Basement Poly & Insulation

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Old 03-10-03, 05:43 PM
jimaymn
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Basement Poly & Insulation

I am finishing my basement with 2X4 walls, but hung the poly against the cinder block walls versus the interior side of the 2X4 walls (based on old contractors advice). The walls are 1/2" out from the cinder block.

1.) Is there risk in having the poly against the cinder block versus the 2X4s? (Had the basement tested for moisture and had no evidence or presence of water)

2.) What insulation would you recommend for the basement(I live in Minnesota)?

Thanks,
John
 
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Old 03-10-03, 08:13 PM
Doug Aleshire's Avatar
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jimaymn,

I am from Minnesota but living in Michigan now. If using traditional framing method, frame your new wall 1" from the vertical block/masonry surface if using R-13. The reason to keep the wood out from the walls is the moisture that could damage them. If using insulation like R-19 and only 2x4 studs, the insulation would touch the walls. I have stated before that if a homeowner did put thicker insulation in, and the wall was only 1" from the masonry surface, I have recommended hanging a vapor barrier between the back of the wall and masonry surface. This doesn't allow for the insulation to touch the wall and air movement is not restricted but at least you won't create damage to the insulation or wood. If you do want to increase the R value, move the wall out further or use the R-13 and then apply a rigid insulation over the studs (warm side) then drywall (not paneling) *Code advises a 15 minute fire rated material over any rigid insulation - 1/2" Drywall*..

Kraft Faced insulation is fine to use in the above scenario. No need for the poly and you can do everything easily. You may find this easier and I would do this versus unfaced and vapor barrier because I don't like to play with it any more than I have to.

Let me add one other thing, rigid insulation used on a concrete/masonry surface is fine. Considerations to make in using this is;

1. If you are just using 1 1/2" rigid and furring strips - A. You need W/T strips to protect the wood. B. The strips can be adhesively applied but they must be solid - mechanical anchors may have to be used to insure that if shelving is installed it will hold. Problem with this is, the penetration into a sealed concrete/masonry surface is damaged and subject to leaking. C. Any electrical boxes will have to be shallow - sometimes makes it hard to wire. D. You must use a fire retardant material over this as per Code.

(Most books, articles about rigid and furring strips fail to say anything about the use of W/T and this will get destroyed and be a good source for mold/mildew with the slightest hint of moisture)

2. Alternative which does add cost is to apply full rigid sheets to the concrete/masonry walls, adhesively applied, then place frame wall against the rigid, then insulate between studs and cover with drywall. The Rigid insulation does then act as a the vapor barrier. Do not tape/seal the seams. This allows it to breath and dry up any condensation that may form.

So on with some answers...

1. Vapor barrier should be placed directly under the drywall. The warm inside air containing water vapor can get past the wall finish and insulation and condense inside the colder wall cavity. If enough of this happens, and the water cannot escape, wood rot, mold, and other moisture-related problems are likely to occur. For this reason, building codes often require installing a vapor diffusion retarder on the warmest side of the wall cavity. Your question concerning the poly and the contractor that said it to you was not lying...this is what is required in Minnesota;

"A 4 mill poly vapor barrier must be placed against all concrete or block exterior foundation walls prior to applying furring strips for full height of the wall. Another 4 mill poly vapor barrier must be placed over furring strips and insulation prior to covering with finish materials. (State Energy Code Requirement)" - MINNESOTA CODE

I am not aware of any minimum insulation requirement in the basements within Minnesota but this can be resolved easily enough by calling your loal building official.

Hope this helps!
 
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