Creeeeeaaaaaaaak… the door slowly opens onto a dank, dark stairwell that leads down into…
Wait! Stop! This isn’t a scary Halloween story; we’re talking about basements. Oh, sure, basements are often the scene of some very scary stuff, and not just in spooky stories and movies. They’re often unused and neglected and can hide water leaks, drafts, mold and other truly scary things. If you live in a cold climate, a basement can be a real monster, gobbling up one quarter of your home’s annual energy use.
How can you tame the beasty and no long be frightened to open the door? We’ve got you covered!
Seal it up – explore your basement from top to bottom, identifying any air leaks caused by gaps or holes – those might come from wiring, pipes, vents, windows, doors, etc. Fill small gaps with caulk; if the hole is larger than a few inches, close it off with foam board and then seal it with insulating spray foam. Don’t forget to check the upper areas where the house frame meets the foundation.
When to call in the contractor – sealing of perimeter framing, i.e. the rim joist or band joist, should be done by a contractor. It’s not a bad idea to bring in a contractor to ensure that all gas or oil fueled appliances are vented correctly.
Doing duct work – while you’re busy doing all that sealing, check your home’s HVAC air ducts for leaks as well. Simple repairs like leaks found at metal joints, are easy DIY projects that can save you money on your heating bills. Sealing these up will make your unheated basement even colder, so if you live in an area where freezing is a concern, insulate your pipes.
When to call in the contractor – if freezing pipes is a major concern, check with a contractor about installing heated wraps. If you plan to make any changes to your duct work, like rerouting, or turning your basement into a heated living space, you’ll need to hire a pro.
Light it up – Swap out your old incandescents for CFL bulbs to boost the energy efficiency of your basement space. If you plan to spend a lot of time below deck, consider investing in LEDs which are longer lasting and take even less energy than a CFL. This is a quick, easy, DIY project you can tackle in just a few moments.
Going pro – if you’re in the market to upgrade your heating, look for the most energy efficient model you can find and then hire a pro to do the install to ensure that everything is sealed up and vented properly. If you’re uncertain of anything, like the condition of your basement or if there are possible moisture problems, call in a pro for a pre-project inspection. Some improvements will give you better bang for your buck if done in a certain order – like fixing moisture problems before sealing gaps and installing insulation.
Have a pro check for and repair any moisture problems first, and consider adding insulation to your basement even if you only use it for storage.
A few quick and easy (and mostly DIY) steps will tackle the basement monster in no time.