Category: Basement & Garage


Pro Tips: Basement Waterproofing

There are a variety of possible causes of a wet basement. Although structural problems are often to blame, poor drainage or plumbing leaks can also trigger moisture or flooding. Here, a basement waterproofing pro reviews the likely culprits and how they can best be dealt with.

Photo: All-Dry of the Carolinas

A clean, dry basement—there, doesn’t that sound nice? Yet the fact is, many of us live with basements that are damp, which makes them unpleasant to visit and inhospitable for our belongings. To find out what makes a basement damp and what can be done about it, we reached out to John Mitchell, owner of All-Dry of the Carolinas, a basement moisture problem-solver based in South Carolina. According to Mitchell, there are three common causes of flooded or damp basements: backfill saturation, surface water, and plumbing leaks.

BACKFILL SATURATION
Backfill saturation causes water to enter the basement due to what is known as the “Clay Bowl Effect,” says Mitchell, which is a result of the way in which your foundation was installed. First, a big hole was made in the earth and then the foundation was poured, leaving a gap between the foundation walls and the existing earth. That gap was filled with the soil that had been removed and “fluffed up.” Because this soil is looser and more aerated than the soil around it, which may have been compressing for hundreds of years, it tends to absorb more water than the compacted soil does, much like a sponge in comparison with a brick.

More water against your house leads to hydrostatic pressure. This basically means that water, which is heavy, presses up against your foundation and can then find its way in through cracks, windows, openings around pipes, or even through the concrete itself, which is porous.

Mitchell says that it’s possible to waterproof a foundation in the building stages, but that doesn’t always happen. “When a basement is constructed,” he says, “either a damp-proof or waterproof coating is applied to below-grade walls, then a footing drain with gravel is placed beside the foundation and drained to daylight before the gap is backfilled.”

DryTrak basement foundation drain

Photo: basementsystemsquebec.com

So what can go wrong? According to Mitchell, contractors will sometimes opt for damp-proofing rather than waterproofing to save money. But there’s an issue with that approach. “Damp-proofing, which can be sprayed on or applied with a paint roller or brush, will not bridge the cracks that result from the normal settling of your house.”

Waterproofing, on the other had, is much more effective because the coating is typically 40 millimeters thick and is either sprayed on or installed as a membrane.

So what can be done if you find out that your basement is leaking due to a structural problem? One solution Mitchell’s company recommends is the installation of a perimeter drainage system around the edges of the basement floor inside the house. Some of these systems involve jackhammering the concrete floor of the basement around the edges to install the drain, but other systems, such as DryTrak, can be installed above the floor. Both systems allow water to enter but then quickly collect it and funnel it away to a sump pump that delivers it to an adequate drainage site outside the home.

SURFACE WATER
Other issues that could lead to a moist basement include incorrect grading and drainage around the home. Mitchell explains: “The perimeter footing drain may be installed too high and may not drain to daylight. Not having used enough gravel may be part of the issue since gravel is expensive. Another possibility is that the gutter’s downspouts may not extend beyond the backfill or gutters may be clogged and overflowing onto the backfill. Or the grade may leave surface water pooling next to the house, and as this water enters the backfill it can carry loose soil particles to the footing drain, at some point clogging the drain and giving you backfill saturation. Surface water can also cause basement flooding by running or pooling next to the house and running over the foundation wall. This is why good grading and extending gutter downspouts away from the house is important. Have your gutters cleaned after the leaves stop falling,” he advises.

If your water leakage problem isn’t foundation-wide, a basement waterproofing expert can determine if it’s entering through cracks in the floor or windows and repair those cracks to keep it from coming back.

PLUMBING WOES
Sometimes water in the basement isn’t the fault of the foundation. The moisture may simply be due to a leaky water heater or pipe. “Leaking water heaters, plumbing leaks, and burst washing machine hoses are the leading sources of homeowner insurance claims,” says Mitchell.

So how to combat these plumbing problems?

Mitchell advises: “You could put the water heater in a containment system with a water watch alarm to issue a warning should it begin to leak. You could put a quality hose set on your washing machine rather than the five dollar set of hoses that the washer came with. You could also have a sump system in the low spot of the basement with an airtight floor drain incorporated into the lid of the sump. This would keep your basement from filling up with water should a leak occur in your domestic water system.”

This is certainly a wise move. Mitchell notes that “a burst washing machine hose with 50 pounds of pressure will flow 500 gallons per hour,” which could quickly turn your basement into a swimming pool. And while an in-home pool might sound nice, that’s probably not the best way to go about getting one.


How To: Clean a Shower Head

To keep the water flowing forcefully from your shower head, you should clean it from time to time. Follow these quick, easy instructions for getting your shower head back in tip-top shape.

