Many New England residents live in older homes with unfinished basements. Most foundations were built from stone, often breaking down and repurposing stone walls in Massachusetts.  Although it is the norm these days to convert basements into an entertainment room or “man cave”, many have forgotten just how much of an effect their basement has on the energy levels of their entire home.  Even if you are planning on remodeling the basement or keeping it just for storage and a laundry space, it is highly important and effective to review the heat loss and gain and take the necessary steps to block those leaks.

Starting from the bottom, if you’re planning on keeping the concrete pad of floor consider having it topped off to seal off old cracks and gaps that are letting in moisture.  If you’re working towards another usable living space, insulating the floor would make a huge difference in the room’s temperature. Before starting this, however, check the current concrete floor and the bottom of the walls for any cracks and gaps also.  Placing insulation on a damp floor is a perfect breeding ground for mold and bacteria thus costing you more down the road to have repaired. 

Once the floor is set, perform the same actions on all the walls. Fill in cracks, insulate electric outlets and around dryer vents.  Massachusetts and other New England state residents are veterans of the winter war.  Each year to are to face it and are never disappointed by the fight Mother Nature puts up, they’re peeved (to put it politely) but never disappointed.  After a harsh winter, one area of their homes they might not have seen for a while due to the snow is the lower foot of their homes, where the basement windows live.  Needless to say, these windows are extremely vulnerable to damage.  So, ask yourself first, do you really need these windows? If not, have them boarded up or filled in. If you prefer to keep them, seal them.  The cold air finds ways of creeping in around those windows and it is not pleasant. Find the strongest weatherstrip you can get, use the most flexible, shatter-proof, thickest glass you can find, fill in any cracks around the window frames.  On top of that, there is no harm in having thick, custom made curtains that attach to both top and bottom of the window. They block the light for daylight movie watching, just a thought.

Now on to the ceiling, you might be thinking that the ceiling of the basement is the last fighting chance of preventing any cold air entering your home.  Well, let’s think about it for a second. When air sealing and weatherizing your home, your focus is on the outer shell of the home because it is the outside air conditions that you are trying to prevent getting in.  This is the same for the basement.  Focus on the exterior perimeter of your house around the basement walls to ensure there is proper ventilation and water has somewhere to go other than in your basement. Focus on the above-mentioned weather stripping, sealing and caulking on the floor and walls. The ceiling does then not need to be touched. Unless of course you are disgusted by how it looks then that’s just a cosmetic issue but insulating a ceiling will prevent vapor from passing through thus building up moisture in the basement and not long after, the development of mold. It has also been proven that basement ceiling insulation does not have any bearing on the cost of your monthly energy bills.

So, people of Boston, Leominster, Fitchburg, Framingham and all-around Massachusetts are insulating their home but just maintaining cracks and draft spots in their basements.  They have their warm blankets for those bitterly cold football games anyway so if basement entertainment room movie night is on the agenda, out come those blankets!