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Old 12-10-2009, 01:01 PM   #1
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Cold zone in Basement


My house is about 10 years old. My basement extended about 12' beyond the back of my house. From my main floor, I have a patio which sits on top of a flat roof; or basement ceiling.

About 5 years ago, I had a flood from a burst pipe. The exterior wall was repaired with insulation, vapour barrier & drywall. The water line for outside tap ran along the exterior wall, I had shut off valve installed inside my utility room to prevent from bursting in the winter.

During the repair, they inspected the roof insulation & all appeared to be insulated correctly. Despite the new insulation following the repair, the room is still freezing in the winter. The exterior wall that was repaired feels cold to the touch.

I beleive there is a cold zone created from missing insulation/vapour barrier from the original contruction or for some other reason.

As I don't want to rip out all the drywall in the basement, what are my options for having this fixed once & for all? Does anyone offer a non-destructive service to help me diagnose & fix this problem?

PS: I live in the Toronto, Ontario Canada area.

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Old 12-10-2009, 01:13 PM   #2
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Cold zone in Basement


So this area has always been a cold spot?

What type of heat does this area have?

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Old 12-10-2009, 01:21 PM   #3
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Cold zone in Basement


The side wall has always been cold to the touch. Ceiling, back wall are also cold to the touch although, opposite wall feels fine.

I should also mention, the repair extended to include about 2-3 feet of the ceiling drywall as well. All insulation, vapour barrier & drywall was replaced.
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Old 12-10-2009, 01:28 PM   #4
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Cold zone in Basement


Ok.

But you need to have heat put into this area. In order for it to be warm.

Insulation doesn't not stop heat transfer. it only slows it sown. So without a source of heat. that area will be cold/cool.
And the walls will become what ever temp the ground is on the other side.
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Old 12-10-2009, 01:38 PM   #5
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Cold zone in Basement


I should have also mentioned, I have a high-efficiency furnace for heating the entire house including the basement. I have about 5 ducts to the space which includes a 9 x 9 room, bathroom (4 piece) & bedroom (12 x 7). When the furnace is on, the hot air blows into the space so I know the ducts are ok. The furnace is located in the basement utility room aproximately 10'-20' from this space.

So I can enjoy the room in the winter, I had a direct vent, natural gas fireplace installed as well. If the room is not temperature controlled, it gets cold within about 1-2 hours.
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Old 12-10-2009, 02:20 PM   #6
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Cold zone in Basement


Is there a return in this area.

May just never had enough supply in there to begin with.

Basements are easy to heat. But, when heated by a single zone system with the furnace controlled by a thermostat on another floor. They tend to be hard to keep at temp.
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Old 12-10-2009, 02:28 PM   #7
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Cold zone in Basement


I would get a laser temperature gauge, they're about $30 US dollars. Read different temperature readings to get a map of the room (and compared to other rooms). http://www.google.com/products?q=las...l=en&scoring=p and the kind that looks like a radar gun.

Is the "cold wall" heavily exposed? Concrete has an R-Value of 0.08/inch so the typical 10" thick concrete foundation has an R-Value of just R0.8 however codes don't account for that. They say things like foundation walls should be insulated to R19 or some such with the assumption the wall has just the very tops exposed. A walkout basement wall or heavily exposed to the outside wall meets code but should be insulated much more.

The rim joist area may not have been sealed, it is notoriously leaky so you may have a big air leak in that area.

Is the barrier on the inside of the wall? That is #1 do not do in all basements (and I've seen posters actually recommend it here ) as if basement walls are no different than the upper floors. Here's the difference, upper floor walls can dry to the interior OR exterior. You can pick one way or the other (typically people put the barrier on the inside on upper floors so it dries to the outside). Basements need to dry to the interior, it's not possible for them to dry to the exterior they're buried! And the interior must dry else you will create a science experiment gone bad in the stud wall. The worst possible thing is to create a "gap" between a typical foundation wall and your stud wall, insulate the stud wall (with mineral wool or fiberglass), put a vapor barrier up over it and then drywall (typical Canadian scenario unfortunately). It's not practical to believe you can seal it perfectly every pinhole can let in up to a cup of water/season, the gap behind the wall creates convection currents, air flows towards the wall where it gets warmed and rises sucking out moisture then it falls back against the cold foundation wall and drops losing the moisture on the bottom so you end up with totally wet studs, bottom plates, and insulation on the bottom and mold/mildew/and water which will kill any insulation value let alone you'll start to get a smell, and the vapor barrier will not let the space dry... with a vapor barrier on the inside it's like putting a stud wall in a very well sealed plastic bag and you keep adding water to it. Nothing good can come of it. Let us hope this is not you

Like the above, was wallpaper on this wall? Wallpaper is another no-no of basements it's a barrier as well and will create similar situation to the above... prevent drying.

With a laser thermometer you can measure the temp at the base of the wall vs. the top. If it's noticeably different the likely cuplrit is your wall has condensation/water buildup on the lower half short circuiting coldness and killing the R-Value. Likely culprit is a barrier on the inside or the facings are not letting the area dry faster than water/moisture is penetrating. Since this type of question is frequently asked barriers in basements belong either directly against the foundation or not all. Directly against the foundation because your foundation is perfectly happy staying wet all the time but not anything else inside or no barrier at all and hope your facings dry faster than the foundation lets moisture in. The best is XPS foam insulation adhered & fastened to the foundation directly (it doesn't allow water to pass but lets the wall dry to the interior at a very slow rate) and then importantly put a stud wall over that with unfaced insulation and use latex paint (not wall paper or oil based paint). The stud-wall, drywall, and latex paint will dry faster than the XPS foam will let moisture pass and it lets the wall still dry to the interior. Just don't overdo it on the XPS foam insulation use no more than 2" of XPS foam and even at that only in zones 5 or colder which I think you qualify. Since every pinhole = up to a cup of water/season all joints of the XPS should be sealed, and taped with tuck tape (a great product only found in Canada). Then (as long as you didn't have flooding beforehand) you'll end up with a basement that is insulated, the condensation point will be inside the foam (where it is harmless = no condensation issues), and still allow drying. The thinner the XPS you choose, the more important dehumidification (but again do not overdo XPS foam thickness, 2" in zone 5 or colder only and if you really want drying stick to 3/4" or less).

Last edited by Piedmont; 12-10-2009 at 03:13 PM.
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Old 12-10-2009, 03:58 PM   #8
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Cold zone in Basement


Thanks for you explanation.

The wall exterior wall is made up of 12" concrete brick. The wall is below the ground and has tar & heavy dimpled rubber or hard plastic cover. Inside is 2x6" with appropriate fiberglass insulation for the 16" OC. (not sure R value). There is a heavy black paper (not sure product) between wood & brick. Also, vapour barrier sealed with tuct tape eh!.

Since you mentioned the rim joists, I recall during the repair that since the ducts ran thru that area, it was not touched.

Prior to fixing the leaky flat roof over the patio this summer, it damaged the drywall downstairs. I am planning to replace that section although, I will have them check the rim joist for insulation while it's open. (I am not handy - but don't mind paying to have it done right!)

Thanks for the tip on the temperature gauge, I will be sure to pick one up!

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