Does my finished basement need insulation?

Answered by Jeffrey Anderson ~ September 2, 2013 ~ No Comments

I want to redo my basement. We have painted brick on some of the outer walls, and we'd like to remove the finish off of those sections. Our house is an old bungalow with a 1000sqft basement area, and we'd prefer to not lose space framing the outer walls. As far as losing insulation, I really don't care. Our basement is 90 percent underground and never feels bad. Some contractors say that's fine, but one said that I need to insulate to meet code. Who is right?


Jeffrey Anderson

Cody, removing paint from brick veneer can be a labor intensive project that takes a lot of time, but it can be done. However, before doing anything the paint should be checked for lead content. If your home was constructed before 1978, there's a pretty good chance that the paint is lead based.

If that is the case, proper guidelines should be followed during the removal process to protect your family's health. A contractor certified by the EPA should inspect the paint prior to any work being done.

Paint that contains lead can be removed by DIYers, but the safety guidelines on the EPA's website should be followed during the project. Any contractor hired to remove lead-based paint must be certified by the EPA to perform the job.

When removing the paint, avoid using anything abrasive that could damage the surface of the brick. While you may be tempted, do not use a wire brush, power grinder, or even sandpaper.

I have not used it myself, but have heard and read good things about a product called Peel Away made by Dumond Chemicals. A solution is spread on the walls and then covered with a supplied laminated paper. The paint then dissolves and peels away as the paper is removed. If it works as advertised, the product could save you a lot of work.

As far as insulating the exterior walls of your basement, that is going to depend on the building code enforced in the jurisdiction where the house is located. Many localities require that all exterior walls of a finished basement be insulated to a certain R-value, but in some cases the insulation can be on the exterior of the foundation as long as it extends to a certain depth below grade.

If your local building inspection department allows this, spray foam insulation could be applied to the exterior of your basement. You might have to dig a little dirt from around the foundation for the application, but this method wouldn't cause the loss of any interior space.

You are going to need a building permit to finish your basement so whatever is done will need to meet code. I suggest contacting the local building inspection office to find out whether they require insulation in a below grade finished basement and if so, what types are acceptable.

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