If you're thinking about a basement conversion, one of the biggest issues you are likely to face is how to heat the new area.
Although the basement is where your furnace is located, most cellars are not equipped with heat vents or registers. And that can make for a cold and clammy environment.
One way to make sure your basement renovation creates a cozy space for your home is to install radiant or hydronic floor heating. Radiant floor systems installed in a concrete basement floor can translate into warm winter nights and big-time fuel cost savings. This system is ideal for all types of slab construction, which is found in most basements.
Radiant-floor heating comes in many forms--some circulate warm water through tubes under the floor, while others use solid-state electronics to distribute the heat. One thing they have in common is that they're all more economical than central heat. And it doesn't just keep your feet warm; radiant-floor heat keeps the whole room warm.
One of the advantages of installing radiant-floor heat during a basement renovation is that you won't have to face the added cost that comes with retrofitting floor heat to another floor of your house. Basement tubing can be installed in a thin, new, concrete layer to your existing basement slab floor; however, in upper floors, many types of radiant heat have to be embedded in heavy mortar slabs that often require reinforced framing to support the extra weight.
With radiant-floor heating, your concrete basement floor becomes an asset rather than a liability because the concrete helps retain heat longer. It provides what the experts call a "thermal mass" that increases the efficiency of your heating system.
It might also be cheaper to install. Tubing in concrete can be installed 12 inches apart, while heating tubes installed in the sub-floors of upper-floor rooms must be much closer together.
A large area of lower surface temperatures--such as a radiant heat floor in a basement renovation--transfers more heat into a room that a steam radiator or heating vent running at a much higher surface temperature.
Although some homeowners elect to install their own radiant-floor heating systems, others prefer to consult a basement remodeling contractor. In-floor heating systems--particularly if they are being installed beneath wood floors or into concrete--are not simple jobs. A basement remodeling contractor likely has experience installing these systems, and the necessary tools to do the job right.
Be sure to select a contractor who has references. Check them out with the Better Business Bureau and your state contractors' board. A good contractor can save you time and money in the long run.About the author: Jim Sloan is a freelance writer in Reno, Nevada.