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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
After much frustration trying to find a contractor and after having the contractor we hired decide he doesn't want to handle our project anymore (since we're not "high value" enough to merit taking up too much of his time), my wife and I have decided to tackle the basement reno ourselves. We will rely on a couple of friends who have successfully renovated their basements, and on "word of mouth" tradespeople to handle electrical work and the mudding/taping/sanding.

(See rough plans here.)

Earlier this evening, we stripped up the 12"x12" self-adhesive tiles from half of the basement, but we'll need to get rid of the stickiness that remains before we can move on to the other half. We've read that boiling water works very well for this.

After that, we'll be looking at re-insulating the entire perimeter wall of the basement. I've read that you're supposed to put a moisture barrier on the inside of the foundation, from grade level down to the floor.

Given the way our perimeter wall is already built, what might be the easiest way to "bring out" the moisture barrier so that it can be sealed to the vapour barrier? Do we simply cut the tar paper and fit it around the wooden blocks? What should we use to seal the cuts and gaps?

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks! :D
 

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not sure about Ontario, but in Alberta the barrier is no longer required, as long as the insulation is not touching the wall.

I found this out during my inspection, the home builder did not put the barrier, so I asked the inspector.

hope that helps.
 

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If it was me I'd fit foam board insulation between your studs and spray foam behind them and underneath. Vapour barrier and insulation in a one shot deal.


Tips... I like metal studs.. really simple to use by yourself. You can carry ten "studs" in at a time and cut them easily. Much easier to use then wood.
Although I don't like them on the concrete floor and prefer wood with sill foam.

So what else are you planning to do?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Thanks for the comments so far. From what we've read:
- A moisture barrier (tar paper or plastic) is required.
- It needs to be sealed against the wall so prevent air flow between it and the foundation.
- The moisture barrier and the vapour barrier need to form a seal at floor level, enclosing the insulation.
- There's no consensus on whether insulating between the studs is sufficient, or whether there needs also to be an extra layer of insulation between the perimeter wall and the foundation. The key point seems to be ensuring that there's no air flow inside the enclosure created by the moisture and vapour barriers.

If it was me I'd fit foam board insulation between your studs and spray foam behind them and underneath.
That sounds like an interesting alternative but the amount of spray foam required to infill the gap between the boards and foundation would be huge and, from what I gather, it's not all that inexpensive.

So what else are you planning to do?
Nothing too elaborate:
- Cut open the stairwell to the basement and add an oak railing w/ spindles.
- Lay down a generic "dimpled subfloor" in the landing and the HT and gym areas.
- Half-wall between the HT and gym areas.
- Electrical w/ a dedicated circuit for the HT gear.
- 3" potlights throughout the HT and gym areas.
- Run 7.1 speaker wiring, plus a conduit for the projector cables.
- Carpet in the HT area; cushion flooring in the gym, the landing and the "unfinished" (storage/laundry) area.
- Custom oak french door into HT area. It'll have to be custom because the ductwork won't allow a standard 80" door to fit. There's currently 84" from the floor to the lowest point of the ductwork. Once the bulkheads are built and drywalled (~2.5" for the wood and drywall plus a ~3" gap for the acoustic insulation) and the subfloor is installed (~1.5"), we might have ~77" for the door.

A couple of weeks ago, we ordered a pair of HT recliners w/ center console from La-Z-Boy. The set up (the colour is slightly darker) is almost exactly like the center two chairs & console in this photo (PDF). They are really, really comfortable... :)
 

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Suggestion... second time arround.

Hi,

I actually wrote a detailed post on some suggestions for you basement reno. Unfortunately, it got lost somehow (due to something on my end). Since I don't have much time now, I'll summarized my suggestions.

