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Old 06-22-2009, 02:37 PM   #1
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Basement Remodeling

Hi, I am beginning to remodel the basement. The house we bought last year is 19 years old, poured concrete. The basement is in great shape, no cracks or leaks I can see. The basement is currently 40% finished, but has a musty smell. I tore into the drywall on the foundation wall and looked, I didnt' see any water damage or mold, but the insulation had a really musty/earthy smell to it.

The current construction is with a vapor barriar. They didn't even really make a traditional framed wall, it is just 2x4 boards somehow attached to the wall (no board on the floor). There is regular batt insulation inbetween the boards, no paper, then a vapor barriar and drywall.

I am thinking of just tearing all that stuff out to get rid of the smell, and building a proper framed wall. My current idea is to glue 1" pink extruded polystyrene foam board to the walls, but I'm not sure if I should do the entire wall top to bottom or just the first 4 feet (does the wall have to breathe??? water vapor maybe??) Not sure if I should do 2" foam because it would have a perm rating of less than 1 (or does that even matter.) I was reading before that the foam attached to the wall should have a permeability rating of greater than 1 to allow the wall to breathe out the water vapor (is this correct?) Per the Ownes Corning website the 1" stuff has a perm rating of 1.1

Next I was thinking a framed 2x4 wall right against the foam board. I am really not wanting that batt insulation crap because of the smell, so I don't want to put that back in.

Also, I noticed outside that the foundation has some kind of foam board on it, it looked like 1/2 inch or maybe 3/4 inch. I assume this means the basement is insulated from the outside too???

Any experts out there have any advice or suggestions, please help, I am a rookie here!

One more thing, the entire basement floor between the wall and the floor has a small gap, what is that for anyway? Should I not put down the foam board all the way to the floor where that gap is. The gap is very small.

I'll take some pictures and post them if this message board lets me.


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Old 06-23-2009, 05:20 PM   #2
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Anyone out there? echo... echo... echo...


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Old 06-23-2009, 06:44 PM   #3
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Hi, and welcome to the forum. Foam board on the below grade, insulation above grade in the wall . Read this as to vapor barrier placement: Be safe, G
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Old 06-23-2009, 08:02 PM   #4
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Sounds like you will be better off ripping the old out. Building a wall out of 2x4 1" off the block wall to allow for air movement (breathing) Depending where you live and if your basement is all below grade will say how much insulation is needed. Below grade is generally around 50 degrees so you don't need as much insulation as say an attic or even above grade wall. Make sure you figure out why the existing insulation has gotten damp therefore causing the odor. You want a completely dry basement before pouring all that time and $$$$ into it. You may need to waterproof the walls or something else. Not seeing the basement makes it hard to say.
Use PT wood along the floor sill and normal 2x4s for the uprights and top plates. Double sills make it easier to finish.
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Old 06-23-2009, 08:24 PM   #5
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A basement refinishing job involves lots of building, fire safety and potentially mechanical codes. I would advise you not do any major work in your basement without proper permits because when you eventually sell, major changes to a basement will stand out to inspectors, potential home buyers, etc and they may ask to see permits, and if the town finds out you don't have permits, you'll have real big issues on your hands. But with that said, there are a lot of things to keep in mind about finishing or refinishing a basement. I don't know all of the codes, but here are some of the major ones that most towns probably all follow:

- you need a minimum of 7' between the finished floor surface and finished ceiling surface.
- duct work, header beams or anything else permanent that hangs down from the ceiling is allowed to hang down no lower than 6" (I think) below the ceiling.
- bottom plates on the framing need to be pressure treated, rest of framing can be untreated.
- if there is going to be sleeping quarters, you need a separate point of egress other than the stairs going up to the lower level.
- I think framing needs to be an inch off of the foundation walls for breathing space.

- I think you need a dedicated heat source that can maintain the finished area at a minimum temperature of 58 (or maybe 68?) degrees. A/C isn't required.
- tapping into existing heating system might require an upgrade to the system, and not just branching off a new vent or hot water loop

- all NEC codes apply for dwelling areas (non-kitchen, non-bathroom)

Fire Blocking:
this is a big one; there are strict codes about preventing potential fires from spreading behind walls and ceilings.
- I think every cavity between ceiling joists needs to be completely blocked off so it can't get behind the walls (since you have to leave a gap between the foundation and the framed walls, there is a large area behind the framing where flames can run rampant, thus lots of fire blocking is needed.
- I think every feet horizontal along the wall framing needs to have vertical fire blocking connecting the foundation wall to the framing, so that if a fire does get/start behind that section of wall, all of the blocking will help prevent it from spreading laterally across the wall, or up into the ceiling.

