No basement subfloor only equals disappointment

Montreal Canadiens forward Phillip Danault (24) gets hit in the face by the puck in front of Arizona Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta (32) during the second period at the Bell Centre, on Feb. 10, 2020. ERIC BOLTE-USA TODAY SPORTS

With the subject on the table being basement floors, let’s continue with our discussion regarding basement subfloors.

A basement floor, regardless of your choice of finishing materials, will always be better with a subfloor underneath.

Basically, the basement subfloor serves three purposes. One, it adds thermal value, deflecting the dampness of the concrete, while creating a warmer walking surface. Two, subfloors cushion what is a totally unforgivable concrete floor, creating a more comfortable surface to walk or play on. And three, the dimpled or foam underlay membranes will negate the effects of a mild to medium water infiltration issue.

Essentially, the basement floor experience is similar to rooting for a Canadian-based hockey team as it jostles for a playoff position. Eventually, they will disappoint us.

If you’re a Habs fan, this means brooding through the month of February, waiting for that elusive blockbuster trade that’ll either boost us into contention, or bury us in the league’s basement, all while a team like the Arizona Coyotes – where the average citizen of Glendale couldn’t distinguish a hockey puck from a stale bagel – still manages to be blessed with a team in playoff contention.

If you’re the owner of a just-renovated basement space, disappointment will usually arrive during the spring thaw, where foundation walls with a perfectly dry history, somehow and by some ill fate, develop a few cracks, with this breach leading to a puddle in the games room just deep enough to bury the soles of your slippers.

However, if there’s an underlay in position, mild flooding will effectively stream through the dimpled underlay membrane, making its way to a floor drain or sump pump well located in the service room.

Last week we talked about the dimpled membrane/ridged foam/plywood strategy, or basically what is the ultimate in basement floor underlays, due to this system providing a deeper air space to accommodate any moisture issues, along with a superior thermal value, providing a warmer floor surface. Another bonus to this three-ply system is that the rolled dimpled membrane, and 4’x8’-sized foam and plywood sheeting, effectively conform to any slight dips or irregularities in the concrete floor.

If you’re considering the dimpled/foam/plywood option, be sure to choose Dorken’s Delta floor dimpled membrane, which is grey in colour, and avoid saving a few bucks by opting for a dimpled foundation membrane, which is usually black.

Besides the difference in colour, the floor and foundation membranes are identical, which may entice homeowners to go with the cheaper foundation product. However, the Delta floor product is made with virgin PVC material, with this pure material format eliminating the VOC (volatile organic compound) element.

Foundation dimpled membranes are meant to be buried in the soil, and as a result are the recycled by-products of anything from gas “jerry” cans to toxic waste containers.

So, and because suffering stomach or headache issues due to the off-gassing of such a product, especially after your basement’s finally completed, would certainly be lousy, with the $50 saved offering little comfort at this point, stick with a proper flooring membrane.

However terrific, the three-ply system may constrict your available headroom, eating up about two inches of floor-to-ceiling space. So, if a two-inch thick subfloor is going to bring the taller people in your home perilously close to the ceiling’s ductwork, you may want to consider an alternative subfloor system such as Barricade’s foam-based subfloor panel (R3.2 value), or Barricade’s Dricore air-plus, with a plastic dimpled bottom (R1.7 value).

The advantages to the Barricade products is they come in a one-inch thick, all-in-one (plywood and membrane combined) 2’x2’-sized sheet, which is certainly easier to carry down basement stairs than full-sized sheets of foam and plywood. Plus, these Barricade sheets require no nailing or screwing down into the concrete, and simply fit tight together (no glue required) with the aid of a mallet and tapping block.

Next week, more on basement flooring.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

A subfloor for your basement

Engineered flooring shown over a basement subfloor. STEVE MAXWELL/POSTMEDIA NETWORK
If you’re finishing your basement, whether it be for it to serve as an exercise room, play area for the kids, or simply as a means of getting the TV downstairs, all in an attempt to create a more peaceful living atmosphere on the main level, you’re going to need flooring.<

Options?

Other than basements, or essentially below-grade (ground-level) installments, being off limits to solid hardwood flooring and some engineered hardwoods, mostly any type of flooring can be installed in a basement. However, your first brainstorming efforts regarding the flooring should be dedicated to the underlay materials, or basically what’s going to be installed under your preferred flooring material.