How to Clean a Shower Head - Dirty Fixture

Photo: joe.ie

Is your shower head failing to perform as well as it once did? If so, then chances are good that it’s time to clean the shower head, eliminating scaly buildup within the fixture in order to restore the strength of its flow. It’s easy to do, and you’ll be happy that you spent the small amount of time required to complete the task.

How to Clean a Shower Head - After

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 1
Pay attention first to the flexible rubber nozzles through which most newer types of shower heads send water into the stall. Over time, those nozzles become clogged up with mineral deposits that compromise the fixture and worsen its performance. Scrub the nozzles with a toothbrush to dislodge any deposits you can reach, but be careful not to scrub the soft rubber too vigorously. Also, avoid using strong chemical cleaning agents, because they too can damage the nozzles.

STEP 2 
Detach the shower head and, after consulting the manufacturer’s instructions for information specific to the model you own, extract the filter screen. (This can usually be found near the point where the shower head attaches to the water supply pipe.) Run the filter under the faucet while gently scrubbing it with a toothbrush. Once it’s clean, reassemble and reinstall the shower head and test it.

You may notice a big difference—or you may not. Removing mineral buildup certainly ought to improve flow through the fixture, but if you have always had a problem with water pressure in your home, you shouldn’t expect that cleaning the shower head will magically overcome weak pressure.

The Vinegar Method 
Step 1—scrubbing the shower head nozzles with a toothbrush—may not manage to remove all mineral deposits. That’s OK: You can clean off the remainder with household vinegar, whose mild acidity actually dissolves the deposits. To do this, fill a plastic bag with vinegar, then fit the bag over the shower head so that the nozzles are completely submerged. Secure the bag with a zip tie or binder clip, leaving it in place for several hours or overnight. Remember to run the shower for a minute before jumping in to bathe—you don’t want to end up smelling like salad dressing, do you?


Bob Vila Radio: Garage Door Replacement

Today, a wide variety of door styles offer as much form as function in a garage. Consider a new garage door for added style and energy-efficiency in your home.

Garage doors may not seem like great decorating opportunities—most people treat them as functional afterthoughts that just need to open and close on command. But today’s options in garage doors include a wide variety of styles that add a handsome touch to your home. In fact, a recent home improvement survey showed that a garage door upgrade was one of the top five projects in terms of return on investment when it comes time to sell your home.

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garage-door-replacement

Shutterstock

You can find all kinds of garage doors that look like barn doors or carriage house doors, even doors in Mission style or more sleek contemporary styles. These new doors can look like wood even if they’re made of steel or fiberglass. Best of all, they may appear to be traditional side-hinged doors but are actually overhead doors that can be controlled with a remote or a pushbutton.

If your garage is attached to your home, here’s more good news: Today’s models are much more energy-efficient than older ones and save you money on your heating and cooling bills, too.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Planning Guide: Garage Conversion

The solution to your need for more space may already be attached to your house! Converting an existing garage is less expensive than building an addition—and it's a lot less complicated too!

Garage Conversion - Lounge

Photo: kerriekelly.com

Remaking your garage into an extra bedroom, den, or kids’ playroom can improve not only the resale value of your home but also your quality of life. In comparison to building an addition, a garage conversion is much more affordable and entails fewer bureaucratic hurdles, but that’s not to say it’s a simple project. As you begin planning yours, take into account these essential considerations.

FLOORING
In a garage with a flat and dry concrete slab, homeowners have no shortage of flooring options. Tile, whether ceramic or vinyl, holds appeal for its ease of installation. It can be laid directly over the slab, so long as the slab is properly prepared. This typically entails filling cracks with patching compound, cleaning spills with a degreasing solution, and applying sealer to block moisture from rising up through the porous concrete.

Less affordable and more demanding to the do-it-yourselfer are carpeting or hardwood. Both materials require a plywood subfloor, which means the project must begin with patching, cleaning, and sealing the slab. After that, lay down a layer of polyethylene sheeting to further safeguard against moisture. Then attach 3/4-inch plywood to the slab with concrete screws at 16-inch intervals. The carpeting or hardwood is then installed over the plywood, resulting in a raised floor height that will need to be managed at the garage entryways.

Garage Conversion - Den

Photo: alexamend.com

DOORS & WINDOWS
Many who complete a garage conversion ultimately choose to leave the garage door intact, imbuing the space with a note of industrial flair. Other homeowners replace the garage door with a solid or windowed wall, or with a compromise solution, such as French doors. As you contemplate the design of your garage conversion, ask yourself whether the space has a sufficient number of windows. If you’re planning to add any, consider not only natural light and views to the outdoors, but also privacy.

