Design and Installation Tips for Virginia Basement Fireplaces

Filed Under: Basement    by: Steve Kayhill

Smart homeowners know that adding Virginia basement fireplaces to their below-grade living space increases property value and boosts comfort. Choosing the ideal fireplace and planning for proper installation are essential steps. Find out the right way to include a fireplace in your basement renovation plans.

The Best Type of Fireplace for the Basement

Although a traditional wood burning hearth creates an undeniable amount of comfort and romance, it isn’t the ideal choice for a basement fireplace. Pre-fabricated fireplaces operate cleanly and require much less space in terms of chimneys and ventilation. Many Virginia homeowners are updating their existing wood burning fireplaces upstairs and down, opting instead for an efficient, safe pre-fabricated model.

Direct vent natural gas fireplaces are the ideal choice for most homes. Not only do these fireplaces install with minimal hassle and expense, but they also create fewer emissions and require very little maintenance. Natural gas costs the same or less than other fuel options, such as wood pellets.

Stay away from vent-free models, as this type of fireplace may release harmful emissions into your home. Direct vent models require only a small amount of interior space for the pipes and present a non-intrusive vent cover outside.

Location, Location, Location

Consider the best location for your Virginia basement fireplace. A well built natural gas fireplace can effectively heat your entire basement, and since heat rises, this appliance also provides warmth to the rooms above. Look for a location that maximizes this situation.

A central spot in the main downstairs living area makes sense. Think about air flow and traffic; you want the heat to spread evenly throughout your living space. Fireplace fans and ceiling fans may also help to avoid pockets of heat in your finished basement, as well as moving the warm air upstairs.

Remember to think about visual impact when considering the location. Fireplaces make wonderful focal points when placed in the right spot, so be careful to avoid tucking your new fireplace into a far-off corner. Two-sided fireplaces allow for double the impact and corner units make good use of a potentially awkward area.

What About Mantles and Built Ins?

Mantles contribute to the overall look of your basement fireplace. Are you hoping for an old world feel? Use fieldstone veneer or slate tiles to mimic a hearth. Want something more contemporary and slick? Consider tempered glass shelving or mount a floating mantle above the fireplace for that clean appearance. Use recycled barn beams to create a rustic look or painted wood mantles for romantic appeal.

Imagination is important, and the web provides countless images of beautiful fireplace mantels that can be easily adapted for use in your finished basement.

Built ins provide storage and also help to finish off this space with style. Talk to your basement renovation contractor about incorporating built in shelving or cabinets around your new fireplace. Many people mount their flatscreen TV over the fireplace as well, with custom made storage units providing plenty of room for audio equipment.

Complete your Virginia basement renovation with the ideal fireplace in the smartest location and finished with a beautiful mantle and built in storage. This addition creates a timeless focal point that warms up the living space.

How Water Issues Destroy Your Virginia Basement Renovation Dreams

Filed Under: Basement    by: Steve Kayhill

Renovating your Virginia basement adds valuable living space and comfort to your home. Water issues can quickly devalue the investment and create various health problems now and far into the future. Homeowners need to assess the condition of their basement and attend to any moisture damage before renovations begin.

What type of things should you look for? And how much will you need to invest in order to get your basement ready for the finishing steps?

Signs of Water Issues

You may already be aware of moisture problems in your lower level. Standing water, excessive condensation, mold or mildew marks and musty odors all point to water issues. But a thorough inspection also involves forgotten areas of the basement, such as:

  • Window Sills – Water often runs around or under decayed or broken window sills, possibly even soaking into the wood. Be sure to check the seals around your windows, as well as the locking mechanisms. Plan to replace any rotted building materials or damaged portions of the window.
  • Pipes and Plumbing – Un-insulated pipes create condensation, which can quickly build up and cause water issues. Have a look at the existing condition of your pipes and note any rust or other signs of moisture. Consider insulating all the pipes during your Virginia basement renovation. Check plumbing fixtures for leaks and wear. Many times you can detect the problem early and avoid a major leak or plumbing issue.
  • Behind Insulation – Is your basement insulated or partially finished? Moisture collects between fiberglass or rigid insulation and concrete foundation walls. Your basement renovation plans should include replacing any wet insulation and putting up the proper moisture protection, such as a vapor barrier.
  • Exterior Grading – Assess the grading around your home to ensure that the ground slopes away from the foundation. Standing water, soggy ground and previous basement flooding indicate a possible grading problem. Hire a landscape company to regrade the property and consider investing in a basement waterproofing system to further protect your living space.
  • Foundation Walls and Floor – Look for cracks or crumbling in the concrete. Even if you do not detect any evidence of water, these gaps allow for the passage of moisture. Use crack filler products and sealers or consider an interior waterproofing system that covers the concrete.

How Much Does It Cost to Protect Your Basement From Water Damage?

Depending on the work required, these steps of preparation may cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousands. Insulating the pipes and replacing a window sill are fairly inexpensive, while you can expect to pay big dollars to install a basement waterproofing system and correct a grading issue. It is important to remember that these repairs and replacements protect your basement renovation investment.

Moisture damage results in significant expenses. It can also change the atmosphere in your basement, making it less comfortable for living. Investing in the repairs mentioned above allows you to realize your Virginia basement renovation dreams. Remember to fully assess the basement before construction begins and attend to any problems right away. The final result is worth the extra effort.

