Basement Finishing: Comfort Should be Standard

Many people incorrectly assume that basement finishing is a minor project requiring little forethought. This is especially true when it comes to the handling of your home’s existing systems – like the furnace and hot water heater.

In a previous article in this series (Basement Finishing: Warming to the Idea), we discussed the need to analyze your existing furnace’s ability to adequately heat your home with the addition of new conditioned space (e.g. your basement).

In this article, we discuss the need to install adequate heat registers and returns in your basement finishing project, especially in bedrooms.

Your basement finishing efforts may add significant square footage to your home. You will surely have a family room, and maybe even a couple bedrooms, theater, bathroom, etc. Being below ground, basements generally stay cool in the summer without much help, however heating the space adequately is something that definitely needs requisite forethought before basement finishing begins.

Better Basement Finishing Means Comfort is Standard

Being the most common type of heat, let’s briefly discuss how a gas-fired furnace works. A gas fired-furnace has a central chamber where gas is ignited and heat is generated. After the chamber is hot enough, a blower motor on the furnace turns on and sends warm air through ducts in your home to strategically placed heat registers.

You also have strategically placed cold-air returns, which are absolutely critical to properly heat an area. This is because your furnace works by using high- and low-pressure to your advantage. When the blower comes on, air is blown into the room. If this air has no place to escape, very quickly the air pressure will increase until the blower is unable to blow any more air into the room. If no more air can come in, that means no heat can come in either.

To fix this problem, return ductwork is used. As air is blown into the room, your strategically placed cold-air returns suck air out of the room and send it back to the furnace to be re-heated. The cold-air returns are vital to your ability to heat properly.

Now back to how this relates to your basement finishing project. Because of their location below ground level, basements are generally harder to heat than other areas. However, over and over we see basement finishing projects completed without regard to adequate heat. The result of these projects is uncomfortable areas where your family does not want to be.

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This is especially true in bedrooms. It is uncommon to see a bedroom in a basement finishing project with its own cold-air return. This is a travesty! Imagine the in-laws freezing half-to-death when they come to visit you. To some, this might be a welcome vision, but most sons-in-law don’t need the extra headache!

The solution is to make sure each bedroom has its own cold-air return. Then, make sure the other rooms in the basement finishing project will have adequate returns to provide the air-flow necessary to properly heat the area.

The added cost is worth the price. We include returns in all bedrooms and the advantages are easily and quickly understood by our homeowners. We believe comfort should be standard – and experience shows you agree!

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