WALLS & INSULATION
You’re ahead of the game if your garage walls are insulated and paneled in drywall. If they aren’t, however, how you address the issue often depends on how your garage is constructed. If the exterior walls are cinderblock, then outfit the perimeter of the space in stud framing. Fit insulation between the studs and then fasten the drywall to the framing. (For walls with drywall but no insulation, spray-foam insulation can be used with little disruption to the status quo.) Before closing up the walls, remember to run electrical wire for overhead lighting. Also at this stage, you must frame out any closets you wish to include as part of your garage conversion.

ELECTRIC
Once the walls are in, hire a licensed electrician to install outlets and light switches, as well as any fixtures you wish to mount on, or hang from, the ceiling. (Note that it may be necessary to add a circuit to your breaker panel.) Of the many reasons to hire a professional to handle the electrical work in your garage conversion, perhaps most important is the pro’s in-depth knowledge of the relevant building codes in your area.

Garage Conversion - Gym

Photo: menterarchitects.com

HEATING & COOLING
If you have a forced-air system, the simplest (read: most cost-effective) method of heating and cooling your garage conversion is to extend the ductwork from the main part of your house. Alternatively, look into radiant floor heating, which operates through the floor by means of heated water or electrical coils. Yet another option is to install a mini-split heater and/or air conditioner. Known as a ductless system, this technology consists of a wall-mounted unit that draws from a condenser situated immediately outside the building. As a final set of options, consider the traditional amenities for small-space seasonal comfort, namely baseboard heaters and window air conditioners.

PLUMBING
Installing a kitchen, bathroom, wet bar, or utility sink can be the most complicated part of a garage conversion. Chances are good that in order to have running water, supply and drain lines will need to be set into the concrete slab. For that reason, it’s wise to handle plumbing issues first, before addressing other features of the project. If you wish to build a bathroom but are leery of disrupting the slab, think about an up-flush system, which relies on a macerator (to grind waste) and a pump (to take that waste to your septic tank or sewer). In this setup, supply and return lines are boxed out along the floor, but they almost disappear from view once you have painted and furnished the renovated garage space.


Basement Flooring 101

A surprising number of materials are suitable for basement flooring. This basic tutorial will help you evaluate your basement's challenges and weigh each material's pros and cons—even those prone to dampness.

Basement Flooring

Photo: woatile.com

Surprise! It’s all right to install virtually any type of flooring in your basement. Although hardwood should be avoided, homeowners have a plethora of other choices. Vinyl, ceramic tile, carpeting, linoleum, cork, laminate—all of these materials, and even some less common ones, can be successfully used as basement flooring.

Basement Flooring Challenges
If the good news is that you have a wide range of options, the bad news is that basements are the most challenging part of a house in which to install flooring. To complete your project, you may have to overcome an out-of-level subfloor, ceiling height issues, or, most likely of all, problematic moisture.

Moisture and high humidity
The vast majority of basements in America are constructed using concrete, one of the most durable materials available to home builders. One of concrete’s few weaknesses, however, is porousness, which means that it allows water vapor to enter the basement through the slab floor and foundation walls. Particularly in older homes, moisture can also enter the basement through cracks in the foundation or at the joint between the foundation and exterior walls.

The effect of water or water vapor is to raise the moisture content of flooring materials that are sensitive to humidity—hardwood and fiberboard above all. This moisture can cause wood flooring to swell or buckle over time. Worse, the flooring can develop mold or fungus before starting to rot and deteriorate.

How does one keep water vapor at bay? The conventional approach is to install a vapor barrier over the slab. Manufacturers offer a bevy of options, such as roll-down plastic or felt sheets, paint-on coatings, and moisture-inhibiting adhesives. Different products are appropriate for different flooring materials, so the best vapor barrier for your basement will largely be determined by the type of flooring you are planning to install.

An alternate means of managing water vapor is to raise your floor off the slab. The air gap between the installed flooring and foundation slab encourages moisture to dissipate. Various companies sell waterproofing membranes that work on this principle; dimpled plastic matting is a popular design.

Basement Flooring - Vapor Barrier Subfloor

Photo: bakerswaterproofing.com

Also available are basement flooring tiles with a built-in vapor barrier. Topped by decorative vinyl squares or carpeting, these tiles feature molded plastic bases that enable the concrete slab to breathe. Plus, because the tiles are modular and interlocking, they can be removed, washed, and reinstalled after a flood.

Threat of flooding
Despite the best efforts of contractors everywhere, basements still flood and probably always will. If your basement has chronic flooding issues, it’s imperative that you take steps to address them. That means keeping water away from your foundation through proper site grading and installing a sound drainage system. Consider, in addition, a sump pump (and a back-up sump pump). Finally, be realistic in your choice of basement flooring, as standing water simply dooms some materials to the Dumpster. In short, choose something that can get wet.

Uneven surface
If your basement is out of level, you can use a self-leveling cement to create an even subfloor. Follow the instructions closely: It is important to prepare the old concrete surface and apply a bonding agent.

