12/31/2009

Angie's List Awards Pioneer Basement Waterproofing of Massachusetts with it's Super Service Award for 2009

Pioneer Basement has been awarded the prestigious 2009 Angie’s List Super Service Award!


The Super Service Award, now celebrating its 11th year, is reserved for companies who have achieved and maintained a superior service rating on Angie's List – the nation’s leading provider of consumer ratings on local service companies – throughout the past year. Fewer than 5 percent of the companies on Angie's List meet the eligibility requirements to be considered for the award...

Read the Full Press Rlease on Pioneer Basement's Forum: 2009 Angie's List Super Service Award
 

Related Reading and Links

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!

12/21/2009

Basement Waterproofing in Winter – Easy DIY Step – Keep snow away from basement windows.


Basement windows are a direct line into the basement. They can house vents from driers and furnaces as well as cable wires and other small openings. Both vents and openings can play a part in making your basement wet.

Clearing the snow away from a window in the foundation is important to keeping the basement dry during the winter as well as setting yourself up for success come spring. Leaving the snow against the window can add pressure to the sill and to the panes. As the snow melts against the window it can attempt to find its way through small openings, separations and cracks.

Vents from heaters, furnaces and dryers melt off the snow directly in front of the window. This can cause the bottom layer of snow (closest to the sidewalk) to become soggy and wet. Snow, being lighter, and the new water being heavier, the water will expand and find it’s own path beneath the snow. This can cause ice to form underneath the snow with little pressure, as well as allow the water to build up against the foundation.

Homes in urban areas of New England, like Boston, Providence and Worcester are especially at risk for these types of problems. However, any Urban area will typically see more of an issue. Suburban and Rural areas have more space to move the snow and keep it away from a foundation.

DIY Tip: Clear all snow and slush away from your basement windows and, if you can, away from the foundation all together.



Related Reading and Links

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!

12/11/2009

Childproof Sump Pump Lids can save lives! - Difficult to open is a GOOD thing

After reading the story of the 3yr old drowing in a sump pit in the Daily Herald, I became extremely angry. How could a company install something that isn't childproof into a home and say that it's safe?

Grate Products' Grate Sump is a sealed childproof sump pump basin, which I'm now extremely proud to promote. The lid is difficult for any child to move or seperate, which will protect the child from falling into the basin.

It's good for other health reasons such as limiting humidity and moisture in the home, but nothing is more important than the life of a child.

Related Reading and Links

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!

Fort Wayne Girl drowns in open sump pit

(Associated Press)FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Authorities say a 3-year-old Fort Wayne girl drowned after she fell into a sump pump pit in her family's basement.


The Allen County coroner says Alexis Stark-Bork was pronounced dead at a hospital soon after she was found in the pit about 2 a.m. Saturday.

Police say Alexis was last seen watching television in the home's living room. About 20 minutes later, the girl's parents noticed she was missing and she was found face down in the pit.

An officer reported finding the pit's cover about 6 feet away underneath a futon.

http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=340818&src=110

Related Reading and Links

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!

11/20/2009

Plywood flooring in a Crawlspace or Basement – the possible dirt floor area cover-up.

As I mentioned before in a post about Fixing Plywood Flooring in a Basement, the existence of a plywood floor could simply be because of an uneven floor during construction. The other ugly truth is that this could be an easy and cost effective cover up for what the floor actually is.


DIRT

Dirt floors in basements and crawlspaces across America are covered up every day with plywood to finally have a solid flat surface for storage. The problem with having a dirt floor is now moisture has a direct path into the basement, not to mention Soil Gases like Radon, Insects and other nasty business.

With open dirt floors in a tight space like a crawl space or basement the levels of moisture can sky-rocket and eventually cause large issues.

The wood that would keep your things steady and dry could become the food for mold and mildew and turn against the homeowner.

If a crawlspace has a dirt floor the best solution would be to encapsulate the crawlspace. This not only keeps the moisture out, it also improves the air quality and protects the insulation underneath the 1st floor of the home.


Related Reading and Links

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!

11/19/2009

Feedburner Feed Discontinued - Sorry to my Readers - New RSS Feed to subscribe too!

For a while I was using Feedburner to burn my RSS feeds for subscribers. And for a while it worked. But Google anounced there were some major problems with it, I had seen it stop taking content from Safe and Dry Blog and so I stopped using it.

Many readers have asked why I did that ...so here I am answering.

The new feed is the blogger default: Safe and Dry Blog RSS Feed

For now, it works, and you folks can still get my blog posts correctly!

Thank you for reading!


*UPDATD*
Found out that it's still "working" but it's lagging about 5 weeks behind or something silly. Needless to say it didn't change my choice, but at least you know you're not gonna be getting cut off completely.
(not like this blog is anywhere as addicting as Chocolate, but one could wish)


Related Reading and Links

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!

Fixing Plywood flooring in the Basement that’s wicking water from underneath.

rotted plywood basement sub floor
Many homes that have finished basements have flooring that rests on a plywood riser. They are cheaper than leveling out the floor or pouring a new concrete floor. Because of this, quite a few finishing contractors throughout the United States help the homeowners create a cheep solution to provide them with a level floor.

The problem with this, as many have found, is that any plywood, 2x4s or any other type of wood absorbs water. This can lead to mold and mildew issues and rotting floorboards.

Fixing a wet plywood floor in the basement
If a plywood floor is wicking water up from underneath and causing issues there are three things that are needed to fix this:

Step 1: Remove the floor
Step 2: Identify the moisture issue
Step 3: Repair the moisture issue
Step 4: Decide on what you’d like to do for the floor.

Having an uneven floor temporarily outweighs any Mold or Water damage that could be generated from leaving the Plywood down.

Controlling the leak and moisture problem will not only keep this from happening again, but it will protect what is left of the finished space.

After that stage is complete you can move onto replacing the floor. The first step is adding a Sub Floor -

Addressing future flooring with a Sub Floor
Many flooring products only work with sub-flooring, or a floor that’s designed to be installed underneath the floor that you will see. It acts to separate the finished flooring from any moisture that might come into contact with it. (A carpet pad is a basic example of this, however a real sub-floor will be solid and not able to absorb moisture or other liquids.)

Products from Grate Products LLC, like WarmShield and FloorShield, have been used by Pioneer Home Basement Finishing and Pioneer Basement for years with great success. Carpets, wood flooring, and laminate flooring have all been installed and protected by the simple introduction of an in-organic sub floor.


Related Reading and Links

Plywood Floors in Crawlspace or tiny basements - Discussion on the Pioneer Forums

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!

11/18/2009

3 Things that help Pioneer Basement Deal with Iron Bacteria


Iron Bacteria is becoming more and more common. As of today, almost 1 in 5 homes have an Iron Bacteria issue that could range from minimal to overwhelming.

As I’ve talked about before, Iron Bacteria is harmless to people, but it’s the machines, drains, and pumps in your basement that can be at risk if there is a problem that is not addressed.

Grate Products put a great deal of research into their Grate Drain products because of this. Here are the top 3 things that help any Grate Product Contractor, including Pioneer Basement Waterproofing of Massachusetts, to deal with Iron Bacteria more effectively than the “other guy”.


