciate some feedback from you veterans.

Cement floor right? Don't worry about cracking it. A power nailer works wonders... Use pressure treated wood for the sill plate. Though I would use a power nailer myself, another method is to drill through the plate and into the floor with a 1/4" masonry bit, then use 5/16" tapcon screws driven through the plate into the floor. Tapcons are actually cheaper if you don't have a power actuated nailer.


Basement Subfloor

I am building a heated room (a new branch from existing HVAC) in my partially below-grade basement, which has always been very dry except for normal warm weather humidity. I have chosen to build subflooring to reduce energy loss and provide a more comfortable environment. I plan to lay down 6mil poly-sheet followed by 2x4 sleepers on 24" centers with polystyrene rigid foam between and one layer of 3/4" plywood subflooring. Could you provide some direction to me on the following questions?

1. The code in my area wisely requires treated lumber for below-grade framing, including sleepers, but does not require treated plywood subfloors. I would be more comfortable using treaded plywood, as well, to resist termites, which I have heard will climb over PT to eat untreated. Any thoughts?

2. In my area, I am unable to find PT tongue and groove plywood, only square edge. If I go with square edge PT, should I lay some short 2x4 pieces perpendicular to the main sleepers along the unsupported edges of the plywood to approach the stability of tongue and groove? If so, should they be unattached to the plywood to allow for free thermal expansion?

3. Tongue and groove plywood is to be left with 1/8" gaps between pieces. Should square edge plywood have 1/8" gaps? On the ends, as well as the sides? Carpet will be the final flooring. Will these gaps encourage more air exchange with the cool poly floor, resulting in condensation and mold?

Well... me? I wouldn't use pressure treated plywood. For one thing, the grade is usually pretty low. For a subfloor under underlayment maybe that is ok... But.. I don't think that over the poly in the basement ... that it is necessary. It shouldn't ever see moisture.. and termites? Is the basement floor concrete?? How could they get down there? Even if the floor is dirt.. I am not positive about this.. but I didn't think they would dig that low...

Ok.. my vote is for non-pressure treated plywood.

But.. if you do... If the floor will be covered with an underlayment.. then the pieces under the edges not on joists are unnecessary. Underlayment runs opposite to the direction of the subfloor will be fine without the extra cross pieces.

Leave the gaps. You don't want the floor to buckle.. though.. I am reasonably sure that if you do go with pressure treated wood.. the wood will be doing more shrinking than growing.

More on Subfloors

We currently have carpet directly over concrete slab. A 2" cement footing is visible around the perimeter of the room. I would like to put down a subfloor with plywood over 2x4's to conceal the footing and provide a softer/warmer surface for carpet.

I have the exact same predicament in my partially finished basement. Instead of building up the floor to mask the footings, though, I plan on building out the walls. Have you had any problems with having your carpet directly on the slab (as this is what I plan on doing)? Best to use pressure treated wood under there, since there will always be some moisture flow and not much ventilation under the floor. I would use the blue poly insulation board (or similar) under there to make the floor warmer and the blue poly is both a vapor barrier and unaffected by moisture.

If you put carpet directly on the cement floor, stick with indoors -outdoor carpet, all synthetic materials in carpet and pad and no rubber backs. It is best to let the moisture flow up into the room then trap it under the carpet.

Bath Installation

I need information on how to install a basement bath. Also what are the best products available for this job?
Are their plumbing alternatives to breaking up concrete for toilet and drain installation. Where would I find such products?


Today, they have products to make EVERYTHING simple. Certainly bathroom basements. You can check a plumbing supply co., or even Home Depot. There are units that install right on your slab that collect the wastes and pump them up to your waste pipe.

Installation if you can do some plumbing work is not difficult. The people in your plumbing supply co. should be able to help you with everything you need in the way of advice. (If not, shop elsewhere) And you can always ask you particular questions right here...

They sell (in Home Depot, etc.) a base unit you mount the toilet on, that has a tank and pump so that no cutting into the slab is necessary. It sells for under $600. The plumbing can be piped right out of there to your drain line. (A maker of this unit is Bur-Cam Pumps Inc. ((514) 337-4415)

I believe you can plumb a shower and sink into it it also.

