finished basements

Creating a Livable Basement in Toronto

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Turning your unused basement into a livable space is a popular way to improve the value of your home. It lets you create more living space without expanding and can even be a good way to generate a passive income if it is professionally done.

If you do not want to leave your home, you can’t expand out or you face other building or zoning restrictions, a basement development is a good option.

toronto-basement-lowering-project

Multiple Uses

A basement renovation can include an in-law suite for an aging family member or a completely separate apartment that you can rent out for extra revenue. Fixing up that musty basement may seem like a no brainer it is important that it is done correctly. The lower level of your home is one that is the most susceptible to moisture so water and moisture management are vital when you are planning your basement finish. Professionals estimate basement renovations will fetch no less than 70% and as much as 120% on your money. A proper refit includes a mold-free, fire rated and waterproof basement system.

Starting Basement Renovations

Renovating your basement makes a lot of sense. Insulating with a high R-value material makes your home more energy efficient. All of the water piping, heating ducts and electrical conduit already exists. Plus, you don’t have to evacuate your home because of dust and construction as it is all on the lower level.

Major Basement Renovations May Require Professional Help

An experienced contractor in the industry decides whether the foundation needs reinforcement and how much time is realistic for the project if you decide to lower your basement. Do-it-yourself planners often underestimate how much time a lower level renovation will take or the extent of the work. Renovations that require excavation and an underpinning of the foundation require engineering plans. Clearly, mussing with the structure that supports your home is not a good idea unless you want to see cracks in plaster and door frames out of alignment. Read the fine print in your contract and be certain that you know what your homeowner’s insurance covers if there are problems.

Despite the inconvenience of any renovation, many homeowners find it is worth it. Once completed, you have a fresh, clean, bright usable space and a property worth more than when you began. If you are in a situation where every square inch counts, basement development is a good investment. You can use it for yourself and then use it for resale. That area with raw concrete floors and poor lighting that you never used is transformed into a nice space that is used a lot.

You should make a list of your “must-haves” and talk out your ideas before you ask for quotes. Be sure you use certified professional basement contractors with a long track record in the industry. Get multiple quotes, but don’t always look at the ones with the lowest price tag, especially if you will be making structural changes.

When it comes to renovations, paying a little more often means you are getting quality work. Ask for references and talk to others who have used the contractor’s services, check with the Better Business Bureau and search the internet for reviews. Home renovations can be stressful at the best of times. Reduce the chance of problems by using a professional who can get the job done quickly and correctly.

Have a question about renovating your basement in Toronto or the surrounding GTA?  If you are looking for help with a basement lowering project (Underpinning) or fixing a damp or leaking basement, contact us here for a free in-home inspection and estimate.

5 Benefits To Lowering Your Basement

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Have you ever dreamed about having a full height, finished basement you and your family can enjoy?  A large open space like a basement can create a wonderful family room, recreation room or even additional living space.  The process of basement lowering, also called underpinning, can turn that old and damp basement of your into a bright and livable space for your and your family.

Finishing a walkout basement in Toronto

There are many advantages to lowering your basement, ranging from stabilizing your home from structural problems, or simply expanding your living space. Taking the plunge can really change the way you live, and protect you from structural damage that may occur. Many of the older homes in Toronto were not meant to be used as living space, but the cost of real estate and scarcity of available land in Toronto has turned the basement into a viable option. Here we explore 5 reasons why you should lower your basement:

  1. The construction process will uncover the hidden mechanics of your home and make them easily accessible for inspection, upgrades, and repairs. It will make it easy to replace your old plumbing, electrical, and insulation systems, especially if you live in an older house, and help you to modernize your home. Your waterproofing systems will also be changed when you lower your basement, so you will have a brand new dry concrete floor. Over time, you will cash in on energy savings, mechanical savings, and safety of your home.
  2. Basement lowering is a necessity when your house’s foundation suffers structural problems and cannot adequately support the house due to extreme climates, soil types, or inexperienced workers causing damage to the structural integrity of your home. It will immediately stabilize your home, strengthen the house, and give you a peace of mind, not to mention increase your home’s value and equity to future purchasers for years to come.
  3. Lowering your basement will give you up to fifty percent more below-ground space, greatly expanding the available space in your home! Once upon a time, basements were only used for mechanics and storage, but the modern basement can be turned into absolutely any function you want it to be: an extra bedroom, a home office, a home theatre system, a rental suite, a room to entertain guests in- you name it! You gain much more usability of space without having to buy a new house.
  4. By lowering your basement, you can increase ceiling height and lighting. Traditional basements have the problem of low ceilings and may feel cramped, but the added headroom will make your basement a far more attractive space in your house, and open up the conversion possibilities of your basement suite. You can remove any unnecessary walls to get rid of unneeded rooms open it up as a larger space, or add any rooms to a big open space as you wish. The possibilities are endless.
  5. Basement lowering is the least expensive and disruptive way to add more space into your existing home, and give your house a refresh. This is particularly important for growing families who need the extra space without the purchase of a new home. Basement lowering will get rid of any moisture and leakage problems, help you add floor space, and can even help you construct a new entrance/walkway for added safety and convenience.