Because concrete basement floors are naturally cold and damp (which is why solid wood products don’t do so well when installed overtop) homeowners with eight or more feet of floor-to-ceiling headroom may want to consider a dimpled membrane/ridged insulation/plywood combination of underlay products.

Essentially, everybody benefits from a warm floor.

If you’re not sure about the warmth benefits of ridged insulation, or question the power of its reflective energy, visit your local building supply centre and ask to see a sheet of ridged pink insulation, commonly referred to as code-board, or Johns Manville’s (JM) ridged polyiso panel, often called RX board. Request that the sales clerk lay the sheet down on the floor.

If for this test case the panel in question is the JM board (which has a slightly superior R-factor over its competition due to an aluminum coating on one side), ask the reflective aluminum side be facing up. Next, calmly remove your shoes, remain on what’s most likely a concrete or tile floor for a few moments, then, gently step onto the sheet. If your wearing socks on your feet, no problem, the fact that sock material does have some insulating properties will only slightly skew the test. For the purpose of demonstration, bare feet would actually serve best, but unless you’re wearing sandals, you may not want to be the designate of a call to security regarding a disrobing occurring in aisle three.

While in the act of stepping onto the sheet, the salesperson may motion towards you in a somewhat guarded manner, offering a hesitant, “I’m— I’m sorry ma’am, but we don’t really allow our customers to walk on…” However, the clerk’s urgency will be to no avail, because within seconds the reflective and insulating properties of the ridged foam will be warming the bottoms of your feet. Remain on the sheet for about 30 seconds.

By this point, the junior sales clerk will have most probably left the scene to seek the aid of management, or possibly the in-store security. Either way, you’ve now got about 45 seconds to complete the test, because in 60 seconds you’re likely to be escorted off the premises.

So, step back off the sheet and stand on the concrete floor (still in your socks or bare feet) for about 10 seconds, thereby experiencing that cool, damp feeling again, then, step back onto the sheet for another 10 seconds and, ahh— feel that warm, comfortable sensation of heat returning to your body.

With test trial “ridged warmth” now complete and proven successful, you’ll have about 25 seconds to pull on your socks and tie your shoes, then hastily make your way over to plumbing, or the nearest unrelated sales area.

This best scenario basement subfloor option would have you first laying out a roll of Dorken’s Delta basement floor barrier (or an equivalent) directly on your concrete floor, dimpled side facing the concrete. Next, place a layer of either three-quarter-inch (R-5) or one-inch (R6.5) JM ridged polyiso overtop, using a roll of red sheeting tape to hold the sheets together.

Then, install sheets of either five-eights-inch or three-quarter-inch tongue-and-groove plywood, or OSB (oriented strand board) overtop. Use tapered tapcon screws to secure the plywood, which must penetrate the concrete by at least three quarters of an inch.

Next week, more on basement floors.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

How to create and sustain basement life

Last week, we discussed the importance of ensuring your basement space is capable of remaining dry, essentially step one in the creation of a new living area.

Basically, your concrete walls will need to be impermeable to water and moisture entry, or minimally have some type of system in place to deal with water penetration should your foundation be susceptible to such occurrences. Without a dry environment, your basement is best to remain as storage space, and an area to hone one’s slap shot.

With step one secured, let’s move on to step two, making this space livable.

Besides some of the obvious necessities of life (oxygen, nutrition, beer fridge, and the such), living in a basement will be a whole lot more pleasant with two key features— them being headroom, and natural light.

Headroom is especially important, and can present quite the challenge if the original builder had no foresight of this area accommodating life for anybody other than those under the age of eight, or cats. With furnace ductwork and plumbing pipes travelling under the joist system, and/or support beams being spaced at 12- to 14-foot intervals, trying to locate a pool table, or even a safe walking area for those with the option of careers in basketball, can be a problem.

If budgetary constraints are nonexistent, then the answer to mechanical height issues can be simple, either dig the basement down two feet deeper, or raise the home two feet. However, this could cost you in the neighborhood of $100,000, which might be a little much if you’re simply looking for a spot to accommodate your stairmaster and a few dumbbells.