Heating Finished Basement

We are looking to have our basement finished (approx. 800 sq. .ft). We have forced hot air heating in our home but do not want to tap into the ductwork because we feel it will take heat away from our 4th bedroom, furthest away from the furnace. We have had several contractors come to give us estimates and they all suggest different ways of heating the basement. 1. One suggested electric heat liquid filled with a fan unit installed directly into the wall. Our one concern with this choice is the cost of electrical heat. 2. Another suggested a gas fireplace. Our concern with this choice is that the room is an L shape and we feel that it may not heat the entire room. 3. Another suggested an additional small furnace with hot water baseboard. 4. Lastly, I saw, at Home Depot, a no vent gas heater that mount into the wall. What is your opinion? We are looking for something that is safe, efficient and not overly costly.

If you have gas in your area, the gas idea is probably the most cost effective. Consider though that basements (with well insulated walls) are very easy and inexpensive to heat with any means. The major thing is that the floor is always cool (so a carpet helps!). If you don't already have gas for other appliances or heat, I wouldn't put the gas in, and instead use electricity. But if you have gas, the vented heater is a good choice.

Soffit Construction

I am planning on finishing the basement, and need to design a soffit to cover a heating vent and several water pipes. The pipes are right next to the heating vent. Should I make one large soffit to cover both items, or should I make a tiered soffit so that it takes up less headroom? Also, I have seen soffits with solid sides, and others made up of just 2x2's, is there any standard construction for soffits?

Soffits are typically made up of the smallest dimensional lumber or scrape piece you can find. Usually they are 2x2s. It makes no difference what you do. Tiered or straight. Straight will take less finishing material... If you don't want to drywall, buy a cheap paneling and paint it... Still cost you less than what drywall install/finish does..

Electrical Wiring for Basement Playroom

I am in the process of renovating my basement into a playroom. I have decided to run the electrical wiring myself. I already have lighting installed by the builder last year, but wanted to add electrical outlets. I have decided to add 4 outlets spaced no less then 6 feet apart. I started using 14 gauge wire until my friend (an electrical engineer) suggested to be safe and use 12 gauge wire. Is this in fact safer? Seeing as 12 gauge wire in generally used for 20 amp service, should I be sure to use 20 amp outlets and 20 amp breaker? My friend had also suggested to use 15 amp outlets, 15 amp breakers with the 12 gauge wire, again with the argument that it is safer. Please set the record straight for me.


Breaker amperage, wire gauge, and ratings on switches and outlets go hand in hand.

A 20 amp circuit requires at LEAST 12 gauge wire and corresponding switches and outlets.

A 15 amp circuit requires at LEAST 14 gauge wire and corresponding switches and outlets.

One can use 10 gauge wire on a 20 amp circuit and 12 gauge on a 15 amp circuit.

But one cannot use 14 gauge on a 20 amp circuit nor 16 gauge on a 15 amp circuit.

In your case, unless you plan to have heavy motorized appliances in your basement, a 15 amp with 14 gauge will work just fine.

Just one thing to add. Should you change your breaker to a 20 amp breaker be sure that there are no 14ga wires install anywhere within that circuit. The NEC allows the use of 12ga on 15 amp or 20 amp general lighting circuits. Keep in mind that each outlet "duplex, light fixture or other" is calculated at 1.5amps in general lighting circuits. That means that a circuit can contain 10 outlets on a 15 amp circuit and 13 outlets on a 20 amps with out the necessity of service load de-rating. 15 amp receptacles are fine for general use. 20 amp receptacles are for special purpose circuits. If you are using 15 amp duplex "receptacle" with 12ga wire, be sure to use the side screws unless the push-in specifically indicate that it excepts 12ga. wire. Although 14ga. is the minimum allowed, I personally have not used 14ga. in at least 6 years.

The 12 gauge wire is thicker and can carry a higher load. The price is not much more and can be less. I did my basement last fall and often bought 12 gauge on sale for less than 14. If you want to extend a circuit later, you can safely do that with 12 gu.

The key is the circuit breaker. Don't use a 20 amp breaker with 14 gauge wire.




Click here for our Insulation Article
Click here for our Moisture In The Home Article
Click here for our Wiring A 3 or 4 Way Switch Article
Click here for our Basement Tips Article


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