Of Basements… and tubers.

February 14th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

My trip to the Energy Design Conference in Duluth last week left me with an enriched understanding of basements. We’ve all heard that in Minnesota basements are “the cheapest space you can build.”

That was because we had to go down to frost depth with our excavations. Why not harvest the space?

Well, that was how it was done for lots of years.

But the basement of yore is no more.

  • Then, we kept our basements at 60 degrees. Now we want them to be 72 degrees.
  • Then, we didn’t need windows. Now we want ample sheets of glass.
  • Then, we left the floor unfinished. Now we want to wall to wall carpet.
  • Then, we used basement to store stuff and equipment. Now we want to live down there.
  • Then, basements could be musty, moldy, damp and cold. Now they must be warm, dry, airy, and bright.
  • Then, our houses were drafty. Now, we seal them tight.
  • Why have we had problems? It’s because we think basement construction is cheap and easy.

    If you want high-quality living space, you should pay very careful attention to all sides of the basement, from the small details to the broad strokes. Drainage, waterproofing, capillary breaks, insulation, water vapor, radon, and HVAC systems all need to be properly balanced to transform your subterranean space from cave-like to liveable. Indoor air quality in the modern house cannot be separated from the quality of the basement.

    If you want a tuber storage room, it will be cheap. If you want comfortable living space, you need to spend the money to build it right.

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