Basement Systems And Listener Questions

The Handyguys address a listener question about his air conditioning and then talk about basement finishing systems.

Ranch Style HouseOur listener Marc used our new call-in feature on the website and asked us about his air conditioning system. Marc’s question, in summary is:

I live in a ranch style house that has two HVAC zones. We spend most of the time in only half of the house. Would it be OK to turn off the system in the half of the house we don’t use?

Great question Mark.

Before we answer – Mark has a great podcast and website for woodworkers called The Wood Whisperer. If you ever want to be inspired to do some woodworking yourselves, make sure you check out what Mark is doing online.

OK, back to Mark’s question. Short answer is yes. You will have spill-over from one half of the house to another. A simple solution would be to just put up a heavy drape to keep the cool air in the part of the house you are in. We would also recommend not turning off the system completely but just turn it back. An automatic setback thermostat can help with this. There could be issues – Does the system share duct work throughout the house? Will the “design committee” allow for such a guy thing as a curtain in the middle of the house? Does the floor plan even allow for a separation?

Maybe you can make friends with an HVAC guy, invite him over for a beer, and ask his opinion.

Listen to the podcast to hear Marc ask his question and for our more detailed answer.

Thanks to Owens Corning for the picture of their system going in
Thanks to Owens Corning for the picture of their system going in

Basement Finishing Systems

The Handyguys, Brian and Paul, have both done DIY basement finishing. We have been asked our opinions on so-called basement finishing systems. These are not DIY solutions. A company will come in and use their system of pre-fabricated panels to put up your walls.

Some companies offering these systems

  • Owens Corning
  • Impressive Basement Systems
  • Ultimate Basement Makeover
  • Basement Living Systems
  • Basement Max
  • Beyond Basement
  • Basement Tuxedo

Handyguy Paul found an old webpage where the author recounts his experience with one of these systems. Check it out – Owens Corning Basement System Experiences.

Brian and Paul discuss the pros and cons of these systems. Listen to the podcast for all the details. Oh, and we ran out of time. Make sure you check out next weeks episode  where we finish the discussion! If you subscribe, you will get the new show automatically. Cool.

8 thoughts on “Basement Systems And Listener Questions

  1. Hi. When you cover flooring on the follow-up to this episode, please let me know what you think of cork flooring in a dry basement. I have an unfinished room that I want to turn into a more comfortable gym. I plan to properly insulate the walls, put in baseboard electric heat, and improve the lighting. The cork seemed like it might work for this idea but wanted to hear your opinions.

    1. Tim – I think cork would be a great option. I don’t have a home gym myself but cork is soft and may be a good option. You can get it in sheets on in click together panels. Make sure the manufacture of the flooring system rates it for “below grade” applications and that you follow their install instructions.

  2. Hello,

    I have an unfinished walkout lower level. We moved in six years ago and began replacing all of the windows, however, a window in what would be considered the LL family room was not replaced. The sill plate was rotten and the whole thing was in awful shape. The wall cavities on either side showed moisture; they were unfaced insulation covered by plastic.

    Last year, I removed all of that unfaced insulation (much of it black) and we bleached the wall cavities prior to putting new JM faced insulation in. I then covered the whole thing with plastic (primarily because I knew it would be awhile before drywalling; that has not been done yet) and we replaced the crappy window with french doors.

    In the last 2-3 weeks, the moisture REALLY built up in those wall cavities. Water was dripping down the inside of them. Now, in the last few days the weather here in central Iowa has gone dramatically from 90 to 65 and yesterday, I noticed the moisture build up was gone.

    So – I am ready to run speaker wire in this wall and then drywall it. What I am wondering is if the drywall will then keep the air from inside from getting into the cavities and causing the moisture again or whether this is really a case where some kind of venting should be done between the wall cavity and the outside of the house. If something needs to go in, I obviously want to do that before drywalling and I am probably two weeks away from doing that.

    Any ideas you have would be helpful. FYI, the plastic over the faced insulation was not my idea; it was a recommendation from someone in the business once they heard I would not be drywalling for awhile. Had I not put plastic on, that moisture would be in the living room instead of the wall cavity, so I’m not sure what to do.

    Thank you,


    1. Jason – Moisture in walls sux. A few things to consider.
      1) Make sure all groundwater and surface water OUTSIDE is directed away. Make sure your ground slopes away from the wall, gutters and downspouts direct water at least 6 feet away from the foundation.

      2) Check this article for best practices for keeping the walls dry. key is separation of cold and warm surfaces and air circulation.

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