The Other Basement Thread

David Trammel's picture

Green Wizard lp, started a thread asking,

"If you had a large, semi-finished basement space, what would be your dream scenario for that space? Indoor root cellar? Storage for canned items? Space for boarders or tenants? A clothesline? Other than making sure the space didn't flood, what else would you do to ensure that the basement is usable without modern conveniences like a/c or dehumidifiers?"

Your Dream Basement

...which has been a good discussion. I expect that as society winds down and economic conditions get worse, more and more people will consider co-habituating in a density they would have never accepted a decade past. I live alone in a two bedroom duplex (with full basement), which could easily house 8-10. I also expect more people will look at their basements and spare bedrooms as ways to expand the space for more people to live with them and share expenses as things get tighter.

Rather than co-op lp's thread, I decided to start a second one. As I've mentioned before, I'm approaching retirement and have decided to move in with my single sister to jointly live in her small home here in St Louis. I plan now to retrofit her basement into a small studio apartment, and have a exterior workshop and office. Since the first renovations will involve the basement area, lets look at that.



This is a picture of the house from the driveway. There are several huge trees in the front yard and this shaded the ground so much that she had a hard time getting grass to grow. A few years back my sister decided to just plant shade loving ornamentals instead. I'm not a big fan of growing something I can't eat but I have to admit she's gotten a pretty nice flower garden started now.

At some point I wouldn't mind having a single hive of bees in the backyard, and she's definitely got a great pollinator garden developing. Since I also companion plant flowers around my raised beds the brood should have a good supply of food. While I don't eat honey (too sweet for my elder tastes) having a steady supply of wax would be useful for candles. I expect energy prices to surge in the coming decade and being on a limited income, having inexpensive lighting will be nice. I suspect that "de-electrifying" my sister's lifestyle will be an ongoing and head shaking task throughout my retirement. She is a firm believer in "Its hot, turn on the AC!"

The house is typical for the older suburbs of St Louis, small houses on large lots. The first floor is about 4 feet above the ground, with a basement. You can see the porch, with the flower bed in front of it. I'd like to get rid of the evergreen bushes in it and plant some flowers. Under that is the small room where the furnace oil tank is.

Here is a picture of the stairs and porch. Notice the tiny little garden bed up against the house. At some point that had flowers until the trees shaded the house in. The fuel oil tank room is under the concrete slab of the porch and is perhaps 10'x8'. I keep going back and forth on what is the best usage for it. I'll get into that more later in this thread.

Here is a picture of the driveway side of the house with its two basement windows. There are two, similarly placed on the opposite side of the house. One of the things I want to do is replace them with double pane one's that I can open during good weather.

Here is a shot of the back of the house. It originally ended at the left of the picture with the wall the yellow hose hangs from. The previous owners built a room extension, which is currently the dining room we never have dinner in. I'm going to try and talk my sister into turning that room into the living room. Its bigger than the front room she uses, has three huge windows and a big plus, it has my father's old Franklin Stove which is functional, though my sister doesn't like using it. I do and I love a fire. I'd like to rack in a couple of cords of wood in the backyard as a backup heating supply, which will happen when we begin dropping trees along the fence line in prep for the third side of the privacy fence.

The stair well to the left leads to the basement where I want to build the small studio apartment. It really restricts what you can get into the basement though. The air conditioner above the stairs was once used to cool the room addition but doesn't work now. Inside the room, there is a closet above that air conditioner. Long term, the air conditioner needs to be removed.



My sister would kill me if she sees this thread, her basement is full of junk, lol.

The dark brown door in the center right leads to the fuel room under the porch. I wanted to get a picture of it but the door seems to have swollen and I can't pull it open. Gonna have to take the pins in the door hinges off and pull it out to get access to the room to remove the tank. I'm leaning towards putting a pantry in the room, for food and household goods storage. It should stay relatively cool and dry even in Summer, and putting a sliding style door across the entrance.

That corner of the basement also has the furnace which means I can't wall it in too much. I expect we will have to replace/repair the current furnace sometime over the next 20 years of my life. Note the huge duct work, much larger than the ones in my more modern duplex. I should get those cleaned at some point.

