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.

Top Tips of Enlarging Virginia Basement Windows

Filed Under: Basement    by: Steve Kayhill

Creating an egress window in your Virginia basement not only increases property value, it also adds natural light and enhances below-grade living space. However, enlarging a basement window requires careful planning and the skills of an experienced contractor. Find out how this project plays out and understand the value and work involved.

Foundation Concerns

Basement windows are cut into your foundation. The structural stability of the concrete walls has been calculated using the existing window sizes. Enlarging those gaps requires a recalculation to ensure overall building stability.

Think of it this way—your first floor, second floor, and possibly even the roof transfer load down to the foundation. Removing a portion of the wall decreases the amount of concrete available to handle that load.

Additional support can be added in many cases, and window location plays a major role. Your Virginia basement contractor will inspect the area, assess the work required and complete any necessary calculations. A building permit application ensures that all work complies with local building code.

Drainage Concerns

Stability of the building is the first major factor to consider when enlarging basement windows, but drainage remains a concern. In most Virginia homes, a larger window extends down the wall—this type of project requires excavation.

Your contractor needs to dig down below the new window to provide proper drainage. A traditional window well or retaining wall blocks form the barrier of a deeper well to carry water away from your window opening. This well also requires drainage, most often a French drain or drainage piping does the job.

Window Concerns

When replacing your existing window with a larger design, consider upgrading the glass and/or the style to provide better efficiency. Heat loss through windows contributes to higher energy bills and often makes your basement living space feel cool. Now is the time to install windows with cutting edge design.

Is your home currently fitted with hopper windows in the basement? This simple style may be single or double paned and opens inward with a hinged bottom. Slider windows offer less air flow, but most often come with a more solid design and higher levels of security.

Awning windows come with the highest price tag, but can be used in rain or snow. They open from the bottom out, with a hinged top. Although awnings windows are practical and good for security purposes, they come in limited styles and sizes. Opt for a sliding style to take advantage of a good quality egress window.

Look for windows with the NFRC certification sticker. This provides proof that the manufacturer complies with NFRC standards and window performance meets minimal levels. Additional ratings provide you with more specific information about how that particular window performs in the Virginia climate.

Enlarging windows in your Virginia basement adds natural light and visually expands your living space downstairs. An egress windows also allows for a more flexible design in the basement, including the addition of bedrooms and other features. Talk to an experienced Virginia basement contractor about how to handle this project affordably and efficiently, and enjoy the difference a larger window makes.

Top Four Northern Virginia Basement Remodeling Challenges to Conquer

Filed Under: Basement    by: Steve Kayhill

Wise investors gaze into the future and assess bumps and bends in the road. Your home improvement investment should be no different, and understanding the top four Northern Virginia basement remodeling challenges allows you to prepare for reality and navigate the renovation process well.

Get ready to tackle this home reno and come out with a fabulous, comfortable and valuable basement living space.

Challenge # 1 – Lighting

The proper lighting ensures your below grade living space is welcoming and functional. But the structural design of a basement often limits the location of your preferred light fixtures and may dictate the size and type of fixture.

Recessed lighting provides good coverage without eating up valuable space at the ceiling. Wall sconces reflect light up a smooth wall and into the room, and many fixtures appear almost flush to the wall, making them ideal for hallways and stairways.

New and larger windows help to enhance natural light in this area. Talk to your Virginia basement renovation contractor about the possibility of adding windows or enlarging the existing window frames.

Choose bulbs and fixtures that deliver excellent coverage with minimal fuss. This is not the place for a showpiece or chandelier. Focus on durable, low profile lighting fitted with long lasting bulbs. Add a floor lamp or table lamp for visual interest and pizzazz, if you feel the space needs it.

Challenge # 2 – Air Quality

Moisture and mold cause serious problems in the basement and lower the air quality in your entire home, which in turn affects the health of your family. Take care of any moisture issues before the Northern Virginia basement remodeling project starts.

Have your home assessed for mold and inspect the property both inside and out for moisture problems. Repairs and waterproofing solutions may push the cost of your home improvement project higher, but you do not want to deal with water damage in your brand new basement living space. Be proactive and take care of moisture problems beforehand.

Ventilation is another important issue in your basement remodel. Talk to a heating and cooling expert about how to ensure adequate air flow throughout each season. Both your heating and cooling systems should include the basement, although some people opt for alternative heating solutions such as a gas fireplace or wood stove to keep the basement cozy in winter. Consider all of the possibilities and assess how each one affects the overall air quality in your space.

Challenge # 3 – Energy Efficiency

Adding living space in the basement will increase your electrical and utility bills, mainly due to the additional lighting, outlets, and area. But you can ensure these costs are limited and create a more energy efficient home by taking some things into consideration during the planning stages.

Insulate the basement against heat loss. Ask your contractor about the different types of insulation available, and consider the structural elements of your space when deciding which to use. Blow-in products make sense for attic spaces, but may be a messy solution for the basement. Some pre-manufactured basement panels include insulation that reaches the required R-value for residential living spaces. Find out about all of your options and choose the type that provides optimum efficiency and reliability. It will provide a better payback than the option with the lowest initial price tag.

Challenge # 4 – Security

Your basement renovation design may add another entrance point into your home. Installing expensive entertainment systems and computer equipment in the basement also presents a temptation for burglars. Ensure your home remains secure by investing in good quality window treatments to keep your valuables out of casual viewing.

Install commercial grade locks on any patio doors or entrance doors and consider putting wood blocks in the windows for added security. Treat your basement as a part of your home and take the necessary precautions to maintain security.

Prepare to deal with many challenges while planning your Northern Virginia basement remodeling project. Cover all the details and depend on the expert advice of your Virginia contractor to ensure your new living space turns out well.