Long story short, there are lots of codes to potentially violate in finishing a basement. If you are planning on doing big work, make sure you do it all properly, even though the whole application and multiple inspection process adds numerous delays and headaches to the process.

Good luck!
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Old 06-23-2009, 11:01 PM   #6
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So basically this basement was 40% finished, just imagine one large family room as you come down the stairs, all drywall, all carpet. What I am not satisfied with is the way they did the walls in the basement. The walls against the walls are touching, the wood is right up against the wall and it doesn't look treated to me and they put fiberglass batt insulation between the 2x4 boards, vapor barrier and drywall. What is weird too is that there is no board on the floor, the studs are somehow attached directly to the wall. How could something like this not pass code in the first place, it was probably done 15 years ago or so. Maybe they just did it, I mean this town is small about 3000 people in Wisconsin. So if I am fixing an existing room in a basement I would still need to get a permit? I mean it seems like a hassle for me to do that just because I am fixing what is incorrect in the first place. I am not going to do anything with the ceiling or any of the other walls or ceiling, just the walls against the concrete. My question really is, what constitues needing a permit. If you add or repair a wall in a home you need to get a permit? Do I need one to put down ceramic tile? How about the carpet? I don't know, seems confusing to me, what are the requirements for needing one or not? The other room in the basement is all tongue and groove wood, they just screwed 2x2 wood into the wall and nailed the stuff up.... So if I get an inspector then will he look at what they did in the other room and tell me that has to be re-done or what? Could this inspector just go through the whole basement while he is there and make me re-do mistakes the last homeowner made. Or maybe it was "to code" when they did it, but now its not "to code". Would they still make me fix that stuff???
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Old 06-24-2009, 09:12 AM   #7
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Hello From Fargo, ND

I am going to respond to your first post briefly the method you were looking at pursuing is a very effective method with the extruded on the walls, framing off the extruded an inch with 2x4 framing adding fiberglass insulation faced and then placing the rock or whatever wall covering you chose. Very effective very warm and very water resistant.

Now for your last post

The other posters have covered some essential elements about your project. The intended reason that permits and inspections are required is to prevent situations that you are facing right now. You have come here stating that the project is 40% complete if there would have been a permit the previous individual would have been required to finish it and if they didn't the codes department would have pursued them. The inspector should have noticed that there was no bottom plate and tagged the project during the framing inspection. Also other disasters or misnomers would have been corrected and so now you are left holding the bag.

Getting a permit is your own prerogative however like was stated before if you don't and someone finds out you will or may be liable. I would encourage you to get permits on a project of this magnitude so that you also ensure that you do the work correctly. Many of the inspectors are very easy to work with and will help you get it right. They aren't;t going to design it for you by any means but they will answer questions if you bounce it off of them. Codes also vary so widely from municipality to municipality that it is best to check on the different phases of the project and ensure that you do it correctly and up to code.

Yes, you may need a permit to fix it you might not. Some permits are required for any work to be performed some permits are required if a project involves more than two trades (if you were insulating, framing, sheet rocking and painting you would have 4 trades and therefore you need a permit. Some municipalities do not require a building permit because they are in a town the size of yours and the only people at city hall are Betty the receptionist, Joe the Mayor and John the police chief and entire force however a larger county or town in the state may mandate a couple municipalities not just one. So as far as needing a permit that is for you to determine and as far as what can and can't be done and whether or not you will go get a permit to repair or remodel is also for you to determine. As far as making you fix stuff, that is up to the inspector and yourself to determine. These inspectors are not monsters they are just people doing a job they were hired to do. be on the up and up with them and they will treat you fair.

Take care and be safe!
James D. Van Raden
Owner, Paragon Renovations Moorhead, MN/ Fargo, ND
"Committed to providing the finest renovation services available"
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Old 06-24-2009, 11:37 AM   #8
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I just talked to the person that inspects the buildings in our town. She was very easy going, basically said it was up to me whether I got a permit. She said only if I do any wiring would I really need a permit since the basement is already 40% finished and I'm repairing a wall. She actually suggested that I 2x2" strips of wood and screw them to the wall, then put the rigid foam inbetween the strips and then put up the drywall. She said the 2x4 base on the floor would not allow air to get in so the walls would breathe. Any comments on this, I think at this point I'm not going to get the permit.


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