  1. Larger Openings in the Drain – Iron bacteria, has the ability to create chemical bonds with its self. This allows it to span small cracks, gaps and openings between rocks and drain pipes. The Grate Drain was designed with openings that are too large for this chemical bond to hold against the pressure caused by the volume of water coming through.
  2. Anti-Microbial – The Grate Drain and all the active components of the system have anti-microbial built into parts. This keeps the iron bacteria from even wanting to touch or attach itself to any parts of the drain or sump location.
  3. Center Wall – The center wall of the Grate Drain helps to make it stronger but it also segregates the two sides of the drain. It helps to keep any water that enters through the wall-footing joint from joining the water under the floor, and visa versa. This also goes for Iron Bacteria. It has been known to form colonies in one part of the basement and leave the other side alone, and this helps any Grate Products Contractor isolate the bacteria issue and provide a treatment for it.


Things we know about how to combat Iron Bacteria:

 Flushing the problem areas with 160-degree water causes the bacteria to go into hibernation which makes it easier to remove from a system.

 There are chemicals that can be used to treat small areas and unclog pumps, such as Iron Out, but they should be used in small amounts if used at all.

 Iron Bacteria feeds off of minerals in the water content. High iron and manganese deposits make for a better place for the bacteria to grow.

 It’s been reported in many of the northern states in the United States, such as Montana, Michigan, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York.

Related Reading and Links

Steve Andras about Iron Bacteria: The Red Stuff - Waterproofing Mag.

Read more about Iron Bacteria on Safe'n'Dry Blog :-)

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!

Image thanks to FreeDrinkingWater.com

11/12/2009

Carolinas to Mid-Atlantic - Historic Storm Touches down - New England to get Rain next two days

Full story by Weather.com: Historic Storm Carolinas to Mid-Atlantic

After passing through the south east, the storm hitting the mide-atlanitc states of New Jersey and Delaware today will sweap into the Southern New England States of Connecticut and Rhode Island late tomorrow (11/13/09) afternoon.

Coastal flooding in addition to the 2-4" of rain fall is being forcast by many local news channels.

Need help with flood water or moisture in the basement during the storm?
Maryland, DC and Arlington VA - Floodbusters Basement Waterproofing
Richmond, Norfolk, Alexandria, and Hampton - Virginia Basement Waterproofing

Connecticut and Southern New York - Charter Oak Enviromental
Eastern CT, Rhode Island and Massachusetts - Pioneer Basement Waterproofing


Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!

11/10/2009

Turning the Heat on in winter will show you the actual air quality of your Basement

How would turning the heat on upstairs have anything to do with the air quality of basement? It’s an interesting concept, but it’s one that many air quality experts, including Craig Clark from Ocean State Air in Rhode Island, deals with every winter.

We all know that the condition of the basement affects the air quality in the rest of the home. Lingering water, moisture and water damage, mold or other pollutants in the basement can influence the quality of the air and aggravate sensitivities in the homeowners.

Moisture problems that go unchecked in the summer don’t feel as serious in the winter. The cold air, for the most part, masks the issues in the basement. Humidity and excess moisture build up are as tangible in the winter as they are in the summer months that are naturally humid.

This becomes the combination to cause issues.

Turning on the heat forces warm air through your home, and in many cases your basement as well. This can awaken any unaddressed moisture issues again in the winter. With warm moist air now back again in the basement during winter, people with respiratory issues can be affected again when they least expect it.

“It’s not uncommon for an entire house to get sick because of poor air quality issues in the winter that could have been avoided by addressing them in the summer,” says Craig Clark, president of Ocean State Air in Rhode Island.

“Correcting an air quality issue in the home can avoid complications in months where normally there isn’t a problem.

“If you maintain the Relative Humidity, you can control the dew point and prevent the mold growth on cold surface areas.

mold in HVAC duct with High Humidity in basement.

“When homeowners turn the heating system on for the first time with mold contamination inside the HVAC system, the dried up mold becomes aerolized and can cause substantial discomfort to persons with mold allergies. A non-viable mold spore or mold fragment can cause as much discomfort as a viable spore or fragment.”


Inactive Mold resting inside of HVAC unit

The World Heath Organization back in August finally announced its findings about increased illness in buildings with air quality issues. Occupants of a building with moisture issues are 70% more likely to become ill than occupants of buildings with proper air quality.


Like always, make sure to have your home inspected to make sure that you don’t have moisture or a mold issue. With this new pattern in New England it might be a good idea to have an inspection before cranking the heat this winter.




Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

11/06/2009

Basement Mistake pt 6 – Not Testing for Radon Gas every 2 Years.

radon testing for home check list
Public attention has recently been thrown Radon. It’s a radioactive soil gas that is undetectable. The only detection method is through taking air samples in a basement or crawlspace. The American Lung Association estimates that well over 21,000 lung cancer deaths in America are directly connected to Radon exposure.

The EPA has responded by urging US citizens to test for radon in basements and crawlspaces every 2 years. This gives enough time between tests for dramatic changes created by remediation and other control systems in a basement or crawlspace to take hold.

So why haven’t you tested yet?
Not testing for Radon is pretty normal. Many homeowners and contractors, even with the Press and Media buzz about radon in marble table tops this past year, still haven’t seen the need to test. Only recently have large home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s started carrying the DIY Radon Test kits.

Let me put it this way: If you could avoid a dodge-ball to the face by simply moving a few inches…would you?

Testing is easy, cheep and accurate
DIY Test kits are provided by basement waterproofing companies, Radon Mitigation companies and even big box stores. Tests normally range from a few dollars to around $50 for full on-professional grade testing.

Many DIY Radon test results are generated by third-party testing labs, which is not only good for the company providing the test, (you also know that skilled professional Radon testing experts are providing quick and accurate results that are not swayed by the person who gave you the test) but its also good for YOU (the homeowner.)

So in this example the dodge ball is Radon while “moving” is simply spending a few dollars.

The difference is that Radon can kill you and a dodge-ball cannot. Unless the dodge-ball has spikes, in which case that is not a regulation style ball and shouldn’t be used. (Safety first)

Not testing for Radon in a basement or crawlspace is definitely one of the Top 6 BIGGEST and most common basement mistakes that homeowners and contractors alike make.

Related Links and Sites

EPA's home buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon

11/05/2009

Basement Mistakes pt 5 – Finishing a Basement with Organic Construction Materials

incorrect wood stud finishing in a basement
With the push to find renewable resources for construction materials there have been a large amount of contractors who become confused about Renewable vs. Organic material.

I’ve spoken on the topic of organic material vs. in-organic material in the basement several times on multiple forums and in this blog. Renewable resource material isn’t always the same as Organic Material. Many Renewable construction materials are made out of recycled plastics and metals – which (lucky for you) are both In-Organic!!!

Green Home Improvement and the Basement Health Industry live in harmony once more!

Organic materials in a basement
One of the largest concerns about many homeowners is mold. Mold requires moisture, a dark space, and food to eat. Mold is able to break down organic materials like wood and paper; this is what it uses as food. Any wood, paper, paper-products, fabric, cardboard or dry wall can potentially become mold food.

Moisture Resistant materials and In-Organic Construction
The basement environment is radically different because of its naturally increased levels of humidity. This makes it that much more important to build with materials that are designed for moist areas and that don’t provide a food source for mold spores.

Paperless insulation, paperless dry wall, metal studs, and other materials are what are needed to properly finish a space in the basement. These materials, depending on their manufacturer, possess qualities that allow them to withstand moisture, provide rigid and custom fabrication, and possess all the same qualities of the construction materials used on the 1st and 2nd floors.

Placement of the studs.
Many homes, especially around New England, have finished basements. Homeowners and contractors for decades have been installing the wood studs directly against the foundation wall. A.) This is lazy and B.) This causes problems.

