Ventilating Your Basement

Without proper air flow, your basement's heating and cooling systems might as well be non-existent. Here's how to keep your basement ventilation in check.

Interior Overhead Duct Work

Interior Overhead Duct Work

You can save energy and money by doing a little maintenance on your system. Identify leaks in your duct, seal your ducts correctly, perform a duct test and insulate your ducts to make sure they are properly working.

Photo by: Fred Hayes

Fred Hayes

By: Caroline Shannon-Karasik

If there's any room in a house that is prone to humidity, moisture problems and mold, it's the basement. Proper ventilation is the key to keeping odors and water damage at bay.

10 Basement Remodels and Renovations by Candice Olsen

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Before: Unfinished Basement

Rising NHL star Alex Steen and his wife Sofie recently moved into a big home in the suburbs with their infant son and two dogs. They managed to get things organized upstairs but have a huge basement in desperate need of attention.

After: Multifunctional Space

By combining rustic materials and elements with modern furnishings and fixtures, this once uninspired room was transformed into an all-star basement that is stylish, comfortable. Candice designs a multifunctional room with three distinct areas: a lounge zone, a TV and media zone and a workout zone. Since the space only has two small windows, she creates the illusion of space with floor-to-ceiling drapes in contemporary floral and light silk.

Before: Purple Playroom

Sean and Cara's new house is starting to feel like home, but it has one big space that needs some major work: a boring, outdated and decidedly purple basement their daughters use as a playroom. They want to move the kids' toys elsewhere and turn this eyesore of a basement into a contemporary lounge stylish enough for entertaining guests.

After: Sporty Hangout

Candice paints the walls a cool cream and divides the room into two zones: a bar area and a sports area. The bar area has a funky fridge, a slim-line electric fireplace and a gorgeous vanilla quartz bar with accompanying stools for lounging. In the sports area, Candice use dark wood and glass cabinets to house all of the couple's sporting memorabilia.

Before: Dark and Dated

Teri and Kevin recently moved into a funky 1960's house. However, their home had one very big problem: a gigantic basement that was dark, dingy and probably hadn't seen a hint of redesign in 40 years.

After: Chalet Chic

Candice uses wood cladding and stone veneer to update the space and add natural elements that would typically appear in a ski lodge. The walls are painted an eggplant shade that adds an earthy feeling, while tactile fabrics, like chenilles and velvets, are combined with warm colors of rust, wheat and brown to create a cozy atmosphere.

Before: Toy Overload

Debbie, Paul and their three sons live in a beautiful house steps away from a great stretch of beach, where they love to spend as much time as possible. However, when the weather is poor, the family is at a loss for things to do. To make matters worse, their main entertainment space at home was a dark, toy-filled basement that was not conducive to any kind of rest or relaxation.

After: Beach-Inspired Getaway

To create a beach-like space inspired by sand, sea and sky, Candice paints the walls a light sea-green paint and chooses a color palette to match in natural grass, warm coral, breezy sand and dreamy sky-blue. She designs a multifunctional floor plan in order to accommodate the family's many needs, including a playroom, entertainment area, guest retreat, bar/snack area and an office.

Before: Flashback Basement

Warren's basement is a great space that faces the family pool and the adjacent golf course. However, it's one of the rooms in his mostly renovated 1960s house that is still in its original state. He wants the space to be more welcoming for his guests and a hangout for the family.

After: Modern Retreat

By modernizing the dated features, lightening and brightening the space, and adding new fixtures and finishes, Candice creates the perfect family refuge. Candice updates the paneling with wood battens placed in a grid-like pattern over the paneling and then paints it a light putty color with a tinge of green, while the ceiling is painted a neutral color with a hint of blue. The space has to be multifunctional, so she divides it up into three major areas: a relaxation/entertainment area, a bar area and an office area. Distressed hardwood flooring and comfortable seating complete this cozy family hangout.

