18 Oct 2017

While basement renovations are exciting projects that allow homeowners to bring their vision to life, there are always health and safety requirements to plan for in your basement space in Ottawa. Let’s look at a few of the main areas that you should discuss with your project planner before commencing a basement renovation.

This article is part 2 in a 2 part series; part 1 can be accessed here.

Mold and water issues

Basements are common places to find mold simply because they can be damp or lacking in proper ventilation. If your basement space feels damp, or smells musty, know that there is the possibility of mold growth since moisture is one of the main ingredients required for mold.

The best way to deal with mold is to prevent its growth in the first place. One of the best methods of mold prevention is to run a dehumidifier in your basement to remove excess moisture. Also make sure any bathroom in the basement has proper ventilation if it contains a shower.

With regards to basement renovations, mold is an issue if it has been eating away at the surface of your insulation, wall studs or drywall. Left untreated, mold can damage these building materials and they would need to be replaced and the moisture issue dealt with.

If you have a laundry setup in your unfinished basement, inspect the washer and dryer. Make sure the dryer is properly vented to the outside of your home and not leaking any moisture into your basement. Also make sure the washer is not leaking any water that you are unaware of.

Another more serious issue in your unfinished basement could be a foundation leak. If water is finding its way into your home from the outside, this is an issue that must be dealt with before any basement renovation can occur, and can be address through foundation waterproofing. Ensuring your basement space is dry and properly sealed provides the necessary condition for starting to setup drywall and flooring in your new space.

Smoke alarms

The Ontario Building Code (OBC) requires working smoke alarms outside of every sleeping area in the home, and at least one smoke alarm on every storey of your home. As such, your basement requires at least one smoke alarm even if you aren’t planning a bedroom down there.

But, if you are planning a bedroom in the basement, know that as of January 1, 2015, new construction and renovation rules require that a smoke-strobe alarm be installed inside of the basement bedroom. These alarms have a visual signalling cue, intended to provide visual aid to alert anyone to the triggered alarm.

A carbon monoxide alarm will also be required outside of the bedroom in the basement. These are a great idea regardless, as they can detect dangerous levels of CO from your gas or oil furnace, or any fireplace or wood-stove planned in the basement.

Secondary dwellings

If your basement renovation plans include possibly renting out the space, or having family move in, then there are specific factors to consider during your basement renovation in Ottawa as the space will now be considered a secondary dwelling.

Generally, secondary dwellings are allowed by zoning in almost all neighbourhoods in Ottawa, and can occupy the entire basement space of the home.

In addition to the smoke alarm requirements listed above, fire containment and safety measures, such as fire rated drywall, fire caulking, separate entrances, and egress windows, may be required.