So, let’s look at re-routing the ductwork and plumbing. Our goal will be to remove it completely from the common living area, or minimally push these mechanical systems out towards the walls, creating ample headroom in the middle of the room.

These changes will require the insight of a professional heating/cooling specialist, and a plumber. Air can be pushed up, down, and around, so the re-routing of ductwork is usually possible. Poop and water, on the other hand, rely on gravity, and have to flow downward, at a specific slope, which might make the re-routing of your plumbing pipes a little more challenging.

Regardless, show the mechanical professionals where you’d like your living space to be, and have them work on a strategy.

Next, basements always seem a little less like basements when you have natural light. Plus, if people are going to be hanging out in your basement, or if you have teenagers in the home, who might be having friends over, maybe staying up past your 9:30 p.m. bedtime, and maybe sleeping over, then for all these reasons, and certainly if there’s a planned bedroom in the basement, you’re going to want a basement space that’s egress compliant.

Egress means ‘exit’, which in the case of a finished basement, is explained in the building code as an easy means of exiting a space in the case of emergency.

Most stairways leading up to the homes main floor inevitably direct you towards the kitchen, which unfortunately is the place where most home fires start. After first being awakened by a smoke alarm, then a whole lot of shouting, and while in a state of panic, the basement dweller’s first thoughts of survival should not involve covering themselves with a blanket, climbing up the stairs, making their way through smoke and fire, basically following a route to which only a trained firefighter could survive, until they reach the front door.

What they should be doing is racing towards the egress window, located only seconds away, flipping it up, and safely exiting the home.

Because older homes often have the sliding type of basement window, and are buried in window wells on the exterior that further impede the escape process, the minimum spacing for safe exiting is often not met.

Next week, creating a safe basement environment with proper egress windows.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Step No. 1 to finish your basement

At some point in the life of homeowners the idea of turning an existing basement, which up to this point has served the home as little more than a giant closet for junk and seasonal apparel, into real living space, will cross the kitchen table.

Strategically, the finishing of a basement makes sense. You’re heating and cooling 1,200 square feet of area that’s presently housing maybe three key elements to the home: them being the furnace, freezer, and beer fridge, and not necessarily in that order.

Which leaves about 1,100 square feet dedicated to mostly junk, so we’re talking a pretty lousy return on your home investment.

As a result, it would make sense to turn such an existing storage space, or a portion thereof, into something of real living value, like an exercise area, big-screen TV room, an extra bedroom or two, or simply a play area for the kiddies.

However, and logistically, there may be challenges.

So, before ordering your Peloton exercise bike and investing in series five of the buns of steel fitness videos, let’s make sure your basement is ready to be finished.

First, has water ever infiltrated your basement in the form of moisture spots or pools of water on the floor, or even minor flooding? If the answer to this question is either sometimes, only in the spring or fall, or simply well, it’s happened once, then officially list this project as a non-starter.

Those persons finishing their basements must understand of all the frustrations you’re bound to face regarding the finishing of this basement, be it mechanical systems, the permit process, arguments regarding the location of your free-standing popcorn machine, and discussions as to whether or not your chaise-lounger should include the hot dog-warming option; none of these stresses will compare to the heartbreak of water infiltration, or worse, a flooding.

Until you do what it takes to ensure the status of your basement is officially regarded as bone dry, moving forward with this project would be extremely risky. Therefore, check the concrete basement walls for cracks, and any areas of previous water infiltration.

Do-it-yourself, crack-injection kits are available to solve minor fissure issues, while moisture-sealing paints, such as Zinser’s Watertight product, do well to solve concrete walls that feel moist, or that tend to condensate during certain periods of the year. Try these first-aid type products first, then wait a few weeks to gauge their success.

If you achieve dry, congratulations, you might be ready to move on.

If, on the other hand, there’s anything more serious than this going on, such as a very obvious wall crack, water infiltration at the point where the wall meets your concrete floor, or sump pump issues, then the hiring of an experienced professional will need to be your next call.

After having succeeded in creating a dry basement, the next step will involve strategizing the use of space. Invite a favourite contractor or home designer over to help you with this challenge. And, it will be a challenge.

