Mike Holmes’ basement renovation tips
by Beverley Ann D’Cruz
Renovation expert and television host Mike Holmes shares his expertise on things to consider when renovating your basement.
You’ve finally decided to take the plunge and renovate the basement into a more liveable space. But before you hire a contractor (or get your own tools ready for a DIY) and start tearing down walls, renovation guru Mike Holmes has one piece of advice, “Slow down,” he says. “I think people go too fast and that has been transformed into renovations, which is a huge mistake.”
So just how should you start preparing for a major investment like this? Mike Holmes has the answers:
Create a wish list
First decide what the space is going to be used for. Whether it will be the children’s play area, the man den or the family entertainment room, everything from the speakers on the walls to the plumbing has to be pre-planned. “Create two things - a ‘needs list’ and a wish list’,” says Holmes. “Stop thinking about how beautiful you want it to look and think about how practical you want it to be. You need to find out everything you can about your area including termites, if there are problems with the plaster and also get it tested for any contaminants, asbestos etc. before the renovation begins.”
Research the products
Basements are known to be damp areas, which inevitably results in the development and spread of mould. “The truth is basements were never meant to be finished,” says Holmes. “It was the utility room that was designed to take the furnace off the first floor of the home. So once you close it all in, it automatically starts to mould and will cause a lot of problems.” To prevent this, Holmes suggests researching products like mould resistant dry wall and BluWood, which is resistant to mould, fire, bugs and water, and will protect the renovation. Ensuring the entire area is insulated properly will also prevent the build-up of moisture that leads to the spread of mould and creates that musty smell.
Hire a contractor
Armed with the knowledge of products that are appropriate for use and the type of space the basement is envisioned to be, hiring a contractor becomes an informed decision. “Now if you know how to talk to your contractor, you can ask him whether he uses things like BluWood or mould resistant dry wall,” says Holmes. “Ask if they are licensed, then ask to see the licence, ask how many basements they have done, how long they have been in the business – these are all important questions. The more questions you ask, the happier you will be and it will be a dream rather than a nightmare renovation.”
Focus on insulation
“Insulation is a really important factor to me,” says Holmes.”The Holmes code would be one inch rigid foam on the floor and two inches rigid foam on the walls. Then on top of the floor foam you need 5/8” tongue and groove plywood screwed through the foam , which will form a thermal break underneath and prevent hot air meeting the cold, so no moisture is created. It will also allow a drainage bed under the foam if there is a flood to get underneath the floor and protect the upper floor.” Similarly, the rigid foam on the walls restricts the air movement behind them that creates condensation and mould.
Keep it eco-friendly
Choosing mould resistant products is the first step to making the basement renovation ‘green’. But that’s not all a renovation can do to make the home more energy efficient. “If you thermo break it i.e. use the above insulations you will reduce the power used by your furnace as well," says Holmes. "The two top places to insulate is your basement properly and the attic. If you do that, you reduce your heating bill by a big chunk every year and that is a big saving that pays you back for years.”
Make sure the area is fire tight since the renovation is taking place near the furnace room. Don’t store any boxes in there.
Put in a standalone HEPA air filter, which will clear the air on a daily basis instead of your lungs doing the hard work.
Cutting through the structure of the house is not allowed so keep on top of the contractor and talk to them to make sure that it doesn’t happen.
Even if no new plumbing is planned, put a camerascope down all the drains to ensure there are no blocks.
“The biggest mistake is not learning enough for you to personally to talk to contractor," says Holmes. “If you go in blind, you can’t see. But , if you go in with eyes wide open you will understand.”