Low ceiling heights
Basements rarely boast extra headroom, especially if the ceiling accommodates HVAC air ducts. Even if a floor adds just a couple of inches, this slight increase can spell the difference between meeting or falling short of the minimum ceiling height prescribed by your local building codes. Identify a low-profile basement flooring solution, if necessary.

Basement Flooring - Modular Tile

Photo: modutile.com

Basement Flooring Selection
As elsewhere in the home, the basement affords homeowners many flooring options. But if you don’t like to take chances, you can’t go wrong with ceramic tile, the Cadillac of basement flooring. Unaffected by water or water vapor, ceramic tile may be installed directly over a concrete slab, helping to conserve precious inches in a low-ceilinged space. Another great option is glue-down vinyl tiles or planks, which emerge none the worse for wear even after repeated flooding. Bear in mind that this isn’t your parents’ vinyl; today’s products can emulate the look of wood, ceramic, or stone rather convincingly.

Engineered wood is yet another option, although you can expect swelling or buckling should the material be submerged. Typically, engineered wood flooring comes in tongue-and-groove planks, the top layer of which is a laminated veneer. Some are glued down, while others “float” unattached to the underlayment. Floating floors offer easy, adhesive-free installation, but note that basement moisture can affect any product that contains fiberboard (for example, engineered cork).

Here’s the bottom line: If you install any flooring that includes organic material adversely affected by water, you risk having to tear out the floor in the wake of a flood. You also risk the unseen buildup of mold beneath the flooring—a considerable risk to the air quality of your home.


Simple Solutions for a More Livable Garage

Transform this formerly utilitarian space into a comfortable, stylish, and eminently livable part of your home. Plus, don't forget to enter the RAM CAVE contest for your chance to win $25,000 towards the ultimate man cave.

Garage Remodel Ideas

Photo: mybadpad.com

In many homes, the garage is nothing more than a place to park the car, store the Christmas decorations and hang up a few rakes. However, with a little ingenuity (and these quick tips), a garage can be transformed into an awesome space that’s as comfortable as—and a lot more fun than—all the other rooms in the house.

CREATE ZONES
To create a livable garage space, your first step should be to create zones: one for your car, one for your workshop (if it’s located in the garage), and one for kicking back and enjoying a space of your own. In each zone, use smart storage to hide tools and other “garage items” away. Metallic tool chests can create an industrial feel for the space, while wooden cabinets can be stained for a more upscale look, or painted to keep things casual and visually interesting.

Your different zones can work fine in an open plan concept; once you get the areas organized, they’ll naturally stand apart from each other. For a more formal division of space, get creative with partitions. You can build a unique screen by hinging together a collection of mismatched vintage doors, create an industrial look by using chain-link or other metallic fencing, or suspend corrugated steel panels from chains connected to the ceiling.

Garage Remodel Ideas - Workshop

Photo: rsvpdesignservices.com

MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU
After you’ve created a space for your car, maximized storage and zoned off your work or play space, it’s time to make it your own.

If the primary use of your new man cave will be as a workshop or for use as a hobby area, make sure to create a work bench that’s large enough to get your jobs done. Install adequate lighting, run enough outlets to handle your power tools, and consider on-wall open storage to make your tools visible but neat. A shop vac or wall-mounted vacuum system provides quick and easy clean up after projects are done.

If the new space will be primarily for relaxing, use as much imagination as you would for a room inside the house but try to stick to a theme like upscale sports, sci-fi, vintage automotive, hunting lodge, gentleman’s lounge or modern minimalism. Consider putting in a leather sofa, comfy chairs, a coffee table that reflects your style and, of course, a big flat-screen TV mounted on the wall. An area rug goes a long way in holding a space together and saves you money by not necessarily having to redo the floor. It can also help hide cords from table lamps, which will warm the space up and make it feel less like a garage and more like a real room.

Other accouterments (i.e. toys) you might want to put in your new “garagement” could include a video game system, beer fridge, bar, dart board or—for a really big space—a basketball hoop or golf simulator.

CLIMATE
If your garage is uninsulated, you might want to take care of that to keep the space warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Most uninsulated garages have exposed beams so you can roll your insulation in easily and cover it up with sheetrock. If the space is already finished but uninsulated, you could use an installer like Retrofoam who can spray the insulation behind the walls.

For warming the garage in the cold months, a simple space heater might do the trick if the square footage isn’t too big. Otherwise, a hanging gas-powered forced-hot-air unit is your best bet. In the summer, you can get airconditioned comfort by installing an individual unit in the wall or a window or by using a free-standing evaporative cooling unit.

WiFi
Let’s face it, when you’re in your man cave you’re going to want to go on the Internet to check global affairs, research philosophical conundrums and maybe do some, er, extracurricular surfing. Hopefully your home’s WiFi signal is already strong enough to reach out to the garage. If not, you can install a signal booster like this one from NetGear.