The basement also has a low ceiling, typical of older 40s-50s homes. Not a problem, I don't mind small spaces.

The windows are very large in relation to current basement windows. Useful for natural lighting and ventilation. Means I need to focus areas that I'll be in constantly, around those windows to save energy.

Heading right, this is the laundry area and where I would like to install a half bathroom (toilet and sink) and a combination laundry/kitchenette. You can see the previous owner's shower. I'm leaning towards removing it entirely and installing a toilet over the center placed floor drain.

The problem is I'll need to bust the concrete to remove the P-Trap on the floor drain to install a toilet there. This may be very expensive and force me to consider other options. If i can install it there then I can construct a small bathroom that also holds the water heater and some removable shelving in case the water heater needs to be replaced or repaired. The bathroom wall would be a few feet left of the washer, and allow me to shift that appliance left so that I could build a counter in the corner with a sink.

Short cabinets could be then installed at the ceiling for food storage and enough counter space for a microwave for cooking. Larger meals would be cooked upstairs. I could also shift the dryer right a few feet. There is a "in wall dryer vent" below the window so I can't go too far.

If I can't affordably have a toilet installed over the floor drain where the old shower sits, then I'll be forced to have a up flush toilet installed at the sewer stack below the upstairs bathroom. In that case I may keep the shower but seriously rebuild it. You can also see that they put the electrical junction box near the water pipes! Like that isn't dangerous, lol. If I go that route then I have a short space for additional counter top to the side of the dryer. If not, then I can put a larger counter top with space for my dorm refrigerator.

I have a 7 cubic foot freezer and my sister a 5 cubic foot one. If I make the fuel tank room a pantry, I'll put the bigger one in there and the smaller one next to the refrigerator.

The area from the stack to the far wall will be turned into storage. The door to the outside seen in an earlier photo is just out of frame to the right. I may build a small "wet room", a double door entrance to save energy and minimize cold and hot air from entering the basement.

I'll get a better picture of that wall this week.

The house itself is supported by an large I-Beam in the center of the floor plan, and a cross beam which you can see here. The center of the floor also has a deep well around the floor drain, perhaps a 6" drop around it.

Until I rip out the shelving to the left of the furnace and see how the duct work is situated, I'm not going to be sure how I can proceed. I'd like to use the area to the left of this picture as my micro apartment but I'd prefer that to access the washer and dryer not mean my sister has to disturb me walking thru my bedroom. That means rerouting the stair access to turn right not left and walk past the furnace on that side.

You can see better the restrictions I'm facing in this photo.

The base of the stairs is very small. I'm thinking of building a landing at the 2nd or 3rd from the bottom stair height with a 90 degree turn. It will depend on the head spacing if I do this.

There is also the short concrete wall in the picture and the vent at its base. What is that for? Can I remove it and reroute the downward path that way?

Lots to consider before I swing the first hammer.

mountainmoma's picture

The pictures are good too, but it would help to have a floor plan drawing for reference.

Some first thoughts, for energy savings-- staying warm that is --, replacing the windows are not the first thing to do, not the best return on investment for saving your heat. The area that will be the microapartment will need insulation on the walls for that area, there are good links I have seen for basement walls that basically have Thermomax rigid polyisocyan...whatever... boards attached flush on the walls and foamed on edges, you want an air/moisture/conductive heat transfer insulation all at once with it. Should be links at If you arent sure it will air/moisture seal well enough, you need to seal with a brush on penetrating or surface barrier first. Seal the floor too from moisture, I just did my rental apartments floor, which is old poured concrete with this product and it is working well, RadonSeal Plus, I do not have any radon, it is just a great product to keep dampness from migrating up the concrete from the ground. Even though you will do that, I would not recommend wood or carpet, either leave teh concrete as is, as we have done ( for now or maybe forever) and use throw rugs, or later you can tile over the concrete. That company knows alot about keeping moisture out of basements. I do not have a basement, but my rental in addition to the concrete floor is below grade on one side, about 2 feet or more below grade and my water table is at about 6inches in the rainy season. I also painted that radon seal on the below grade rock foundation on that side ( the outside has had the dirt dug away, plastic sheeting against that foundation wall, and a french drain installed) anyway, no more moisture problems in that studio rental.

