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 Lighting

basement remodelingBasement lighting is an important aspect of any basement remodel.  You’ll want to install adequate, even lighting that lights the entire basement effectively.  There are some special considerations for basement lighting, so you’ll want to choose your lighting carefully.

Special Considerations for Basement Lighting

Your basement is unique from most other rooms in your house in that it has no windows, but is also a fairy large space.  Therefore, you’ll want lighting that is bright and also distributed throughout the space. Additionally, most basements have a relatively low ceiling, so you’ll want to install lighting that doesn’t take up too much vertical space.  For example, pendant lighting may not be the best option for basement lighting.

Can Lighting

Can lighting consists of a round fixture, or can, that is installed above the drywall of the ceiling, meaning that the trim of the fixture is flush with the ceiling.  The bulb is then placed within the can. There are many trim options for can lighting, meaning that it can be customized to your finished basement’s décor.  Can lighting can be installed on both sides of the basement spanning the length of the wall such that the entire basement is evenly lit.

Track Lighting

For the track lighting method, light fixtures are attached on a continuous track that contains electoral conductors.  This is unique from other forms of lighting, which rout to individual light fixtures. Track lighting has several benefits in that it is easy to install, effective and versatile.  Light fixtures can be evenly dispersed throughout the track, or instead focused in particular areas.  Track lighting is an excellent choice for larger spaces that require ample lighting, so it is an ideal choice for finished basements.

Safety First

Any kind of electrical work, including lighting installation, can be very hazardous if done improperly.  Serious or even fatal injury can occur during installation, and an improper install poses a fire hazard.  Don’t be afraid to seek the help of a professional if you’re inexperienced in electrical work and always make sure that contractor’s work get inspected by ESA inspector. This little step that most contractors try to skip will save a lot of trouble down the road.  Fortunately for basement finishing Toronto homeowners have many excellent contractors available. Are you currently undertaking your own basement finishing project?  If so, we’d love to hear about which type of lighting you selected.  Give us your own thoughts on basement lighting in the comments section.

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 Ceiling Options

basement remodelingMost houses are sold with unfinished basements that have bare ceilings, leaving unsightly duct work and plumbing exposed.  For a basement to be considered finished, the ceiling must be covered.  There are many available basement ceiling options, and your budget, decor and intended usage for your finished basement will dictate which basement ceiling option is right for you.

Multilevel Ceilings

With some creative planning, you can contour your basement’s ceiling to cover the ducts and pipes with drywall paneling.  You can coordinate these levels with the floor plan to define different activity zones of your basement.

Siding Panels

One of the more simple basement ceiling options is to simply cover the ceiling with siding panels.  You can select the paneling to fit your desired decor.  This creates a uniform ceiling that allows your basement to appear just as finished as any other room.

Tray Ceilings

Another option is to box in duct work, which is usually on the perimeter of the basement, and create a tray ceiling.  You can accent the perimeter of the tray with molding to create a more finished, refined look.

Cover with Paint

If you’re looking for cheap basement finishing, you can simply cover the entire ceiling with a uniform coating of paint.  Darker colors are best for this option, as they put less emphasis on the contrasts of the duct work.

Laminate Planks

Laminate planks are another potential basement ceiling option.  Laminate planks are available in many different designs, and can be customized to fit your basement’s decor.

Drop Ceiling

Drop ceilings, which are commonly found in office buildings, schools and other institutional buildings, provide a finished look but keep duct work accessible for maintenance and renovations.  This option is also more economical than some other basement ceilings, so may be best if you’re on a budget.

Your basement’s ceiling can be customized to fit your decor, budget, and intended usage for your finished basement.  A qualified basement finishing contractor can help you to select the best basement ceiling option.  Fortunately for basement finishing Toronto area residents have many available well-qualified contractors.