Essentially, you’ll be attempting to compartmentalize your basement into four sections: them being living space, mechanical/furnace room, workshop area, and storage.

Getting rid of some of the junk, moving boxes and shelving out of the way, and a general clean-up, all in an effort to create floor space, will be helpful start to this evaluation. However, the real issues often lie in what’s above.

Some homes have the luxury of what’s referred to as an open-web joist design, which allows the plumbing, electrical, and furnace ductwork to travel basically unimpeded throughout the basement, while not affecting the headroom— now that’s smart building. Or, you can have a home similar to ours, where the original owner had all the foresight of a fruit fly, having all the mechanical and plumbing fixtures fly under the 2×10 joists, providing a basement space where I have to duck every 10 steps in order to avoid concussion.

Next week, basement planning.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Your options for exterior painting

When it comes time to sealing your treated lumber deck, you’re going to have four options.

They are; opaque stain, semi-transparent stain, exterior porch and floor paint, or a clear finish. A fifth alternative, the option to do absolutely nothing to the wood, alternatively leaving it turn to a weathered grey over time, wasn’t mentioned because doing nothing isn’t really an option.

Permitting a deck to go grey is a choice, or a lifestyle. Are grey, weathered decks the more natural way to go? Absolutely, in the same way pain, suffering, and ultimate death is natural. Can grey, weathered decks be endearing, adding charm and maturity to one’s backyard, while gently blending into the landscape?

No.

I’ve been greying over the past five years. It has made me neither endearing, nor charming, and certainly not any more mature. What the grey has done is make me look old, with people asking me if I feel OK, or commenting to me that I’ve gotten smaller.

So, with the list of upsides of allowing a deck to naturally turn grey, equalling the many positive aspects of arthritis and impending knee surgery, let’s review these sealing options.

Clear sealers basically buy you time, similar to a reprieve from the governor if you’re on death row, and are fine if you need six-to-12 months to decide on a colour scheme. Because treated lumber has transitioned from the former green colour to brown, people will sometimes choose a clear finish in order to preserve this rather favourable, factory-brown tint.

The brown tint added to the treatment process is simply colouring, and not a true stain, so it’s time is limited. Clear sealers will help prevent your decking planks from absorbing water, but will eventually succumb to the elements, allowing your decking to begin the greying process by year three.

So, with clear finishes providing a two- to four-year timeline of colour protection, at some point you’re going to have to paint or stain.

‘Porch and Floor’ latex paint will be your paint option. Choosing a paint over a stain is generally due to past history, basically relating to what you, your father, or your grandfather might have used in the past. If you’ve had success with a paint, you’re more than likely to choose a paint again.

Paints came before stains, so there’s still a following who will choose to paint their decks.  Otherwise, choosing a stain, instead of a paint, has been the trend for several years now.

Paints vs. stains? Paints have a tougher, more resilient finish, and provide a more brilliant reflection of colour than a stain. However, paints (even the satin finishes) are significantly more slippery when wet, which is probably the leading reason for its general demise as an exterior deck finish.

So, if your deck or porch is covered, remaining mostly dry due to being sheltered from the rain, then a porch and floor paint can be a good choice. Otherwise, an open deck would best be served by a more slip-resistant semi-transparent or opaque stain.

Semi-transparent stains will require you first sanding your decking planks.

In lieu of sanding, a lot of people choose to pressure wash their decks, which gives the homeowner the immediate satisfaction of clean as this pressured water pulverizes the deck’s surface. Pressure washers are great for the homeowner because you get clean and quick results, without the back pain. However, these machines are lousy for your decking planks because they tear up the surface fibres of the wood, and effectively saturate the lumber with water, rendering it totally unsuitable for accepting a stain in the immediate future.

So, if you’re not up to the physical challenge of sanding your deck, or would rather a solid colour scheme, as opposed to seeing the wood grain, choose a solid stain. Solid stains are an easy choice because they allow you to re-coat every few years with little preparation.

Next week, giving Sylvester Stallone’s, midnight-black hair colour a shot.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

It’s not like clearing the bases

File No.327, titled “over-scrubbed,” has us examining the case regarding a Miss Sandra Scrub, aka the “scrubber,” due to her position of batting cleanup (fourth in the lineup) on her ladies’ ‘Suds and Duds Laundromat’ softball team.