Whether you are simply intrigued by this beneficial construction process, or are in need of services immediately to help fix your home’s structural problems, basement lowering will enhance, strengthen, expand, improve, and add value to your home.

Have questions about turning your basement into a full height, livable area?  If you live in Toronto or the surrounding GTA, you can contact us here for a free in-home estimate and inspection.

Fix Your Foundation Cracks Before Finishing Your Basement

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toronto-finished-basementGetting ready to finish your basement?  Better check for foundation cracks before putting up that drywall!

Any home repair project involves looking into the future—you can picture the finished product, say a carpeted basement with a TV set or maybe a bedroom for your teenage son.  Looking far ahead is great, but it’s important to switch focus, looking into the distant future but also into the immediate future.  The latter is where you’ll find some things you have to do to prepare.

If you plan to finish your basement, putting in a finishing wall and some sort of flooring, you have to make sure the foundation is in good condition first.  An approach similar to turning up the radio when your car is making a noise simply will not work—don’t carpet over floor cracks that could potentially leak water or put up walls over foundation wall cracks thinking that out of sight is out of mind.  You’ll be setting yourself far back by hiding increasing damage.

We repair hundreds of basement a year here in Toronto and some of the hardest, more so for the homeowner watching their drywall get stripped away, are basements that have already been finished.

First, The Symptoms

If you have spotted cracks in your foundation—or perhaps the water that has seeped in as a result—the first thing is to shore up the damage.  You may use caulking or other home-repair methods to take care of the crack itself.  Keep in mind, though, that sealing from the inside won’t be enough—in a minute we’ll discuss structural damage of which cracks are a symptom.  You will need to dig to access the outside of your basement wall or floor and seal from the outside—this is where an experienced waterproofing company comes in..

 

The Disease

It’s extremely important to realize that a crack in your basement is not some isolated event or happenstance.  It is a symptom of a larger disease.  There’s no way you can have a crack in your foundation without it being a sign of a larger problem.

 

Settled Foundation

Cracks are often caused by your foundation settling—or sinking—into the soil.  This is also referred to as floating, which means your foundation is actually moving around slightly with the soil, which is what causes cracking.  This might require piering of your foundation—definitely a job for a contractor—or might be remedied by adding rebar or fiber to the concrete to improve its strength.  The point is that merely filling a crack and then spending the money to finish your basement instead of fixing the settling does not make sense.  You have to fix the disease, not the symptom.

 

Drainage Problems

Horizontal cracks are likely caused by water drained from your roof.  The water from your downspouts may be directed too close to the ground surrounding your basement.  This pushes too much water into the ground, which then freezes.  In addition to fixing the actual cracks, then, consult an expert and make sure you have your gutters and downspouts working and aligned properly to not cause further cracking.

 

Bowed Foundation Walls

If the walls of your basement have been subjected to so much pressure that they are actually slightly caving in, or bowed, you have a larger problem.  This situation calls for a contractor to either do some piering referred to above or to use carbon fiber strips to properly support the wall.

 

Give your basement a good inspection before you start

The best thing you can do is thoroughly inspect your basement before a renovation.  If you have issues such as doors not closing properly, water seepage, or sloping floors, you almost certainly have a problem that must be fixed.  It will of course be extremely hard to fix an issue once you’ve finished the basement, so do yourself a huge favor and fix it first.

Have questions about cracks in your foundation?  Before you start your basement renovations, feel free to contact us for a free in-home inspection of your foundation.

 

 

 

Basement Kitchens: Turning A Dungeon Into A Family Space

In the past home improvement has usually focused on converting lofts and attics in order to create office space or to add another needed bedroom to a house. However, the new trend is to look below the stairs and think about converting a basement into another kitchen come lounge area – making what was once a dead space, one that really does work for you and your family.

Home owners are now up to scratch when it comes to wasted space in their homes. A dusty old and leaky basement, when expertly converted into an extra room, can add thousands of dollars to the value of a property which makes it definitely worth considering.

