Finishing my Basement (long post)

Old 01-06-15, 10:16 AM
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Question Finishing my Basement (long post)

Hi all.

I’m very excited to have found these forums, because they seem to be exactly what I was looking for. I’m looking to finish my basement myself, and I have a lot of questions (the “experts” at Home Depot don’t seem to be useful, and I don’t have any GC friends that I can really ask about these things).

This is going to be a long post; I hope you guys don’t mind, but I’d rather give people too much information than too little (and I’ll probably miss something anyway ….)

I bought my house a few years back. It has an under-garage attached to an unfinished basement. The basement has two major “areas”: the small entry from the garage to the stairs, and then the rest of the area. I want to turn the “entryway” into a mudroom, and then turn the rest of the basement into a home gym (one area for martial arts / yoga, the other area for weights).

I have drawings for what it looks like now, and what I hope for it to look like. The dashed walls are the ones where I’m not sure which path to take. I’m leaning towards the yellow over the orange and the green over the blue. (The garage is at the top of the image, not shown).

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I live in NH and already talked to the building inspector (whose title is “Code Enforcer”, which is just awesome). He told me I’d need a building permit for the majority of the work and an electrical permit for the electricity, but I can wire it up myself and don’t need any electrician to certify it or anything (I’m an electrical engineer and an amateur electrician).

However, I do have a lot of questions about the “best” things to do, and I hope you can help.


My basement is fully under the grade. The walls and floors are all cement. I do not have a moisture problem – everything is downhill from me (my house is at the highest point of a local hill, so all my rainwater flows into my neighbors’ yards). There is a massive settling crack all the way across my basement floor that I haven’t sealed yet, but it’s on my “todo” list before I do anything else.

I have an oil tank in my basement; I have an on-demand water furnace for my hot water and my home heating, which is forced hot-water baseboard heating. I have a well and a septic tank; I also have a radon mitigation system for my water (and the standard tube-for-radon-in-air thing).

Where I am, we use the International Building Code 2009 version, and my oil heating and storage is covered under the NFPA codes.


Order of operations
I’ve never fully finished a basement (or room) before; all I’ve done is renovations. I’m not 100% sure of the order of things, but this is what I was thinking:
1. Framing
2. Flooring
3. Electrical
4. Walls (leave room for pipes for heating)
5. Heating
6. Ceiling
Is this correct?

1. The previous owner started framing the “mud room” area – shown as the yellow bar on my drawing. However, he used 2x3’s and not 2x4’s. Is there any issue with that? Is there any reason that I should switch to 2x4’s rather than continuing to use 2x3s?

2. I have some obstructions that I’m going to box / soffit, like the sewage pipe and a hot water pipe that runs the length of my wall. However, the sewage pipe runs right by a window near where I want to finish the basement. How do I deal with this? Do I just wall up over the window? Do I make some kind of cut-out box around it yet under the pipe? Anyone have any experience with it? (See image)

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3. I’m leaning toward the “green” wall over the “blue” even though it’s a lot more work; it’ll gain me like 18” of room length and 13 sq ft of space, which isn’t a lot but I think will feel like a lot. Any thoughts?

4. I am keeping all walls at least 3 feet from all my fixtures because someone told me that I had to. However, I can’t find anything in NFPA that says that ground floor internal tanks need to be 3 feet from walls (apparently, “buried” tanks need to be 3 feet from foundations, but since mine’s right next to the wall I don’t think it counts as “buried”). Am I being overly cautious here? Does anyone know the code for sure? (The building inspector told me he didn’t know it off hand but it was whatever NFPA said).

1. For the floors, I was thinking about putting down rubber mats in the gym areas (like something from Rubber Flooring Inc – I’ve ordered samples from them to check them out). Since I currently have cement floors, I know I can put this down right over it. Should I put down some polyethylene sheeting (like the 6 mil stuff) before putting down the mats to act as a moisture barrier? Does anyone know how good the insulation of the rubber is? Will my floor be freezing in a NH winter?

2. For the “mud room”, I had wanted to put down linoleum. I was thinking of putting a rubber mat first to act as an insulator, and then linoleum on top of that. However, I’ve found that Home Depot and similar stores don’t seem to have linoleum anymore; the store near me doesn’t even sell sheet vinyl; they sell these “stick to each other” tiles, or floating floors/laminates. I don’t really want any of those, but the vinyl tile would be best, I think. I also don’t have a lot of height for a floating floor (I have 1.5 total inches for flooring and ceiling). Would rubber floors with vinyl sheets or tiles provide good insulation? Would there be any issues with that? Do I need a polyethylene barrier? Is there any downside to putting down polyurethane?

3. Does anyone have any experience with heated floors? (i.e. the Home Depot guy showed me the “SunTouch” floor warmer … Is that any good/worth the price?) Are there major problems/issues with it? It says it can be used with Vinyl Floors … anyone know if there are any problems with that? (Could I put it between a rubber mat and a vinyl floor?)

4. This isn’t really “flooring”, but it affects it: is there any reason NOT to use 1/4" sheetrock for the ceiling? I was originally thinking about using 1/2", but the 1/4" would give me more available height for the floor (only a quarter inch, but still …)

That’s it for now; as the project progresses I’ll be back for questions about other things. I’ll post pictures, too, as I do the work.

Thanks in advance!


Last edited by IsaacR; 01-06-15 at 12:05 PM. Reason: polyethylene, not polyurethane. Ooops.
Old 01-06-15, 12:39 PM
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: New England
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Hi Isaac and welcome to the forum,
I'm no longer a moderator, just one of the volunteers and I have to say shorter is better. If I didn't hate basements so much I probably would have passed. There is also the issue that you have asked multiple questions under one heading, everything from HVAC to flooring, to walls. Some of the pros here only watch the specific threads they specialize in. I don't see how to separate this post, but as you get a better picture you will find you have specific questions that may (may) be better off under their own thread.

Having said that, I'm a bit lost as to where to start so just some quick comments and a couple of good links.

1. All basements have a moisture vapor issue. Your surface water seems to be under control, but the soil around your house is moist and if you apply a vapor barrier on the inside, it will become just as moist as the outside.
2. Is that boiler a sealed combustion or does it draw its combustion air from the basement.
3. Number one on your list will be air sealing, especially since you want to drywall the ceiling.
BSD-103: Understanding Basements — Building Science Information

That should get you started and this sounds like a great project.

Old 01-06-15, 12:54 PM
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Hi Bud.

Thanks for replying. I will break my post into multiple questions and post them one at a time in the order of my need-to-know.

To respond to your points:
1. Does that mean that I should or should not use a moisture barrier inside? I will check how much condensation forms under a plastic sheet taped to a wall (haven't done this yet); does that affect the answer? I'm reading the links you posted (thanks, by the way), and it looks like it says to never put vapor barrier inside the insulation; should I also not put one against the cement wall directly? Should I use a sealant on the cement wall? (Should I post all these questions in a different thread?)

2. I believe it pulls its air from the basement, which is why i'm leaving so much unfinished; do I need to add an air vent to that area? It does have a window which I can change into a vent to the outside also if necessary ...

3. Thanks. I noticed some airflow from the garage and that was on my list; I'll make sure it's done first.



Last edited by IsaacR; 01-06-15 at 01:27 PM.

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