With a slugging percentage (SLG) of .917, superior to Major League Baseball’s Babe Ruth and current SLG record holder Barry Bonds, the scrubber’s reputation of clearing the bases has become so renowned, the streets surrounding Suds and Duds field often lay vacant during the Tuesday night ladies’ league, due to local motorists fearing another home-run ball shattering their windshields.

Unfortunately, the scrubber’s proficiency in cleaning up whatever teammates were hanging around on the bases, has led to rather over exuberant behaviour regarding her kitchen and living room floors. Essentially, our Miss Scrub has been cleaning her ceramic and hardwoods with the same diligence used to clean runners off the bases.

Having a heavy stick when batting cleanup is no doubt a good thing. Using this same heavy manner to clean your floors, well— that’s not so good.

A most recent episode had Sandra becoming frustrated with a cooking oil stain on her recently purchased porcelain tile. When the yellowish blob refused to wipe up cleanly with a dry cloth, due in part to the tile having an anti-skid type of texture, the scrubber’s first thought was to solve this annoyance with a blow torch.

After a moment of reflection, she instead reached for the bottle of CLR cleaner under the sink. Miss Scrub, being a heavy hitter, doesn’t just wipe up a floor stain, she nails it out of the park.

Unfortunately, in the world of floor care, continued use of too aggressive a cleaner will often cause collateral damage to the floor. After a few weeks of general cleaning, Sandra noticed the finish on her porcelain tile becoming rather dull, and with this being a relatively new floor, called the supplier to issue a complaint.

As far as the scrubber was concerned, she had purchased a ceramic tile of lesser quality, sealed with a finish that had simply worn off, with general stains or spillages now being more difficult to remove. In hindsight, Miss Scrub would have probably done less damage to her porcelain had she gone with her original thought of using a blow torch to clean up spills.

Pre-finished hardwood, ceramic, and vinyl floors are coated with several coats of sealer that are intended to provide the homeowner with 10-to-15 years of solid, reflective surface. In the case of PVC luxury vinyl floors and stone composite floorings, consumers can expect those finishes to last 25-plus years.

However, these potential years of finish can be reduced to a few months by using the wrong cleaning products.

CLR is a fine cleaner, but like the letters represent, is designed to clean off calcium, lime, or rust – some pretty stubborn components – and not chocolate, linguine, and red wine.

How do you know a cleaning product might be too harsh for your floor? When the fine print warns you against getting product on your skin or clothing, and failure to seek immediate medical attention after simply inhaling or ingesting the product may result in death.

When it comes to floor cleaners, I recommend people look for products with the GreenGuard symbol, along with the not-so-intimidating picture of baby feet walking on a floor. This, as opposed to those products with skull and cross bones, or exploding canister as their claim to fame.

As to floor cleaning strategies? One, purchase cleaners expressively designed to clean your specific floor. And two, when purchasing flooring, don’t go home without the cleaners and maintenance products as well. Otherwise, you’re likely to pull out the CLR, or Mr. Clean.

In Miss Scrub’s case, the finish on her porcelain tile has nearly been completely removed by non-flooring type cleaners, leaving her with two choices, either have the tiles re-glazed, or replaced in their entirety.

With that decision pending, case No. 327 was closed.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Not your usual floating floor

Case no. 822, titled “don’t float me,” examines the flooring issues experienced by a Mr. Gerard Boyance, aka “Flottant” (the Floater), due to the pronunciation of Gerard’s last name sounding much like the term buoyancy, and Flottant’s propensity to wear soft-soled loafers.

Besides liking comfort, Gerard is also a big fan of those products that are easy to maintain, which led him to choose a vinyl “click” flooring for his kitchen and living room renovation.

The past 12 years had Gerard enjoying a 12-millimeter laminate, or composite type of floating floor, which over time had lost some of its sheen due to regular wear and tear.

Choosing a PVC vinyl click floor for this renovation was an easy choice for the Floater due to the toughness of the PVC finish, it’s very realistic wood colouring, and the fact PVC products are extremely resistant to moisture. Those features make it the perfect floor for Gerard, who enjoys cooking, and his four cats, who sometimes create their own mess during episodes of territorial marking.

