There are many benefits to having a finished basement, but it can often be one of the most forgotten rooms in the house. If you are thinking about finishing your basement, consider that a finished basement can add value to your house, increase your usable space, and be a fun and flexible room for family gathering, crafting, or even just better organized storage.

In a city like Toronto, real estate is a premium, so adding living space on your existing land is more economical and saves you from expanding into your already small backyard. Look at your basement and think of all the possibilities that it holds –a finished basement give you many benefits as a homeowner, from increased sales value to a higher quality of life at home.  And if you don’t have a full height basement, you can consider a basement lowering project to turn your unfinished basement into a wonderful living space.

Basement Lowering Toronto Finished Basement

Increase the Value of Your Home

Your basement may be a low priority on your list for home renovations and updating. It can be hard to imagine spending a significant amount of money renovating your basement, but consider that a finished basement can add to the dollar value of your house. A finished basement can often be included in the official square footage measurements of your home. Even if it isn’t considered in the square footage, potential buyers will see the finished basement as additional living space. Renovations and additions in the basement such as kitchenettes or spare bedrooms will further increase the value of your home.

 

Create More Space

A basement will add a great amount of functionality to your home. A finished, usable basement is often a large, open space that can be used as extra living space, such as a playroom or a family room. If you choose to partition your basement into rooms you will find that you can have extra bedrooms, a home office, workout room, or even storage, without cutting into the square footage of the upper floors.

 

Add Convenience

A functional and finished basement can be a surprisingly valuable addition to your everyday life. You are ultimately adding another floor to your house, and creating unexpected space that can be creatively used. Having the ability to host guests, create extra storage space, and even add another bathroom can greatly increase the ease and convenience of your daily life. A finished basement can easily double as a “guest suite” or place for extended visits from family and friends.

 

Flexible Design & Decorating

A basement design can be quite flexible. Large, open spaces can be used for entertainment, guests, storage, or even a gym. You may find that a finished basement gives you a creative place to decorate, and that you can easily create a cozy and comfortable addition to your house without the constraints of your already designed upstairs floors. Consider adding game rooms, extra bathrooms, and exciting home decor ideas to your finished basement. The design and use of a finished basement can easily change and adapt with your needs, making it a great use of space.  Working with a quality design build contractor can make the design and construction process easy.

 

Economical and Comfortable

A finished basement is nearly always a great place to spend time, no matter how you use it. It will always be colder in the summer, and warmer in the winter. Consider having a family room in the basement for cozy nights by the fire, or a bedroom that stays cool all summer long so you don’t have to crank the air conditioner all night!  The basement can be an incredibly comfortable –and economical- space to spend time.

Increased Storage and Organization

Most people have storage in their basements and garages, and these areas can easily grow cluttered and hard to use. A finished basement can still provide storage, but instead of mildewed boxes, you can install attractive and functional shelving. Imagine a laundry room you love, and a workshop you can really use, instead of piles of boxes and corners filled with cobwebs. A finished basement can provide additional storage, shelving, and increase general organization.

 

Health and Safety

A finished basement easily eliminates damp and moldy basement areas. Most basements can succumb to water problems, toxic mold, and can be hard to inhabit. Finishing your basement can help eliminate water problems, mold, and moisture problems. This can have long term positive implications on your family’s health, as well as the overall condition of your house.

Cost & Efficiency

Adding another level or room to your house can be expensive. Rather than add on to your house, renovating your basement can create a usable room without the additional cost of a full addition. It can greatly increase your home value without sinking a lot of money into adding on a room or floor.

 

Not only are finished basements comfortable, they are economical. If you are considering upgrading or renovating your house, think about the lifestyle and investment opportunities that a finished basement can provide. From an additional room for entertainment, to a long-term investment in the overall value and condition of your home, a basement addition can have a long-lasting impact on your lifestyle and the value of your home.

Considering a basement lowering project for your home?  Lowering your basement is not your everyday home improvement project, though with the real estate prices in Toronto and the scarcity of land, it is a great option for expanding your living space without losing precious yard space.  If you want to find out more about basement lowering, read on.

