Winterizing Finished Basements

winterWinter is now upon us, and brings with it increased energy usage and potential damages to your home.  Many homeowners overlook the basement when they winterize their homes, but this is an important aspect for many reasons, particularly in finished basements used as living space.  These tips for winterizing finished basements will help you increase your energy efficiency and avoid damages to your home.

Why Your Basement is Cold

Although your cooler basement may be a good thing in the summer months, it becomes a nuisance in the winter.   Basements are surrounded by the ground on at least three sides, meaning that the cold from the frozen ground is transmitted to the basement itself.  Hot air also rises, so your basement, as the lowest point in your home is naturally colder.  Further, most basements aren’t insulated, only compounding these problems.

A cold basement increases your energy bills and risks damages resulting from frozen pipes that burst.  Winterizing finished basements is particularly important, both because the basement is used is a living space and because water damage resulting from a burst pipe is more costly to repair.

How a Cold Basement Increases Your Energy Bill

The basement frequently houses some or all of a home’s utilities including the furnace, HVAC system, water heater, hot water pops, ducts and others.  These utilities use energy to make heat, and if they’re in a cold environment, they need more energy to do so.  This means that every utility housed in your basement is more costly to operate in a cold basement.

A cold basement also results in a cold floor and chilly conditions upstairs, meaning that you will raise the temperature in your home and subsequently increase your energy expenditures even further.

Addressing Energy Loss

Windows are a key source of heat loss in basements.  Replacing windows, especially if they’re north-facing, with energy-efficient windows can make a world of difference.  It’s an up-front investment, but it will save a substantial amount of money on your energy bills and increase your enjoyment of your finished basement in the long run.

Insulating your basement walls is also very helpful, although improper insulation can accumulate moisture and do more harm than good.  Check out our article on basement insulation for more information.

Winterizing Your Pipes

Freezing pipes are particularly problematic in Toronto finished basements due to our cold climate.  It’s thus very important to winterize your pipes to prevent the catastrophic water damage resulting from a burst pipe.

Simply increasing the ambient temperature in your basement through improved insulation and windows will go a long way towards preventing pipe breakage.  You can also insulate pipes with polyetheyleine or fiberbglass tubes to protect them.  On particularly cold nights, it’s also advisable to keep faucets adjacent to external walls dripping.

Taking some extra time for winterizing finished basements can cut your energy bill back dramatically and even prevent damages resulting from frozen pipes.  If you feel out of your element, your basement finishing contractor can also help to make your basement more energy efficient.

Over to You

We’d love to hear your own insights on winterizing basements.  Please leave us your thoughts in the comments section.

Is a Finished Basement for You?

services_basementsFinished basements dramatically increase your home’s usable square footage, and provide an excellent recreation space that you will enjoy with your family for years to come.  A finished basement is also a major selling point, and will increase your home’s value and appeal to potential buyers.

However, basement finishing is a big job, and isn’t a decision to be taken lightly.  Prior to moving forward, consider the benefits, and identify whether they are worth the time, effort and expense.

Benefits of Basement Finishing

 If you’re working with limited square footage, as many Toronto homeowners are, a finished basement is an excellent way to increase your livable space, and is also cheaper than moving or adding on to your house.  Basement finishing runs from about $30 to $55 per square foot, while moving or additions can cost $150 to $200 per square foot.

A fully finished basement provides an excellent recreational space, and is also great for entertaining.  Further, a finished basement increases your home’s value, and makes your home markedly easier to sell when the time comes.

Basement Finishing Cost

Any reputable contractor will tell you that basement finishing is costly.  You can generally expect a finished basement to cost from 10-20% of your home’s total value depending upon the basement size and extent of the remodel.  Any contractor that quotes much less than this amount is likely cutting corners and using subpar materials, so be leery of the lowest bidder.

Consider your personal finances, and also how long you anticipate staying in your current residence.  If you’re not in a great place financially or are planning to move in the near future, it may be best to hold off for a while.  You want to make sure that you’ll be able to enjoy your finished basement for a good long while, and to do so without going bankrupt.

Marketing Matters

Chances are that you will move eventually, and you should always consider the effects that any major renovation will have upon your home’s value and appeal to buyers.  The two main points to consider here are quality and usability.

A well-finished basement makes your home stand out from the rest, and is a huge selling point.  However, visibly shoddy work may be unappealing, as the buyer will be concerned about potential repair costs.  Additionally, be aware that specialty finished basements, such as a photography dark room or microbrewery, for example, may not have a broad appeal to potential buyers.

Over to You

If you’re the proud owner of a finished basement or are currently considering a basement renovation, we’d love to hear your own thoughts on the subject.  Tell us what pros and cons influenced your decision and offer up your own advice by leaving a comment.

Basement Heating

basementUnfinished basements are used infrequently, and ambient heating coming from above typically keeps the temperature above freezing.  However, finished basements used as living areas need to be kept much warmer.  Due to our cold climate, many Toronto finished basements require some additional basement heating.