About the windows, if the windows dont work, replace, if they work it is more cost effective to buy storm windows for teh winter months and to use thermal curtains, or some kind of thermal shuttering at night in the cold months. The simplest thermal shuttering I have seen used Thermax insulation boards cut to size to fit each window opening, and then the insulation board was covered with white tape to both color it and protect it. It was a sturdy tape, something like a white duct tape, you cut the panels slightly small to account for tape thickness. The done pieces just friction fit into the window openings they need to be cut to do that, so you push them into place at night then take them out in the morning when you want light. The community I saw this done at had a storage spot in an out of the way spot ( in their case against the bottom of the raised bed frame, and held in by elastic cording ( like used in bungy cords) Very thermally effective and not too much money

mountainmoma's picture

Likely you know about this, but have a free consult from a furnce guy if you need to, but a combustion furnace uses air, and to keep warm, you are trying to be more airtight. You need to get a good idea of how the furnace is getting its air and how much it needs, you will have a door of some sort between your apartment and the furnace and you dont want it taking your oxygen. maybe it can be walled off better and have a vent from its area to teh outside world to get intake air

Moving the washer and drier may not be as bad as you think. And, in an ideal world if the washer dryer were on the wall next to the furnace and then there is a communal walkthru on that side of the basement, you both access washer drier new turn onto stair way and door to pantry whcih has the freezers

ClareBroommaker's picture

Mmm, I see food in that front yard. You can eat hosta scapes. Believe it or not hosta is said to be related to asparagus. You can eat the flowers of the redbud tree, and also the beans, when immature, green. I never have, so I don't know how they taste.

The window curtain over the dryer looks like it has a water stain. You might ask you sister if that window leaks or if a lot of condensation collects on the window or even on the will sill.

That vent on wall at base of stairs does look weird Could it be for access to the chimney, because looking at the exterior it looks like it might be part of the chimney. The two "cut-outs" in that column of concrete block might be for the same purpose. (In my basement, the only clue that there even is a chimney is two things that look just like rectangular mason's trowels, complete with handles, sealed right into the wall. So if a bird dies and drops down the chimney, one breaks out these trowels to remove the carcass.) Are there plumbing stacks going through that chimney? A neighbor with a similar house of similar age might be able to tell you what it is.

Are the air ducts wrapped with asbestos matting? Of course you'll want to be careful with asbestos.

It looks like water capture from this roof might be super easy. There is flat concrete all the way up to the house, so just placing a barrel and cutting off the end of the downspout would give you instant capture. You know, of course, that normally we can capture a lot of water in St Louis rains.

Have you ever actually seen the other side of that door that leads to beneath the porch? I have a porch and door like that. It also gets so swollen that I cannot get it open. So much water infiltrates the limestone porch-floor that stalactites (little mineral straws) form inside the room. It was not good for storing garden tools; they rusted. Simply keeping the door open or removing it all together might lower the humidity to where you can actually use the room. But if you are going to do laundry, have a toilet and shower, and also exhale water vapor in the basement, it might just lead to an overload of humidity in the whole area if you open the door.

We used insulation board in three huge windows year-round for several years. We ended up with mold or something growing in those windows. They needed at little more air in winter. When we switched to heavy curtains, the problem was resolved.

Alacrates's picture

I like the look of the house, seems like you could carve out a nice little apartment in the basement. I think you're right, not a bad idea to move in with a sibling or family member for retirement.

I used to volunteer with Burmese refugees in university, and I remember when I moved out of my mom's house, one friend I had among the refugees was kind of confused as to why I was doing that. Why wouldn't you stay in your family's home? He could kind of see it if I was getting married, but he said even then, where he came from, you'd normally have your wife move in with you to your families home, in general people didn't separate themselves off from relatives unless they have to.

