With the housing market boom going on in Toronto, homeowners are trying to make the most of the living space they have. One of the biggest opportunities for additional living space is down in the basement.
Most basements in Toronto were not originally designed to be used as living space and can be dark, wet and cramped with the utilities that service the home.
Unfortunately, a home’s basement can often be a breeding ground for problems such as mold, radon, carbon monoxide from faulty HVACs, water-borne bacteria, and hazards caused by electrical wires being exposed to water. Most homeowners may be familiar with most of these problems, but radon could be something they aren’t too familiar with.
Below is a list of some common basement issues we come across, which should all be inspected before considering turning your basement into a living space.
Radon is basically a type of dangerous as which is caused by radiation. Radon is tasteless, colourless and odourless, making it hard to detect. It’s created by the decay of radioactive minerals or uranium which can be found in the earth’s crust. It’s harmless if it is able to disperse into the atmosphere, but creates a problem if there’s a home or some other type of structure in the way. In this case, the radon can enter a basement through the soil and will begin to accumulate. A cement basement floor will help fight it off as long as it doesn’t have any cracks and is nonporous and solid. But radon can enter through a drainage system or water sump hole and then rise through a home via the heating ducts.
Radon can also possibly be emitted through things such as fireplaces, stone foundations, wood, concrete, wallboard and even water supplies via deep wells. Radon gas is a health risk if breathed in since it can damage the lungs and cause cancer. This is the reason homeowners should have a radon-detection-kit in their house or have a professional contractor inspect the home. The kit consists of a charcoal-filled canister which positioned in the home’s lowest living level or basement and in a still area, away from windows and doors. After a specified period of time the test kit is delivered to the manufacturer and it will be evaluated for the results.
Radon levels in a home can be lowered via a variety of methods and costs. The method used will depend on the type of soil around the home, the design of the building and level of radon in the air. The best solution is to seal entrance points to keep radon out. This means caulking floor cracks, sealing drains, waterproofing basement floors and walls, covering up bare crawlspace floors and capping sump-pump holes. Basically, any type of method which is used to lower the level of moisture in a basement can be effective when trying to lower the levels of radon.
Mold, Mildew and Fungus
Most homeowners are aware of the damage that mold and fungus can do to a home as well as the health risks they present. Most molds aren’t toxic, but can produce mycotoxins which can cause health and respiratory problems if you’re exposed to them. Mold spores are often absorbed through the skin or inhaled while fungal infections can originate inside the lungs or on the skin. The elderly and infants are typically more susceptible to mold, mildew and fungus health risks. Some types of mold found in basements care more dangerous and toxic such as black molds and these can cause pulmonary hemosiderosis, which is a rare lung disease which causes internal bleeding.
Mold is typically caused by flooding, moisture or condensation in the basement along with high humidity and can often go unnoticed. It usually starts in the insulation, carpeting, piping, floor, vents, ducts, furniture, the ceiling, wallpaper, wood or drywall. If your basement has been flooded it’s recommended that you contact a professional waterproofing company to have it inspected. You may need to have any wet materials removed such as drywall. Moisture can also enter a basement through leaking pipes and cracks in the floor or walls. You may realize you have mold in the basement as it usually smells musty and stagnant. If you suspect you have mold, but can’t find a sign of it, don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a waterproofing company.
Another odourless, tasteless, and colorless gas is carbon monoxide, and this can prove to be fatal if it gets into your home. This is why it’s imperative you have carbon monoxide alarms installed. In fact, in many areas of the world it’s the law. Carbon monoxide is a by-product of fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil, propane, and wood and is created in appliances such as stoves, furnaces, and gas fireplaces (electric fireplaces are a good alternative). It can cause flu-like symptoms, but be deadly if it escapes into your home while you’re sleeping. Make sure a carbon monoxide alarm isn’t placed next to a basement furnace.
The alarms should be located in the living areas and close to bedrooms since the gas travels through vents and ductwork. It’s important to have your gas appliances inspected regularly by a licensed HVAC company to make sure they aren’t faulty and leaking carbon monoxide. They need to be vented properly and unblocked. Chimneys and fireplaces also need to be free of any blockage so the air can escape. Also, don’t forget to test your alarms on a regular basis too.
It’s important that all electrical wiring in the basement and anywhere else for that matter be protected from water. Electricity and water don’t mix and can result in fire and other damage. If your home has ever been flooded or subject to any type of water damage you should have all of the electrical wiring and equipment in those locations properly inspected. Any water-damaged wiring and/or equipment should be repaired or replaced immediately. One way to make sure you aren’t subject to any electrical damage is to have your basement properly waterproofed.
Nusite Group is a Toronto waterproofing and foundation repair company that has been serving Toronto for over 30 years. We provide free, in-home inspections and estimates, schedule your today.