In some cases your main HVAC system may be modified to also heat your basement.  This requires additional duct work, and is probably best left to a professional basement finishing contractor or HVAC contractor.  However, if expanding your existing heating and cooling system is impractical, there are other additional basement heating options.

Electric Heaters

Electric heaters are typically the easiest and cheapest to install of all basement heating options, although they cost more to operate than many other options.  However, if you only require occasional heat or are heating a small area, electric heaters can provide comfortable and cost-effective heating.

Direct-Vent Gas Heaters

Because of our cold climate, for finished basements Toronto homeowners may require more efficient, even heating.  Direct-vent gas heaters are energy efficient, and provide constant, thermostatically controlled heat.  Direct-vent gas heaters use natural gas as an energy source, and distribute heated air throughout the room with a fan.  A pipe exits the rear of the heater, and penetrates an exterior wall to vent exhaust gases and intake combustion air.

Fireplaces

Fireplaces can provide both a cozy atmosphere and cozy warmth, although it’s important to select the right kind of fireplace for your basement heating needs.

Wood-Burning Fireplaces

Most standard wood-burning fireplaces suck lots of hot air out of the room, so aren’t necessarily efficient.  Airtight wood-burning fireplaces can provide a reliable heat source, but must be regularly tended and can be a bit messy, so they’re not for everyone.

Direct-Vent Gas Fireplaces

Direct-vent gas fireplaces provide a view of the flames, and produce radiant heat.  Some direct-vent gas fireplaces also have a fan to circulate warmed air, producing a more consistent heat source.

Ventless Gas Fireplaces

Ventless gas fireplaces release combustion products directly into the room.  This makes them more efficient and easier to install, but they can deplete the room’s oxygen supply and produce hazardous fumes.  This is particularly hazardous in basements, which are smaller and have less airflow than your ground floor.  We recommend avoiding ventless gas fireplaces in basements for these reasons.

Radiant Heating

If you will use stone or tile for your finished basement’s floor, you can install a radiant heating system.  A radiant heating system will not only warm the floor, but can also increase the overall temperature of the room, which can eliminate the need for an additional heat source.

When evaluating your basement heating needs and installing some of the more advanced heating options, it may be best to seek the help of a qualified professional.  Fortunately for basement finishing contractors Toronto homeowners have many reputable home renovation professionals available.

Was basement heating a factor in your recent or upcoming basement renovation?  If so, we’d love to hear your viewpoints on the best basement heating options.  Please give us your input in the comments section.

Three Things You Should Know About Basement Finishing

services_basementsBasement finishing adds to your home’s usable square footage and resale value, allowing you and your family to enjoy your home more and making it easier to sell when the time comes.  However, basement finishing is a big job and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly.  Take these considerations into account before beginning.

Is Your Basement Dry?

Moisture and water damage is a major issue for finished basements, and even a small leak can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage.  One of the major issues with basement renovation Toronto homeowners in particular face is moisture because of our considerable annual snowfall.

Before beginning your basement renovation project, make sure that you’re ruled out water issues.  Outside of your home, make sure that the ground is sloped away from the foundation walls, and that the downspouts are functioning properly.  Inside, check the floor, ceiling, walls and drywall for any sign of water damage or mold.

Are You Up to Code?

Check your local building codes, and find out whether you need a permit for your basement remodeling project.  Also make sure that all electrical work is up to code.  Finally, if you plan to use your finished basement as an apartment, be sure that it meets all local regulations.  It may be advisable to consult with a professional basement finishing contractor at this stage of your project planning.  A well-qualified professional will be familiar with all local regulations, and will be able to check over any plans for electrical work.  Fortunately for basement finishing Toronto homeowners have many excellent contractors available.

Are You Within Your Budget?

Basement finishing can be quite costly.  Make sure that all aspects of your project are within your budget so that you don’t overspend or end up with an incomplete remodel that you can’t afford to finish for years on end.  Also be sure to leave a little “wiggle room” so that if things go wrong you’re not over your head financially.

A basement finishing project can be very rewarding if it’s well planned.  If you keep these considerations in mind and carefully plan your project, you’ll be well on your way to a finished basement you can enjoy for years to come.

If you’re currently involved in your own basement renovation project, we’d love to hear your input.  What would you recommend homeowners take into account before starting this project?  Tell us all about it in the comments section.

Basement Wall Options

basement wallMost new homes are sold with unfinished basements, which are used for storage and as storm shelters.  Basement finishing turns this untapped resource into livable space, increasing your home’s value and your enjoyment of your home. Most unfinished basements have cinder block or poured concrete walls.  In order to finish your basement, the walls must be covered in some way.  There are many potential basement wall options, and the right option will depend upon your budget, decor and intended usage for your finished basement.