Lazy:
By putting a stud against the foundation wall you’re hoping that the foundation is plum and it’s one less step to do. Who needs to make sure anything’s level right? (Cough*sarcasm*cough)

Causes Problems:
Moisture travels through the foundation wall and comes into contact with these wood studs. Mold spores LOVE this and thrive, OR dry rot occurs, eventually rendering the wall useless.

Placing studs 2”-4” away from any foundation wall gives enough room to force air circulation and filtration behind the walls which keeps the area moving and clear of mold and excess moisture.

The area behind the studs is vulnerable to excess moisture build up, even more so then the rest of the basement, so if there is insulation in the finished walls, it’s that much more important to provide circulation and dehumidification.

The Take Away:
1.) DON’T USE WOOD STUDS!
2.) DON’T USE “Standard” Dry wall!
3.) DON’T USE PAPER BACKED INSULATION
4.) USE MATERIALS THAT HAVE BEEN TESTED TO BE MOISTURE AND MILDEW RESISTANT –many of these also have excellent fire ratings
5.) IF you don’t know what to do: ASK A PROFESSIONAL!

Hundreds of Thousands of dollars a year are wasted in ill-prepared and poorly planned basement finishing designs using the WRONG material. This is why it falls, yet again, under the Top 6 Most Common Basement Mistakes that homeowners and contractors make.

11/04/2009

Basement Mistake pt 4 – Having Open sump pits or drainage systems.

Open Sump Pump Basin or Pit
Open sump locations and open drainage systems are not uncommon. Many homeowners get “glammour-ed” by the logic of the sales pitch and, in desperation, follow through with installing an open sump pump basin and an open back drainage system.

The good news is that these two out-dated technologies are easily replaceable and easy to update.

Open sump pits – What’s the deal?
Having a sump pump installed is a good plan to deal with excess moisture and liquid water underneath the basement floor. It’s an excellent way to deal with water build up and hydrostatic pressure. A sump pump is designed to be fully under water, and when the water level is high enough it pumps the water out.

Now, when the water level is too low to activate the pump it can rest at the bottom of the sump basin. Many older designs of these basins didn’t come with lids. Homeowners created wood, metal and plastic sheets to cover the hole, but these do not seal the area off from the basement. Even with having a sump pump dealing with the water under the floor, homeowners would still be introducing the moisture from the standing water in the basin into the basement’s air. This can still happen and can lead to mold and moisture issues as well as give a direct path for water to jump the system. Flooding and other unpleasant things can also occur from having an open sump liner. (This doesn’t include the safety reasons – people falling in, toys or objects clogging and breaking pumps, rodents, insects, iron bacteria.etc.)

Open and open back drainage systems
For a long time, open back drainage systems were the cutting edge of technology. Combining the ideas of pipe and stone systems with the conveniences of easy installation on the footer and the simple method of collecting water from the walls. With water dripping or running down the walls from a floor crack, these open back systems would simply collect the water and put it in the drain.

open channel basement drainageEverything was well-and-good in the Basement Waterproofing Industry until people realized that these open systems were in fact allowing moisture and water to jump the system. The moisture that would build up in a system that was level (not allowing for continuous flow in a gravity fed direction) would also evaporate and escape out the back, thus adding humidity and moisture problems back into the basement.

Without knowing any better thousands of homes across America, especially in New England have increased the problems in their basements with these “easy install” fixes.

Many DIYers, and even seasoned Contractors, unknowingly subjected their (and their clients) basements to sump pump pits that were:
1.) Too Deep, causing undermining to the foundation
2.) Open allowing moisture to cause more problems in the basement
3.) Allowing water to have the ability to flood the basement or crawlspace from the sump
4.) Allow soil VOCs and other pollutants to enter the air in the home.


Having an open sump pit or an open back system installed is actually providing you with the opposite of what you’d hope. They allow moisture to collect and expand into the basement or crawl space while providing minimum protection to the home for floods and excess water. Because of these reasons, and several safety reasons, is why this falls under one of the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that could cost you money in repairs and damage.

11/03/2009

Basement Mistake pt3 – Thinking that a basement is not part of the house.

foundation construction - basement isn't seperate from your home
Now this might sound down right silly, but many homeowners and even contractors actually treat the basement almost as if it wasn’t really part of the house. You might be saying “well that’s just silly!” and you would be right. The basement is the space created under your home by the walls of your foundation. Since it’s a closed in space, it is very much a part of your home and regularly contributes to the air quality and health of the rest of the home.


Foundation is sick, home is sick.
Movements in the soils around the foundation make the walls move, bricks buckle, or cause cracks in the basement walls. These movements also affect the home directly on top of it by causing ceiling and wall cracks, doors to stick and windows to get shifty. It’s not only connected in a physical way, but is also connected with airflow.

Air from the outside of the home finds its way into the basement through the foundation walls. The air travels up and into the first floor of the home and continues to travel until it reaches a window, roof or some other opening. If the air quality in the basement is poor, than the air quality in the rest of the home is affected and changed. Mold spores, pollutants or other VOCs that have access to your basement have access to the rest of the home.

The recent epidemic of sick-house syndrome is typically caused by problems emanating from the basement. Mold and mildew can quickly turn a home from a safe haven into a place that makes it hard to breathe and can even cause neurological disorders. Leaving the home’s foundation to it’s own devices will only allow further deterioration, cracks, moisture, and problems to occur.


Like any part of your home…
…the foundation needs to be repaired and maintained. Creating a healthy and safe environment will lend itself to creating a healthy and safe home.

Leaving problems like standing water, cracks, or mold to fix themselves will only leave you in solid disappointment.

As you would have a plumber come and tend to your pipes, have a basement health contractor come and inspect the condition of your basement. Providing a Radon Test every 2 years, correcting and foundation stability issues, and attending to moisture and water control needs will have you finally sitting pretty.


Evidence that Contractors think differently about the basement.
I was even surprised to see that many contractors (who aren’t in the basement health industry) see the basement as separate from the rest of the home. Many finishing contractors will build with the same materials as they would on a 1st or 2nd floor project. Organic material such as wood and standard dry walls can turn into hazards when met with moisture issues. This proves that many finishing contractors don’t understand the basement environment and think that the foundation is a separate part of the home.

Providing the same classical finishing methods and materials to a remodeling job in the basement shows that contractors don’t always understand the problems of their materials in the foundation area. Paper-backed dry walls and insulation can feed mold problems. Wood studs can absorb moisture and introduce mold and dry rot odors to the basement. The basement requires different types of materials to be used in the basement and by not understanding this; contractors condemn their remodeling projects to eventual disaster.

The foundation itself, yes, is a separate “piece” of the home, but the conditions within it are very much connected to the rest of the home. This is why thinking this way about the basement is one of the Top 6 Most Common Basement Mistakes.

11/02/2009

Basement Mistakes pt 2 – Not having a dehumidifier and/or not emptying it regularly.

how a basement dehumidifier works
Home depot and other improvement stores carry droves of dehumidifiers that thousands of consumers by a year. Some homeowners even have two or three of the same kind, cracking’ away in the basement, attempting to level out the humidity. Typically, someone who’s looking for something better will call Pioneer Basement and say something like “I have a dehumidifier but it doesn’t seem to be doing what I need.” – here in lies the issue.

The “Not emptying it Regularly” part of the mistake.
A little background: The consumer grade dehumidifiers are designed to be cheaply built and mass-produced to get as many units out to the public as possible. This mass production created a design flaw for the sake of creating a compact unit.

