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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...)

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