Thursday, April 10, 2014

Renovating Your Basement?

It Only Makes Sense


More often than the basement is an area homeowners are itching to tackle as a renovation project and why not? When it comes to creating affordable livable space, the basement has a great deal going for it.

You're starting off with a floor, walls, and a ceiling of sorts.  The challenge is to develop the space into areas you and your family can use and enjoy and make the transition from the existing living space above seamless with the space below.

Compared to building an addition of the same size, your basement renovation makes perfect economic sense too.  There's a real incentive to make the basement renovation happen, especially when you consider how it will free up cluttered space upstairs.

Not So Fast...


Before you begin to even contemplate renovating your basement, you need to ensure the basement is fit for development.  What this means is the space needs to be evaluated to ensure the time, effort and money poured into the project is worth it.

Doing the project the wrong way can have catastrophic implications, and I'm not talking resale either. I'm talking the structural failure of your foundation and replacing your foundation will cost you 10s if not 100s of thousands of dollars.

Image 1 - Foundation Walls

Image 1 - Foundation Walls shows a classic illustration of foundation walls that are in imminent danger of collapse.  Actually, these walls were so unsafe they were demolished and replaced at a cost of $120,000 CAD.  These walls indicate there has been a long standing moisture problem because of the efflorescence and spalling that's visible.

Signs of Trouble

Efflorescence on a wall of this age and to this extent indicates the wall is continuously cycled through soaking and drying off periods.  Efflorescence isn't harmful, it's just what's left of the dissolved mineral deposits that were dissolved in the water that evaporated. The white coating on the wall directly above the laundry tub gives a good indication of the soaking pattern for the water.

Efflorescence isn't harmful.  It's just salt or mineral deposits on the face of the wall, but what they do when dried out is cause a chemical imbalance within the foundation material.  When the wall gets wet once again, water rushes in to rebalance system with such force (in excess of 5,000 psi) the water blows off the surface of the wall off causing another condition called spalling.

Some people think spalling is due to the expansion of the crystals, but it's actually the pressure from the water rushing in to negate the chemical imbalance.  The long term impact of spalling is it slowly micro blasts your wall apart until there's nothing of any substance left.

So before you decide to invest in your basement renovation, you need to evaluate your basement to ensure the time, effort, and investment you make is worth it.  Seeing signs of efflorescence and spalling means there's work to be done  before you can convert your unused basement space into a comfortable healthy living area for you and your family.
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