1) Gut the old. It looks like it is 2x3 studs 24" on center (OC) sitting on blocks?! You will have issues regarding vapour barrier and may not even be to code for a finished basement. The best reason to do this is the fact you want a dimpled subfloor.
2) Put in the dimpled subfloor using tap-con screws (roll with 8x4' T&G OSB subfloor; or the square prefab stuff). 1/2" gap arround perimeter (at the foundation wall) is important!
3) Tar paper or building wrap from grade to bottom overlapping slightly so moisture will shed to the bottom keeping insulation dry. PL premium vertically applied is ok to hold the barrier. The moisture barrier should NOT be sealed; it has to breath hence plastic should not be used. From grade to top of joists should be BARE concrete, this is allow moisture/vapour to escape to the outside through the concrete (as per NRC recommendations).
3) Put on top of the subfloor, not covering the gap, 2x4 16" OC studs, single sole & top plate (not structural so ok) with the crown all one way and plumb (gives you a nice straight wall). Frame corners open so insulation can get in (see DIY sites on how); a lot of heat is lost through the corners. Put vapour barrier plastic trays arround any electrical J boxes/outlets. Seal using spray foam around any pipes, vents, etc. going through the foundation/joist header; this is mainly for bugs.
4) Insulation from sole to top plate; double insulation between joists. Roxul Safe-N-Sound is my suggestion for better sound properies and fire break rated.
5) Staple vapour barrier using min. 6 mil plastic from underside the upstairs subfloor and between the joists to the sole plate bottom. A bead of sealant on the sole plate seals that, tuck tape (the red stuff) any seams, joins, all arround the joists, holes, pipes, vents, etc. You want a complete seal if you don't want moisture/mold issues.

Voila... ready for drywall. The blue drywall is good for basements but if your basement is relatively dry already (and you did a good vapour barrier), regular dry works just as well and is cheaper. Furring strips on the ceing with insulation (note that fixures/light cans have to be IC rated; your electrian should be aware of your plans to insulate the ceiling) is what I'm doing for my theater. Dealing with sound proofing, etc. is another long post. Check out my construction thread, PM me, or start your own thread (<- preferred) to hash this out.

Cheers,
Kaoru
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for the info., Kaoru. My wife and I have read through your Black Ice thread (wicked job, by the way!) and have seen most of this info. there. I appreciate the re-write specifically for this thread.

Question: Do I "fill" the perimeter wall "gap" between the tar paper and moisture barrier with insulation or do I only insulate between the studs? Is there any issue with either? For example, filling it in might result in moisture wicking into the insulation through the tar paper or up from the concrete floor.

Thanks.

(I was going to add that not filling it in would leave a gap in which air could circulate - since the bottom will be open to the concrete floor - but I guess if the warm air isn't getting in at the top, there shouldn't be any resulting condensation so this may not be an issue.)
 

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Question: Do I "fill" the perimeter wall "gap" between the tar paper and moisture barrier with insulation or do I only insulate between the studs? Is there any issue with either? For example, filling it in might result in moisture wicking into the insulation through the tar paper or up from the concrete floor.
The moisture barrier/dri-core subfloor stops any wicking of "liquid" moisture because of gravity and layers of the barrier overlap keeping the water on the concrete side. Eventually the water turns to vapour or is absorbed by the concrete. The resulting vapour in the cold side cavity will not condense since it's basically at the same temperature as the insulation/studs and eventually will rise and escape through the above grade concrete. As long as your batt insulation is nice and snug (but not compressed or overstuffed) to the studs/top/sole plates, the gaps between studs/insulation and moisture barrier/concrete aids in the process and do not affect R value of the insulation. The key requirement is the fully sealed vapour barrier as the break between warm and cold zones. If warm moist air gets into the cold zone, it will condense on the insulation/studs and promote mold growth. Spray foam is the only technique that is both a thermal break and vapour barrier.

Got to go,
Karou
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks again for the info.

As it turns out, we had another, smaller contractor come to our house tonight to see about a quote. A nice, older gentleman (late '50s, I'd say), recommended by two different colleagues of a friend of mine, whose basements he's done.

Part of our 1-1/2 hour chat touched on two issues, both of which run against what I've read to date:

1. Acoustic insulation in ceiling will not do much to reduce noise transfer to upstairs through the floor, and it will do even less to reduce noise transfer through ductwork. I'm still of the opinion that wrapping insulation around pipes and trunks must have some "dampening" effect on the sound that gets into that ductwork. (Not as good as putting acoustic insulation into the ductwork, but I'm not prepared to do that.)

2. The basement wall does not need to be insulated and vapour-barriered right to floor level. He stated that code does not require it and that leaving, say, a foot of uninsulated space behind the drywall just above floor level allows for upward convection of air through the drywall, up behind the insulation and out through the foundation above grade level, drying any moisture back there.

Any thoughts on these two issues?

As it is - and assuming, of course, we like his proposal and price and we end up hiring him - if I insist on acoustic insulation and on full wall insulation, he'll do it, but he's suggesting that the cost:benefit ratio is high and not worth my while.

Thanks!
 

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1. Acoustic insulation in ceiling will not do much to reduce noise transfer to upstairs through the floor, and it will do even less to reduce noise transfer through ductwork. I'm still of the opinion that wrapping insulation around pipes and trunks must have some "dampening" effect on the sound that gets into that ductwork. (Not as good as putting acoustic insulation into the ductwork, but I'm not prepared to do that.)
I think a good accoustic tile for a suspended ceiling is the greatest you can do... nothing stops you to go further with ducking insulation as it will definitely not do any harm except for your budget it self.

