Thursday, April 17, 2014

Keep It Dry. Keep It Safe.

Include This, Exclude That

Plans for finishing a basement are typically filled with lots of stuff to include. Maybe you want to include a media center, fitness studio, or a basement apartment for an aging relative.  These are important items to consider but even more important is what you need to exclude.


To help you do this you need to manage:
  • Surface water
  • Ground water
You have to admit, it's a small list, and if ignored or overlooked, the negative consequences for you, your family, and the health of your home are huge. Ensuring the exterior of your basement walls and floor slab are as dry as they can be is a big step in the right direction.

Your Mission - Impossible

Considering how impossible it is to keep your foundation walls and floor slab absolutely free from being exposed to wet or damp earth, wind driven rain, sprinklers, melting snow, or other interesting sources of water, accept the fact your foundation walls and floor slab will always be moist or contain some amount of moisture.

This means you also need to provide your walls and floor slab the opportunity to dry out, somehow.

That's Interesting

Enough talk about the exterior.

You've done what you can to manage surface and ground water to the best of your ability.  Let's take a look at the interior now. Are there major sources of moisture you need to manage there?

Surprisingly, enough, there are. There is one huge internal moisture source in your home you've probably overlooked and is a major reason you may have a moisture problem, if the bulk water systems are properly managed.

This major source of moisture is: air.

Unfortunately, because air is moist:
  • Cold surfaces will form condensate when exposed to warm moist air
  • Air is warmer than your concrete foundation wall
  • Air is warmer than your concrete floor slab
So now you not only need a strategy to manage exterior water, but somehow prevent warm moist air from coming into contact with cold surfaces too.

There Is A Way Forward

Don't Do This!
How do you do that?

Simple, use thermal insulation.

How you implement or build this system this will either be a good thing or a disaster.  In other words, there is a right way, and many different wrong ways to do this, and it's up to you to decide which method to use. Fortunately for you and me people have made it their professional career to figure this out for us.

Unfortunately, most of the contractors or renovation "experts" are not those professionals which means you're likely to be told how to do things the wrong way, like the way this basement in the photo is being finished.  The end result of this project is you end up with a warm damp basement making you and your family sick.

Your next step is to discover what materials and methods are needed, how they need to be installed, and how to minimize or eliminate warm moist from contacting the cold surfaces of your basement's foundation walls and floor slab.
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