Homeowners here in Toronto often ask about lowering their basement.  It’s easy to see why many select this option for their home.  In a process sometimes called underpinning, the basement floor is actually dug out a couple feet down.  This makes the basement more accessible and usable and can add to the value of a home.  Not only does it change a basement into better-added space, it also adds structural integrity to the home.

Underpinning job in Toronto home

Basement Lowering Project in Toronto Home

Preparing for the Basement Lowering Quote

As with any home improvement type project, there a few things that every homeowner should know and understand before they begin the basement lowering process.  When it comes to your basement, of course, you are looking for a foundation or underpinning contractor who is a professional and experienced with the type of work you desire.  You’ll want to find a company that has been in business for awhile, is specifically insured for this type of underpinning work and one that can provide you with plenty of references since this type of project can be disastrous if done wrong.  When it comes to the structural integrity of your home, it’s always worth checking out a underpinning contractor thoroughly before hiring.

You may find companies who are willing to bid your job on the spot without drawings, without further knowledge or testing.  That ballpark bid could end up increasing drastically after you hire as there are many variable to consider and it means they have not gone through the process properly in order to give an accurate quote, they assume they can just get the job and overbill you later after the project has started and is harder for you to back out.

A reputable underpinning company will need to see exactly what you expect them to do.  Part of the process could include demolition and drilling test holes before beginning as well as working with an engineer.  Often, when this part of the process is not done, the homeowner’s preference change and the company ends up with discrepancies in their work order that need to be resolved.

Hiring an Architect or Engineer

Part of the process for lowering your basement should include getting quotes from at least two professionals for drawings and determining which architect or engineer you plan to use before you even have a contractor come out.  Doing this part of the process ahead of time shows the contractor that you are serious about the process and will educate you on how the entire process works.  When a contractor knows you really do plan to have the work done, they don’t mind the 3 to 5 hours that are involved in coming up with a pricing estimate.  If you skip this step and ask a contractor for a bid on a basement lowering project without doing your due diligence you may end up with a range of pricing that is arbitrary and on down the road it may have no connection with the work performed.

An experienced underpinning contractor will only work with reputable architects and engineers with experience in basement lowering and can recommend one if needed.  Here at Nusite, we work with several very reputable engineering firms and architects that specialize in basement lowering.

Drawing/Plan Approval

The basement lowering drawings you received from your architect or engineer typically need to be certified and then sent for approval for a building permit., at least here in Toronto.  The inspector may recommend changes that will need to be marked on your approved drawings.  This is not an easy task so you want to make sure you have an experienced craftsman leading this project.

Understanding the Basement Lowering Quote

To understand your underpinning contractor and his pricing and process, it’s important to note that basement lowering is a very time-consuming, labor-intensive process. And a challenging project from an engineering standpoint.  Your contractor will need to follow those drawings accurately and that takes skill and experience.  Compare quotes between a couple different contractors and check to make sure the scope of work is the same on both of them.

There have been several well documented disasters in Toronto involving unqualified contractors and houses falling down due to improper shoring during the basement lowering process.  If you hire an unqualified and under-insured contractor, you the homeowner will bear most of the responsibility and legal consequences if workers or civilians get injured due to negligent work.

Scheduling the Work

When you decide upon a plan and agree on a price with your underpinning contractor, the work can be scheduled.  A contractor may be able to schedule quickly and be out in a few days or in may take weeks.  As always when dealing with a contractor, being busy is a good thing.  You don’t want to hire a contractor who isn’t busy.  It’s a bit like going to a restaurant where no one else eats and expecting a wonderful meal.

Here in Toronto, the Spring and Summer are usually the busy times for basement lowering contractors but since the work is indoors, this work can be done during the winter and you may have a better time finding an available underpinning contractor for your project.  Winter may also be a great time to head south to warmer climates while the work is being done on your home.

The Work Process

The unerpinning contractor will begin by measuring and marking everything out prior to beginning.  They dig out the basement slab and typically lower the floor 1-3 feet.  They will also shore up the underpinning or sidewall area to ensure structural stability.  We then carry out our lowering process, either bench footing (creating a bench to support the dirt underneath the foundation wall) or we underpin (directly removing the soil underneath the foundation wall and replacing it with concrete).

Once that is accomplished they typically waterproof the interior of the basement foundation, put down gravel then pour a new floor.  They also place a waterproofing membrane connected to a sump pump on the interior to help keep your basement dry.  The amount of time it takes and the cost of the project can very base on the size of your basement.  Some projects take a few days (mostly repairs) and some can extend into many weeks (average full job is 3-6 weeks).  While it is difficult to provide a price without drawings and discussions with the homeowner, you can expect this type of specialty work to run between $20,000-$50,000.

Toronto Finished Basement After Underpinning

Toronto Finished Basement After Underpinning

Project Completion

When the basement lowering project is completed, you should walk the job with the foreman or project manager.  You’ll want to check for anything that seems unfinished or anything that doesn’t look right. You want to check that the city and the engineer passed all inspections throughout the project.  Also check to make sure that your contractor and his crew cleaned up after they finished.  You shouldn’t see debris left behind unless your contractor has let you know ahead of time that you are responsible for cleaning it up.  In most cases, the contractor does the clean up and removal unless otherwise agreed upon.

Do I Really Want to Do This?

Basement underpinning is by no means, a small undertaking as you probably understand by now.  There is research, time and money involved and may seem a little complex.  Yes, it takes preparation, thoroughness and quite a bit of your hard earned money.  If you find the right contractor, your project will go much smoother.  They are the expert, let them do their job.  Having underpinning done will also gives you more usable space that you can enjoy for years to come and adds value to your home.  In today’s real estate marketing, adding that value (which does not increase your property tax) can go a long way to helping the home sell.  Making the right decisions and following the process it takes to do the job correctly will be beneficial in the long run.

Nusite Contractors are basement lowering experts in Toronto and have successfully completed hundreds of underpinning projects in Toronto and the GTA and can provide references upon request.  If you live in the Greater Toronto Area and have questions about lowering your basement, feel free to contact us here, we’re happy to answer any questions and explain how the whole basement lowering project works.  We can also recommend experienced architects and engineers if you are interested in getting started.

Home remodeling projects take a vast amount of time, planning and monetary investment, yet homeowners, realtors and families can all benefit. The value returned varies, but depending on the project it can significantly increase a home’s worth, aesthetic appeal and comfort level or solve a particular problem.

No matter what the home remodeling project is, there are certain steps that need to be taken in order for the project to flow efficiently, while completing it to its fullest extent.

1. Find a Purpose

What’s the point of starting a home remodeling project without finding its purpose first? A project’s purpose gives motive for homeowners and guides the project in the right direction. Before embarking on any remodeling endeavor ask yourself, ‘what do I need and why?’

a.      Increase Value:  Homeowners and realtors may find the need to increase the value of their homes prior to selling. They mightn’t even sell anytime soon, but want to prepare for when that time comes.
b.      Expand Family:  Families may look to grow, but don’t have the funds to move to a larger home or just don’t want to move from their current location. If either are the case, then expanding their current home is a great option.
c.       Solve a Problem:  Some homes may be decrepit and need foundation repair, mold removal services, a new paint job, etc. The purpose and direction of the project depends on what needs fixed.
d.      Increase Comfort:  Many homeowners simply want to increase the comfort of their homes. It’s possible they may have been planning this for some time and finally saved up the funds to start a project.
2.     Prioritize Options

Once you’ve found the purpose of the project, now it’s time to prioritize your options. The purpose helps prioritize the importance and order of what needs to be remodeled or repaired:

a.      Bathroom
b.      Basement
c.       Bedroom
d.      Kitchen

When in doubt, ask yourself, ‘does this relate to the purpose of the project?’ Will a new bathroom addition diffuse the clutter that a new family member will add to the household or will a finished basement actually be utilized enough to weigh the cost of renovating it in the first place?

3.     Schedule an Inspection

Every remodeling project should require an inspection. Whichever area of the house you plan on remodeling, it’s best to search for potential environmental hazards that might come back to damage your project later. Plus, it helps when you create your budget in step 4, since you’ll know what to expect.

a.      Water Damage:  Several homeowners don’t notice the damage that water has on the foundation or interiors of their homes. This could occur through a leak or a crack in the foundation. If you’re looking to remodel your basement, it’s recommended to schedule an inspection first, so cracked or weak concrete won’t ruin the newly remodeled basement later on.
b.      Mold:  If water leaks into an area with little to no ventilation, then mold will form, which is harmful to residents and a home’s environment. It is also difficult to notice since it usually lingers in dark or hard-to-see places, which is why an inspection will take care of this potential problem.

4.     Create a Budget

Homeowners will have a better understanding of how much a project will cost with an inspection because it notifies them of other potential problems they must take care of in the remodeling process. This also determines a project’s feasibility. Once the inspection is performed, it’s time to create a budget.

5.     Set a Deadline (If Needed, but Always Preferred)

Deadlines are helpful for many scenarios; if a project needs completed prior to selling a house, if a bedroom needs added prior to the arrival of a new family member or if a certain problem is on the verge of being an emergency. In either case, speed fixes many problems, plus cuts down on costs in the long run.

6.     Search for Professional Home Remodelers

You have your deadline and budget. Now, it’s time to search for the best home remodeling contractor for the job. This search can be done in several ways and through many medians.

a.      Local Directories: Highly authoritative and curated local directories are great resources for finding local services. Curated directories are important because they are built around the experience of the user, which makes it easier to find relevant services.
b.      Online Search:  We’ve all been there. Go to our favorite search engine, type in a key phrase and abracadabra…hundreds of options of indexed web pages that are ideally ranked to fit the relevance our search query. It almost never fails.
c.       Referrals:  Many small home remodelers acquire much of their work from referrals of past clients. Why? Because if they do a good job, then people will tell their family, friends and coworkers. So, ask around.

7.     Evaluate Options

After you narrow your search down to a select few, analyze their skills, certifications and experiences. This can be done through

a.      Reviews of Previous Clients
b.      Awards Earned from Past Projects
c.       Photos of Previous Projects

The more positive reviews, awards or recognition and proof of quality work a remodeler has, the greater the odds to hire that person will be.

8.     Receive Estimates and Time Frames

The next step is to find out how much each remodeler will charge and how quickly they are likely to complete the project. One might be quick, but may charge more and vice versa.

9.     Compare with Budget and Deadline

Analyze each remodeler’s skills, reviews, certifications, experiences, estimates and speed and compare them to your budget and how quickly you need the project completed. Much thought and evaluation is involved in this step. Each remodeler determines the expectations of how the project’s tasks will be carried out. Based on what you’ve researched and what they’ve told you, you’ll have a general idea of what these expectations are.

10.   Select the One for You!

You’ve come all this way! You found a purpose for your project, prioritized it, inspected your home, created a budget and a deadline, and searched for, evaluated and compared a select number of remodelers. Whew! Now you can make a decision and feel good about it.

Any home remodeling project should be carefully handled. These steps are designed to fully prepare you for the difficulties and potential threats typically seen in home projects. The process is long and tedious, but the decision you make will be worth the effort. You’ll have more confidence in the project and have less buyer’s remorse once it’s completed.

Radon in Toronto Home Graphic

Many Toronto area homeowners have heard of radon, but aren’t exactly sure what it is and how serious of a health problem it may pose. Radon is a natural radioactive gas which can be found in the ground when radium and uranium  decays. On average, there may be up to 50 pounds of uranium in the ground in an acre of land and it decays into radium, which in turn naturally decays into radon. Radon by itself doesn’t pose any health hazards since it’s an inert gas. However, the gas can decay into lead and polonium articles which are both radioactive and chemically active. The radioactive particles can then be breathed into your body and lodge in your trachea, bronchi, and lungs. Human cells can be disrupted and mutated by the radiation and this can eventually cause lung cancer. In fact, it’s estimated that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in America.

Radon Systems Toronto

Radon is odourless and invisible can find its way into a home by creeping through small spaces in the rock and soil which the house sits on. It can also seep into a building through floor drains, dirt floors and sump pits as well as any cracks in the basement floor, foundation, and foundation walls. A level of 70,000 atoms in each litre of air can be a cause for concern as it represents approximately two million atoms of radon in a cubic foot of air. Even though this is a low concentration of atoms in the air radon is dangerous because it’s radioactive. Humans breathe approximately 20 litres of air into their lungs per minute which results in about 10,000 atoms of radioactive radon each minute. This exposure to the gas can then lead to lung cancer.

