Insulating my basement. Is my plan too simple?


Old 11-16-05, 05:42 PM
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Insulating my basement. Is my plan too simple?

Question one. How far down?

I live in a comfortable 60-year-old house with an undeveloped basement used mainly for storage. I donít intend to develop it, but Iíd definitely like to put a little insulation in place around the inside of the foundation in order to save some energy. (We donít explicitly heat our basement, but enough heat escapes from the ducting, hot water heater, etc., to make it tolerable down there in the winter.) The basement has 7.5 foot painted (latex) concrete walls (in excellent condition) that rise about three feet above ground level, with the floor joists embedded in the concrete at the top. I havenít yet determined how far down I should take the insulation. Iíve been looking around this forum, but havenít yet found an answer to this question (for an undeveloped, unheated basement.) Any suggestions? (I suspect itís good to not insulate it all the way down, so as to get the benefit of some cooling in the summer. )

Question Two. Whatís wrong with this solution?

The southern Alberta climate is pretty dry, summer and winter, and Iíve never had any sign of moisture in my basement (except when my hot water heater leaked on me). Luckily, we have sandy soil and excellent drainage. Anyway, I want to do the insulation as simply as possible and suitable for a basement that will only be used for storage. (Iíd like to do a neat job, however.) . . . . . Well, hereís my plan. Iím going to buy some rigid R5 pink foam board and use silicon or some such thing to glue it to the walls from the top down to the desired depth (see question one). Then Iíd like to glue some painted 1/8Ē thick (?) wood paneling over it to provide a protective surface. Iíll cover the joints with 3/4Ē molding. I donít plan to use a vapor barrier because our climate is so dry and weíve never had a problem with moisture. In fact, weíd welcome a little more moisture in our house, especially in the winter. So how does this sound? Any suggestions as to what type of adhesive I should use, if I go ahead with this?

It may be evident from the preceding that Iím not really too experienced with home improvement projects, so any advice to steer me in the right direction would be very welcome. Thanks in advance.
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Old 11-16-05, 06:55 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 6,128
Insulating my basement. Is my plan too simple?

You have hit on several good points that most people miss because they are micro-managing basement climate control.

1. You are smart enough to recognize the benefits of not covering the entire wall with insulation and getting the benefits of the thermal mass or "heat sink" during the AC season. The soil is a wonderful moderator - at 5 feet down, it possibly 50 degrees warmer than outside air in the winter and is 30 or 40 degrees cooler than the outside air in the summer. You certainly can have some summer heat in Alberta. It really doesn't make sense to totally insulate the wall.

There are some Canadian stanards that suggest insulating the upper portion of the wall. While there is no magic line drawn on the concrete near or slighlty below grade, it makes sense. I can find no strong technical reason for the standard (I have search hard). It is based on an economic study of insulation few years ago.

I think the partial insulation makes more sense than the "cacoon" system where you are preventing the heat generated inside the house from being naturally moderated. This is especially true in dry climates.

2. Gluing rigid extruded styrofoam to the walls has worked very well many people over the years. You could insulate the upper portion with the foam. You could use strips as spacers to support the paneling.

A true carpenter would not appreciate this approach, as would those who want a basement remodeled to a level that exceeds the upstairs finished by a builder. This concept could also be responsible for a few of the academic types shooting it out over scientific difference of opinions.

Keep in mind you are improving a storage area and "building a piano".

Old 11-17-05, 08:09 AM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Ottawa, Canada
Posts: 857
See following link which explains how far down to insulate:

Go info why not to leave an air space:

The first paragraph explains how to properly apply the foam board to the concrete wall to avoid an air space:

There is so much good information on this site, plus you could also contact CMHC and the NRC for information.
Old 11-17-05, 11:48 AM
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Very helpful. Thank you. Don.
Old 11-21-05, 10:46 AM
Konrad Fischer
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No 'modern' Insulation!

Because it can not stop IR-Radiation, which brings out about 99% of the warmth. Only solid construction materials like wood can insulate warmth losses in reality. In Germany we have a lot of tests about that topic, besides our building industry and their slaves in government applaud for polystyrene and mineral wooll etc.

So I would be happy with your good old house, saving costs and the risks of dampness and mold. More information you will find on


Good luck!


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Last edited by Sharp Advice; 11-23-05 at 08:51 PM.

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