what plans do I need for a new basement apartment?
My daughter is buying a modular house and will build a full basement underneath. I am going to have the basement as an apartment. One wall will be completely open , the opposite will be completely blocked by soil (the longer walls). The soil will cover about 1/3 of the side walls. The floor will be a concrete slab. I am concerned about water damage (this is in WV with a lot of snow and rain, low winter temps, high humidity in the summer), the soil is clay, the land is on an old strip mine site so there is a lot of run off). Since we have the opportunity to plan, what things do we need to make sure happen on order to make this apartment a suitable living space for the next 20-30 years? Thank you, Libby
Last edited by Unregistered; 06-25-2008 at 10:24 AM.
Re: what plans do I need for a new basement apartment?
Libby I am glad to hear that you will be living with your daughter I think that is nice when you have such a loving relationship.
The first thing I suggest you do and I imagine you already have done so is get an experienced contractor on board. Beyond that though there are some practical things that maybe your contractor hasn't thought of and should be addressed. Things that are very important.
The first thing I would address with the contractor is radon gas. Radon as you may know is an odorless colorless gas that is slightly radioactive. In West Virginia there are pockets of radon gas all over the state. Now is the time to address those possible hazards and make sure that you ventilate the basement so radon doesn't accumulate. If your contractor says he doesn't know how to do that then say you want an outside expert to evaluate your place before you go on. That expert most likely can even make sure that your basement is properly ventilated before the concrete goes down on the floor or the roof is put on as they usually do that on site. When they get the house there they might need to make holes in the walls upstairs if an area upstairs hasn't been left open for the radon contractor, so it would be a bit messy for a short time, but this will protect you and your daughter and people you have over for guests. So be sure to do that.
Another thing that you have already addressed is possible water in your basement. I am sure that your contractor will do everything he can to make sure that there is plenty of drainage and that the ground outside is sloping away. That being said though with hydrostatic pressure you can have some water still getting into your basement. So have a home inspecter and not a contractor look that over, someone who knows best about wet basements. Why you might ask well the inspector doesn't do the work himself and therefore will not try to sell you something you don't need. More than likely too your bank will be very happy to help you in this regard as they have a large financial stake in this too. Once you get the right person he can tell you if you need any sump pumps and if so where they should be located. This too should be done before the concrete goes down as it is very messy and more expensive later on.
You also need to address the walls too and make sure that the wallboard is made of a fiberglass backing front and back as mold can't grow on fiberglass. If your foundation is made out of foam with cement in the middle that will help keep the moisture down in the walls but can also burn fast in a fire so you have to sometimes take the good with the bad. So if you decide to instead have a traditional foundation make sure they cover the walls in plastic behind your wallboard. I hear that keeps moisture away.
Those are the critical things but you need to think about a few practical things as well. I imagine you are healthy now with very little health problems. But down the road you never can tell. So you might want to consider an elevator for your house so that you can get out of the basement in a wheel chair unless your basement is not in ground which from what you have said I believe it is in ground. Elevators though are expensive even in the early building stage so I would suggest that enough space be left in the stairway for a future stairlift should the need arise. Also consider being able to later on in life being able to get in and out of a tub. There are tubs with doors and wheel chair accessable showers out there and pre-planning for that now will save you and your daughter money in the future. Another thing to consider are wider doors not just downstairs but upstairs too so that a wheel chair could fit more easily through the door. As for other suggestions at the front door you might want a gentle pathway sloping up to the front door instead of steps so that someone in a wheel chair could easily access the house.
The basement apartment really should have a nice open kitchen and you might consider having some of the counters a bit lower just in case you ever should need to be in a wheel chair. I think I have even heard of counters that can be raised and lowered by a crank to accomodate those who are not in a wheel chair.
The last thing too I would suggest you avoid are window wells. Window wells are nice things for letting in light but can be a real pain when it comes to letting water in. I would suggest one though but not with a window but a door as an emergency way of exiting the basement in case of a fire which would be located in your bedroom. The best to both you and your daughter and good luck on your apartment!
Re: what plans do I need for a new basement apartment?
Here's a couple ideas from past experiences....good and bad.....
a couple perforated pipe drains under the slab to a sump pump,
a couple perforated pipe drains at the footer level all around the structure running to daylight
backfill with round 3/4 pebble, rather than regular 3/4 stone since it will maintain better gaps in the fill for water to perc to the pipe drain, backfill with pebbles to within a couple inches of finish grade
before backfilling with the 3/4 pebbles, use landscape fabric to line the trench to keep the clay from clogging the pipe, put the landscape fabric on top of the pebbles also before covering with topsoil or plantings
"water-proof" (not "damp-proof") the outside of the basement wall
properly seal all wall penetrations, like the soil pipe. any underground electrical should be brought above grade before penetrating the wall.
some other ideas may occur to me, I'll add them if they do