PLUMBING
Chances are, your garage already has a water line running through it for a hose bib. If so, it’s easy to splice off it to create a utility or bar sink. Even if you can only get a cold water line, that should be fine for rinsing beer mugs or martini glasses. If you want hot water without having to run the lines from the hot water heater, you can install an on-demand “tankless” unit under the sink.

FLOORING
If your garage floor is in decent shape, you can probably get away with simply painting it. Give it a good power washing beforehand and fill any cracks with a mortar repair compound. Next check to see if the floor needs to be etched so that the paint will stick by dripping some water on it. If the water gets absorbed, there’s no need to etch, but if it beads on the surface, then you’ll need to treat the floor with an etching product first. After etching, let the floor dry overnight, then prime, paint with a floor-grade epoxy paint. Follow with a second coat if needed.

If the floor seems too far gone for a paint job, consider using gym-style rubber floor tiles. They hide a lot of sins, are comfortable to walk on, insulate for sound and make cleaning up spills a breeze—whether they be beer or motor oil!

 

This post is sponsored by Ram Trucks. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Coddle Your Car, Pamper Your Pickup: Designing a Garage Around Your Vehicle

Enter the RAM CAVE Renovation Contest, and who knows? You could win $25,000 towards a garage fit for even the finest truck.

This post is sponsored by Ram Trucks. Do you have a garage in need of an overhaul? Enter here for your chance at being one of three lucky winners.

Luxury Garage

Photo: Falcon Custom Homes / zillow.com

A man’s truck can be like a best friend—always ready for an adventure or to lend a hand hauling stuff from the lumber yard or home improvement store. If you had your best friend staying with you, you wouldn’t put him in a cold and musty garage, now would you? So why would you subject your truck to similar conditions? Here are a few tips to creating a garage that will treat your truck in the style it deserves. But for the ultimate pampering, ENTER HERE for your chance to be one of three lucky winners in the $25,000 RAM CAVES Renovation Contest.

CLIMATE
The most important consideration when contemplating the climate of your garage is the humidity. High humidity can cause rust, metal’s worst enemy. Most car aficionados suggest keeping the humidity in a garage around the 50 percent level. If your garage tends to be damp, you’ll want to install a dehumidifier that can dry it up. The company Humidex offers a garage control unit that not only keeps humidity at bay, it also helps keep the air free from your truck’s carbon monoxide emissions as well as paint and solvent fumes.

ClimateRight air conditioner

ClimateRight at factorypure.com

Although trucks are generally not affected by temperature swings, if you garage the vehicle for long periods of time in a space that is subject to extreme temperature variations, you might want to think about stabilizing the temperature to keep the seals, seats, dashboards and other components from expanding and contracting excessively. In the summer months, an easy-to-install ClimateRight unit can keep things cool, while in the cold days of winter a wall-mounted, gas-fired, forced-hot-air garage heater can make the garage truly toasty. Beyond keeping your truck comfy, when the garage is properly climate controlled, you can feel free to visit it no matter what the weather outside and gaze lovingly at your glass and steel sweetheart!

LIGHTING
Car paint is pretty impervious to indoor lighting, so you don’t have to worry about fading your truck’s paint job by using incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. More important is to make sure there are no large windows or skylights that will beam the car with paint-fading UV light. If your garage does have windows, you can still take advantage of the light while cutting out the harmful rays by installing a UV-filtering window film on the glass, like 3M’s Sun Control Window Films.

Protecting your truck from harmful light is one thing—bathing it in flattering light is something else. To make sure your truck always looks showroom new, use flourescent lights that have a color-rendition index (or CRI) above 75. To go truly deluxe, order a custom-made garage light from VAULT, who reproduces the same illumination used by Ferrari and Maserati dealers.

Hoover's Garage Utility Vac

Hoover's Garage Utility Vac at griotsgarage.com

CLEANING
Unless you have an enormous garage and can section off an area for washing your truck, this task is best done outdoors. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep your truck looking its best inside your garage. Install a simple utility sink in the space and have a collection of sponges and brushes on hand to remove any tree sap or bird droppings that land on your truck during its time outdoors. Boar’s hair brushes—just like the ones used for shaving, only larger—are a good choice for quick wipe-offs as they hold a lot of water and capture a lot of dirt.

You can also install a wall-mounted vacuum, like the Hoover Garage Utility Vac, to suck out crumbs from that fast food lunch or sand from your latest beach adventure. If that’s too involved, an always-plugged-in, easily accessible shop vac should do the trick.

SAFETY
Your truck keeps you safe during the day, so you should return the favor when it’s tucked in at night. At the very least, make sure your garage has a smoke detector installed that can alert you to fire. To truly make sure your truck will be well-looked-after, you can arrange to have a professional sprinkler system installed; just make sure you roll up the windows at night!

