The Perils of Basement Finishes
Over the decades, I've seen many finished basements - and many problems resulting from those finishes. Many basements are finished with
sheetrock covered walls and ceilings - not only making the foundation and framing areas totally inaccessible, but also creating a new issue: TRAPPED
I have always told clients about the potential issues behind those finished basement walls and ceilings:
Moisture trapped behind the finished surfaces - potentially creating growths (like MOLD)
Finished walls prevent the maintenance and monitoring of foundation areas - This is especially important with Jointed foundations (Stone, Concrete Block and brick) where the joints require occasional maintenance and patching - without this maintenance the foundation has a higher potential for moisture and radon infiltration.
Woodboring insects can attack framing without being detected when walls and ceilings are permanently finished. This can allow for framing damage that is undetected - and costlier repairs when it is.
Sheetrock, paneling, or any other surfaces which can promote mold growths when excessive moisture is present are OBVIOUSLY a poor choice for finishing a basement - yet are the most commonly used basement finishes! I call all such finishes "Sacrificial finishes" since if they get wet, they often need replacements. Many times (when moisture becomes trapped behind finished areas) we have discovered Mold growths and/or Termite activity (Termites - as well as most woodboring insects) are attracted to the smell of rotting or moist wood.
My basement is already finished with sacrificial type surfaces - What can I do?
I suggest the following:
Monitor for any signs of moisture infiltration.
Consider opening up access panels - to gain access behind the basement finishes and regularly check these areas for moisture/ growths or insect activity
Have regular Termite inspections performed (Note: with the basement areas inaccessible, an indirect method of inspection - using wood stakes driven into the soil every 10 feet or so around the exterior perimeter OR the more expensive plastic "can" systems which hold a synthetic wood "bait" -- these systems can detect termite activity -- but cannot provide any actual information on insect damage to house framing...)
Anticipate and budget for the potential need for future finish removal and replacement (The longer a basement area is finished, the potential costs of finish removal and replacement becomes MORE likely...)