Do You Need to Repair Foundation Cracks in Your Virginia Basement?

Filed Under: Basement    by: Steve Kayhill

Foundation cracks present a problem in your Virginia basement, and smart homeowners look after repairs before finishing the basement. Avoid water problems and protect your home by handling cracks from the interior and exterior of your home.

What Causes Cracks in Your Basement?

Cracking is almost inevitable, as shifting soil, water and age take a toll on your concrete foundation. So how do Virginia homeowners know what to do about this issue? And what should be done before you finish the basement?

Hydrostatic pressure is the leading cause of cracks in the basement floor and foundation walls. Pressure from the outside and natural movements of the soil around your foundation cause the concrete to crack and split. Rainwater, groundwater and run off collect around the foundation and apply pressure to the walls. Settling soil and frost movements create even more pressure, often resulting in cracks.

You may notice more cracking in the spring, but this movement and pressure occur all year round. Watch for signs of dampness in the basement and inspect your foundation walls and floor carefully before planning a basement renovation.

Do Small Cracks Cause Problems?

Thin, hairline cracks may not seem threatening, but movement and additional hydrostatic pressure widen cracks and allow for the passage of moisture. Water in the basement creates a myriad of problems today and into the future. You must repair the cracking before closing up the wall and installing flooring.

Small cracks create a point of weakness. If left unrepaired, these thin cracks will open up with additional hydrostatic pressure. You may not notice water seeping in at the moment, but unless you invest in measures to repair cracks, moisture damage could destroy your finished Virginia basement in a short period of time.

What to Do About Foundation Cracks

Incorporate foundation repairs into the budget. Depending on the scale of the problem, the following common repairs could play into your project:

  • Drainage Repairs – landscaping, grading and other processes help to redirect water away from the foundation, resulting in less hydrostatic pressure
  • Waterproof Membranes – installed on the outside of your foundation, these membranes provide a protective coating that seals existing cracks and helps to minimize the risk of future cracking
  • Piering – an excavation process that results in greater levels of support for your foundation, and especially important in newer subdivisions and areas with a high concentration of backfill
  • Steel Bracing – installed inside the basement to help minimize movement, often used in older properties with limited access to the exterior foundation walls
  • Wall Sealers – applied to the inside of your foundation wall, these paint-like products help to prevent moisture movement
  • Crack Sealers – direct application into the existing cracks works well for wider foundation cracking, most often a silicone product or hydraulic cement

Continue with the plans to finish your basement once these cracks have been addressed and drainage improved in your yard. You cannot guarantee against foundation cracking in the future, but with the right systems in place your Virginia basement will be much more comfortable.

Top Five Tips on Keeping Your Virginia Basement Dry

Filed Under: Basement    by: Steve Kayhill

Does your basement have a musty smell? Have you noticed water stains or moisture in your Virginia basement? Homeowners need to tackle these problems before finishing a basement. And if water problems show up in your finished basement area, quick, decisive action limits damages and expenses.

Follow these top five tips on keeping your basement dry.

Tip # 1 – Check Your Grading

Many basement water problems stem from grading issues. Rain water and melted snow should run away from the foundation, otherwise this water will find a way into your basement and wreak havoc. Take a walk around your home and look closely at the landscape around the foundation. Does it slope inward? Is it flat?

A proper slope grades away from the house at a gentle angle and can often be supplemented with gravel or other aggregates the improve drainage. Make sure that driveways and patios are installed on a slight slope as well, directing water away from the house.

Tip # 2 – Consider Sealing the Concrete

Ideally done in the preliminary stages of a Virginia basement renovation, applying concrete sealer is a simple process. Most quality products are affordable and go on like a paint. Sealers do not stand up to water pressure, but will keep away moisture and condensation that naturally seeps through porous concrete.

Some products are installed on the outer wall of a concrete foundation. If this makes more sense than ripping down existing walls to apply a concrete sealer indoors, opt for a rubber membrane that will cover the cracks and deterioration found in most foundations.

Tip # 3 – Install Longer Drainpipes

Improperly sized drainpipes or inadequate gutters often result in water in the basement, especially when combined with poor grading. Check that your downspouts extend at least 10 feet from the foundation, sloping downward and into a swale or drywell.

If you do not have gutters, consider installing a drainage system for surface water coming off the roof. Use a plastic liner buried a few inches into the ground, covered in gravel and extending at least 8 feet from the foundation.

Some homeowners opt to install rain barrels at the end of their drainpipes. Be sure that these barrels are emptied on a regular basis, to prevent overflow.

Tip # 4 – Repair and Seal Windows

Windows present an easy entrance for water. Inspect the sill and frame for cracks and gaps. Often a high quality caulking can repair these issues, but you may want to have your Virginia contractor install new windows. This project can also improve energy efficiency and create a more comfortable basement living area.

If the windows are aged, cracked or warped, replacement is the best option. Repairs with sealants should work for windows in decent shape, and help you to avoid potential basement water problems.

Tip # 5 – Invest in a Dehumidifier

As much as you do to prevent water from entering your basement, it will inevitably find a way in. Invest in a reliable dehumidifier to reduce moisture and lessen the chance of mold and mildew growth. You may only use this equipment during hot weather or when you detect a musty odor, but it acts as an indispensable tool against water damage in your Virginia basement.