As much as I admire that kind of mentality, I have to admit it is foreign to me, I'm definitely a little uncomfortable living with others. In particular I have trouble with the constant electronic entertainment noise most of us generate these days. When I read, say, a Charles Dickens novel, and there's a one room type house, with just a fire and some chairs with people reading & knitting for the evening, I do get nostaligic for times I never saw, haha.

The only thing I would really know about for this is adding the toilet & lavatory. Breaking up the concrete to the old shower wouldn't be that hard, I've rented the larger jackhammers from home depot before, the 4 hour rental isn't that much and its quick work to break up most basement concrete.

The only problem I would see is that I'm guessing that there is a 2" drain coming from around that base of that plumbing stack, run over to the shower and the washing machine, so that would probably have to be replaced with a 3" drain pipe to accomodate the toilet.

Good thing would be that there will be the water lines right there, and a vent to connect into from the shower/washing machine set up.

If we were doing this at my work, we would probably break the concrete along the base of the stack, cut in a 3x3Y for the toilet line, then near the toilet have a 3x2 Y for the drain for the washroom sink and the washing machine, which would then tie into whatever existing vent was there.

You could also move the washing machine to the other side of the dryer say, just running the new drain along the wall into the 2" drain on the sink, and maybe a vent for the washing machine p-trap running up along the wall and ceiling to tie into the old vent.

The macerating toilet is another way to go as you have said. For those that don't know, it grinds up sewage and pumps it out a 1" or 3/4" line, into a regular sewer drain, which you could cut into the plumbing. And of course they need a vent too.

Good point above about making sure there is enough air space around the furnace intake before walling it off too much, if that is in your plans, and a good carbon monoxide detector would be good too (of course, I'm sure you're aware of that) - there's been a few close calls with carbon monoxide in Winnipeg recently, so it's been on my mind.

Best of luck on converting the space for your apartment!

There are a *lot* of sources for Auxiliary Dwelling Units (ADU's) or granny flats or in-law suites both in book form and online. Start there for ideas.

You have moisture in your basement (it looks damp and that swollen door is worrisome) and you have to fix your moisture problems before you do anything else. Double check all those foundations, gutters, and so forth. Walk around and around your house's foundation during a heavy rain and see where the water goes.

If you replace your basement windows, get screens so you can open then to improve ventilation and exclude bugs. HOWEVER, when you talk to the contractor, make sure you specify that if you are replacing the windows *without* making the openings larger, that you KEEP THE SAME SIZE OF GLASS! My contractor replaced a basement window, knowing I didn't want to make the opening larger (why would I?) and I wanted a screen and doublepane glass. Modern, energy-efficient basement casement windows have much, much, much smaller panes of glass! I saw the new window, after it had been installed and refused to let him replace the other window, also on the list. He didn't know I didn't know about the smaller size of glass and I didn't know that modern, energy-efficient basement windows sacrifice glass for insulation and security.
If I had known, I would have gotten different windows and probably had the window opening enlarged.

If you want a LEGAL, below-grade sleeping area (this has nothing to do with an ADU), you must have an access window in the bedroom that a fully-equipped fireman can get through. You may end up with a larger window well to accommodate the much larger window.

Cover window wells with salvaged storm windows to keep the weather out.

Basement living areas, if they are properly ventilated, will stay cool year-round. Good rugs are a necessity in the winter.

Good luck!

Teresa from Hershey

SLClaire's picture

Your sister's house is similar to the house my husband and I had in Jennings - not surprising, as it was built about the same time your sister's was. Mike's and my current house was built in 1928. The original house had 4 rooms (kitchen, dining and living rooms, bedroom) and a bathroom, with a basement with a 6 or so foot ceiling. The center beam is supported on two wooden posts. A later addition added two bedrooms over a crawl space.

Have you considered replacing the single-pane windows with glass block windows with an openable insert for ventilation? That's what we did in the basements of both the houses we've owned. The glass block lets in a lot of light, there is less air infiltration than an ordinary window, and no one is going to take the time to break in through it. The ventilation openings are roughly 24"x7.5" (too small for anyone to fit through) and are screened on the outside, so no bugs can get in.

