Building A Basement

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Building A Basement

In a “look-out” basement, the basement walls extend sufficiently above ground level that some of the basement windows are above ground level. Where the site slopes gently and is insufficient for a walk-out basement, a look-out basement tends to result. Sometimes, a look-out basement is deliberately constructed even on a flat site. The advantage is that the basement windows are all above grade. The disadvantage is that the main floor entry is above grade as well, utilizing stairs to access the main floor. The raised Bungalow design (known as a split-entry home in much of the US) solves this by lowering the entry halfway between the main floor and basement to make a dramatic, high-ceiling foyer. It is a very economical design because the basement is shallower, and excavation costs are reduced.

Building A Basement

A daylight basement or a walk-out basement is contained in a house situated on a slope, so that part of the floor is above ground, with a doorway to the outside. The part of the floor lower than the ground can be considered the true basement area. From the street, some daylight basement homes appear to be one storey. Others appear to be a conventional two storey home from the street (with the buried, or basement, portion in the back). Occupants can walk out at that point without having to use stairs. For example, if the ground slopes downwards towards the back of the house, the basement is at or above grade (ground level) at the back of the house. It is a modern design because of the added complexity of uneven foundations; where the basement is above grade, the foundation is deeper at that point and must still be below the frost line.

Building A Basement

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Industry standards focus on many aspects of a basement remodel, from what kind of building materials you can use to how much support you need for beams and columns. When planning to finish a basement, brushing up on building codes is essential for ensuring good results. Insulation Building codes often require insulation and moisture barriers. There may be local or state building codes for how many inches off-center you can space studs, such as 16 or 24 inches apart, and how much clearance you need for ceilings, landings for the bottom of stairs and the height and depth of the steps. Structural Changes Check with your local building department if you plan to make any changes to structural elements like support columns or load-bearing walls. Miscalculation on this can cause serious structural problems in your house. “Floors can deflect, there will be cracks in the walls, doors that won’t close,” says Frank Laskey, founder of Capital Construction. “You may be able to see an imbalanace outside in the ridge beam, at the top of your roof.” A structural engineer is often required to spec out and approve eliminating columns and replacing them with beams. Mechanical Systems Metal doors may be required to separate mechanical areas containing a furnace or boiler, and you might have to bring air into a mechanical room for ventilation. Donald Prather of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America advises checking to see if an HVAC professional follows the ACCA’s HVAC Quality Installation Specification, which covers proper guidelines for the installation of heating, cooling and ventilation systems. Electrical The national electric code calls for outlets on walls every 12 feet, on any wall wider than 24 inches, and GFCI (ground fault current interrupter) outlets in bathrooms and above countertops. Check with your local, municipality, and state codes. You’ll need to add a 15- or 20-amp circuit breaker or two to your electrical service panel. Have a qualified electrician, licensed to work with high voltage, install the outlets, lights and circuit breakers. If you’re adding plumbing, that too will need to conform to local building codes. Most municipalities will require you to obtain a building permit, which often requires a drawn plan and electrical plan. Your project will likely be inspected by the building, electrical and plumbing inspectors in your area. Keep Reading

Building A Basement

Industry standards focus on many aspects of a basement remodel, from what kind of building materials you can use to how much support you need for beams and columns. When planning to finish a basement, brushing up on building codes is essential for ensuring good results. Insulation Building codes often require insulation and moisture barriers. There may be local or state building codes for how many inches off-center you can space studs, such as 16 or 24 inches apart, and how much clearance you need for ceilings, landings for the bottom of stairs and the height and depth of the steps. Structural Changes Check with your local building department if you plan to make any changes to structural elements like support columns or load-bearing walls. Miscalculation on this can cause serious structural problems in your house. “Floors can deflect, there will be cracks in the walls, doors that won’t close,” says Frank Laskey, founder of Capital Construction. “You may be able to see an imbalanace outside in the ridge beam, at the top of your roof.” A structural engineer is often required to spec out and approve eliminating columns and replacing them with beams. Mechanical Systems Metal doors may be required to separate mechanical areas containing a furnace or boiler, and you might have to bring air into a mechanical room for ventilation. Donald Prather of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America advises checking to see if an HVAC professional follows the ACCA’s HVAC Quality Installation Specification, which covers proper guidelines for the installation of heating, cooling and ventilation systems. Electrical The national electric code calls for outlets on walls every 12 feet, on any wall wider than 24 inches, and GFCI (ground fault current interrupter) outlets in bathrooms and above countertops. Check with your local, municipality, and state codes. You’ll need to add a 15- or 20-amp circuit breaker or two to your electrical service panel. Have a qualified electrician, licensed to work with high voltage, install the outlets, lights and circuit breakers. If you’re adding plumbing, that too will need to conform to local building codes. Most municipalities will require you to obtain a building permit, which often requires a drawn plan and electrical plan. Your project will likely be inspected by the building, electrical and plumbing inspectors in your area.

Building A Basement

Because basements are primarily underground, they are not subject to high summer temperatures and low winter temperatures. The constant temperature of the earth around a basement tends to make the temperature within the basement more stable. It’s never too hot or too cold. You can use your basement as a heat sink by circulating that temperate air throughout your house. It will contribute to cooling your house in summer by absorbing heat from the upstairs air. And it can help heat your house in winter since it is already partially heated by the earth around it. And by mixing the house air through the basement, the quality of the basement air will match the air in the rest of the house and the basement will not smell musty.

Building A Basement

Even with functioning sump pumps or low water tables, basements may become wet after rainfall, due to improper drainage. The ground next to the basement must be graded such that water flows away from the basement wall. Downspouts from roof gutters should drain freely into the storm sewer or directed away from the house. Downspouts should not be connected to the foundation draintiles. If the draintiles become clogged by leaves or debris from the rain gutters, the roof water would cause basement flooding through the draintile. Damp-proofing or waterproofing materials are typically applied to outside of the basement wall. It is virtually impossible to make a concrete wall waterproof, over the long run, so drainage is the key. There are draining membranes that can be applied to the outside of the basement that create channels for water against the basement wall to flow to the foundation drains.

Building A Basement

Eliminating the musty, damp smell is done by making sure you are building a basement that is waterproof. In addition to that, the walls of the basement should all be covered with insulation. On warm, humid days, condensation can form on cool surfaces in your basement. This adds moisture and can even contribute to mold growth. By insulating the basement walls, you keep the humid air from reaching the walls and prevent condensation from forming. The air in the basement will stay dry and not smell damp.

The ideal reason for a basement is for hillside locations. These building sites are the perfect place for a walkout basement. Sloped land requires building up the lower side to achieve a level floor. One way or another, this must be done to build a house. The money spent on the basement is converted to usable space, instead of with a high foundation into only a way to achieve a level surface to build the floor on. If you can put the garage underneath the house, in the basement, then you can save even more money.

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