Basement conversions don’t have to be dark and gloomy

The Benefits of Converting a Basement

There are many benefits to converting a basement into a kitchen come lounge area and the trend is gaining momentum. The reason is that basements usually offer much easier access to them, unlike lofts. They become more versatile living areas that suit the modern way of life unlike loft conversions which end up being extra bathrooms, bedrooms or even studies.  Unlike and attic or loft, plumbing usually already exists in a basement, giving it extra versatility.

Finding Out if a Basement is Suitable for Conversion

Older properties and this includes Victorian houses normally boast timber-suspended floors which make for ideal basement conversions. The only thing to watch out for and to have checked is whether the property has shallow foundations or not. If your property does, then you will have to get the property underpinned before the conversion can begin.

The easiest route to take is to discuss the project with a specialist underpinning company who will be able to advise you not only of the cost for the work, but how long it would take to do the job as well. This way you get to incorporate the extra cost into a budget and work out a realistic time scale for the work.

Stylish basement conversions add another dimension to a home

What about Planning Permission for Basement Conversions?

The great advantage in basement conversions as opposed to loft conversions, is that because you are only altering the interior of a property, you usually don’t have to apply for planning permission, though you should always double check. But with this said, if you add a basement window and an exterior door to the basement – then you would need to apply for planning permission from a local council. You need to check the planning permission limits too because you may want to extend your basement in the future.

Should your property be a listed building, you need to get permission for any renovations before the work can begin and this includes if the work is out of sight. The reason you need permission is that any listed building is protected for historical and/or any other important architectural reasons.

You will also have to abide by all the current building regulations, even if you don’t need to get planning permission to convert a basement. These are legal requirements for any area that is built for people to use and live in and they exist as a safety measure.

Building Regulations Explained

Extensions and any other building work that involves areas of a house or other property that people will use or live in are covered by strict building regulations. These regulations are set in place to protect the people who live in properties and cover anything from health and safety to fire escapes. When it comes to basement conversions basic regulations cover ventilation, electrical wiring, safe access, damp proofing, fire escape methods and safe access.

What Is a Walkout Basement?

Exterior of walkout basement of Toronto homeThinking about renovating your basement?  Does your home sit on a sloped lot?  Maybe you should consider creating a walkout basement for your home.

Most basements are not put to use.  Either they weren’t created for living use (low ceiling height, unfinished floors, etc), and other times the conditions down there don’t lend themselves to human habitation (leaky walls, mold, lots of spiders, etc)

Basements, as the name suggests, are areas beneath the main structure that you can walk in and out of without using stairs. Ideally, they have windows and allow access on level ground. In this case, some people also call them daylight basements. If you are fortunate enough to have one (and there is sufficient head height) you can legally use it as living space and benefit from these other advantages:

  • Added value to your home at far less than the cost of a room upstairs
  • A more attractive proposition should you decide to sell some day

A walkout basement is usually only achievable when the property has sufficient slope to allow for it. Unless constructed at the same time as the house, part of it may end up below ground with concomitant damp problems. Ideally there should be sufficient slope on the rear side of the home to accommodate it. This obviates the risk of the approach-side of the house appearing architecturally awkward.

While it’s ideal to create a walkout basement when originally constructing the home, often times it didn’t fit the budget, or just wasn’t in the plans with the original construction.  When creating a walkout basement on an existing home, you’ll want to make sure:

  •  Waterproofing protection is incorporated during the construction process
  •   Foundation support are maintained to accoodate the new design
  •   The new design is in harmony with your existing home

While creating a walkout basement can be expensive, the value from the added living space will add value to your home that wasn’t there before.  In Toronto, there is a lack of available property, so homeowners are looking to make the most of the property they already have.  A walkout basement is a perfect fit to add an entire floor of living space to your home.

While this sort of renovation can be costly, it is often possible to stagger these costs on a site that slopes away from the access point. In this case, it may be feasible to leave the raw walkout basement structure unfinished, and complete fitting it out when funds become available. In this event it is vital to ensure two things.

  • There must be legal head height after allowing for ceiling space.  This is accomplished by lowering your basement.
  • The walkout basement must have waterproofing for its design life.

This is because it is often impossible to retrofit access to the inner wall, and to repair leakage afterwards. Builders seldom understand these things, which is why you should consult an expert.  Nusite Group has been serving Toronto and the GTA for over 30 years, we specialize in basement underpinning and finished walkout basements. If you have questions about the process of creating a walkout basement, or how to lower your existing basement, feel free to contact us here.