This is a short article about how to renovate a basement and it contains just the basic information that you will need before you start doing it.
Renovating a basement sounds rather intimidating, but really it’s not much different from renovating any other room. The only difference is that a basement is a room that is below ground level, and as a result is typically rather damp and musty if it is not kept in good order with regular maintenance.
The first job is to remove all rotten woodwork and masonry and clean up any moisture and dirt. Make the whole place as dry as possible.
The cause of any dampness is most likely not so much the fact that it’s below the ground, as because ventilation is difficult and it’s easy for the air to stagnate, leading to damp and mould problems.
Of course damp will penetrate through the floor and walls if there is no proper damp proofing, so that is the first thing that you should consider. Unless the floor is damp-free you should insert a damp proof course. This will normally be a damp proof membrane with a conventional floor covering on top, or three or four coats (applied two or three hours apart with a broom) of a heavy duty polyurethane.
Whatever covering you use, make sure it covers the whole floor and extends a little way up the walls including behind the skirting boards.
Damp proofing the walls of a basement can be quite a challenge. Methods that are effective in rooms above ground level may not work below ground. You can’t go outside and insert cavity bricks or apply a water repellant.
Possibly the only method open to you is to dry line the walls. Nail on vertical battens at suitable intervals on all the walls. They should have been treated with preservatives beforehand. Then either staple polythene to the battens before attaching the plaster boards, or use special vapour check plaster boards.
You can then decorate and paint the walls in the same way as any other room. But there’s one difference between the basement and the rest of the house, and that is that condensation will easily form in the basement, leading to damp problems including wet rot, mould and general decay.
How, then, do you prevent condensation? It can have several causes. Lack of ventilation is a major one. Ensure that there is an adequate air flow in and around the basement at all times. You may have to have an extractor fan system installed.
Lack of warmth is another factor. Try to extend the heating system to include your basement if at all possible. If not practical then have some independent heating down there such as an electric fire, but preferably not a portable gas based heater such as Portagas, as they give off a great deal of moisture, which leads to the next point.
Moisture production is, unsurprisingly, a major cause of dampness. If your basement is adjacent to, or used as, a kitchen or bathroom then you will have to take extensive measures to remove that moisture continually if it’s not to remain in the basement and cause damp problems.
These few tips on how to renovate a basement should help you overcome most of the problems likely to be encountered.