Finishing my basement and have some questions - input appreciated

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Posted by: from Ottawa
10/2/2012 at 9:13:41 AM


- I plan to use spray foam insulation, As I will frame with 2x4s on top of existing 1" nailing strips already on my cinderblock walls, I figure there will be lots of room (5" total between cinderblock and drywall) left once the sprayfoam is in place to then run some electric wires. Plumbing is a non-issue. Any problem doing it this way?

I understand I should not run wires before sprayfoam as this creates a fire hazard when wires are embedded in spray foam.

- What if water seeps in from outside and meets sprayfoam? It isn't a problem now, but what happens "if"? Will it run through/behind the sprayfoam or will it stay moist and get mouldy?

- Perhaps a stupid question, but do bugs eat/nest in sprayfoam? Would seem like a warm comfortable place.

- My wife wants me to make a basement window wider and lower to the ground level. It would then become the same size as the window above it on our main floor. As far as I can see, there is no lintel above the window just the sill plate of the house - the window fits in the top 2 rows of cinderblocks and I plan to remove a 3rd row to make the window bigger. I am concerned that the old window is made of a 2X6 frame with 2 2X6s vertically dividing the window into 3 windows. I am concerned that this shape has some structural value and that I would need to re-support the sill plate if I remove it an replace with a (weak) vynil window.

- My basement has an old wood fireplace in it. I had a fireplace guy in to inspect it once and he told me the firebox is steel and rust has eaten holes in it so I should not use the fireplace. Apparently I cannot weld a patch into the firebox (don't know why) and the only way to fix it is to completely demolish and rebuild which would be too expensive for me.

I have 2 options I think: a) insert a slide in wood stove into the fireplace opening and connect to the chimney or b) convert to a gas fireplace. I think the gas fireplace likely makes more sense since I have a gas line running across my open basement ceiling.

The thing is, I guess I have to run the gas line after the sprayfoam is in but before the drywall, but how do I know where the gas connection to the fireplace would be? Am I right to assume the gas fireplace would need an electrical source? Where should that go? Is there another better/cheaper option to have a working gas or wood fireplace that I haven't thought of?

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Date/Time10/2/2012 at 10:38:21 AM

Get 2 or 3 experienced contractors to give you pricing to complete your project and get some references from them and before and after photos.

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Date/Time10/2/2012 at 11:31:00 AM

Andy: I commend you on wanting to take on these repairs. however, as you are reaching out with quite a bit of technical need. I would encourage you as the previous responder did, get experienced contractors in your area to bid the job. And don't forget to take out a permits where needed and have it inspected!

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Prakash from Final Inspections BC in Burnaby
Date/Time10/2/2012 at 1:40:24 PM

It's very difficult to advise without looking but you may be better off getting some estimates by a contractor to do the work. Even if you don't go ahead with the estimate you'll get a better idea of what needs to be done.

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Andy in Ottawa
Date/Time10/2/2012 at 3:03:13 PM

I'd love to hire someone to take on the whole job. I have 2 babies so I'd rather spend my time with them now but we need the space to expand into. I'm not against hiring profesionals, I just need to be very careful where I spend my money so I need to understand what I can/can't do and/or what I am prepared to take on. For example, I don't touch gas as I have no experience with it. That said, I have also been taken for a ride by quite a few contractors so I like to know a good amount about what I am hiring someone to do.

Here is a picture of my front window that I would like to enlarge if it helps.

Finishing my basement and have some questions - input appreciated
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Andy in Ottawa
Date/Time10/2/2012 at 3:17:13 PM

Sorry, I forgot to add some clarification in my last post. I don't plan to do everything in my basement myself. I plan to hire professionals for those things that I can't or don't want to do.

When I did the reno 2 years ago for the rest of my house (everything but the basement) I had a team that did just the rough in to drywall and I did the rest (hiring folks when needed to speed things up). the turn key quote for that renovation was 115K and I did the rough in to drywall for less than 1/2 that. I need to be equally economical this time around.

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Spencer from All Home Repair in St Thomas
Date/Time10/2/2012 at 5:17:47 PM

Hi Andy

Setting yourself up as the contractor and subbing out certain aspects on this project is an excellent way to save money for yourself and your family. Being the contractor it will be your responsibility to plan the work flow and timing as you have done with your previous project.

Many contractors on here are more than willing to give you advice as they have with many other people who have sent in questions.

Many of the questions you have asked have complex answers and some are interrelated to others.Some require personal inspection to answer properly.

Maybe if you make your plan of how you will proceed on this job and ask more job specific questions about a single issue at a time we would be able to help you more.

Good luck


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Date/Time10/2/2012 at 7:04:25 PM

Plumbing and electrical can be buried in the spray foam with no problems, just leak test them first. Any water that touchs the foam will not be absorbed, it will just run down the wall. Spray foam is great, but a very expensive option, a much more economical option is to glue 2" blue or pink foam insulation to the wall and build your 2x4 wall in front of it.

Your window looks structural. You'd have to support all the joists above it and replace it with a taller, structural window. You can get them in vinyl, but they have to be ordered.

Most fireplace parts are cast steel, which can be welded, but you need to be skilled at it. If it is steel, most likely the rest of it is rusted just as bad and would be just a temp. patch anyway. I'm sure someone has come up with a proper fix for it without tearing it down. I would call a couple fireplace companies to see.

For a gas fireplace you need a gas line and an electrical line, most are run to either side of the unit, but it's best if you pick out the model you want before hand, so you can run the lines exactly were they should be.

As the homeowner you are legally allowed to run your own electrical and gas lines, as long as you have it inspected. So if you want to do some reasearch, you can save some money that way as well.

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Andy in Ottawa
Date/Time10/3/2012 at 10:42:18 AM

Thanks all. All the info is helpful.

It is so much more productive when I have a sub come in for an estimate and I already know a little or a lot about what what needs to be done. For me it's the same as if I brought my car in to the shop and said "my car makes a funy noise, please fix it" compared to "I hear my front brakes grinding, I think they need to be replaced".

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