Every dehumidifier has both a heating element and a cooling element as part of its’ process. Damp air is drawn into the unit and the moisture is separated from the air by rapidly cooling it. The water then forms on the condenser coils and the air is filtered out through the dehumidifier as dry. However, to collect the now semi-frozen water off the coils, the dehumidifier now needs to warm it up so that the moisture drips into the collection pan (oh, the famous and hated collection pan).

This is all well and good, however, the close proximity of the heating element to the collection pan then mutates this dehumidifier into a Humidifier…in a sense turning the unit on it’s own purpose for existing! The dehumidifier now adds humidity and then has to work AGAIN to pull that moisture out of the air and into the pan.

Here in lies the problem of “Not Emptying it enough” – By allowing the water to sit in the collection pan for long amounts of time you give the unit more time to heat that pan and place more humidity back into the basement. A good solution for this is to by-pass the collection bin and force the water drain out of the unit and into a sink, outside, or into a sump location.

The mistake of “not having a dehumidifier” in the first place.
Most basements have natural levels of 45-66% relative humidity year round. Mold and mildew only need levels of 50% or higher to grow and become an issue. Venting might be a temporary fix to add new air to the basement, but it can’t be done year round because of letting in moisture from out side, allowing critters to get in, rain to flow through, or having the basement get too cold in the summer.

The dehumidifier is designed to remove the dampness of the humidity in the basement and pump out dry warm air in the process. This not only helps circulation of the air in the basement but it contributes to healthier basement air quality.

By not having a dehumidifier you allow humidity levels to go unchecked. Thus, allowing your chances for mold, mildew, moisture damage, and smells to increase. Too much humidity in the basement can also cause damage to your insulation, make wood floors buckle, or potentially cause mold to start on the first floor of the house (yes, the basement affects the rest of the home too!)

A dehumidifier is a good first step in controlling moisture in the basement, which is why it’s part of the Top 6 Most Common Basement Mistakes that homeowners and builders make.

If you’re looking to purchase a dehumidifier, take a minute to read my tips on Buying the Right Dehumidifier for your Home.

Image thanks to http://www.remodelguide.com/

10/30/2009

Basement Mistakes pt 1– Thinking that a smelly basement is okay.

moisture and odors can find their way upstairs from the basement
One of the most common misconceptions about the basement, and this even reaches into my childhood, is that the basement has a “smell” and that all basements have that same “smell.”

Seeing as many of your neighbors’ basements smell similar, it’s turned into a social norm that all basements have a musty or damp odor to them. Not only is this considered normal it is now also considered “expected.” This however, is not the reality, and many homeowners, new and old, have had a hard time recently getting their heads around why this shouldn’t be considered acceptable.

Odors and smells originate from processes, in this case the damp or musty odors are originating from moisture in the air. When moisture in the air is at a normal level, you typically don’t smell anything, heck, there’s moisture in the air all the time and you can’t smell it.

So why do you smell it in the basement and not some other part of your home?

You smell it all the time in your bathroom after a shower, or in the kitchen after cooking a pasta dish; extra moisture in the air is the cause of the musty smell in the basement air. One problem with the basement is that this moisture can collect and linger, which makes these smells worse. The other is that the basement is constantly subjected to inward migration of moisture through the foundation walls and floors. The basement will never stop getting moisture and airflow from the soil around your foundation.

By not addressing these smells you are basically letting moisture sit in your basement or you're allowing for the cause of the moisture in the basement go unchecked. This can lead to a few things that are much larger problems:

1.) Mold and Mildew – they both need a cool, dark, and damp place to live. Excess moisture makes it easier for mold to grow and spread in the basement. Even in small amounts mold and mildew can cause serious health problems and can potentially damage property (finished walls, carpets, clothes, etc.).

2.) Ruined Insulation – Even if a small amount of moisture accumulates in your insulation, up to 95% of it’s R-Value can be rendered useless.

3.) Damp Finished walls – Sagging ceilings, warped floors and other damage can drastically affect the mood and feel of a finished space.

4.) Unusable space – High enough moisture and humidity levels in a basement can really make the space unpleasant to be in.

5.) Damaged property – TVs, Electronics, and leather couches are all very temperature and moisture sensitive. If you’re placing any of these things in the finished space of your basement, and you still have a smell/odor caused by a moisture issue, you could be throwing money out the window.

6.) Unaddressed leak or flooding potential – Sometimes the moisture is a key indicator that there is an active leak or history with flooding and water. Repairing cracks, addressing leaks, and installing moisture control can help to solve these issues.

Thinking that the smell in the basement is “okay” or “normal” is one of the Top 6 Most Common Basement Mistakes that homeowners and builders make. The good news is that the mind set is changing in homeowners and many are becoming more home health conscious which is forcing them to look at their basement for potential problems.

picture thanks to http://www.arborteas.com/

10/29/2009

The 6 most common basement mistakes...

Over the next few weeks I'll be discussing in detail why this list should be paid attention too. Many homeowners disregard the basement as an "extra" part of the home, and because of this, many times becomes neglected.

The top 6 most common Basement Mistakes are:

*Thinking that a smelly basement is okay
*Not having a dehumidifier or not emptying it regularly
*Thinking that a basement is not part of the house
*Having an open sump pit or an open drainage system
*Finishing a basement using wood or other organic material
*Not testing for Radon every 2 years

10/20/2009

Reader Question & Answer: Why is my basement wall discolored?

stained brick wallThere can be a few reasons why your basement walls might look discolored.

The first major reason would be that the basement wall has gotten into direct contact with a high concentration of moisture. Water build up, rain, flooding, or just the depth of your basement relative to your water table can cause this darkening of your basement wall. This typically doesn’t go away, but it will change with seasons (sometimes).

Second reason this could be happening is that you have Mold growth on your foundation walls. The combination of factors that could be adding to this would be a plaster coating on your foundation wall (skim coating) and moisture contact with that surface. Mold won’t grow unless there are spores present to germinate on the organic material and water to drink. Mold tends to also enjoy darker areas, so this might happen more behind solid objects like a bookshelf or appear in the furthest corners away from major light sources.

Third reason this could happen would be Mildew. Like mold it will need moisture and organic material found in the skim coating covering your foundation walls. It is slick and if forming on your basement floor can be extremely hazardous.

Forth reason is a staining caused by an oil-based product. Heating oil, lubrication oil, paint thinner or gasoline are all things that can cause staining on concrete. These stains are extremely hard, if not impossible, to remove from the surface of concrete. Other things can color your basement walls like paint or wood stains. Whenever working with materials such as this make sure to use a drop cloth to protect from spills.

Other Observations

If you see that the stain is rust colored this could be a sign that your rod ties are leaking/seeping water.

If there are white efflorescent patterns (normally look like ocean waves) on your wall, this is a tell tail sign that water has, in fact, evaporated from that surface. This also means that water is finding its way through your foundation wall, however slowly it might be.

Photo thanks to Mayang.com


Related Reading and Links

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!

10/15/2009

Reader Question: Are Vapor Barriers Safe?

This was an interesting question that someone asked me the other day. Every application that I’ve ever used Vapor Barriers in have been safe but I was still startled that I didn’t have a more detailed answer as to “Why they are safe.” I decided to look into it further.
Vapor barriers are inherently safe. There are however, ways of using them and installing them improperly that make them unsafe. The good news is that there are things to look into and look out for when researching a vapor barrier for your basement or construction project.

Vapor Barriers are typically a thin sheet of plastic (composition varies from brand to brand), normally polyethylene, that are placed on basement walls, or on new home walls to minimize the amount of moisture, water, and or air from penetrating into the home.