Note that just as no one can get in through a glass block window, neither will you be able to get out if there is a fire. If you put them in, you will need to put in a door to the outside as a fire escape (I think you'd like having your own entrance anyway). Is there a chance you could modify the area that comprises the back porch, stairs, and the fuel tank room to make entrances to both the house and the basement from there? Then you could put a mud room - storage area just after the door where the fuel tank room is now.

If you get a new furnace, it will draw its combustion air from outside, a much better situation for someone living in a basement. And definitely get that CO detector.

The only other thing I feel qualified to comment on is wetness. The water table is very high where we live (Spanish Lake). Even after putting in a drainage system along the walls of the inside of our basement that is connected to a sump pump, and after having the concrete floor coated with what was supposed to be a moisture-proof coating, we still have moisture issues. At least part of that is that the coating has peeled off over the years. Not sure if this is a defect in the coating material or if the contractor who installed it didn't follow instructions. Whatever the reason, in hot and humid summer weather, without a dehumidifier the basement goes to 90+% RH and the floors become wet enough to be slick and unsafe. We broke down and got a dehumidifier. I set it so the basement RH stays around 60%.


ClareBroommaker's picture

Claire, I hope you will read the other recent"dream basement" thread that David linked above. I trust you would have some insight about buckets of using calcium chloride to dehumidify, as is discussed in that thread.

David, we have three glass block basement windows and like them. Only one of these windows has the slim section of glass vanes that crank out. We are glad to have that. A fourth window is single pane and slides horizontally to open. With these 2 openable windows we can actually get some airflow sometimes. The previous owners put in the windows and they used to use the basement for a kitchen. Given that they did have a serious fire down there one year, I bet there is no possibility they were going to leave that basement kitchen without an escape window.

SLClaire's picture

I did read the other thread, thanks for pointing it out.

Speaking as a chemist (I have two degrees in the field), wet calcium chloride is just calcium chloride plus water. Calcium chloride is a salt, in fact the same salt that is used on roads in winter to melt snow and ice. It doesn't react with water, just dissolves into it. That said, it could expand quite a bit upon getting wet as it absorbs water before it finally dissolves, making a solid mass of wet calcium chloride that could require chiseling out of a container, or at least be heavier than you realized when you try to carry it or require more time and space in the oven to dry it out than you counted on.

As a salt, it won't burn you or anything in the basement, but I wouldn't put it into a metal container for the same reason I wouldn't put any salt in a metal container. You don't want to eat it or let animals lick on it (keep your pets out of the basement if you're using it in open containers, or put the containers high up where the pets can't get at them). Don't throw it on the ground or into water to avoid salt toxicity to soil or to the animals that live in water.

If I were using calcium chloride, I'd put it in the large, shallow blue plastic containers with the brand name that begins with R or similar ones. It won't react with plastic, and plastic is lightweight and easy to carry. If you drop it, it won't break.

If a basement is only a little wet, from humid outside air, some calcium chloride in an open container might be sufficient to lower humidity to the proper range. If it's wet from water draining into the basement or from moisture migrating through the walls or floor, I doubt it would be sufficient even in a small basement such as mine that has water migration issues. I have no idea how much would be required for either usage.

mountainmoma's picture

the radon seal goes inside the concrete, it chemically bonds to it, so it cannot flake or come off, so it would be good for the floor.

The walls can be painted, may already be painted. I just remembered the name, drylock, this is another product I have used in the past that is like a paint, so it is on the surface, and it can go over an already pained basement wall if it is prepared ( loose taken off, cleaned well,e tc....) you can even get the drylock in colors

I was thinking, you dont have to insulate your exterior wall with foam or etc.... You could do like castles used to do, before foam panels, with tapestries, but you could go to goodwill and get lots of pre-owned draperies, and you could have nice velvet drapes over the walls in the winter

mountainmoma's picture

We had very big space constraints adding on a kitchenn/bathroom to make the studio into a stand alone unit. I basically had a 9 ft by 9 ft covered porch, with 3 doorways impinging on it to work with, and it works beautifully ! Yes, it is still the entrance to the unit, with the exterior door and then a door to the large studio ( bedroom/living room combined space) and a door to another area wich can be used for expansion.