If you have a home security alarm system installed, be sure to place door and window sensors on any access points to the garage. If you don’t have a whole-house system, you can install a stand-alone motion-sensor (like the GE Wireless Motion Sensor Alarm) that will sound a siren if an unwanted visitor enters your garage.

This post is sponsored by Ram Trucks. Do you have a garage in need of an overhaul? Enter here for your chance at being one of three lucky winners.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The Ram® Trucks Caves Contest starts 9/12/13 at 10:00 A.M. ET and ends 10/6/13 at 11:59:59 P.M. ET.  Open only to eligible legal residents of the 48 contiguous U.S. States/D.C., at least 18 years old at time of entry. Click on Official Rules for entry instructions and requirements, prize details, restrictions, etc. Void in AK, HI, and where prohibited or restricted by law. Sponsor: Chrysler Group LLC, 1000 Chrysler Drive, Auburn Hills, MI 48326-2766. This Contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administrated by, or associated with, Facebook.


Bob Vila Radio: Dehumidifiers

To rid basements of their notorious dampness, consider a humidifier.

Basements are notorious for being damp, just by virtue of being underground. If you have a damp basement, your first job is to find and stop any possible water penetration. If your basement is watertight but still feels damp, or if it registers more than 50 percent humidity on a humidity meter, it’s a good idea to use a dehumidifier.

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dehumidifiers

Photo: lowes.com

A dehumidifier is about the size of an air conditioner, but it doesn’t require window installation. It works by pulling moisture out of the air, then directing it into either a collection tank or through a hose to a drain. If you’ll be collecting water in the tank, you can place a dehumidifier anywhere you have an electrical outlet.

The dehumidifier will turn itself off when the tank is full, so you’ll need to empty it every time that happens. Depending on how humid the room is, that might be once a week or several times a day.

If you’d rather send the wastewater right down the drain, you’ll need to position your dehumidifier near a sink or a floor drain. Unless the dehumidifier has a pump, it drains using gravity, so if you’re draining it into a sink you’ll need to position the dehumidifier above the level of the sink so that the water runs down into it.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


3 Steps to a Successful Garage Makeover

If a messy garage is driving you crazy, here’s how to steer things back on course.

Garage Makeover Ideas

Photo: Gladiator GarageWorks

Let’s face it. For most of us, the garage serves as a dumping ground for old paint, broken toys, and boxes of clothes awaiting a ride to the local thrift store. No wonder our vehicles feel the squeeze—provided they can fit inside the garage at all.

If the thought of organizing your garage fills you with dread, take courage. Here’s how to break the task into three steps, so you can curb the chaos once and for all:

Garage Makeover Ideas 1. CLEAR THE CLUTTER
Begin with a serious cleaning, if possible hauling everything onto the driveway. Group items you’re eliminating into four piles: toss, recycle, donate or sell. “Be brutal when you are sorting,” advises Erin Gentry, Associate Public Relations and Consumer Engagement Manager at Rubbermaid. “Get rid of anything you haven’t used in the past year.” If parting with perfectly good items proves paralyzing, find motivation in a moneymaking garage sale or gain satisfaction from helping a favorite charity.

Here are additional sources to get you started:
• 1-800-GOT-JUNK: This national franchise will remove everything from appliances to tires to trash, donating and recycling whatever is possible. (Ask the hauler to obtain a tax receipt if you are donating to a charity.)
• earth911.org: Check here to find local recycling centers where you can safely dispose of paint and chemicals.
• donationtown.org: Use this site to match your items with a local charity and arrange pickup.

2. MAKE A PLAN
Now that the garage is empty, avoid the common mistake of hastily rushing out to buy organizational products. First consider whether the space could benefit from a fresh coat of paint. Then begin grouping items by task or interest. “Your pots, fertilizer, and garden hose should be grouped together for a gardening zone,” says Tim Keaton, Head of Brand and Product Marketing for Gladiator/GarageWorks. “And your golf clubs, soccer balls, and baseball bats should be kept together for a sporting zone.” Other logical zone groupings include holiday decorations, kids stuff, and a workshop area with space for a sturdy bench, plus pegboard or cabinets.

Once you’ve determined what zones you’ll need, work logically to fit them in where they’ll be easiest to access. For instance, it makes sense to keep garden equipment and the lawn mower by the door leading to the yard. Plan to store frequently used items close at hand. Stash seasonal items like holiday lights in higher, harder-to-reach spaces.

Garage Makeover Ideas - Ceiling Storage

Photo: Family Hanydman

In fact, thinking vertical is key. “Look up and you’ll find a ton of wasted space,” says Keaton. “Using vertical space leads to creating more useable space. In addition to hanging rakes and tools, consider hanging up your bikes and wheelbarrow.” Hoists and overhead racks maximize space near the ceiling.