Being that vapor barriers and diffusers are now considered normal parts of most construction projects (residential and commercial) there are things that have to be considered. Introducing a vapor barrier on the 1st and 2nd floor requires a different list of considerations than those installed on the foundation itself. With the two areas being drastically different in how moisture and liquid water attempt to enter the spaces, the grade of vapor barrier and the way that it’s installed has to be different.

To make sure that you’re using the right Vapor Barrier for your basement moisture control and installing it the right way follow these simple tips:

1.) Find a Vapor Barrier (Not a diffuser) with a PERM rating of .001 or lower. The lower the number the better it can stop moisture from coming through.

2.) Don’t install it on the front of your studs before placing dry wall on top of it. This is the wrong way to do things. Vapor barriers should always be installed directly on the foundation wall.

3.) Make sure the vapor barrier is smooth and that all openings are sealed, taped or caulked closed. This will limit air transfer and will help to make sure that your vapor barrier isn’t allowing any bad things to come with the air from underneath your basement floor.

4.) Run your vapor barrier to an interior drain system like the GrateDrain. If you don’t you’ll end up with pools of water, moisture and condensation along your bottom edge. Connecting your vapor barrier to a drain controls where the moisture/water end up. Channeling it to a drain system fully protects your wall.


And here are a few “common sense” safety tips:

*Keep out of the mouths of children
*Don’t let a child or a person wrap a vapor barrier around their nose or mouth
*Don’t stab pointy, sharp or jagged objects into the vapor barrier, you can puncture it and render it useless.
*Use a Basement Health Contractor to properly install this vapor barrier.
*Don’t install it on the outside of finished studs in the basement.

10/13/2009

Sump pumps aren’t the only things that solve wet basements

Having blogged about basement waterproofing for well over 2 years now, I’ve come across plenty of misunderstandings about sump pumps and their place in the waterproofing “solution bag.”


Many customers call, thinking that all they need is a sump pump, when the majority of the cases, it couldn’t be further from the actual solution.

The sump pump is a mechanical device that sits on the front lines of any moisture issue in the basement. It is designed to be the easiest, quickest, and most volume displacing method of getting water out from underneath your basement floor. Sump pumps are a great answer if all you have is ground water coming in contact with your basement floor. However, it’s very rare that this would be the ONLY way that water was trying to get into your basement.

There are two other ways that water typically comes into the basement (and I’ve talked at length about these): inward migration of moisture through the foundation walls and water coming in through the gap between the footing and foundation wall.

Unless the moisture and liquid water somehow only get diverted to underneath the basement floor, and you experience absolutely not seepage around the floor/wall joint, then it’s possible that the sump pump might be the only solution you need. But 99% of the time, the sump pump is only part of the solution.



Other solutions to consider:

Interior Drainage

A subfloor drainage system can help to capture most of the water coming through the footing / wall joint that a sump pump alone would miss. Interior drainage is connected to the sump location and can in fact help the sump pump to deal with more volume then just the sump alone. Drainage at the other end of the basement can help to ferry water through it’s channels to the pump, where as in the pump would have to work twice as hard to reach the same water.

Water, a natural level, will always seek its own level. As a sump pump works it lowers the level of water near it, however, the water further away is still at a slightly higher level. This creates a shift and the water will rock to level itself out naturally. If drainage was present, the water could uniformly be removed faster and with less resistance.


Foundation Wall Vapor Barrier

Vapor Barriers have had people confused for years now. Correctly attaching a vapor barrier directly to the foundation wall will drastically limit humidity and the level of moisture that can break into the basement via the foundation walls. Vapor barrier can be directly connected to interior drainage and any moisture or liquid water that is trapped by it, will find its way to the drain and be directed to the sump pump basin.

One of the most common questions that I’ve received about Vapor Barrier is “Do I need it?”


The answer as I’ve stated before, is a strongly suggestive YES. It will help to completely address all the possible entry points of moisture into the basement, provide long term protection against wall leaks and wicking.

If you don’t use a vapor barrier, I wouldn’t suggest finishing off the basement until you did.

10/06/2009

WHO concludes that excess home moisture can lead to increased levels of illness in homes.

Over the past two months Indoor Environment Connections (ieconnections.com) has reported directly on a release by the World Health Organization of conclusive data relating to a direct correlation between increased levels of home moisture and illness in the occupants of the home.


Both in August and September, the newsletter of ieconnections.com has made direct quotes from this release of the WHO, which finally concludes on a theory that many indoor air quality experts, basement waterproofing, and HVAC companies have had for the better part of 30 years.

The publication states that occupants of buildings with high moisture content are 75% likelier to become ill then the occupants of buildings with better indoor air quality. This figure isn’t astonishing to the companies and professionals in the field, however, for many home and building owners it’s helping to motivate them to change their Indoor Air Quality conditions.

In September the WHO announced it’s official guide lines to help building owners and homeowners get a better handle on the ways they can better their individual air quality.

http://www.euro.who.int/document/E92645.pdf


The next logical step.
Many basement waterproofing companies, including the entire contractor network of Grate Products, has believed that the upward migration of air from the basement to the rest of the home plays a huge part in this. More than 40-50% of the air you breathe on the first floor has been linked directly to the basement or crawl space holding up the home, so one would think that if to completely control the moisture levels of the home, one would have to also control them in the basement.

“I’ve been saying this for the better part of the last 20 years,” says Steve Andras, President of Grate Products LLC, “If people want to truly control the moisture content in their homes, get control of the odors, must, and dampness in their air, then they need to look at the basement.”

Multiple methods of basement waterproofing and moisture control have been installed over the past hundred years, but it’s only with the most recent technology that homeowners have a better chance of actually getting close to 100% control over the moisture in their basements.

The WHO hasn’t made a distinctive point about the best methods to repair, but have made arguments for why a household should manage the moisture content of their home. On page 36 section 3.2 of their guide they also discuss the various methods that water does infiltrate the space.

On page 61 the WHO makes some basic recommendations about how to limit the amount of moisture with basic instructions.

Having some distinctive differences between this list and some of the Building Science’s findings, it will be interesting to see how the guide evolves in the future.

9/08/2009

NAWSRC Regional Meeting: Atlantic City: Day's Events

Full details on all the days events, registration, and hotel arrangements can all be found here

Nov. 12th, 2009 Calender:
Registration & Networking 7:45am - 8:15am
NAWSRC History & Mission – Dan Jaggers 8:15am - 8:30am

Contractors Helping People
Product Showcase - Emecole, Inc 8:30am - 8:45am
Part 1: Grading And Exterior Drainage Solutions. - Mike Trotter 8:45am - 9:15am
Part2: Basement Drainage – Interior Solutions. - Steve Andras 9:15am - 9:45am
Break & Networking 9:45am - 10:00am
Part 3: Sinking Foundation Solutions - Dan Jaggers 10:00am - 10:30am
Question and Answer Period With Speakers 10:30am - 11:00am
Product Showcase 11:00am - 11:15pm
Why Join The NAWSRC - Dan Jaggers 11:15pm - 11:30pm
Lunch Provided & Networking 11:30pm - 12:30pm

Afternoon Session
Women, Plumbers, And Doctors – Air Quality Starts In The Basement - Steve Andras 12:30pm - 2:00pm
Product Showcase 2:00pm - 2:15pm
Indoor Air Quality - Richard M. Lynch, PHD, CIH 2:15pm - 3:00pm
Break & Networking 3:00pm - 3:15pm
Radon – Is It Your Problem? - David Hill 3:15pm - 3:45pm
Product Showcase - Grate Products LLC 3:45pm - 4:00pm
Free Internet Marketing - Joe Pires 4:00pm - 4:30pm

NAWSRC 2009 Regional Meeting in Atlantic City NJ

8/25/2009

NAWSRC Regional Meeting - Nov 12th, 2009

NAWSRC 2009 Regional Meeting Atlantic City, NJ

This year's NAWSRC Regional Meeting will be held on November 12th, 2009.