Drywall

Drywall is very versatile, as it can be textured, painted, or covered in wallpaper.  For basements, it is best to use mold-resistant drywall to protect against any potential plumbing mishaps.

Wood Paneling

Wood paneling can be used to create a cozy, homey look.  It can also be painted over or covered in paintable wallpaper if you wish to change your look down the road.

Plywood

Plywood is fairly economical, and is also easy to cut in your desired size and install over wall studs.  Additionally, plywood does not absorb as much moisture after painting as drywall, and may be more resistant to any water damage.

Paint

If you are looking for a simple, low-cost option, you can opt to simply paint over concrete or brick walls.  While this may not be as well-finished as other options, it is certainly the most economical basement wall option and is water resistant.  This could be a good option for play rooms or rec rooms.

There are many wall options for finished basements.  Your budget, home decor, basement design and intended purpose for your finished basement will determine the best option for you.  A qualified design professional can help you to select the best option for your needs.  For basement finishing Toronto area residents have many well-qualified basement remodeling contractors available.

Cheap Basement Finishing

Cheap basement renovationFinished basements increase your home’s value and add to your home’s livable space, increasing your family’s enjoyment of your home.  However, basement finishing can be very costly, and it is important to keep a few principles in mind for cheap basement finishing.

Considering Your Intended Purpose

Your cost will depend largely upon what you want to do with your finished basement.  The biggest expenses are typically tied up with new points of egress and additional bathrooms.  Although basement apartments must have bathrooms and independent points of egress, an entertainment room, media room or recreation room may not need either.  Other substantial costs are accrued in flooring, lighting and drywall.  Your needs and personal taste will also dictate these factors.

Working With Your Contractor

If you are unfamiliar with remodeling, you are well advised to find a qualified professional.  A good contractor can help you to stay on task with this substantial undertaking, and will help you to work within your budget.  Fortunately, for cheap basement finishing Toronto residents have many different options available.  A good contractor should be licensed, bonded insured and able to provide customer references.

If you are clear with your contractor that you’re working on a budget, he or she can help you to set a reasonable budget for the project, and to select remodel options that will save money without compromising quality and aesthetic appeal.  Don’t hesitate to mention at the outset that you prefer to do things as cheaply as possible; a good contractor will be happy to help you do this.

Financing a Basement Finishing Project

Because a finished basement increases your home’s value and marketability, it represents an excellent investment.  Many banks offer home improvement loans, so you may be able to finance your basement finishing in this way.   Consult your financial provider to determine whether a home improvement loan is appropriate for your needs.

Although basement finishing is a substantial undertaking, it can be done.  Consider your needs, evaluate your financial status and work with your contractor to develop a plan that makes the project affordable and realistic.

Managing a Basement Remodeling Project

basement remodelingBasement finishing and/or basement remodeling can be daunting tasks, and it is understandable to be overwhelmed by the prospect.  However, the project becomes more approachable if it’s taken in stages, and if you consult qualified professionals when appropriate.  Fortunately for basement remodeling Toronto residents have many options available in this regard.

Step 1: Identify your Intended Purpose

Because most houses come with unfinished basements, basements are often a source of untapped square footage that is used as storage and as a storm shelter.  Finished basements can increase your enjoyment of your home, and also increase its resale value.  Identify what purpose or purposes would be most enjoyable for your family.

Common uses for finished or remodeled basements include media rooms, recreation rooms, entertainment spaces, apartments and big kids’ play rooms or “man caves.”  If your basement is big enough, you can even design it to serve more than one purpose.

Step 2: Devise a Floor Plan and Decorating Scheme

Your layout will be largely dependent upon your basement’s purpose(s) and your own personal preferences.  However, if you are unfamiliar with home renovation and interior design, this part of finishing a basement can be very difficult.  It may be wise at this point to consult a professional.  For Toronto basement renovation there are many qualified professionals available.  Be sure to find a contractor that is licensed and bonded and able to provide customer references.

Your decor will also depend upon your intended purpose.  Be sure to pick a design that suits your personal taste, but that is also generic enough to appeal to future buyers when the time comes to sell your home.  You may also wish to consult a design professional for this.

Step 3: Set a Budget

Your budget will be dependent partly upon your goals, and upon the scope of your project.  If you’re doing the remodel yourself, consider the costs of all materials involved.  If you are working with a professional, ask for an itemized estimate.  If you can’t afford what you have in mind, it may be time to reconsider your project’s scope or to finance the project.

Step 4: Develop a Timeline and Work to Completion

If you are doing a DIY remodel, you will need to establish a realistic time frame for the project.  Set reasonable goals based upon how much free time you realistically have available and monitor your progress through each component of the project. This will help you to remain motivated and stay on track.

Any basement remodeling or finishing project is a large one, but by strategically designing your remodel to fit your intended purposes, working with experienced professionals as needed and addressing each component, it is very doable.  A finished basement will increase not only your quality of life and enjoyment of your home, but also your home’s resale value.