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Green Basics

Basements

Full Basements Should Be Insulated and Protected From Water

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Basement foundations should be insulated to minimize energy losses and should be protected from water infiltration. Even if a basement is not intended to be used as a finished space, it’s best to assume that it may be finished in the future. That’s why it’s a good investment to upgrade from damp-proofing to a true waterproofing system when the basement is built. It’s always cheaper to perform this work at the time of construction than years later, when landscaping is in place and excavation is difficult.

For information on ways to improve a damp basement, see Fixing a Wet Basement.

#Types of basement foundations

Full foundations that create usable basements can be built in a number of ways: formed-in-place concrete walls or concrete block on footings are the most common. Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) and precast concrete panels are two newer options. Although it’s possible to build basement walls with treated wood lumber on footings of compacted gravel, all-wood foundations are rarely installed.

Insulated concrete forms

The most common type of ICF is made from inner and outer layers of rigid foam insulation with internal cavities that are reinforced with steel and filled with concrete. The forms are light, easy to handle, and quick to assemble. The foam provides an efficient thermal barrier. ICFs can be used to build above-grade walls as well as basements. ICFs can also be made from recycled polystyrene or wood chips combined with cement.

Treated Wood. Foundations made from treated lumber can be less expensive than building with concrete or concrete block. Despite their novelty among many builders, these foundations have a long history of reliability. Regular carpentry crews can erect them, and wood foundation walls can be set on a gravel base rather than a concrete footing. All of…

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2 Comments

  1. Andrei Sosnovsky | | #1

    External Insulation of existing basement foundation
    I'm planning on waterproofing of basement foundation walls and adding new weeping tile. I though it would a good idea to add rigid foam insulation since foundation walls are exposed anyway. What's a good way to protect and finish the above grade portion of rigid foam? After reading multiple articles I still can not seem to get a clear answer. Any ideas? Location - Toronto, Canada.

  2. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #2

    Response to Andrei
    Your question was answered some time ago in the Q&A section:
    https://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/community/forum/energy-efficiency-and-durability/14555/question-about-finish-over-exterior-foundatio

    Click the link to find out more information.
    In summary, here are your options for protecting the above-grade portions of exterior foundation wall insulation:
    1. Pressure-treated plywood.
    2. Fiber-cement panel siding.
    3. Cementitious coating (stucco) -- either reinforced with fiber, or installed over fiberglass mesh, or installed over metal lath.
    4. Insul-Cap vinyl covering from Wisconsin Poured Wall Products ( Muskego, WI).
    5. Ground Breaker fiberglass covering from Nudo Products (http://www.nudo.com)
    6. Insul-Guard 2 fiberglass covering from Diversified Composites (http://www.diversified-composites.com).
    7. Surface-bonding cement.
    8. Perma-Bond Complete (foam plus factory adhered cementitious coating) from http://www.permabondws.com/contractor.htm.
    9. FP Ultra Lite panels (factory coated foam panels) from Styro Industries (www.styro.net).
    10. Protecto Bond peel-and-stick membrane (www.protectowrap.com).

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