2. The basement wall does not need to be insulated and vapour-barriered right to floor level. He states that code does not require it and that leaving, say, a foot of uninsulated space behind the drywall just above floor level allows for upward convection of cooler, floor-level air through the drywall, up behind the insulation and out through the foundation above grade level.
Look at this picture again: http://www.hydro.mb.ca/your_home/gif/insulation.gif It states moisture barrier to slightly above grade line but I would go all the way up with the insulation.



As it is, if I insist on acoustic insulation and on full wall insulation, he'll do it, but he's suggesting that the cost:benefit ratio is high and not worth my while.
Nice to see an honest entrepreneur! If you beleive that much in this portion of the job, why don't you do it your self? You can do that prior to him doing the other important stuff, save some money... For this portion no specific skills are required, keep the harder work for him and do this part your self while nothig is in the way.

Same for the existing work, would save you the labor of him tearing down the old stuff, save the money for bigger finition budget and tear down yourself!
 

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I agree with Kaoru. I would gut the old wall and start new. The additional cost of going all new for the walls would be pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but the results would be well worth it IMHO.

Build proper 2x4 walls with a pressure treated sole plate.

We're in the (very long) process of finishing our basement and I went the extra (probably unnecessary) step of also adding a sill plate gasket beneath the sole plate. It is incredibly inexpensive (I think it was about $5 for a 50' length) and keeps the wood from direct contact with the basement floor.
 

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To deal with the insulation and vapour barrier questions/issues you should consider getting a quote and explanation from the guys that come in and do the spray on foam (blue foam).

Basically, it becomes your insulation, vapour barrier, and moisture barrier all in one shot. You'll pay more for it vs straight materials for insulation etc., but it should give some payback in terms of some labour savings since it can probably be done in less than a day vs however long it will take to properly apply/install all of the traditional components being discussed here.

For some other background, check out Mike Holmes' site and the contractors/suppliers section under "Spray Foam Installation" where they've used this approach several times. We've also just used it in a reno that we've done and so far are pleased, but the real test will be the coming winter months!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
- We'll consider looking into spray foam insulation but, should we go with batt insulation, it'll be down to the floor.

- The wall itself is according to code: 2"x4" studs @ 24" centers. (16" centers are required for 2"x3" studs.) I don't think we'll rip it up - just make any minor adjustments to it that are required. (The dimpled subfloor will abut against it, as per installation instructions (PDF).)

- We'll go with insulating the ceiling and the bulkheads that will enclose the trunk ductwork, although the benefit may not be great. My understanding is that the potlights have to be enclosed in insulated ceiling boxes, which don't offer sound insulation. Fifteen or so of those boxes will compromise the value of the insulation in the ceiling. Additionally, because of the low height of our trunk ductwork, we can't afford the space required to drop the bulkhead by 3 or so inches for acoustic insulation, so we'll have to put a thinner layer of insulation in there, which may not be as effective. But I guess it'll be better than nothing.
 

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Take Mike Holmes recommedations...

Besides my construction thread, looking up info at the NRC, and lurking on the AVS forums (but I call Digital Home home :) ) I've seen alot of opinions. Bottom line, it depends on your budget and point-of-view. Here is my POV with some wisdom thrown in:

Whether it is sound transmission or heat loss (which if you think about it, are quite similar in concept), the remedy is to de-couple or break the transmission. For both heat loss and sound proofing, we use insulation and breaks. The only difference is in the application because of the materials involved.

For heat loss, it's true that the NRC and the building code says that insulation is not required below 24" below grade since the ground will insulate and any change in temperature is negiable. But I have a basement where the concrete below the insulation is *cold* and anything that cold will be a heat sink and a point of condensation. I share this reality given how many home owners I know that buy dehumidifiers and space heaters/fireplaces for their basements to combat the lovely musty smell of cold.

"A penny saved is a penny earned; save enough pennies and you have a dollar." Small improvements in construction can make a difference as a whole. Like Mike Holmes says, you can go better than "minimum code" with not that much more money. BTW, that contractor said that a top-to-bottom vapour barrier is NOT required? I'm dubious about that since the code requires a *full* vapour barrier for anywhere a warm living area meets cold. A unfinished basement is not classed as an "living area" (or you would be taxed for it :) ) hence the minimum code. Turn it into a living area without a vapour barrier and that warm moist air will condense on the cold drywall/wood... Yum if your a mold spore!