Being handy in the ways of general finishing, and having installed his laminate/composite drop-click flooring years before, Gerard felt comfortable installing this new PVC click flooring himself.

Following the basic rules of click or tongue-in-groove type floorings, Flottant began installing the PVC flooring in the usual manner, with the tongue edge facing the wall, while using shims around the perimeter of the room to provide the necessary half-inch expansion and contraction spacing required between wall and flooring product.

Gerard’s expertise and proficiency in handling the click flooring allowed him to finish laying the product within a few hours, with a shoe molding installed afterwards to cover the required perimeter spacing.

With the job completed, Gerard proudly floated over his newly laid floor, touring back and forth from living room to kitchen with his Bona spray mop, making sure things looked just perfect for his hosting of an upcoming meeting of the bridge bunnies, a local group of card-playing seniors, that afternoon. After a successfully hosting of the bunnies, where Gerard only had to deal with some mild dramatics due to Thelma’s questionable card counting and Ernie’s habit of littering the table with cookie crumbs, the floater was once again manning the Bona mop.

This time around, the Bona wasn’t sliding so freely over the floor, and upon closer examination, Gerard was blown out of his loafers to discover the planks of flooring had begun to separate. A call to the flooring manufacturer had a company representative on site a few days later. Two steps onto the floor, the sales rep paused, momentarily shifted his weight from side to side, then, proceeded forward once again.

“I think I know what the problem is,” the rep stated matter-of-factly.

In an attempt to transfer the cushioning action of his existing floating laminate floor to that of his new PVC vinyl floor, Gerard chose not to remove the existing foam underlay. That was a mistake. Perhaps it was the term float that confused Gerard.

Unfortunately, regular laminate foams are too thick, and soft, for the thinner PVC floorings, and will cause the PVC joints to work excessively. PVC vinyl clicks and LVT butt-edge floorings don’t need to be glued down, so they do indeed float.

However, they must be laid directly on a solid substrate such as concrete or plywood.

Is there an underlay foam suitable for PVC vinyl click and LVT vinyl floors, offering some comfort and sound deadening value? Yes— look for a thin, high-density, rubberized matting made especially for vinyl flooring.

Solution to Gerard’s dilemma?

The PVC flooring will need to be carefully un-clicked and set aside, the old foam tossed out, with the vinyl click re-installed over the plywood substrate, or the aforementioned rubber matting.

Certainly a pain in the butt for our Gerard “Flottant” Boyance, but unlike most flooring cases, far from a total loss.

Case no. 822 closed.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Solving the water mystery in your basement

This is were water from the weeping tile comes in and were the sump pump is submerged. It’s good practice to have a backup pump installed as well POSTMEDIA FILES

Today we continue our discussion regarding the mystery of basement water, basically asking the questions, where does it come from? And, how do we possibly control it?

Our case study will examine the finished living space of retired crushed-ice salesman, Sam “Slushy” Slushworth, who unfortunately has been spending most of his hours filling the clothes hamper with wet socks due to a number of repeated soakers.

Flooding is lousy, and when it occurs, is best handled by property restoration professionals. They have the pumps, hoses, and drying equipment to return your basement area back to dry in as little time as possible. Getting to dry within a day or two of a flooding is key to avoiding severe damage and mould. Flooding similar to Mr. Slushworth’s case is more of a pain in the butt, but still costly, although most would view the loss of Sam’s 1970s-era orange carpeting as divine intervention to a decorating choice long overdue for renewal.

Because basement floods will often lead to a total loss of flooring, furniture, drywall, and essentially everything except the suspended ceiling tiles and light fixtures, there are strategies to help avoid catastrophe.

One, if you’re dependent on a sump pump to keep things dry, have your local plumber install a second (or back-up pump) in the well. This second pump will be water-driven, as opposed to relying on electrical power. So, if there’s ever a power outage, or the primary pump simply jams due to an influx of granular matter, your basement investment isn’t lost to a malfunctioning $199 pump.

Those homeowners without sump pumps should consider using a dimpled membrane or 2’x2’ dimpled subfloor panel, as opposed to a simple six-millimeter plastic, underneath their chosen flooring.

