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Heat Up a Cold Basement: Read This Before You Finish Yours

Heat Up a Cold Basement: Read This Before You Finish Yours

No matter what climate you live in, your basement is likely to be the coldest part of your home. Before you finish your basement, there are a number of options to warm it up and create a comfortable space. We’ll discuss them below. (For adding heating to an already-finished basement with click-together flooring, check out Radiant-Heat Flooring, below.)

One of the most common complaints we hear from homeowners is that their basements, even when finished, remain cold and uncomfortable. After the time and expense of adding flooring and insulation, they are frustrated to discover that their newly finished spaces are still too cold to enjoy or spend much time in.

A common misconception is that the cold temps surrounding below-grade walls and concrete foundations seep into basements, making them chilly and uncomfortable. In fact, hot air rises and heat transfers to the coldest areas,  so heating your basement from the ground up can help keep the coldest room in your home warmer and more comfortable. Read on to see which heating option may be right for you.

Extending Your Ductwork

Extending an existing forced-air system is an option many homeowners consider first to heat a cold basement. If your basement was finished after the home’s heating system was installed, it may be possible to modify or extend the ductwork to better heat your basement with additional vents. But even an adequately vented basement can have heating challenges if the thermostat is placed on an upper floor, which may get a natural boost of heat from the sun’s rays during the day, benefits that never reach a basement. Extending ductwork may also be impractical and inefficient, since the heat will have to circulate through the entire system. So even if the basement is comfortable, the rest of your home may be too warm. Manually closing and opening heating registers can help direct the heat, but it can be difficult – and costly – to reach those hard-to-heat spaces.

Baseboard Heaters

Baseboard heaters are often used as an additional heating source in basements. These 4- to 6-foot units can provide an adequate source of heat along the perimeter of a room. Unfortunately, they can also be unsightly, and because they take up space along walls, they can make furniture placement a challenge. Baseboard heaters are best used in smaller spaces, as they’re inefficient for heating larger areas.

Portable Space Heaters

With the lowest up-front cost, portable space heaters can be very useful to heat small areas quickly and conveniently, no installation required. But like baseboard heaters, they are unsightly, ineffective in heating larger spaces, and can be costlier to operate over other heating options.

Stoves or Fireplaces

Traditional wood-burning fireplaces generally suck more hot air out of a room than they generate, so they are not a viable additional heating source. Installing a gas fireplace can be a more efficient solution than its wood-burning counterpart and can add rustic ambience to your basement. To help circulate warm air, some gas fireplaces are equipped with a fan.

Another popular solution is installing an environmentally friendly wood pellet stove.  Clean, slow-burning pellets manufactured from recycled materials are a renewable resource, but some homeowners find storing the pellets and regular maintenance of the ashes to be inconvenient. Pellet stoves are also a heating solution that requires adult supervision so they may not be viable if your basement is a rec room for the kids.

Since fireplaces and stoves generate carbon monoxide, you’ll need to install a chimney to ensure the dangerous gases can escape. Another disadvantage of a fireplace or a stove as an additional heating source is that they may not be effective in heating several rooms in the basement, as walls may prevent the warm air from reaching rooms that are farther away.

Radiant-Heat Flooring

Easy-to-install electric radiant floor heating can be used with almost any floor covering. Versatile electric radiant heat can be installed inside concrete slabs in new builds, added on top of existing subfloors or under tile, carpet and other surfaces. If your basement is finished with popular click-together flooring, you’ll need to remove furniture and baseboard trim before installing heat cable or mats, but it’s well worth the effort for the comfort and convenience of radiant heat.

Electric radiant heat is an efficient solution that not only heats the floor, but can also warm up your entire basement. (Talk with our customer service team about filling out a calculation sheet to help your system heat more than just the floor.). Unlike other solutions that distribute heat unevenly and create hot spots or cold pockets, radiant floor heating evenly heats the entire floor. Since it does not require blowers, pumps or fans, radiant floor heating is completely silent. And unlike baseboard heaters, stoves or space heaters, it’s invisible too.

It’s easy to see why radiant heated floors are becoming an increasingly popular choice with homeowners and why so many contractors and experts recommend them as the best solution for those cold basements. And when you add a programmable thermostat, your basement can be warm and ready for family fun or watching the big game.

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