As for sound, putting insulation in the ceiling does help but is only a very small part in a sound proofing strategy. As a vapour barrier decouples/stops the interaction of air; furring strips, integrity gasket, RSIC clips, resilient channel, etc. decouple the interaction of structure (joists, subfloors, etc.) which is prime medium for sound transmission.

In my basement, which is cold and has minor moisture issues, I'm doing (DIY) the following:
-> Gutting the 2x3s in the living space areas; going 2x4 16" OC, plastic gasket for sole plate, and single top plate (no dri-core since I don't have the ceiling height).
-> Moisture barrier to the bottom via building wrap/tar paper.
-> Insulation & VB: Roxul for sound proofing and *ceiling*; fiberglass for rest. Full insulation top to bottom for living/finished areas; half-way for anything else. Vapour barrier is applied over insulation on external walls only and fully sealed. For the non-finished areas the vapour barrier will be sealed (better than it is now). Spray foam/tuck tape will seal any finished to non-finished transitions.
-> Sound: Sonopan for underneath upstairs subfloor; HT only and for upstairs impact noise. Furring strips on ceiling; poor man's resilient channel. Pink sill gasket (closed cell foam gasket by Owens Corning) on all framing/furring strips as integrity gasket; poor man's decoupling. Single 1/2" drywall; I could green glue & another drywall layer later for better/needed sound proofing. Note the HT has double stud/staggered stud internal framing for sound decoupling; the cheapest and simplest of sound proofing concepts. It is all these steps that will control sound transmission; that's my hope anyway.

Cheers,
Kaoru
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
BTW, that contractor said that a top-to-bottom vapour barrier is NOT required?
I'm pretty sure he said that the moisture barrier/insulation/vapour barrier could be terminated a couple of feet up. It doesn't make me or my wife comfortable, so we're going to insist on insulation down to the floor.

As for sound, putting insulation in the ceiling does help but is only a very small part in a sound proofing strategy.
We were planning on furring strips and insulation; however, while this will attenuate the noise from and to the floor above, it may have only minimal effect on noise travelling into and through the ductwork to the second floor, which was/remains our biggest concern. (And we don't want to insulate inside the ductwork.) But I can't see how it can not help, and every little bit counts...

Note the HT has double stud/staggered stud internal framing for sound decoupling
The wall to the HT/gym room backs onto the landing and the furnace, so a regular wall with Roxul-type insulation in it will resolve our needs on that (vertical) front. If we had an adjacent living- or bedroom, we'd go the staggered studs" route, too.

Thanks again for all your input! :D
 

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The wall itself is according to code: 2"x4" studs @ 24" centers. (16" centers are required for 2"x3" studs.) I don't think we'll rip it up - just make any minor adjustments to it that are required. (The dimpled subfloor will abut against it, as per installation instructions (PDF).)
If your 2x4 24" OC and not doing wall cupboards or such, your good to go. BTW, 2x3 24" OC is the minimum code and exactly what I have :( in my basement (and it's badly framed) hence the gut. Make sure there is plastic/gasket under your 2x4 sole plates; concrete efflorescence and moisture eats away at wood.
- We'll go with insulating the ceiling and the bulkheads that will enclose the trunk ductwork, although the benefit may not be great. My understanding is that the potlights have to be enclosed in insulated ceiling boxes, which don't offer sound insulation. Fifteen or so of those boxes will compromise the value of the insulation in the ceiling. Additionally, because of the low height of our trunk ductwork, we can't afford the space required to drop the bulkhead by 3 or so inches for acoustic insulation, so we'll have to put a thinner layer of insulation in there, which may not be as effective. But I guess it'll be better than nothing.
Light boxes made from concrete/hardy board is common place as my electrian has told me and provide sound proofing (via mass). They're easy to make and up to code as long as the fixture is thermally protected (i.e. IC rated). That's my plan for any pot lights but most of my lighting will be sconces which don't have the same issues and are more theater like. For pot lights/ceiling fans in non-sound proofed areas, there is the blue plastic tray/hoods for insulated ceilings (and required by code). I have them in my bathroom which is fully insulated (because it is next to the furnance room that has a very loud power venter). The center of my theater has (will have shortly) a stack duct (10x3 rect) going the length of the theater under the joists (had no choice so I integrated it into my design). I'm using automotive (high temp) sound absorbing material on the ducts and it is unbelievable; hit the duct and all you get is a dull thud where as before it would ring like a bell. I just cut it and stick to the ducts; just like tape but only 12" wide and it's heavy for something thin.