A dimpled membrane creates a half-inch air space between the concrete floor and the flooring, allowing any water seepage to flow under the floor, depositing in a drain placed in an adjoining storage area or furnace room.

With the carpet removed, and the water stain clearly visible on the concrete floor, Slushy was able to trace back the water infiltration to a spot near the base of the finished wall.

So, is the mystery solved? Are we to simply cut out a narrow strip of drywall, pull back the insulation, and repair what should be a clearly visible crack in the concrete?

Oh, if Slushy could only be so lucky.

Although there exists a one per cent chance the water on the concrete floor is being fed by a crack in the foundation wall directly above it, 99 per cent of the time, water ends up travelling a distance, led by gravity and steered by obstructions, until it presents itself through a gap in the 2×4 framing.

So, if there’s no crack to be found directly above the point at which water is entering the room, is Mr. Slushworth to completely dismantle his drywall and framing in a frantic attempt to find the leak?

Perhaps, but, if this is a first-time occurrence, let’s avoid gutting the basement for now, and instead look at remedying any possible weaknesses in the water-management system outside.

If there’s a crack in your basement’s concrete wall, the repairing and patching of this issue is best done from the exterior.

There are certainly injection-type materials and hydraulic cement compounds that strategically allow the homeowner to attack water infiltration from the inside, but stopping water before it breaches the concrete is best.

Unfortunately, with our propensity to attach decks to our homes, install garden beds, lay interlocking paving stones and pour asphalt driveways directly against our foundation walls, essentially making our concrete foundations as inaccessible as possible, we’re left with either having to destroy our outdoor efforts, or make a mess of our beloved finished basement, in order to find that illusive crack.

Hence the importance of properly sealing a foundation, whether it be new or old, before any serious landscaping action happens.

Next week, managing the water runoff.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Avoiding a Foolish Decision

29 BM? C Parker3 Nancy cc-cataloged cc-cataloged SUE REEVE / LONDON FREE PRESS

Spring can be a time for foolish behaviour.

We can foolishly fall in love. We can foolishly root for one of our Canadian based hockey teams to make it into the second round of the NHL playoffs. And, we can foolishly buy a home.

Time will soften a heartbreak, and even though the nights and hours invested in watching your team crash during the playoffs essentially forfeited your viewing of “Game of Thrones” finale season, the re-runs will still be pretty good. But, invest in a home that soon proves to be nothing more than a money pit?

Well, not only will you experience continued heartbreak, and time wasted searching for home remedies, but you’ll likely come face to face with financial disaster, successfully completing the foolish behaviour trifecta.

There are many factors and emotions that can sway people into buying a home, making it almost impossible to compile a list of do’s and don’ts regarding what makes for a good home, or a solid investment. Basically, the bottom line is, “know what you’re getting into”. This can only be accomplished by gathering information.

If your search for home details reveal a basement that floods every March 21st, plumbing that flows well enough in June, but not so good in January, and a roof that only leaks when the rains blow in from the east, but you’re still sold on the joint because the pond in the backyard reminds you of summers spent feeding the ducks at Gramma’s house, then your signing was at least based on the fact you were well informed.

Basically, ‘location’ is what most often drives the value of a home, almost regardless of the home’s condition. So, if you had to follow one real estate ‘safety net’ rule of thumb that would limit your financial risk, you can rarely go wrong buying the worst house on the best street.

Any deviation from this general rule and all bets are off. First and foremost, if there’s a home that’s of interest to you, be sure to either have it checked by a certified home inspector or be sure to specify in the home buyer’s contract that agreeing to purchase the home will be dependent on the home inspection meeting your expectations as the buyer.

Home inspections may vary in price due to the size of the home, but whatever the cost, it’ll be far less than the surprise investment of remedying moisture issues and mold in your child’s bedroom, or a crack in the sunroom’s concrete floor, that all went unnoticed until three months into your purchase.

Regardless of a home inspectors experience and familiarity with the home construction biz, all they can judge and comment on is what is visible. Unfortunately, home inspectors aren’t permitted to pull back the carpet to verify for rot or remove a piece of window casing to confirm the existence of foam insulation around the frame. So, as the buyer, your third or fourth set of eyes will be key to gathering intelligence.