Potential Uses for a Finished Basement

services_basementsMost new homes are sold with unfinished basements, which are used for extra storage space, laundry rooms and storm shelters.  However, your basement is an untapped source of square footage, and a good basement finishing job can turn it into a space just as inviting as the rest of your home.  Because basements are “bonus square footage” homeowners often use finished basements as recreation space or to support a specific interest or purpose.

A finished basement is a great investment, as you will be able to enjoy your home more, and your home will be more valuable and easier to sell when the time comes to put it on the market.  Finished basements are often used for the following purposes, and allow homeowners to get the most out of their home.

Man Cave

Guys like to retreat to an space that’s exclusively theirs after a long day to relax and generally decompress.  A finished basement is a great refuge for most men, as it’s somewhat separate from the rest of the house, and can be customized to their interests and hobbies.

Recreation or Hobby Room

A finished basement can be a great place to enjoy hobbies or games that require more square footage than you’d otherwise have available.

Entertaining Space

Basements typically span all or most of a home’s floor plan, so usually consist of a continuous large room before they’re finished.  A finished basement can thus be an ideal entertaining space for hosting large gatherings of friends and family.

Home Theater or Media Room

Basements are separate from the rest of the house and are fairly soundproof even in their unfinished state, so make excellent home theaters for movie lovers and electronics enthusiasts.

Basement Apartment

A finished basement can be converted to an apartment, which can be rented out to tenants in order to supplement mortgage payments or build savings.  A basement apartment is also ideal for elderly parents or adult children, as it allows more privacy for the occupants.

There are many possible uses for a finished basement that can make your home more enjoyable, and allow more flexibility in your living space.  Basement finishing is an extensive undertaking, and some aspects of the project may be best left to professionals.  Fortunately for basement remodeling Toronto residents have access to many qualified basement finishing contractors, and a beautiful finished basement is easily attainable.

Basement Flooring

basement flooring solutionBasement flooring is an important component of basement finishing, basement renovation and basement remodel.  However, basement flooring requires some special considerations, and should be chosen carefully.  The primary practical concern with basement flooring is flooding, whether natural or man-made.  Any basement flooring should be waterproof and able to dry out with little or no damage in the event of a flood.

The following options are ideal for basement flooring. Your decision will depend upon your home’s design, your personal preferences, your finished basement’s intended usage and your budget.

Concrete

Concrete, whether painted or stained, is the most simple basement flooring option.  Stained concrete is increasingly popular, and inexpensive and easy to care for.  However, concrete is the coldest flooring option, and some homeowners still prefer more traditional flooring.

Tile

Tile is an excellent option for finished basements, as it is highly waterproof, can be installed directly on the slab with uncoupling membrane, can be heated and is considered to be a fully finished surface.  Tile and grout color can also be selected to match any decor or color scheme.

Vinyl

Vinyl, or resilient, flooring, is another excellent option as it is waterproof and easy to maintain.  Sheet vinyl flooring yields a uniform surface that is impervious to standing water, while tile vinyl flooring gives a look similar to ceramic tile but can be problematic if standing water remains for long.  Vinyl flooring is also more economical in comparison to tile.

 Laminate

Laminate flooring offers a variety of designs and colors and can be waterproof and non-waterproof. You should follow manufacturer recommendation for which areas the particular laminate is used best. Laminate flooring must be installed over a sub-floor so is warmer than other options, but can also cause a hollow feeling under your feet.

Carpet

Carpeting may be preferred particularly for basement apartments, as it allows a plush, homey feeling and is the warmest flooring option.  However, carpeting can be difficult to dry out in the event of a severe flood, so this option should be carefully considered.

 Engineered Wood Flooring

Traditional wood flooring can be a dangerous option for basement flooring, as any flooding will cause catastrophic damage.  However, engineered wood flooring consists of a real wood veneer glued over a plywood base, and is waterproof in light flooding.  This is one of the most attractive basement flooring options, but is relatively expensive.