The rule of thumb that I go by: majority of sound transmits via vibrations in structure; add mass or dampen the vibrations less the sound transmission.

Cheers,
Kaoru
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
If your 2x4 24" OC and not doing wall cupboards or such, your good to go.
Nope, no cupboards or anything like that. The walls will hold the screen, possibly a small (~20") LCD for my wife to use when exercising and some pictures.

Make sure there is plastic/gasket under your 2x4 sole plates; concrete efflorescence and moisture eats away at wood.
Yup, there's plastic.

Light boxes made from concrete/hardy board is common place as my electrian has told me and provide sound proofing (via mass). They're easy to make and up to code as long as the fixture is thermally protected (i.e. IC rated).
I'll ask him specifically about this type of box.

I'm using automotive (high temp) sound absorbing material on the ducts and it is unbelievable; hit the duct and all you get is a dull thud where as before it would ring like a bell. I just cut it and stick to the ducts; just like tape but only 12" wide and it's heavy for something thin.
Can you provide a name brand or dealer? This sounds like it might be just the ticket for use in the bulkheads, which we don't want to drop too much.

Thanks!
 

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2. The basement wall does not need to be insulated and vapour-barriered right to floor level. He stated that code does not require it and that leaving, say, a foot of uninsulated space behind the drywall just above floor level allows for upward convection of air through the drywall, up behind the insulation and out through the foundation above grade level, drying any moisture back there.

Hi, (we actually chatted via email a couple weeks back)

I'm buying a new home from Minto and I'll be doing my own basement too in the new year.

Minto is framing all exterior walls in the basement for me, and the insulation/vapor-barrier will be run 2 feet below the frost line which is according to spec. The Minto guy told me that if they were finishing the basement for me they would insulate all the way to the floor. So my understanding is building code does not require insulation vapor/barrier all the way to the floor, but I'll be doing it regardless.

There was a Mike Holmes (Holmes On Homes, you might be able to watch the episode on hgtv.ca) on last week where they did a guy's basement; Holmes put 2" foam board to all exterior wall concrete, filled all gaps with spray foam, then taped over all foamed gaps. Then he built the walls with wooden 2x4 on top of the board. He also mentioned not to use metal studs on exterior walls because they get cold and there'd be a moisture problem, but he did use metal to frame around the air-duct/bulkheads.

Also, he used 1" foam board on the floor (sprayed and taped all gaps), then placed tongue-and-groove plywood over the foam board and screwed the plywood right into the concrete floor.

Minto, by the way, doesn't put in any floor when they finish a basement. They put the underlay and the carpet right on the concrete (which is what I'm planning on doing).

I also visited a carpet/flooring place on Eagleson, Kanata (don't remember the name, it's south on Eagleson from the Queensway, in a strip mall on the right next to the "Rideau Restaurant"). The guy there (who seemed very knowledgable) told me just to do a good underlay and then carpet right on the concrete, he said it'll be fine. He also gave me the name of a contractor that they use when they need work done as part of an install and he highly recommended him (the guy's name was something like Dave Lee ... email me and I can get you the name/number).

One last thing, there's a Minto model called Hathaway in Morgan's Grant, Kanata that has a finished basement. You can visit that model to take a look at how Minto finishes a basement. Good luck!

Hope this helps!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
boxlight said:
Hi, (we actually chatted via email a couple weeks back)
Yes, I recall. I guess you've gathered by now that you shouldn't go with SHC! ;) I wish you the best of luck with your reno! :)

-----------------------------------
Last night, my wife and I ended up hiring the contractor discussed above (starting in post #9). He's extremely pleasant to deal with, the plan he drew up for us is much more elegant than what we had originally envisioned, and the price is VERY reasonable and quite a bit less than what SHC was going to charge us.

Although he recommends insulating to within 12-16" of the floor, at our request he will insulate to floor level for no extra charge. He will also fully insulate the ceiling/bulkheads and inside walls (separating our finished area from the furnace room and unfinished area) and will lay down a dimpled subfloor in the entire finished area.

He'll confirm with us today or tomorrow whether he is able to start as early as next week. If all goes well, we'll have our new basement in 4-6 weeks! :D (I'll post additional before/during/after updates/pics in this thread as the project progresses.)

Thanks to everyone for their input!
 

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If all goes well, we'll have our new basement in 4-6 weeks!

Great! When you're done, if you're happy, maybe I'll see if your guy is available to help me out too. :)

I'd enjoy seeing the new floorplan design you're going with.
 
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