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New Homeowners And New Basements

May 19, 2008
Probably one of the most asked questions by homeowners who have just purchased a new home with a basement is how to finish their basement. Most new homeowners become very overzealous to this fact that they want to take on a do-it-yourself job and the easiest way to go about that is to start in a place that is not as visible to everyone or a very high-traffic area. The basement becomes a natural choice and the homeowner will get very excited with the idea of a finished basement. Soon they will rush out and start gathering all the supplies needed to do the job and not take into account some very basic factors to ensure a properly finished basement with just the right look and feel.

Typically the first thing a new homeowner with a new basement would assume is that it is a new home and doesn't have any problems or leaks as it was just built. While that is probably true that there are no leaks at this time, what is not being factored into the equation here is that for the most part the house has not had the proper time to really settle and concrete is a very wet material. There is no substitute for time and it takes concrete quite a while to dry out from the mixture that laid the foundation. Yes the concrete is strong enough to build the house on but there is still a lot of moisture trapped within the concrete itself. There is nothing that you can do to speed up that process of concrete drying due to it's very porous nature and that it just holds water. Give the slab some time to acclimate and wait six months to a year before you attempt to finish the basement or install basement flooring. After that time has passed check it and see if the concrete is still holding moisture or not. There are plenty of simple and cheap tests that can be run to accomplish a moisture test.

Once time passes and you have checked that the concrete is no longer retaining moisture, you can start to think about finishing out that basement again. First thing that comes to mind is finishing the walls and wall framing. One thing to keep in mind is that when you go to the typical hardware stores to purchase framing material for your walls is to stay away from the steel studs. These tend to be very thin gauge material and not as sufficient as using something else to frame your wall. Because they are thin, this will leave you with a flimsy wall that shakes and rattles every time a door is shut or slammed. You will definitely want the walls of your basement to act like the rest of the walls in your home and not have this occur. Plus the added weight of attaching shelving to the walls will only add to and exaggerate the inability of the wall when this happens.

Be sure to also check with your local building codes as well as there may be some things that are inappropriate to use while finishing a basement. As an example, if you are going to install a door and are putting together a bottom sill, it may be inappropriate to utilize pressure treated lumber instead of standard lumber to do the job as long as there is a sill gasket in place. The sill gasket will separate the wood from the concrete where moisture will typically accumulate. You might also be required to use certain gauge dry wall screws when applying the wall to the studs. You never know and every local code is different so it's best to check with them first to make sure all your ducks are in a row. Often times so much of this information is contradictory and in abundance, so to avoid the confusion check with your local building code first and then come back to research more on how to finish a basement.
About the Author
Chris is co-author of Basement Flooring Guide where they seek to provide and maintain information for DIY'ers relating to basement subfloor and basement flooring ideas.
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