Finishing a basement is one of the most popular home improvement projects going.
It’s easy to understand why there’s no simpler and more efficient way to add living space to your home. There’s nothing quite like a bright cozy comfortable basement to improve your lifestyle, particularly when you design it to look like Ashton Kutcher’s family basement.
The Trouble with the status quo
Now, it’s true not every basement finished in the usual ways can result in these problems but – why take the chance? Even many contractors don’t realize how inefficient and risky it is to finish basements the way it’s always been done – with stud frame walls.
The following information is something I wish distressed homeowners had before they finished their basements in the usual way. With stud frame walls and carpet and underlay applied directly to the concrete floors it’s all about a faster easier way to create a durable energy-efficient, finished basement space using the system that I find very impressive.
The trouble is in my experience that traditional basement finishing systems use stud frame walls. Fiber insulation and vapour barriers can cause problems. They can set the stage for hidden mold growth, bad energy performance and even low indoor air quality throughout the rest of your home.
So let me show you exactly why I like this approach then you can decide for yourself if it makes sense for your basement-finishing project.
The main problem with fiber insulated stud frame walls and basements is that they are so vulnerable to water. That could either be liquid water or water vapour. In fact, it’s not unusual for insulation to get damp and sometimes even wet. It’s just like sealing a used bath towel in a plastic bag.
Mold and mildew are inevitable in situations like that. Even seemingly dry basements can allow water vapour to pass through masonry foundation walls, collecting inside sealed stud frame wall cavities during warm weather.
Carpet on a concrete floor is definitely not much better in winter either. Besides being hard and cold to your feet during winter, carpet underlay applied directly to a concrete floor can encourage condensation during humid summer weather.
A Different Approach: Dry Core!
There’s no question in my mind that we need to finish basements differently than we do now and from what I’ve seen, wall systems and engineered subfloor systems offer the best approach for creating warm comfortable and durable basement spaces.
SmartCore Wall and Subfloor System
The dry core smart wall and subfloor system that you see here is one option that impresses me. It not only delivers excellent energy performance but it goes up much more quickly than traditional basement finishing methods.
Quick Installation Walkthrough:
The dry core installation process begins with 2 x 2′ sub floor tiles that interlock on top of concrete floors.
interlocking 2×2 Floor Panels
Bonded to the underside of these tiles is a high-density textured plastic layer that creates an air space above the concrete. This makes for a warm dry condensation-proof arrangement that sits on top of any kind of concrete floor.
Sub Floor Wooden Tiles Underside
Carpet laminate hardwood flooring vinyl ceramic tiles, even stone can be applied on top or you can leave the panels bare if you like. Besides providing airspace, the black plastic membrane allows for a small amount of leaked water to drain away harmlessly if need be.
Subfloor tiles like these can be cut with any conventional table saw, jigsaw or hand-held circular saw.
Then, a mallet is used to interlock the tiles so the interlocking tongue and groove edges come together. The dry core smart wall system replaces studs and fiber insulation and goes up on top of the subfloor that has already gone down.
It’s made of 3 1/2 inch thick, expanded polystyrene foam with interlocking OSB edges and half-inch drywall factory-bonded to the interior face of the panels. Wall panels like these deliver R16 of insulating value. They are also highly resistant to moisture because they contain no sealed wall cavities.
If your foundation is out of line or wonky, that’s not an issue because the dry core panels never touch the foundation wall at all! 2×2 lumber, fastened to the subfloor at the bottom and the joists up on the basement sealing provide anchor points for the panels so the wonky, wavy shape that is so common in foundation walls doesn’t show through on your finished basement walls.
Special dry core panels are available with cutouts for electrical boxes for light switches and plug outlets. Pre-cut channels in the foam allow wires to be strung through the panels, either during installation or afterwards.
Ready-to-install components are available for completing the outside corners and the factory bonded half-inch drywall acts as its own vapour barrier when the joints are filled and the whole surface is painted. Besides offering a fast and simple installation process, panels subfloor systems offer excellent energy performance and they’re not vulnerable in the same way the stud frame walls are.
Just be prepared about a lot of well-meaning advice from some professionals who don’t yet realize that when it comes to basement finishing, new methods like these make a whole lot of sense.