First, know the age of the home your buying, or if it’s been renovated, the age of the components. Walking into a time-warp of a house that contains a different colour of carpet in every room, and re-runs of the Brady Bunch playing on the 26” Sony Trinitron, could be a sign that nothing much has changed in 25-30 years. In this case, the home’s cabinetry, light fixtures, as well as the furnace and cooling systems, will all be due for replacement. Next, ask for an ownership history of the house.

If the home has had several 1-3 year tenants, this could be a sign that this home has several issues. So, inspect this place thoroughly.

Finally, if there have been renovations, where are the work permits? People complain about the permit process, but I tell ya, there’s no better, or more powerful proof that you’ve renovated your place right, than by showing a potential buyer you’ve followed the building code.

Good home shopping.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Dealing with water’s mysterious appearance

Dimpled plastic membrane that can be applied to help direct water away from your foundation and into your weeping tile. VITALIY HALENOV / GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

On Nov. 22, 1963, former marine sharpshooter Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at a motorcade from a sixth floor window in Dallas, Texas.

Regardless of the fact his target was moving, and possessing a mail-order rifle procured only months earlier, two out of the three shots are direct hits, instantly killing then-President John F. Kennedy. The degree of difficulty and circumstances relating to the assassination bring forth theories of a conspiracy, with even the possibility of a second shooter.

On June 3, 1934, the drilling and blasting relating to the construction of Highway A82 along the coast of Loch Ness, disturb a sleeping water monster from the depths of the loch, enabling London surgeon R. K. Wilson to take a silhouette type photograph, confirming the existence of Nessie, a creature whose sightings date back to 565 AD.

On March 14, Sam Slushworth descends the stairway towards his finished basement. As he makes his way towards the beer fridge located at the far end of a room not so fashionably decorated in 70s-styled wood paneled walls, a Mickey Mouse clock, and bright orange-carpeting, he experiences the uncomfortable sensation one gets when moisture quickly makes its way into your socks, the dreaded soaker.

Examining the room, Slushy notices a few other areas where water has seemingly infiltrated the carpet.

Was there a conspiracy to kill the president? Does an ancient sea dinosaur inhabit the depths of Loch Ness? And, where did Mr. Slushworth’s basement water come from?

Unfortunately, all are yet to be solved mysteries.

However, we will qualify ourselves to explore a few hypotheses regarding basement water, dismissing the two other mysteries until another day.

A basement is kind of like the hull of a ship, and is essentially a concrete tub surrounded by groundwater. However, and unlike the hull of a boat, which can be made of such impermeable products as steel, fiberglass, or some type of plastic, basement walls (including the ICF foam block systems) are largely made of concrete— a solid, but still very porous, type of material.

Basement floors are also made of concrete, solid but again, in no way impervious to water.

So, how’s a homeowner to defend against water infiltrating the basement, when the basement walls and floors inherently allow moisture to pass through?

Until somebody comes up with a suitable alternative to concrete, the homeowner is left with little choice but to seal their concrete walls and floors by the best means possible.

If you’re having a home built for you this spring, or will be buying a home presently under construction, then the answer to having a dry basement for the next 30 years – dismissing any natural disasters of course – is simple. Take the $5,000 to $6,000 you’ve budgeted for a big screen TV, dual chaise loungers equipped with cup holders and cooler, along with voice-activated lighting, or any other non-essential expense, and steer these funds directly into the concrete foundation fund.

If you plan on finishing your basement, then avoiding water infiltration will be absolutely essential. If a finished basement flood is something you’ve experienced in the past, then the frustration and trauma of surviving that issue is no doubt fresh in your mind.

So, be sure to demand nothing short of the best in foundation-sealing techniques this time around.

Basement floors should have a 10-millimetre plastic vapour barrier and two-inch thick rigid foam directly under the concrete slab.

Your basement’s concrete wall should be sealed with a rubber membrane, followed by a one-inch thick layer of comfortboard (rock fibre matting), then draped with a continuous roll of plastic dimpled membrane.

As a result, how the contractor plans on sealing your foundation is a conversation every homeowner should be a part of.

Due to Mr. Slushworth’s water issues happening after the concrete membrane had been installed, and the foundation backfilled, this foundation breach could be a very costly fix.

Next week, we investigate the possibilities.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard