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.

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.

Finished Basement in Toronto

Most homeowners don’t make very good use of their basement.  If it’s an unfinished basement, it’s probably a laundry room and a very big storage space.  As a waterproofing company here in Toronto, the two biggest reasons people do not finish their basements are finances and chronic water leaks in their basement.

It’s hard to have a bright and airy basement when it feels and smells like you’re in a dungeon.  Chronic dampness and mold will do that.  If you have the budget, finishing your basement, or even creating a walkout basement can do wonders for ventilation and lighting.  Often times, finances don’t allow for a fully finished basement, though stopping the water leaks is probably a pre-requisite if you want to use the space, finished or unfinished.

Even in you don’t finish your basement, there are lots of creative ways you can make use of the space, and you won’t have to spend a fortune to do it.  Some ideas are:

 

Children’s Play Space

Create a safe and open space for you children to play.  It gets them out of the main living areas, reduces the traffic and cleanup for you, and creates a nice out of the way space for your little ones to play.  If they’re little, it can be a great downstairs play area while you take care of the laundry!

Kids Basement Playroom Toronto

Home Office

Need some peace and quiet so you can get some work done?  Find a cozy corner of the basement to concentrate on your work.  Often times, it may be simply running a cable line or power cord from the first floor so you can have your internet and power for you electronics and lighting.

Basement Home Office Toronto

Fitness Room

With some floor mats, a heavy bag, and some music, you can turn your dark basement into your own training center.  Exercise equipment can be loud and heavy, making it disruptive if there is living space below so the basement is a perfect place.

Basement Family Room

Family Room

A couple of couches, an area rug and a TV….and you have a great place to host family night!

Basement Family Room


Step 1: Make Sure It’s Waterproof

As you can see, there are lots of great ideas for turning that unused space into something you can enjoy.  Before you start, here are some ideas to keep in mind.

While a little moisture in an unfinished basement may seem unimportant, it matters a great deal when you’re investing money to build it out. Consider this. Damp is going to stain your new finishes and eventually ruin the job. You’re also going to have to rip them out to make repairs.

Moisture and lack of ventilation will ruin your basement fun if left untreated.  If you do have a water leak in your basement, find the source and call in a waterproofing company to fix it before you start.  Adding ventilation in the form of fans and possibly a dehumidifier will also help keep the air dry and circulating.

Step 2: Have a Proper Plan

Do you have electrical outlets?  Will you need them?  Is the space away from your utilities, especially if it’s a children’s play area.  Making sure the area is safe and that you have the proper resources before selecting the section of the basement for your new space.  Remove any clutter in the area and move it to a remote part of the basement.

Step 3: Lighting

One of the things that make an unfinished basement somewhat depressing is that lack of lighting.  If it’s going to be a space where you’re going o be spending any sort of time in, be sure to brighten the place up.  Ikea can give you some great, low-cost ideas for track lighting as well as floor and table lamps.

Step 5: Apply Finishes

Your choice of colors can make a big impact on the look and feel of your space.  There are several options for painting bare concrete walls and floors that can turn your basement into a bright and happy atmosphere without spending alot of money.  Also consider area rugs and child/gym mat flooring options that are also inexpensive.

Step 6: Install the Furniture and Fittings

Once the lighting, walls and flooring are in place, it’s time to move your furnishings in.  If you’ll be using furniture, consider using it in a way that sections off that part of your basement to give it it’s own unique space.

It’s easy to get more use out of your basement creatively. As long as your basement is dry, it’s not expensive to turn it into a space you can enjoy.    If you’re looking for ideas, check out there Pinterest images for some inspiration!

Nusite Group is a Toronto based basement waterproofing and foundation specialty company, we help get your basement ready so it can be finished for years of family enjoyment.  Contact us today to learn more about how we can help create get your damp, cramped basement into a fully functional living space.

 

Radiant Floor Heating in Toronto Basement

If you’re thinking about renovating your basement and are thinking about adding radiant heating to your flooring, then read on.  Not only is radiant heat possible for your basement floor, it can turn a cold, damp basement into the main gathering place for your home.

We’ve been renovating basements in Toronto and the surrounding GTA for over 30 years.  We’ve also installed several radiant heating floor systems as part of converting damp basements into full height, finished basements.

In-floor radiant basement heating is based on the principle that the amount of energy required to maintain the existing temperature is low, when compared to that required to raise it. In a nutshell, the system comprises two main components. The first part is a network of flexible tubing around which the concrete slab is poured. The second is a hydronic pump that forces heated liquid through this piping to create a warming effect.

 

When to Install Basement Radiant Heating

A hydronic basement heater is an efficient way to keep a basement comfortably warm, especially as heat eventually transfers to the entire structure if it is left ticking over. However, it is not recommended for drying out a damp basement despite what some salespeople may say. This is because it does not prevent moisture entering the structure, and gradually degrading it.

Manifestly, the preferred solution is to cast the radiant piping into the slab at the time of original construction. Should you decide to retrofit the system, there are two possibilities, though not as ideal as installing it with a new floor:

  • Chop up the floor slab, compact the rubble, cover it with a layer of sand and cast a fresh reinforced concrete floor with integral, radiant system.

 

  • Add an above-floor grid covered over by a false floor. However, this option is not integral with the structure and consequently less energy-effective.

Convenient Energy Sources

Almost any energy source can be used to heat the liquid and power the pump that circulates it. Common solutions include coal, electricity, a heat pump, natural gas, oil, propane, solar energy, and wood. Factors influencing the final choice incorporate local building codes, general safety considerations, architectural constraints, the level of ambient temperature desired, and, of course, the homeowner’s budget.

 

Why You Should Consider Radiant Heating in Your Basement

Assuming that you have in mind to keep your basement warm – as opposed to drying it out which is counterproductive for reasons mentioned – then in-floor radiant heating has a number of significant advantages as follows:

  • It is economic to install and operate, especially when fitted during the construction phase.

 

  • It is gentle to the environment as it produces less greenhouse gases and can be fired by renewable energy.

 

  • It is unusually quiet as does not rely on electric fans, rattling ductwork and hammering pipes.

 

  • It is exceptionally clean and healthy as it is totally concealed and releases no pollutants to the air.

 

  • Being ideally integrated with the floor slab, it does not rob your basement of precious headroom.

In Conclusion, is Radiant Heating a Good Idea?

Anything that adds value to your home in a cost-effective manner is an investment worth considering. This is especially true if it converts a chilly basement into useful living space. If you plan on creating a finished basement that will be a hub for the family, then consider adding radiant heating during your renovations.

Have questions about basement renovations or radiant heating for your basement?  Nusite Group has been repairing and renovating basements in Toronto for over 30 years.  We offer a free onsite evaluation for your radiant heating project and will provide you a list of recommendations as part of our free estimate.  You can contact us here.