Before: No Laughing Matter

Comedian Gerry's basement is dark, underutilized, outdated and painted a shocking shade of green, thanks to his lone design attempt. He wants the room to be warm, comfortable and contemporary, a space in which his family can relax while he is on the road, and where he can entertain friends when he is at home.

After: Sleek Modern Hangout

Candice lightens the space with a neutral-colored paint and divides the room up into two main zones: a lounge area and a TV/media area. The lounge area is reminiscent of an old English pub, where the focal point is a new fireplace elevation that features gorgeous earth-toned glass tiles and is flanked with horizontal strips of dark wood rustic flooring. In the media area, a luscious plum-colored sectional with an abundance of pillows in the room's various colors, a creamy leather ottoman and a beautiful area rug create an inviting space for watching TV.

Before: Cluttered Chaos

Philip and Linda were desperate for a bit of storage, structure and style in their chaotic basement. With an overload of sports gear, art supplies and homework, the family rec room is cluttered and completely disorganized.

After: Artistic Inspiration

By adding lots of color, plenty of organization and some personal touches, the formerly chaotic basement is transformed into a colorful and playful family room. Using Linda's artwork for inspiration, Candice decides on a color palette of golden wheat, russet red and soothing sage. The artwork also becomes the new fireplace surround by transferring it onto vinyl wallpaper and hanging on top of the brick. To meet the family's needs, she divides the space into three areas: a storage zone for the kids, an art gallery for mom and a lounge area for dad.

Before: Empty Basement

Toby and her family live in a newly renovated house that is a designer's dream. The home has a French decorating style, chosen because the family adores France and travels there at every opportunity. However, there was one area in the home that was sadly out of place: the basement, which was mostly used as a storage area.

After: French Fabulous

For the perfect blend of colors and fabrics, Candice uses conventional black and white checks, stripes and toiles and mixes them up with candy apple red fabrics and bold geometrics. Three of the walls are painted a softer shade of cream to match the terra-cotta floor tiles, while the focal wall with cabinetry and display shelving features faux red leather wallpaper.

Before: Outdated and Bland

Tina and Kulbir need their cramped and dated basement to work as an efficient home office, a rehearsal space for budding musician Kulbir and his band mates, sleeping quarters for overnight guests and as a TV and lounge area for the whole family.

After: Colorful and Inspiring

By combining modern finishes and fixtures, exotic colors and fabrics, and functional cabinetry and furniture, this room is now ready for work, play, sleep and endless music rehearsals. The walls get two different treatments: some areas are painted a peppery, reddish-orange color, while the rest are papered in a heavy, textured grass cloth. For the floors, Candice uses a hard-wearing vinyl that looks like hardwood, but is more durable and perfect for basements.

Before: Unused Basement

Pamela has a large room in the basement that routinely serves as a dumping ground for unsightly clutter, so her three daughters convince her to turn it into a space where they can kick back, watch movies and dance.

After: Multipurpose Space

To create a feeling of cozy intimacy with a touch of drama, Candice paints the walls and ceiling a sultry charcoal gray and uses a similar shade for the carpeting. The lighting, which is an absolute necessity for dark-colored rooms, is layered throughout the entire space with ceiling halogen lights and lower in-wall fixtures to light the floor during a movie.

If your basement has two or more windows, then natural ventilation is a great option for reducing moisture while also conserving energy. Box fans or small air conditioning units may also be inserted into the windows. Floor fans and a dehumidifier are additional options that may help keep a basement adequately ventilated.

Another option is to install exhaust fans that connect to vents located throughout the basement. These fans can be permanently installed in windows or might require cutting through a basement wall to install. These systems are often equipped with humidity sensors that trigger the fans when moisture is detected within the basement. This is, of course, optimal for preventing mildew, mold and water damage.

A homeowner may want to consult the opinion of a professional in order to ensure sufficient basement ventilation.

See also: HVAC Buying Guide

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