The Unfinished Basement
Design/Build vs. Competitive Bid
It’s impossible to build a house too tight. The tightness of a home refers to how much uncontrolled air exchange occurs between your conditioned space and the outdoors. A well-built home attempts to eliminate unpredictable air exchange through cracks and crevices in your home’s exterior by introducing fresh air to the home (and removing stale air) using mechanical ventilation at a controlled rate in designated areas. The result is improved indoor air quality, better energy efficiency and a more comfortable living space.
Most moisture related problems we’ve seen have nothing to do with how tight a house is. These problems can be caused by poor design and workmanship. Another cause of moisture related problems in homes are inadequate flashing. Flashing is a thin layer of waterproof material that keeps water from getting into places it doesn’t belong.
The biggest challenge to finishing any basement—but particularly an older basement—is dealing with moisture and radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that is released by uranium, s substance found in soil and rock.
Moisture in the soil surrounding your foundation can enter through the walls or through the slab. Dealing with moisture in underground spaces is site specific. We can’t offer any general guidelines other than proceed with caution, avoid fiberglass batting sandwiched between layers of plastic, avoid carpeting and be aware that wet sheetrock is a medium for growing mold.
Purchase a test kit to measure the amount of radon present in your basement and be aware that the levels will fluctuate. In the event high levels are measured, plan to install a radon removal system. Choose a location that will not require future dismantling ceilings or walls.
Schedule a consultation with a designer or remodeling contactor. They can provide you with ideas and an estimate for your project. Secondly, contact a real estate professional who can advise you whether the project makes economic sense.
If you decide to proceed, discuss with your designer or contractor the merits of a design/build contract versus the more traditional competitive bid process. Don’t begin construction until you are completely satisfied with the design and have a written guaranteed price from the contractor you choose to work with.
A design-build project is structured where the owner of the project contracts with one entity (either a designer or a contractor) to design and build their project. Proponents of this process believe it provides quicker project delivery, a guarantee that the project can be built for the project budget, minimized claims and higher quality projects.
A competitive bid project is structured with the owner contracting with one firm to design the project and solicit bids from contractors to build the project. Proponents of this approach believe it results in the most economical project, provides the owner with an agent to protect the owner’s interests, and brings more diversity through the bidding process.
We’ve successfully completed projects structured both ways and have found ultimately each owner must decide which method best fits their needs.