This is Lesson 3 of an informal online course:Home Energy 101. By Philip Drader.
Before insulating, it’s important to double check your basement to make sure that you aren’t going to be covering over a potential water problem that could come back to haunt you.
How well do you know your home?
If you are new to your home, this might be a little bit tricky if you haven’t been around your home for a whole year, as different seasons bring different things. I suggest taking some time to get to know your home before you insulate or finish your basement.
A clue you may have a moisture problem
If any room or area smells musty or wet, you’ll need to investigate and deal with it before you insulate and cover it up. Doing so is a must.
You must deal with moisture in your basement before insulating
Since our focus is energy efficiency here, I’m not going to go into detail on how to avoid moisture. But I can’t stress enough the importance of consulting experts who can help you avoid moisture problems that can ruin your hard work in your basement and put your health at risk.
A simple precaution
A simple solution if you are unsure about moisture, is to place a dimpled membrane against the wall and shim the bottom of your wall up by at least 1/2″ with a waterproof material (such as pressure treated plywood, or scraps of trex decking) every 16”, so that any water coming through won’t be blocked by the bottom plate of the wall.
Fixing serious water problems
Serious water problems in your basement require serious solutions.
Fixing a water problem from the inside can be a messy and somewhat expensive solution, doubly so if a finished wall needs to be taken out. At that point, trying to seal it from the exterior might be the best bet and involve the least amount of work. But exterior work is an expensive solution and may also pose practical challenges.
Basement specialists can help you figure out if an interior or exterior drainage system is best for your situation.
Here are the slides from a presentation I made with some additional information on how to avoid moisture in your basement.