It will be held in the exciting location of Atlantic City, NJ.


Hotel:


Atlantic City Hilton Casino
ResortBoston & The Boardwalk
Atlantic City, NJ 08401

The NAWSRC has special information about the hotel and accomidations. To read more about the hotel and the special pricing and conditions click here

To make reservations to attend the Northeastern Regional Meeting through the NAWSRC click here

Information about speakers and a calender of events will be posted shortly


8/17/2009

Reader Request: A Missouri Basement Waterproofing and Foundation Repair Company Suggestion

Silly me, I forgot to add a Grate Products contractor over in my "Home Improvement Links" Section over to the right - >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

So when I was asked in my comments, on my entry about Water coming in through the foundation of the House if I knew of a company in St.Louis. I smacked myself on the forehead for forgetting them.

Missouri Basement is a basement waterproofing and foundation repair company in St. Louis, MO that's been serving that area of the state for many years. Brining expert foundation repair knowledge and a keen understanding of the local landscape to the basements, they've been an amazing addition to the Grate Products Network of Contractors.

Recently the owner of the company started putting together some videos to help homeowners around his area understand the different processes and problems with fixing the basement the right way (as soon as I have a link to some, I'll post them!)

8/07/2009

Grate Products Flexi-Flange, what it is, what it does, and how it helps to control moisture in your basement.

Flexi-Flange isn’t one of the more popular products that Grate Products has produced, but it could be considered one of the most important.

The Flexi-Flange is designed to create the seal at the point where our Wall Protection Vapor Barrier meets the concrete of your basement floor. Its primary function is to close off access to the basement from under your basement slab and from behind our vapor barrier. At this point it also performs a few other key functions.

It protects the vapor barrier. The flange does this by lying on top of the vapor barrier. This makes sure that any of the concrete used to seal back the floor doesn’t interfere with the vapor barrier and keeps any separation from happening at the floor and wall joint.

The flexi-flange also allows the vapor barrier to continuously connect with the drain under the floor by allowing minor movements without breaking the seal with the concrete. This ensures continuous flow from the vapor barrier to the drain and stop point if water tries to jump the circuit.

For that homeowner with older, open back systems, the flange is designed to be reversible. This way we can retrofit most open back systems with wall protection and to seal off the open back system to provide true basement moisture protection. Without a vapor barrier and with an open channel in your drainage system you open yourself up to a list of hazards that many companies won’t speak about: added moisture and humidity, radon, bugs, and air from under your basement floor.

Considering that you had an open back system installed in the first place means that you were trying to have your basement waterproofed the right way. So this flange is designed to complete the design that wasn’t installed. Vapor barrier to protect your walls can be installed and your flange will close off the gap, easily sealing off the channel and allowing the vapor barrier to drain to the system without air, water, or other nasty things to jump the system back into your basement.

By creating the seal of the vapor barrier and drain the flexi flange becomes one of the most important sealed system aspects of any Grate Drain system. It’s a little known innovation by Grate Products, however it helps to maintain the system by simply existing. With no maintenance it’s a part that many homeowners forget about, however without it your vapor barrier might become damaged more easily, water might be able to jump the system and air would be able to flow up into your basement from under your floor.

8/05/2009

Santa Fe Dehumidifiers vs. Humidex – Forum conversation and Comparison

Conversation about Humidex vs. Santa Fe continues here.

Humidex basically pulls air from the outside to bring into the home. This causes some pressure changes in the basement that draws air from the outside and the first floor. This actually switches the natural flow of the air in the home causing more moisture and humidity to possibly build up in the basement.

This can lead to more humidity and increased dampness, which in turn leads to increased run time and electricity cost to run air conditioners in the rest of the home. They say you can run it for pennies a day, when in reality you're throwing your cooling and heating costs right outside by increasing the amount you heat in the winter, and air condition in the summer. (these can also be vented directly out of the home via the fan of the humidex, so you're systems will run more. )

Santa Fe Dehumidifiers only deal with the moisture and air that currently exists in the basement. This allows the airflow of the home to continue uninterrupted and be added to with moisture free and filtered air from the basement.

Air naturally moves through soil, slowly through the foundation and into the basement. From there it naturally rises through the home, 1st floor, 2nd floor, and eventually through windows or the roof of the home. This is known as Stack Effect.

Since moisture naturally moves with the air through the foundation anyway, the Santa Fe is designed to deal with the moisture as it migrates into your basement. The Humidex doesn’t deal with the moisture level in the basement and in fact can actually increase the moisture and humidity to unsafe levels by bringing air from the outside.

Sadly Humidex has sparked many debates on the proper techniques in venting basements and crawlspaces and mostly because of negative results with the product.

Venting a basement or crawlspace isn’t recommended and can actually introduce more mold, humidity and moisture.

7/10/2009

2 weeks of Rain, bad for some, good for others

Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut have been met with violent rainstorms these past two weeks. A series of these storms cut through the state 2 days ago, and now, like some miracle, the sun is shinning like nothing has ever happened.

Pioneer Basement's covert has been filling and dissipating as fast as the rains come and go. The main point however is that when the covert gets to be at a specific height on our property, we know, at least, that local calls will be coming in.

Covert technology is used all over the United States to direct the flows of water to shallow basins. Florida, New York, Philly and Boston all have similar uses of the same technique.

The Bad for some:My landscaping friends have been board these past few days. None, absolutely none, of their outside work could have been completed in the last two weeks where they operate. I felt bad with this update but that's the nature of any home improvement. Some people can operate come rain or shine, and others are totally at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Interior drainage can be installed rain or shine, 365 days a year, which means less down time and a better ability to service and maintain existing customers. This means more chances for homeowners to do the work and more opportunity to eventually finish. Having a healthy basement is a key step to any finishing job and will set up a custom basement for a long, healthy, and protected success.

6/16/2009

New Contractor Interviews and More: 101st Blog Post!

It’s been a busy few weeks.

Going through some of my archives here at Safe’n’Dry and come to find out I have no interviews! I was shocked at myself. There’s so many questions out there that so many of the Grate Products contractors could answer.

So the first step was making contact with some of the contractors whom I’m personally friendly and sitting down one-on-one and talking about the business and about foundations. Every contractor has interesting stories, but more importantly interesting insight from their experiences which has lead them to become part of Grate Products.

In the coming weeks I’m planning on interviewing Rob Hicks from Virginia Basement Waterproofing and Chris Brown from Rescon Basement Solutions in New Hampshire

Radon Information
Pioneer’s project managers recently went through intense radon measurement and assessment training, so I will be talking more in depth about radon in weeks to come.
Other than that I'm shocked that I've made 100 posts in a little under a year! Thanks to all of my readers for sending me questions, emailing me and following this site!

5/08/2009

My basement renovation project progress: May 2009

Spring is officially here and yard work and family has been taking priority for me. One of the new things to happen is my Girlfriend’s sister has moved into our basement and will be living there for the next Month.