So, envision a 9'x9' square, and the back left corner is now a bathroom and the rest is a kitchen. The bathroom is 3'x5' total. It has a shower, toilet and sink, mirror over the sink, built in storage cabinet. The door way into the bathroom is about the middle of the longer wall, going in, the toilet is to the left and the shower head to the right. Since no-one uses the shower and toilet at the same time, the area in front of the toilet is the shower area. The shower is about 3'x3', there is a L shaped shower curtain rod, the shower curtain when closed just brushes past teh front of the toilet and covers the bathroom door to, so the door and toilet do not get wet. When the shower curtain is open and pulled back with a hook on the opposite wall, the shower floor area is just the area you walk into and use in front of the toilet. The sink is very small, and it hangs on the wall next to the toilet, so toilet is about 2 ft wide in back, sink about 1 ft. The built in cabinet is on the wall above the toilet tank. It hold alot. the long interior wall of this bathroom has the 2x4's set flat, so the wall is very thin as there was little room, the other walls are normal. The bathroom is a step up from the kitchen, the bathroom has a raised floor. This is because it is a retrofit on an area with a concrete slab floor, so this was the drain for the shower and toilet could have a place to be, this is very common in garage remodels to apartments out here.

If you want I can try to take interior shots again, the last ones went with the broken computer. But, this is the outside of the unit, and that area, the door and window is the width of the kitchen and bathroom. The washing machine and water heater are in the shed under the window ( no dryer, of course) You can kindo of see thru the door the door to the bathroom beyond it, and thru the kitchen window the yellow edge of the end of the bathroom wall, the back wall of the kitchen, adjacent to the end wall of the bathroom is a small apartment sized gas stove and a standard 24inch wide kitchen basecabinet/counter. there is upper cabinet and shelves, etc... all up to the ceiling. The front wall of the kitchen has a base cabinet, large sink/sink cabinet and a small refrigerator.

David Trammel's picture

Yes, please shoot more and post them.

David Trammel's picture

SLClare, your comment about a fire escape made me realize I'd over look that factor. I'd been just thinking that the basement walk out door would do, but it also sits almost directly under where the Franklin wood burning stove is in the room extension. The stove being one of the probable places a fire might start, especially if we use it more.

I went looking online for information. At, I found this:

" An egress basement window must have a clear opening of at least 5.7 sq. ft.—large enough to allow a firefighter, with equipment, to enter the home through the window. In addition, the window must be at least 20 in. wide and 24 in. high (while still meeting the 5.7-sq.-ft. requirement). Finally, the bottom of the opening can be no more than 44 in. from the floor.

The simplest way to avoid the header size issue is to make an existing basement window taller. Typical small basement windows measure 30 in. wide by 15 in. high. If you extend this opening down and install a 29-in. wide by 47-in. high casement window, you’ll satisfy minimum egress window requirements."

Price tag was substantial too.

There are some factors that should make it more affordable. The South side of the house, the one where the dryer sits on, is halfway above ground which means I could install a window without having to install a below ground well. The two windows on that side look from the pictures to be typical 30" wide windows.

I could use the one at the dryer, redoing it in conjunction with the laundry area redo but I'm leaning towards putting the apartment on the side of the house with the exterior door. Having the fire exit in that room would be safer, so it will probably be the window in the picture next to the electrical panel and sewer stack.

A benefit would be a larger window would let more light into the basement and I could install a screen to allow air inside too.

I'll see if I can get better pictures of that area, both inside and outside this weekend.

SLClaire's picture

I hadn't paid enough attention to realize you had a walkout door already, but yes, it does seem to be a good idea to add a window exit given that the walkout door is under the wood stove.