3. CHOOSE TAILORED SOLUTIONS
Now that you have a plan, put it into action with smart organizational products that require minimal effort to use. The good news is there are plenty of options, from inexpensive DIY hooks and chrome racks to customized, professionally installed systems priced in the thousands. Here are key categories worth considering:

Wall systems, such as those from GarageTek, Rubbermaid, Schulte and Gladiator/GarageWorks, wrap any or all sides of your garage with panels that can be outfitted with your choice of accessories, including ball holders, bins, cabinets and hooks. Though some systems can be priced in the thousands, they do offer excellent flexibility and get everything organized and off the floor. Models that use tracks or rails are easiest to install.

Slideshow: 10 “Neat” Garage Storage Solutions

Storage cabinets range from freestanding units to modular wall-hung models. Locked cabinets are ideal for storing toxic items, while tall cabinets make great use of vertical space. Look for the versatility of adjustable shelves to ensure you can store everything from camping gear to automotive parts.

Workbenches provide an ideal spot for home improvement projects, repairs, and woodworking. Models may be wood or steel and might include cabinets, lighting, or pegboard backs.

Racks help get all kinds of items off the floor. Specialty racks include space-saving corner models and overhead platforms that attach to the ceiling. The latter is ideal for holding memorabilia or off-season sports equipment.

Garage Makeover Ideas - Storage Racks

Photo: Gladiator/GarageWorks

Shelves are among the most common and versatile storage solutions, providing “see, grab, and go” functionality that keeps frequently used items at the ready. Choose from metal, plastic, wire and wood models in freestanding or wall-mounted options. Invest in deep shelves for larger items like snow tires.

Hooks are easy to use and inexpensive, and in different sizes they are tremendously versatile. Small hooks can hang keys, twine, and hand tools, while larger hooks can get bikes, cords, and equipment off the ground.

Bins and tubs stash toys, holiday decorations, craft supplies and more. Choose stackable ones with lids to eliminate dust, and be sure to label each clearly to avoid having to dig around.

Perforated hardboard offers an easy DIY solution for hanging tools. Pre-drilled holes accept pegs or hooks. Look for options in wood fiber, wood, or metal.

Don’t miss our roundup of organizing products—10 “Neat” Garage Storage Solutionsfor even more on achieving a clutter-free garage.


Planning Guide: Basement Remodeling

Basements offer a bonus for homeowners looking to increase living space. But unlike the rest of the house, these below-grade rooms require thoughtful planning and prep work.

Basement Remodeling

Photo: premiernj.net

Do you feel like your home is shrinking? Are the kids growing up and accumulating more stuff? Is your teenager demanding a room of his own? Has the college grad come back to the nest? Are you looking to provide room for an elderly parent or rent out space to help makes ends meet? Regardless of the reason, the space solution may actually be right under your feet.

Basements are typically about one third of the entire home’s available space, 600 to 800 sq. ft. in the average home. And while some basements have been finished to create more living area, the majority of these spaces are used as makeshift laundry rooms, home offices, and storage repositories for everything from spare freezers to pantries, paints, and paperwork. In other words, most basements are underused.

There are definitely benefits to considering a basement remodel:
• Unlike a room addition, there is no need to excavate for new footings or worry about structural loads.
• Utilities (including water, electricity, gas and sewer lines) are typically close at hand, further reducing costs.
• Heating and cooling loads are relatively light for basements.
• Basements almost always have stairs leading to them, unlike many attics (another popular house expansion candidate).

Converting a basement, however, is not without its challenges. Below-grade spaces are subject to water and moisture, two common enemies of home construction. Mold and mildew are also common, and natural light is limited. Overhead pipes and ductwork can add further challenges, and if you didn’t anticipate a bathroom when the house was built, the basement toilet may have to flush up.

DEALING WITH THE WET AND DAMP
Before embarking on a basement conversion, get serious about waterproofing. If water periodically wells up between the slab and foundation wall, or there are cracks in the foundation, you will need to call in a contractor or basement waterproofing company for advice. They will be able to tell you whether the source of water is an easy one to stem—it can be as simple as gutters and downspouts not doing their jobs—or whether it’s more serious.

Related: 10 “Neat” Garage Storage Solutions

Sewer Rooter.Com Basement Sump Pump

In many cases, a below-slab perimeter drain leading to a sump pit with at least two pumps (primary and backup) is the answer. The sump pit should be installed in the lowest part of the room perimeter and set-up to discharge water outside in the most efficient manner. Many finished basements build a closet around the sump pit. Regardless of how you conceal it, be sure to allow for easy access.