2 Projects came from this all in the same day. a.) Renovating the Basement’s ½ Bathroom and b.) Installing a temporary door to keep her cat downstairs (I’m allergic).

Like with any project around the home you have the helpful “check list” for projects

1.) Measure! If you don’t know how much space you have or are going to be dealing with you’re looking at a large percentage of material waste in your project. In today’s economy and with urgent need to help our environment, every little bit of scrap needs to be avoided.

2.) Draw it out. When you’re building anything that requires solid cuts, making a drawing and measuring it will help you do the math, make your cut list and keep waste down and your work time down.

3.) Clearing the work area: Making sure we had a clear work area, work surfaces, and a clear place to store things makes life so much simpler.

Our bathroom flooring was chosen because it’s an inorganic laminate flooring with a built in sub floor in it. This will have to go down first and cut outs made so that the toilet can be installed. The walls in the bathroom are going to be painted as well.

The Door will be installed on the walk in mud stones. Because it’s only temporary and the Homeowner didn’t want too much damage to the walls (which I’ll have to repair later anyway) we’re going with simple wood studs and a pre-framed door.

Next Projects on the list: Molding, More Painting, and a built in bookcase.

4/23/2009

Basement Decorating Ideas - All manors of Basement Finishing

After starting a thread on the Pioneer Basement forums: Basement Decorating I went back through my files of emails to go through some messages from readers and from clients about attempting to decorate their basements.

People all over the world, and especially in urban areas like Boston, New York, and London have sent me questions about how to best decorate their basements. My first question:What do you want to do in your basement?After a moisture control system is installed, the possibilities are endless!

Home Basement Finishing has a great basement idea photo gallery to get the juices flowing.

My design ideas for a basement always tend to lean towards lighter, brighter, more reflective colors. This helps to bounce light further into the basement and thus, making it less bleak and dark. The main idea is to pick a color that you want to design around. (My family for instance really loves greens...I'm sure you'd find another color that you love).

Support piers can be covered up with a variety of different options. I decided to cover mine in a wood finish. I kept the column covers "square" to match the basic furniture patterns in the rest of the basement (no sense in having a Round object interrupt the sea of straight lines). If you're into more modern, round, or elliptical furniture and headboards then you might consider dressing yours up with a more traditional round lolly column cover. But like I said, your imagination is the only thing holding you back.

Copepods and Rotifers: West Hartford, CT Residents asked to Boil Water

Hartford Courant Story: MDC asks CT residents to boil water after contaminants are found

Needless to say: I'm going to bringing home bottled water for my mother this weekend. Read more about the details in the Hartford Courant Story link above.

"While they are not a threat to public health, their presence indicates a problem with the water treatment system, according to a statement from the Department of Public Health."

4/20/2009

AP Article: Drug companies releasing drugs into drinking water

AP IMPACT: Tons of released drugs taint US water
another reason to pay attention to the EPA under their categories of "water"

One of today’s EPA tips: Appliance/Machine Maintenance

“Today's environmental tip: Proper maintenance reduces waste! Keep your appliances in good working order and follow the manufacturer's suggestions for operation and maintenance. Shop for products with high consumer satisfaction and fewer breakdowns. If kept in good working order, your appliances should last a long time and not end up as waste before their time.”

You can receive these EPA short updates by subscribing to their rss feed. I subscribed in order to keep a better handle on the issues in the community around Westport and also to keep a close ear to the ground regarding topics about ground water.

Today’s tip was remarkably relevant. On Pioneer’s Forums I’ve remarked numerous times that doing sump pump maintenance will save your money in the long run. I urged people to pick a time when their pump’s not running much, like the dead of winter, but more importantly before the spring.

I’m busy, as is anyone who’s working in today’s society, so it’s easy to get behind on maintenance for anything (I myself will own up to the fact that I’m over 5k miles on my next oil change…which I need to put on my calendar). But like with all maintenance it’s important to do.

Maintaining your sump pump or dehumidifier regularly (once a year) will increase the life span of the machine. It won’t make your machine immortal, but it’ll help keep it running smoothly and costing you less than a pump that goes without maintenance and breaks down often.

Comment:
What would make it easier for you to remember to do a yearly maintenance?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ll share mine in the comments.

4/17/2009

Friend's Online Basement Inspection - My reaction, part2

Here are the rest of the images from the foreclosed home in NJ that my friend was looking at.







From the pictures I was able to draft up a "rough" (aka, not anywhere close to scale) of the the basement floor plan:



Because of the wood floor, my initial reaction was that that area was an addition with no concrete slab poured. I came to this conclusion A.) With the wood floor, b.) the akward end to the interior concrete block wall (see oil tank shot), and C.) from the mold appearing to discolor the wood floor.

All the images above can been enlarged by clicking on them.

I sent a reply email too him with the following information:



img_4577: Slight efflorencense left on walls
img_4578 - Furnece vent/chimney ash box - def' water damage, all that white power on the floor is evedence of direct water contact and evaporation.
img_4580- Pull that rug out ASAP!, the color changes in the image should be a red flag
Img_4584-4586: Mold coloring to wooden floors. Tear down walls and flooring. This basement has had water damage.

Telling by the akward paint job of only the first 2-3 feet of the walls, that tells me they a.) tried to dry lock only the areas that might have "been the problem" or b.) they're trying to cover up past water damage spots on the walls (see same color change in the Weight Room on all the finished walls). I wouldn't be surprised if that wood floor covered up and area of just soil. It seems to be an "addition" area because of how the wall suddenly ends at the start of the doorway.

1.) Past water damange
2.) Oil line from oil tank to furnace needs to be upgraded to above floor flex pipe with oil pump at tank. This line should also be insulated. This is a code issue.
3.) Remove any an all organic material: Rugs, wood, wood walls.

Demo might range anywhere from $400-$2000 depending on square footage.
Updating the fuel line should fall in the $300-$400 range
Depending on the linear footage of the basement properly waterproofing it could range from $6,000-$10,000



My Friend's Reply:


Yeah we have looked at everything. the main bathroom needs all the titles in the shower/tub wall replaced. and the roof is slate, looks good from what we can see in the attic, we had heavy rain the past few days and we went back to look at it today. it handled the rain well and there might be some leaking in the roof, but it didn't look horrible. kitchen is new.

the problem is that if we can't take a second mortgage then we will have no money to fix the place up, but we might try and negotiate with the bank and have them pick up the cost of fixing it and we'll tack that on to our asking price.

We discovered that this was an addition that they made to the house THROUGH the main wall of the house, so you were right that its probably dirt underneath the plywood floor.


Related Reading and Links

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!

4/16/2009

(EPA) Earth Day 2009: Green Buildings and Green Technologies on National Mall Washington D.C.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Earth Day 2009: Green Technologies and Buildings Bloom on the National Mall

(Washington, D.C. – April 17, 2009) On April 18–20, 2009, EPA will hold the 5th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo, which will display new sustainable or green technologies. More than 40 college teams and other exhibitors from across the country will show their innovative solutions for an environmentally sustainable future, including generating ethanol from coffee production wastewater, embedding small glass spheres in house paint to deflect heat in the summer, and the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to maximize prairie switch grass ethanol yield.

The expo will begin at noon on Saturday, April 18 and will also showcase EPA’s Annual People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Award competition. Previous P3 winners have taken their innovations to new levels, including starting successful businesses.

Staff will post updates on EPA’s Twitter account throughout the expo: http://twitter.com/usepagov.

