If you are lucky enough to have a basement, then remodeling it is likely to be one of the most cost-effective projects you can undertake for adding value to your home. Although it might make the project a little more challenging, if you wish to fully reap the rewards of a basement remodel, then going green is the recommended option. This will provide you with improved energy efficiency, a healthier indoor living space, and the satisfaction of using renewable materials such as recycled glass and bamboo flooring that will reduce your carbon footprint. Here are a few tips that will help you with your initial planning.
Does going green mean higher costs?
You might be surprised to learn that many green, sustainable products are cheaper than their more traditional non-green alternatives. Even if you encounter some initial higher costs, the fact that you will enjoy lower utility and energy costs means you will save money in the longer term. Rather than going just go on up-front costs, it is better to take a longer-term view.
An essential aspect of going green is the creation of healthier living space; an important consideration in basements where there is always the danger of damp which can be detrimental to health. Damp encourages the growth of harmful molds that can cause severe respiratory damage; add to that the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by many non-green building and furnishing materials, and poorer levels of ventilation associated with basements, it is clear that by not going green you could create a potentially hazardous environment.
Based on these factors, the first objectives of your green basement remodeling project should be:
- Address any potential dampness problems as the priority.
- Plan proper ventilation
- Use only sustainable building products that don’t emit dangerous VOCs
Waterproof your basement
It is easy to check the moisture level in your basement with inexpensive instruments you can buy or hire. If there is a moisture problem, then your priority is to reduce the amount of moisture entering the basement. Ensure that all your existing gutters work correctly and consider extending them. Also, check that the gradient around the house slopes away from the building by a minimum of six inches over the first ten feet.
If problems remain, the next stage is to waterproof the basement and possibly install a drain. This isn’t beyond the expert DIYer, but you might well need some professional help.
Ventilating your basement
The two ways of ventilating your basement are natural and forced. Natural ventilation implies open vents or windows that provide a continuous flow of air through the space. This isn’t always easy to achieve so many basement conversions require a forced ventilation system.
This uses extractor fans and vents to create the required air changes. Note that if your project is located in an environment where radon is a risk, a mechanical ventilation system is probably mandatory. A typical system would use a silent extractor fan connected to air intakes at various positions in the basement, and the extracted air would be expelled externally. You will also need adequate air inlets.
Selecting greener building materials
Many building materials have significant recycled content, for instance, structural steel is 90% recycled, and recycled aluminum requires 90% less energy to produce than primary (virgin) aluminum. Reused materials such as reclaimed timber may be even more beneficial.
A sustainably harvested material is one that is replaced at the same rate as it is used. While hardwoods from sustainable forests are an example of this, their extended growth cycle limits their sustainability credentials.
Far better are rapidly renewable materials that grow quickly, usually from the original plant. Bamboo and cork oak trees are the most important of these with their products being used mainly for interior finishes. For instance, hardwood bamboo floors are great for basements and cork has excellent insulation properties.
Even when there is no sustainable alternative to traditional material, it is essential to ensure it doesn’t contain toxins and dangerous VOC’s such as formaldehyde.
Remodeled basement with bamboo floor
Cork oak forest