Mov­ing base­ment win­dow a task fraught with risk

Could weaken foun­da­tion, lead to cracks, dam­age

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - ARi MAzANTZ

QWe are plan­ning to re­place our wood-burn­ing fire­place with a gas one. In or­der to do so, a gas me­ter would have to be placed be­low our kitchen win­dow. Cur­rently, the win­dow for our base­ment bed­room is be­low the kitchen exit onto the deck. The deck is made to lift out of the way, should need be. I do not like the win­dow there and now with this im­mi­nent in­stal­la­tion of a me­ter, I am more de­ter­mined to move it. The only other place we would be able to put it is be­low the cen­tre of our bay win­dow off the kitchen. The gas me­ter would be be­low the win­dow to the left.

We were told we could not have it on the west side of the house, be­side the garage, as there is al­ready an air con­di­tioner, dryer out­let, out­side tap and HRV out­let in that lo­ca­tion. Also, the fire­place is lo­cated on the east side and my hus­band would like to at­tach his BBQ on the deck to the gas line.

Is that a fea­si­ble lo­ca­tion for the win­dow? Is there any­thing we have to take into con­sid­er­a­tion with the win­dow placed above it?

Thank you for your ad­vice, Cathy Coss AN­SWER: Mov­ing a base­ment win­dow is of­ten pos­si­ble but not ad­vis­able, un­less it is the only prac­ti­cal op­tion. In­stal­la­tion in a por­tion of the foun­da­tion that has a bay win­dow will make it even more chal­leng­ing. The fi­nal de­ci­sion would likely hinge on the pos­si­bil­ity of cut­ting the con­crete in that lo­ca­tion by a pro­fes­sional con­crete cut­ting con­trac­tor or foun­da­tion ex­pert, but other op­tions may be a bet­ter choice. The most dif­fi­cult part of re­lo­cat­ing, en­larg­ing, or in­stalling a new base­ment win­dow is cut­ting the open­ing in the ex­ist­ing con­crete foun­da­tion. This will re­quire spe­cial­ized equip­ment, nor­mally cir­cu­lar saws equipped with diamond tipped blades, which also use wa­ter while cut­ting to keep the blades from over­heat­ing. There are sev­eral con­trac­tors that have this equip­ment but it has to be done with great care and skill to en­sure the in­tegrity of the foun­da­tion. If not done prop­erly, re­moval of the con­crete could weaken the foun­da­tion, po­ten­tially lead­ing to se­ri­ous cracks and struc­tural dam­age. Ac­cess to the foun­da­tion to be cut is the first con­sid­er­a­tion for your po­ten­tial up­grade. If there is any veg­e­ta­tion in front of the bay area of the foun­da­tion, it will have to be re­moved. Fol­low­ing that, a shal­low ex­ca­va­tion will have to be made to al­low the cut­ting equip­ment to ac­cess the foun­da­tion sur­face. The re­moved soil will also al­low eas­ier in­stal­la­tion of the win­dow and a proper win­dow well, af­ter the cut­ting is com­plete. All of these will be im­por­tant fac­tors to en­sure a large enough win­dow is in­stalled for egress from the bed­room, in case of fire. The lim­it­ing fac­tor for this lo­ca­tion is whether there is enough room on any of the short an­gled sec­tions of the bay area for this to be done. From your de­scrip­tion, the lim­ited size of any one sec­tion of the an­gled foun­da­tion may negate this op­tion. Putting a win­dow un­der the up­per bay win­dow is no prob­lem, as ad­di­tional sup­port could be added as re­quired where the foun­da­tion is re­moved to sup­port the floor joists above. This may be in the form of a steel an­gle, or other re­in­forc­ing struc­ture. The real con­cern is weak­en­ing of the foun­da­tion in this lo­ca­tion. Be­cause of the an­gled na­ture of the bay area of the foun­da­tion, there likely are short sec­tions of steel re­in­force­ment (re­bar) em­bed­ded in the con­crete. Cut­ting out a por­tion of this may com­pro­mise the strength of the en­tire foun­da­tion wall at the bay, lead­ing to cracks and phys­i­cal dam­age. Con­sult­ing a struc­tural engi­neer to re­view the orig­i­nal plans should give you a bet­ter idea if this is fea­si­ble. The next item to ad­dress is the mer­its of mov­ing the win­dow for safety. Right now, it does not ap­pear that you have a safe sit­u­a­tion in the base­ment bed­room, as de­scribed. You are cor­rect in your de­sire to move it, as be­ing lo­cated un­der a deck, even with the re­mov­able sec­tion, makes the bed­room dan­ger­ous in case of a fire. It may be dif­fi­cult for the oc­cu­pant(s) of the bed­room to quickly get out the win­dow should a fire block the base­ment stair­way. Even if the win­dow is cur­rently the right size and type for proper egress, which is doubt­ful, hav­ing to lift up a sec­tion of the deck while at­tempt­ing to exit the win­dow may be im­pos­si­ble. If you can move the win­dow to a safer lo­ca­tion that would be very de­sir­able. You are be­holden to the re­quire­ments of the gas util­ity in where the me­ter is lo­cated, but if it could be placed un­der the bay win­dow, and the new bed­room win­dow in­stalled be­side the deck un­der the kitchen win­dow, that may solve the is­sue. Al­ter­na­tively, par­tial re­moval of the deck may be the only op­tion to sat­isfy your base­ment safety is­sue and the gas com­pany. Also, re­lo­ca­tion of the base­ment bed­room to a dif­fer­ent area of the base­ment, with a proper egress win­dow, is another op­tion. Your de­sire to re­lo­cate a po­ten­tially haz­ardous base­ment bed­room win­dow at the same time as in­stal­la­tion of a new gas me­ter is ad­mirable. How­ever, cut­ting a new base­ment win­dow in a tricky lo­ca­tion may not be the best op­tion for fu­ture sta­bil­ity of the foun­da­tion. Re­lo­ca­tion of the bed­room, or a por­tion of the deck, may be the bet­ter and less prob­lem­atic so­lu­tion to this dilemma. Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home In­spec­tion Ltd. and the past pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Home & Prop­erty In­spec­tors — Man­i­toba ( Ques­tions can be emailed to the ad­dress be­low. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out

his web­site at trained­

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