Is your basement tall enough that you can walk around in it without needing to duck your head? I don't know how tall you are or how tall the basement ceiling is. I can walk under the floor joists in mine without ducking but someone 6 feet or more tall couldn't. Ducking under the joists all the time could get old.

In my own case, with the low ceiling and the water issues in our basement, I'd choose to use the two added-on rooms for an extra living area. Two couples, or Mike and me plus another adult, could live here easily enough. Of the two back bedrooms, one has an outside door that passes into a glassed-in back porch. Right now that room collects musical instruments that we can't hold elsewhere, but if need be, we could sell those and convert that room into a study for everyone's use. Then the larger bedroom next to it could hold one person or one couple, and the front bedroom in the original house could hold another person or couple. It wouldn't require any remodeling, just rearranging and redirecting some of our current stuff. But that only works because the bedrooms are at opposite ends of our house.

David Trammel's picture

Here's a picture of the outside of the South wall.

The basement on that side is out of the ground about 30 inches, so enlarging the window shouldn't be a problem. The image on the left is probably where I'll use. The other is the kitchenette corner. I need to go down three bricks and doing it in the kitchen side will run me into the in wall dryer vent.

Here's the inside of the left picture.

I can install the required window quite easily, without the digging that most basements need. I'm leaning towards installing it on the side towards the back of the house. That's where I'll be building my micro apartment and on that side a sitting area/office. A larger window would provide more light.

There is a hot and cold water line and what I think is a drain pipe from the kitchen sink on that wall just left of the red cabinet. I might be able to build a very small kitchenette area there next to my planned office instead of the laundry area.

I will be installing a small bathroom at the blue sewer stack and enclosing the electrical panel in the same room.

Here is a picture of the existing exit door placement.

To answer your question on ceiling height, its right at 6 1/2 feet with the beam at about 6'2". You don't have to duck when you walk under it but feel like you should.

Now asbestos on the ducts is a real possibility. They are covered by a thin layer of something that like to be peeled off.

I think one of my first priorities will be to strip the old ceiling off and see where all the wiring and pipes go. From there I can make some decisions.

I'll post a blueprint soon.

lathechuck's picture

Consider it an interim solution, or experiment, but try borrowing a mechanical dehumidifier to run in your space before investing in chemical desiccant. See how much water you need to absorb. My basement radio-shack / computer-room / library / office is only about 64 sq ft, and it doesn't feel damp, but I've taken over a gallon a day out of it even with the door closed. Now, imagine (or calculate) how much calcium chloride you'd need to absorb a gallon a day... for a month. If you're thinking about baking the moisture out of it to recharge it, where's that heat going to come from?

I've noticed that the room is warmer for having the machine run, but more comfortable even so, because it's easier to cool my body with light perspiration when the humidity is low.

In a dense suburban neighborhood, you should think twice before planning to burn wood routinely, and when you have a fire going, stroll around the area to see how well the smoke dissipates. It's easy to ruin the air quality for your neighbors if your stove doesn't burn cleanly at all times, and some weather patterns will trap the smoke close to the ground.

The previous owners of our house had serious basement water issues. (I tell all about it in 'Suburban Stockade).
One result of their letting water into the basement was, over time, the basement got, well, damp?

Anyway, soon after we moved in on 3 July 2001, we bought a dehumidifier. We ran that puppy constantly, drying to dry out the basement. It took YEARS but after a decade or so AND we fixed all the water issues, the dehumidifier which would run continuously because it NEVER ran enough to reduce the humidity down to what its sensors wanted, now does. That is, previously we emptied the tank (1 & 1/2 gallon) every single day and the only reason the dehumidifier would stop running was because the tank was full.
Now, even with the humidity sensor on its lowest setting, the dehumidifier will stop all on its own, without the tank being full.

I think what happened is we gradually removed all the ambient moisture trapped in the joists, walls, and floors as well as the air. Since we were also fixing the water infiltration issues, we stopped feeding the moisture monster.

So run that dehumidifier and eventually, if you fix your other water issues, you should need to run it less.

Teresa from Hershey