Monday, May 21, 2012

The Basement Ceiling

My clients want their renovated basement to look like the rest of their home so they are making many similar construction choices here including a high plaster ceiling instead of a lower, dropped ceiling.  We will be putting up blueboard and plastering over it to match the finishes elsewhere in the house.  It will cost a little more than a dropped ceiling and take a little longer to install, but the feel of the new rooms will be very unbasement-like. 

In the framing, I am using studs about 107” long for the 8’ 6” foot ceiling height to save lumber and labor costs.  If we had used 10’ studs, we have had a lot more cutting to do and faced some unavoidable waste in materials. 

So, the remaining tasks before installing the ceiling will be some plumbing and the wiring for power, lighting, smoke and motion detectors, and audio/visual components.  We previously installed a new electric subpanel to handle the electrical requirements of the basement.  All the new audio/visual wiring will return to a central closet where stereo equipment will be placed at a later time. 
The client wisely spent many hours browsing magazines and the Net looking for lighting ideas, and together with her brother-in-law, an electrician, she has arrived at a well thought out lighting plan.  Another choice would have been to work with a first rate lighting company such as Yale Appliance and Lighting in Boston or A.D.Cola in Natick, MA. 

One drawback of a plaster ceiling is having no inherent access to the plumbing and wiring connections after the ceiling is installed.  To solve this problem, I utilize strategically placed plastic ceiling panels.  Not only do they provide the necessary access, but they can be painted to match the rest of the ceiling.  See more about them on the Net.

And so the crucial work on the infrastructure of the new basement continues.  Note below that in preparation for the plastering steps (both ceiling and walls), I laid down tar paper to protect the floors.

Craig Carter

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Avoiding Finished Basement Water Problems

Before I undertake a project to finish a basement, I gauge the potential threat of water and moisture.  A significant water problem may mean making major changes to the plan or even abandoning the project all together.  If the homeowner has lived in the house for many years and claims that water has never appeared, I breathe a little easier.  But, it’s always wise to actively look for trouble early on and take appropriate steps to prevent issues later.

Close inspection of the basement floor can reveal traces of previous water damage. In addition, I sometimes soak the outside foundation perimeter using a garden hose and then check the basement interior for seepage. But the best determinant is a sump pump pit installed in the basement to monitor ground water levels. (At some point, installing the sump pump itself is always a good idea to accommodate extraordinary deluges even if normal water levels are not a concern.) Here in the Canton, MA basement that is the focus of this blog post, the sump pump pit revealed no ground water. Nevertheless, when we get to this step, we will use FreeFit 100% waterproof, fully floating vinyl tile flooring with a 15 year commercial warranty. There will be more on flooring later near the end of the project.

Visible or not, moisture seepage and/or condensation afflict the walls of basements and should be addressed with a thermal break and vapor barrier if the basement is to be finished.  Under-managed moisture is not only a threat to building durability, but it also can lead to mold and mildew which can be a serious health concern for a homeowner and family.  Some builders recommend rigid foam board insulation between the concrete walls and sheetrock, but I prefer a sprayed in closed cell foam insulation like the Icynene product.  Not only is it quicker to install than the foam boards, but closed cell foam insulation expands to fill gaps and cracks, delivers a higher R-value per inch (insulation effectiveness), and provides additional structural strength to a wall or ceiling.  Additionally, it provides a continuous vapor barrier; no need to fill and tape any seams as required with foam board. 

Having assured myself that the ground water level and wall moisture in my current basement job are manageable, I am proceeding with the renovation.  As with most construction tasks, careful site analysis and preparation (in this case, to guard against water in a basement) are key to the long term success of the job.

Craig Carter

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Finishing A Basement

One of the best ways to get more out of your existing house is to finish your basement.  Without expanding the house footprint, you can not only add a lot of livable space, but also substantially increase the worth of your home. 

Carter Construction Management recently got a job to put a family room with a wet bar, a full bathroom, and an exercise room in an unused basement.  The space is ideal, as basements go, in that it has plenty of headroom and no water or moisture problem.  It is in good shape and clean, and there is no need to add or improve the egress to the outside.
Unfinished Basement

That is not to say it will be a trivial job.  Among other infrastructure changes, we must install a separate heat/AC zone off the existing furnace, add an electric subpanel, and mount a new air-exchange system. 

Framing Begins
Watch this space as we report the process and comment on our choices during the renovation of this basement.  We’ll be navigating the “gotchas” and revealing cost saving tips as we implement a first-rate outcome for our clients.  Don’t hesitate to ask questions or comment on our posts.  We want to hear from you!

Craig Carter