See the video from past years at http://www.epa.gov/p3/multimedia/videos/p3_07/index.html

WHO:
Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator of EPA Office of Research and Development More than 40 student design teams and 40 exhibitors

WHAT:
5th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo and
People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Awards

WHEN:
Saturday, April 18 from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, April 19 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Monday, April 20 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

WHERE:
National Mall between Constitution and Independence Avenues and 3rd and 4th Streets, N.W. (Federal Center S.W. Metro stop - Orange and Blue Lines)

More information about the P3 event: http://www.epa.gov/P3 Photos of the exhibits and teams to be posted during the event: http://www.epa.gov/P3/multimedia

Friend's Basement Inspection - My take on the images part1

So as I promised I'm posting up the images of some of the foreclosed home's basement. There are some minor cosmetic problems upstairs, but the basement is what drew a "red flag" for the couple.

Read about the Top 6 Most common Basement Mistakes.

He sent me the images through email and it was pretty fair to say that the basement had a very clear history of water damage. This was the first image that put up my "basement waterproofing inspection alarm!"

basement furnace and water tank area Now you might ask yourself "why such the fuss? It’s a water heater and a furnace. So what? I've marked the key factors in this next image to give you an idea of what I saw:

basement water issues marked Noteable Basement Water Factors
This basement had some glaring issues the majority of them can be summed up in this one image.


Thin Yellow: Floor discoloration, efflorescence


Pink: Water run off marks from the chimney ash box, possible cause of regional floor markings.



Green: The entire basement (as you'll see in the next post) has this 2-3 foot painted section along the base of the concrete block foundation. Drylock doesn't typically come in white (all I’ve seen has been the retro florescent 70's green color), and most people who use drylock typically cover the whole of the walls with it, not just small sections. My initial reaction was that this was a cosmetic fix to hide past water damage levels on the walls.

The rest of the basement has an oil tank and a small "finished" room, done with dry wall and wood. And as you all know by now, wood and dry wall aren't good things to have in your basement because they're mold food! yum. The weight room even has a rug in it...seriously?
basement gym, basement finishing project


Basement Gym Room:
Red circle-upper left: They seemed the drywall ceiling with duct tape..different. Looking on the floor there is also indications that the ceilings and walls have been "played" with recently..aka drywall dust.

Red Rectangle, back wall - two holes in the foundation with evidence of water run off.

Green Rectangle- Paint is pealing off the bottom row of concrete block, evidence of direct moisture/water contact.

Green Squiggly and Red Squiggly: Discoloration in the rugs at various points. The red has more of a darker tone to it, which might indicate it as being soaked/recent; the Green area has a definite square pattern, which might indicate floor cracks. However, that question of "floor cracks or not" is answered by this next photo taken of the corner to the left of the camera.


Underbelly of the Basement Gym Floor
Basement Wood Subflooring So...loe and behold! The underside of that rug is PLYWOOD! It explains the pattern found on the rug and we also find the possible source of the problem. Why? How? Well we'd have to lift that wood up to see what's going on underneath, but $10 says that there is a mold film or colonies living under that wood.

Visual discoloration at the bottom 1"-1.5" on the bottom of the wood pannels covering the walls.

Next blog will be the responce to my friend in an email form.


Related Reading and Links

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!

4/15/2009

Few Other Sites...I Find..yes

Being an active blogger and basement waterproofing advocate, I do take tours around the construction "industry" as much as possible, and this does include Blogs.

I've been having quite a hard time finding industry related blogs, but they're out there. (little niche hint encase anyone's looking for something to write about)

Stair Builders linked to Pioneer Basement Waterproofing a while back so I thought I'd go and check it out. It's a hogde-pogde of different articles and statements about the construction industry. It's worth taking a peek at.

Basement-Tips is another random site I found using one of my article from Ezine. Thankfully they used the edited version of it and it read the way I intended it too. A little link heavy, but some great links ether way.

I am happy to report after following him on Twitter, The Carpenter Confidential Blog is back out cutting wood and cracking out reviews and projects.
Spring is here and oddly enough I've been helping some of my friends regionally and nationally who are looking at homes. They've been sending me pictures of the basements that they see to get my advice before signing up for a building inspector.

I'll be writing on that and sharing pictures just as soon as "Anubis" gets back to me about using his photos;-) (I'm sure he'll say yes)

3/27/2009

Pipe and Stone: Old Technology and why it shouldn't be used for Interior Basement Waterproofing Drainage


As I’ve addressed in other posts there are many ways that basement-waterproofing systems can fail.

The General Problem with Pipe and Stone:
Pipe and Stone drainage systems fail because the technology doesn’t allow for specific things to happen. Pipe, PVC, iron or steel, copper or some other material tends to work best for plumbing. Plumbing requires a unidirectional liquid flow with rigid containment. This is so you get water coming out your sink tap and not onto your floor.

What were the advantages:
A Pipe allows for a great deal of liquid volume to rush through. The larger the pipe diameter, the larger the volume of water you can move. This is the theory in using it for basement waterproofing, transitioning from the original French drain tile or Roman stone channel. Companies would then bore holes into the sides of the pipes, typically ¼-1/2 inch in diameter. The pipe was then installed near the footer, seldom pitched to maintain directional flow, and surrounded with stones of various sizes to keep the pipe in place. Early designs left the stone open to the basement interior, to allow surface or wall water and leaks to seep through the stone to the pipe.

The original use of pipe and stone systems left gaps between the pipes in hopes of “generally” get the water flowing in the right direction. However, because water can’t think logically and “follow dotted lines” it jumps the gaps and finds its way back into the basement.

The next incarnation of pipe and stone connected the pipes, but because iron pipe elbows were awkward, seldom fit, and could shift easily, pipe were laid end to end in hopes, again, that the water would find the other drain.

1970 was upon us and other systems came around to bump the pipe and stone system slowly out of popularity.

The Problems with Pipe and Stone:

Back fill: With pipe and stone’s entry holes into the pipe you don’t have many options of backfill. Stone is typically it. However, with today’s companies, some are installing pipe and stone and using sand and dirt to back fill, and hold the pipe in place. Soil and sand allow for shifting and very easily can clog holes of ¼ - ½ inch in diameter. Drilled holes in the pipe make it easy for debris and for clay style soils to get caught and slowly clog the drain by blocking holes.

Curve: The logic is by using a curved pipe the water has less to stick too because a curve helps to reduce the amount of friction the liquid has to overcome in order to flow. By having a low point in a pipe and stone being the bottom of the pipe, the dirt and soil that does come in with the water will slowly settle to the bottom of the pipe. As the area inside the pipe diminishes, it covers the holes that allow the pipe to drain water and allow water to flow through the pipe. Eventual clogs can occur.

Mineral deposits: The standard modern pipe and stone is ether iron or a perforated black piping. The iron pipes can rust and possibly (this is in theory) increase the amount of food for iron bacteria to grow colonies. Iron bacteria can easily clog pipes and cause major problems through a waterproofing system. The perforated black pipe (which you can see at Home Depot in the plumbing isle) has little ridges which just help to speed up the sediment settling process which I just mentioned will clog a drain over time.

Corner Seepage: Most companies, even today, neglect to install corner connections on the pipes (called elbows) which still lead to 85% of pipe and stone system failures occurring in the corners of the basement.

With all the choices today for interior basement waterproofing pipe and stone technology is best to be left outside. It’s the perfect technology for large volumes (pipes being over a foot in diameter, public works, road drainage) where it can be publicly maintained by the town/city/state but for a homeowner it’s not the solution for your basement.


Related Reading and Links

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!