Groundwater isn’t the only source of dampness and moisture in a basement. Plumbing leaks and condensation are two other common sources. A good waterproofing contractor can install water alerts in your laundry area and near water heater tanks to warn you of a leak before it can cause major damage. He can also recommend a self-draining, high-capacity dehumidifier to further remedy moisture issues.

BUILDING WITH WATERPROOF MATERIALS
When finishing a basement, it’s smart to use materials that can stand up to water and moisture. Conventional materials like drywall, wood framing, and MDF moldings are not necessarily the best choices in below-grade applications. That’s why several companies offer complete basement finishing systems that include waterproof wall panels, moisture-proof drop ceilings, mold-proof PVC moldings and water-resistant underfloor systems; everything to reduce the risk from water damage.

Owens Corning offers an insulated wall panel for basement conversion composed of compressed fiberglass lined by vinyl on the finished side. It attaches to block and poured concrete foundation walls with special channels. If you need access to electrical wires or plumbing behind the panels, you can remove them. The panels are non-flammable, impact resistant, won’t trap water vapor, and don’t support mold. They may, however, be damaged in a flood if left standing in water for any length of time.

Total Basement Finishing (TBF), a Basement Systems, Inc. company, offers a highly impact-resistant cement panel backed by rigid foam insulation. It’s strong enough to support anything you’d hang on a conventionally framed wall. Precut channels make wiring easy. And a linen-look vinyl skin in white and beige covers the finished side.

TBF panels can be installed in floor and ceiling tracks independent of the foundation wall, or they can be attached directly to foundation walls. The system is versatile enough that you can leave a portion of your basement unfinished, or divide the space into rooms, or even erect closets. In addition to various versions of its wall panels, TBF offers a menu of other basement remodeling products, including finished stair kits, drop ceilings, and waterproof flooring. The parent company, Basement Systems, is a nationwide network of waterproofing contractors, so it’s likely that the TBF dealer in your area will be able to help with basement waterproofing, too.

Related: Easy Laundry Room Storage Ideas

Wahoo Walls.Com Basement Refinishing DiyDo-it-yourselfers looking to save some money will want to consider basement wall panels made of magnesium oxide, like those from Wahoo Walls. When adhered to polystyrene insulation, MgO boards insulate to R-11. They are well-suited to damp areas, are mold- and mildew-resistant, and are easy to cut and install. Plus, they can be painted. The boards install in L-shaped steel brackets screwed to the slab and joists, which have pre-cut wiring and cable channels. Panels for interior partitions are also available without the insulation. The company offers excellent installation instructions.

COMPENSATE FOR LIMITED LIGHTING
Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a walkout basement, where one or more walls are above-grade and can accommodate large windows and glazed doors, natural lighting is going to be limited in your basement to a handful of small windows. Fortunately, dropped or suspended ceilings, common in basements, can easily and attractively accommodate recessed can, track, and fluorescent troffer fixtures.

Designers recommend lots of perimeter lighting as well, including sconces, recessed spotlights, and fluorescent tubes or LED wall washers hidden behind coves. By lighting the walls, you can simulate natural ambient light and make the space seem bigger.

DEALING WITH DUCTS AND BEAMS
Accommodating ductwork and beams is often a challenge. Painting them to match the ceiling is a common approach. Another is to paint them in bright playful colors. So is boxing the ducts in with soffits, or wood-framed enclosures covered with drywall or MDF. Keep in mind, however, that duct enclosures cannot extend more than 6 inches below the minimum 7-ft. allowable ceiling height. If there are ducts that are hanging too low, sometimes they can be split into smaller ducts. Wider and flatter replacement ducts can also be installed to gain a few inches of headroom. Whatever you do, check with your local building department before beginning work to be sure your plan conforms to building codes.

Plumbingsupply.Com Saniflo Sanitop Basement Upflush Toilet RevWHEN DRAINS MUST GO UP
Basement bathrooms, laundries, and kitchens, common features in many conversions, are straightforward with regard to hot and cold water supply lines, though not always for drainage. If necessary, there are several methods for draining sewage waste and wastewater—especially from toilets—upwards to existing drain lines. The least expensive is a macerating bathroom pump, like those by Saniflo. It turns on automatically to pump toilet waste and grey water from sink, shower, tub or laundry to your sewer line. These units are compact and quiet, typically fitting either directly behind the toilet or behind the wall.

CODES AND BASEMENT ROOMS
Basement rooms can be used for many purposes: laundry, home theater, game playing, hobbies and crafts, and the list goes on. There are many building codes intended to ensure the safety of occupants that apply to all of the above. They include the use of smoke and CO detectors, GFI receptacles, outside combustion air for the furnace or boiler, materials that resist the spread of fire, minimum room sizes, and emergency window well egress. When choosing contractors to work on your basement conversion, find one who has done the job many times before and who is knowledgeable about applicable codes. Do not work with a contractor who says you can convert a basement without pulling permits.