Flooring dramatically impacts a room’s decor and general ambiance, so should be chosen carefully.  Moreover, basement flooring has some practical needs that must be taken into account.  Discuss potential options with your basement remodeling contractor to find the best fit for your project.  Many Toronto basement renovation specialists are available to assist you in your basement remodel.

Finished Basement Amenities

services_basementsMost new homes are sold with unfinished basements, which are then used as extra storage space and as storm shelters.  However, you can turn your basement into livable space by finishing it.  This can increase your family’s enjoyment of your home, and also add value.

There is a basic set of requirements for a basement to be considered fully finished, including closed ceilings, flooring, wall covering, climate control and an independent exit, but additional features make your basement more enjoyable and practical for your intended usage.  These amenities may also make your home more appealing to potential buyers when the time comes to sell it.

If you’re considering a basement remodel, it may be helpful to think of which features you’d like to include for your family’s enjoyment of your newly finished basement.  Take a look at these finished basement ideas to help decide what exactly you’re looking for.

Bars

Many homeowners plan to use their finished basements for entertaining, and in this case a bar may be a great addition.  A bar can simply be a freestanding counter, but can also be built into a wall or contain a faucet and/or taps for dispensing frosty beverages of your choice.

Windows

Windows may be required by your area’s building code, but even as an optional feature they add a lot to a finished basement’s appeal.  They the space up visually, and let in ntural light.

Walls and Doorways

Depending upon your basement’s size and intended usage, walls and doorways may contribute to its practicality.  This can make your basement a true extension of your home rather than simply an enjoyable place to pass the time.

Bathrooms

A half-bath may be required by local building code, but either way a bathroom can make your finished basement more convenient and enjoyable.  This is particularly important if you’re considering renting out your basement to tenants.

Basement finishing is a big job, so it’s important to plan the project carefully and perhaps to bring in a qualified basement remodeling contractor.  Many Toronto basement renovation professionals are highly qualified, and can help you to create the environment you have in mind.

What Exactly is a Finished Basement?

services_basementsThe term “finished basement” has become somewhat of a buzz word as of late, and is often tossed around as a selling point.  As such, the definition has become somewhat muddied, and there’s a lot of confusion as to what exactly constitutes a finished basement.  It’s important to be aware of these distinctions as a homeowner looking to remodel, or as a potential home buyer.

Independent Point of Egress

Most provinces and local ordinances require an independent exit (i.e. not through the main house) for a basement to be considered fully finished.  This is mostly for safety concerns, and also makes the basement more convenient and user friendly.  To meet building code in Toronto finished basements must have a separate exit.  Many building codes also require windows, and some also require at least a half bath.

Finished Basement Design

Most new homes are sold with unfinished basements, wherein the floor is concrete, the ceiling is exposed and the walls are bare cinder block.  In order for a basement to be considered fully finished, all of this must change.  There are many basement ceiling options, but the bottom line is that the ceiling must not be exposed.  Basement flooring is also important: carpeting, vinyl flooring, linoleum flooring, engineered wood flooring, stained concrete or tiling are all options depending upon your home’s decor.  The walls must also be covered and painted.

Climate Control

In order to be fully livable, a finished basement must be insulated, heated and cooled.  New homes vary in the degree of climate control already present, so the amount of work necessary to meet this requirement will vary.

Building Code and Legal Concerns

For Toronto basement remodeling, electrical code, plumbing and fire safety must all be carefully observed, particularly if you are considering renting out a basement apartment.  It may be a good idea to find a contractor experienced in basement finishing, so that you can be sure that your finished basement meets code.  Also, when the time comes to sell your home, a professionally remodeled basement that fully meets building codes will be attractive to appraisers and potential buyers alike.  Fortunately for basement finishing Toronto has many well-qualified contractors.

Basement finishing has many benefits, and can increase your home’s value as well as livable square footage.  However, it’s a big job, and it’s important to find a well-qualified contractor and manage your project carefully.