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Where do you see most of the heat loss in your home? For most people, it’s at the top and the bottom: their attics and unfinished basements.

I recently shared some tips for insulating your attic, but now let’s talk about the other major area for heat loss - your basement. Unfinished basements can be a major source for heat loss in your home.

A finished basement is an investment that can add a lot of value to your home, but you will want to make sure that you’ve insulated properly and protected against moisture. The last thing you want is to spend thousands on a basement renovation, only to have to tear it up and start over.

Basement Insulation

You have a few options to consider when it comes to insulating your basement.

Rigid Foam Insulation

Rigid panel insulation is made from fibrous material like fibreglass, or plastic foam. This foam can be ordered shiplapped, which means it fits together snugly, and won’t leave a gap between pieces.

Spray Foam

For a basement, you will want to select a foam insulation that is closed cell instead of an open cell insulation, and that’s because closed cell spray foam stops air and moisture. It’s not the cheapest option, but it will provide you a lot of R-Value for your space. Applied directly to the walls, spray foam provides even protection. Spray foam should be installed by professionals - it’s not a job for DIY-ers.

Batt Insulation

Batt insulation can provide great insulating power - when it’s installed correctly. Batt insulation holds a lot of air that actually adds to the insulating power of the material, meaning that if it’s jammed into a space, you could actually lose R-Value.

Creating a Thermal Break

People often ask me about installing a vapour barrier in your basement - but before you add anything, you want to know exactly what your insulation can do for you. Code varies by province, so always check in before making changes. For me, if I’m using rigid foam board thicker than 1.5”, I don’t want to use a vapour barrier. Properly installing rigid board will create a thermal break preventing the flow of thermal energy. This stops the hot air from meeting the cold, which would cause a build up of condensation.

R-Value In Your Basement

When we talk about R-Value and insulation it refers to a materials ability to resist heat flow. With a higher R-Value, you’ll have more insulating power.

Different areas of the house have different requirements when it comes to how much insulation you need. For example, in your attic, you will want to go for a high R-Value, I like to aim for an R-60, but in a basement you will need less insulation. Code varies by province, so always consult your local building codes before you make any decision.

What Else to Add?

Putting in the proper insulation is only part of the process when it comes to protecting your basement. Always start by protecting your home from the outside in. Take a look at your foundation first - you don’t want to fix up the inside only to have your work undone because the bones of your home need work.

When finishing your basement, consider using products that will protect the frame of the basement as well. There are coatings for lumber that you can use that are fire and mildew resistant. If you’re spending the time and money to finish and insulate your basement, it makes sense to protect your investment from unforeseen damage.

Your budget may dictate the scope of your project. A basement is a great investment when it comes to added space and value in your home, but if you can’t afford the cost of redoing the whole space at once, start with proper insulation and moisture proofing. Once the bones are taken care of, you can save up to build that perfect, playroom, den, or man cave. Don’t spend money on the finish, if you don’t know what’s going on behind your walls.

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