Answers to Basement Questions #2

finished basement
Q. I live in Boston and have a finished basement with a tile floor. When the temperature outside reaches 85 degrees, my basement's floor and cold water pipe get as wet as a shower, but just some areas and not the whole basement. The basement has four windows, but I can only open two. Does it get too humid down there? What should I do to get rid of the water?

A. It sounds like you have condensation. When the warm, humid air enters the basement through the open windows, it will condense on colder surfaces. To eliminate the water and condensation, you have a few choices.

You can warm the surfaces which are impractical and very costly making it a poor choice because the air will still be humid. It is better to eliminate the warm, humid air. Doing so requires closing the windows and running a dehumidifier. Running a dehumidifier with the windows open is not an option. The windows must be kept closed until the temperature is much colder and the air is much less humid; therefore, it carried much less water.

Q. I have a is a block and stucco ranch house with a full, walkout basement. The door is a standard exterior one, maybe 32-inches wide. I want to remove it and widen the opening to install a sliding glass door or maybe French doors. I plan (unless otherwise advised) to use a metal lintel bar, but I'm puzzled as to how to put it in place. Is it necessary to support the wall before widening the opening? If so, how? I thought of using my circular saw with a masonry blade to remove the mortar between the courses of the block where the bar would go, inserting it, then cutting the opening wider. Would that work, or is it just crazy?

A. The first issue is to determine if the existing floor joists are running over this wall or running with it. Then you should determine the width of the patio door that you wish to install. After that, measure the height of the basement walls. Finally, you will need a building permit.??

It is important to know these things first before proceeding with the project. If feel uncomfortable about doing this project, hire it out. If you undertake this project and have the tools to cut the block, here's a hint: A circular saw is not the way to go. Rent a good masonry saw to do the job.??

Steel lintels are used for concrete blocks. Depending on the overall span, the proper size will be needed. The opening should be made to accommodate a wood-treated buck frame. Then it will be an issue of patching the concrete and other finished details. In essence, this is not really a DIY project unless you really know what you are doing.

Q. Is it harmful to a foundation to plant flowers near it if the flowers need a lot of water?

A. The answer to your question depends on several factors, including whether the exterior basement walls have been waterproofed, whether you currently have any issues with water infiltration into the basement, and whether you have gutters on your home. Another important factor is if the current grade is properly sloped away from the foundation and the presence of a sump pump that is ejecting water well away from the home. Normally, flowers near the foundation are not a problem. Flowers don't take enough water to cause any concerns with your foundation.

Q. I have a dirt basement in my new house. When the basement is wet, most of the moisture comes from the dirt when it rains; the "finished" side of the basement is clean. We are planning to put down concrete, but I know neither what preparation to do, nor how much it will cost. Does anyone have any suggestions, as well as maybe a guess as to the cost if we just paid a concrete company to do it??

A. It would be best to fill the area with gravel, which promotes drainage, then cover it with a plastic vapor barrier. Also, install some rebar. It will take between 5-yards and 6-yards of concrete.

Q. Heavy rain in fall and winter causes water to enter my basement through the oil burner chimney base. The oil burner is vented via a stainless steel liner in the two-story exterior brick chimney. The poured concrete base is 20x20-inches and rises 3-feet above the ground. If my spring landscaping, drainage, and gutter corrections still don't stop the water from entering, would drill a 2-inch hole in the concrete base to vent the water back out be acceptable structurally?
A. Unless you intend to pump water through the 2-inch hole, I doubt it will matter much for allowing water to evaporate from the ground. Its movement through the earth to a drier location will probably prevail. I would pursue your first thought and concentrate on keeping the water out in the first place. That will be more effective.

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