Main floor’s comfy, base­ment’s a freezer

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - HOMES - ARI MARANTZ

QUES­TION: We have a seven-yearold, 1800-square-feet bungalow that has a con­crete base­ment. There is a walk­out fea­ture, which in­cor­po­rates an en­closed three-sea­son sun­room. One large win­dow is in place for the view and then three stan­dard win­dows are in the bed­room and work­out area.

About three years ago, we had it fin­ished, in­cluded adding a cou­ple of cold-air re­turns to the base­ment. We hoped the base­ment would have more circulation and there would be an in­crease draw of warm air into the space. This has not hap­pened and the base­ment re­mains cool in win­ter and sum­mer. The tem­per­a­ture is usu­ally around 14 C (57 F), and a bit lower in sum­mer when the air con­di­tion­ing is on.

We had a spray foam con­trac­tor in­su­late the spa­ces where the joists con­nect with the out­side wall prior to the base­ment work. There is four inches of in­su­la­tion in the walls. We in­stalled a T-bar ceil­ing, drywall and Dri-core with lam­i­nate on the floor. There is the stan­dard con­fig­u­ra­tion of ceil­ing heat vents. All dampers are fully open. The win­dows are tri-pane with three large fixed units as part of the walk­out and three base­ment du­al­pane slid­ers.

Is the low tem­per­a­ture just be­cause cool air set­tles and our open de­sign al­lows cool air to eas­ily flow down the stair­way into the base­ment? Do you have sug­ges­tions to rem­edy this is­sue?

Jim Duthie. An­swer: Your sit­u­a­tion is com­mon and you ap­pear to have a han­dle on the cause of the cold lower level, which may not be un­avoid­able. I will give you a few ideas to help make the space more com­fort­able.

I re­cently com­pleted a sim­i­lar job in my own home. It sounds sim­i­lar to the de­sign of my own lower level, ex­cept for the age and large win­dows in the walk­out. The drop ceil­ing is an ideal prod­uct to al­low ac­cess to the joist space above, while the dim­ple mem­brane sub­floor and lam­i­nate will warm the feet much more than walk­ing on con­crete. While you have in­su­lated the in­side of the foun­da­tion to mod­er­ate lev­els, this should make lit­tle dif­fer­ence to the com­fort if it is prop­erly sealed with a good air/vapour bar­rier. While the large win­dows and walk­out door may al­low some cooler air to in­fil­trate from the out­side, none of these should be the ma­jor con­tribut­ing fac­tor to the cold in­door air.

Af­ter elim­i­nat­ing most of these fac­tors, the last item is the heat­ing sys­tem. You are cor­rect that the base­ments of most homes are typ­i­cally colder that the up­per floors due to nor­mal warm air/cold air move­ment, but that should not ac­count for such as dra­matic dif­fer­ence. A few de­grees dif­fer­en­tial is typ­i­cal, but not to the level you have mea­sured.

While the re­turn-air duct­ing and reg­is­ters in your base­ment may have im­proved air­flow in the base­ment, it is ob­vi­ously not enough. The base­ment is al­most al­ways colder due to the soil and con­crete foun­da­tion, while cooler air set­tling from the main floor should be a sec­ondary con­cern if the heat­ing sys­tem is op­er­at­ing prop­erly.

Try us­ing the dampers on the main-floor heat­ing ducts, or in­side the main-floor reg­is­ters, to ad­just the warm air­flow to all the rooms on the main floor. By restrict­ing the warm air in these ar­eas, you may al­low more air pres­sure to the base­ment reg­is­ters, warm­ing the lower level. Rooms with south and west ex­po­sures, will have more sig­nif­i­cant so­lar gain dur­ing the day, and may seem much warmer than oth­ers.

On cloudy days, or at night, these reg­is­ters may have to be opened a bit more, if you have par­tially closed them to com­pen­sate. Also, if you have large win­dows in the liv­ing room or fam­ily room, or a vaulted ceil­ing, that area may be much warmer or cooler depend­ing on the same fac­tors.

An­other thing that may help even out the tem­per­a­ture be­tween up­stairs and down­stairs is run­ning the fur­nace fan con­tin­u­ously.

This will min­i­mize the nor­mal tem­per­a­ture swings that can be seen be­tween the time the fur­nace is fir­ing and is still. It may help lessen the time it takes to warm the base­ment, while mod­er­at­ing the main-floor air tem­per­a­ture and cy­cling the fur­nace more fre­quently.

Also, the lo­ca­tion of the ther­mo­stat should be checked. Too of­ten, in open-con­cept homes, ther­mostats are lo­cated on the main floor in a poor lo­ca­tion due to the lack of par­ti­tion walls. This can be ei­ther too close to an en­try door, win­dow, floor heat reg­is­ter, or other source of heat or cold. In that sit­u­a­tion, the ther­mo­stat will not call for heat at the ap­pro­pri­ate time, fur­ther re­duc­ing the heat­ing ca­pac­ity in the base­ment.

While all of these sug­ges­tions may help min­i­mize the tem­per­a­ture drop as you go down­stairs, it may be dif­fi­cult to warm the base­ment enough to sat­isfy your com­fort lev­els. In that sit­u­a­tion you could turn up the ther­mo­stat when you are us­ing the lower level, or add some sup­ple­men­tary heat to those ar­eas most af­fected. I have pur­chased, but not yet in­stalled, a wall-mounted elec­tric fire­place to help with this is­sue and I an­tic­i­pate us­ing it to take the chill off my new rec room, if needed. Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home In­spec­tion Ltd. and the pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Home & Property In­spec­tors - Man­i­toba (www. Ques­tions can be emailed to the ad­dress be­low. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his web­site

at www.trained­

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