CDC Stata Radon Deaths

Testing for Radon
The best way to find out if there’s radon present in your home is to have a professional contractor conduct a test. Short-term tests take between two and seven days with a charcoal accumulator system while long-term tests can take between three and 12 months and are carried out with an electrets or by alpha track. First time testing is usually the short-term option. It’s important that you have a qualified technician conduct the test so the proper mitigation system can be installed if the radon level is too high.

If there’s too much radon in your home there are several ways to alleviate the problem. One of the most common is known as a sub-slab depressurization system which includes the installation of fans and pipes. This system is designed to prevent the radon gas from seeping into the building below the foundation and concrete floor. Other methods can be used to rid the home of radon and these will typically depend on the design of the building. Also, radon can creep into homes of any age and also those which don’t have a basement.

Dangerous levels of radon in a home mean it’s time to take action. Having a home tested is easy and relatively inexpensive. While you may be able to find do-it-yourself test kits you may feel more confident by hiring a professional contractor to carry out the test with specialized equipment. A qualified technician will advise you on the most effective way of ridding your home from its specific level of radon. You may also want to have a professional contractor test for radon before buying a home to make sure level is acceptable. In addition, some new homes are being built with radon-resistant features.

To find out more about radon testing and how to properly eliminate the potentially dangerous gas please feel free to contact us at Nusite Waterproofing at your convenience. We’ll be able to fully test your home for radon levels and then install the correct system for keeping it at bay and keeping your home as healthy as possible.

Radiant Floor Heating Intsallation Toronto

Hydronic radiant floor heating systems can create heat in different and specified areas of a home by sending warm water through something called PEX tubing, which is made out of flexible plastic. The tubing is located within the building’s floors or underneath them with PEX standing for cross-linked polyethylene. Along with PEX tubing, the radiant floor heating systems also consists of a heat source, manifolds, pumps, and controls. There are no joints in the PEX tubing used therefore uncut lengths of the tube are designed to snake through the floor and they both start and end at a manifold.

Whereas forced-air heating systems work by blowing warm air through ducts, the hot water radiant systems use a boiler or water heater as their source of heat. However, high-efficient solar and geothermal sources may also be used to provide heat. Since the radiant floor system can heat specific rooms and areas of a home you can have different temperature settings for each one. This makes it a highly energy-efficient system since you can lower the heat settings on unoccupied rooms and those that are less-frequently used.

Radiant Floor Heating in Toronto

The radiant floor heating system works when the circulating pump sends hot water flowing through the tubing and then returns it to the heater. The manifold is designed to balance the water in individual lengths of tubing which are known as loops and this vents the heating system. When the water makes it back to the water heater or heat source it is approximately 10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than it was when it left. When the PEX tubing is installed it goes down in long loops which are placed approximately nine inches apart and it’s attached to the floor via a staple gun. Mortar or concrete is then poured on top of the PEX tubing.

For the most even heat, it’s recommended that the hot water is circulated through PEX tubing and is also covered over in a layer of material and ceramic tile flooring. This material could be dry-tampered mortar, Gypcrete or lightweight concrete. When the tiling is combined with this cement-type layer, it is able to store heat in it for quite some time and it can still radiate the heat even when the hot water is no longer circulating through the system. This makes a radiant floor heating system an ideal heating source in areas with colder climates.

Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating Example

The cost of the radiant heating system typically goes by square foot and generally depends on the size of the job and where you reside. Installation of radiant floor heating systems includes the all of the necessary tubing as well as the water heater, manifold, and the pump. The tubing will need to be embedded, usually with dry-tampered mortar, and the floor is then finished with ceramic tiling being the best option. Many Toronto area homeowners install radiant floor heating systems in additions to their homes since the operating costs are lower than a furnace. In addition, the water heater takes up less space than a furnace and the ductwork.

For more information about hot water radiant floor heat systems please contact our professional team of contractors us at Nusite Waterproofing.