11 Feb 2014

Basement Reno Update: How We Ditched Our Furnace

It's been awhile since I've written an update on our basement.  It' been a big undertaking for us since we have had to waterproof the foundation and have changed our heating system from forced air to hydronic radiant in floor heating.  The basement is still not looking pretty, but some major changes have been made which have kept our feet nice and toasty all winter long.  Before, I go on I have to warn you that this post is not going to have the prettiest pictures for you to look at since our basement gets very little natural light right now and the lighting is terrible.  So read on if you don't mind ugly photos and might be slightly interested in how we ditched our furnace, removed a post, got shiny concrete floors, etc.

Here is a picture of our basement with the old furnace and the huge return air duct that made the ceiling height super low under it.  All these mechanics really limited what we could do with the basement floor plan and the access to natural light (all the windows are on the left side).

This is what the space looked like after we had the furnace removed and radiant floor heating installed before the concrete floors were poured.  We actually removed a support post that was in the old furnace area so that we could have more openness from one side to the other.  To do this a couple of c-beams were bolted to either side of the main i-beam to carry the load.  Tech Guy was lucky enough to know a builder who helped get this beam engineered for us and over the Christmas break my brother-in-law helped bring these huge 24 foot c-beams to our house with his truck.

We now have all our home's mechanics either under the stairs to the basement or right adjacent to it which is a much better than the middle of the main rec room.  In the picture below on the left are our new boiler for the radiant heat and our old hot water tank.  We chose to keep our hot water tank rather than switch to instant hot water or use the boiler for domestic hot water for a few reasons.  First, we didn't go with an instant hot water heater because we live in Canada and have very cold temperatures in the winter which can cause the venting in this type of system to freeze and therefore cause problems.  Secondly, we thought it would be nice to have the two water heating systems separate in case one ever failed, at least we would have the other source of hot water.  Thirdly, a very nice thing about keeping our hot water tank is that it is the source of heat for the sauna/bathroom we are putting in the basement.  This means that if we want we can still have heated floors in that area even if we are not heating the rest of the house (e.g., during the spring/summer).

On the right is our water treatment systems that tucked in nicely under the landing of the stairs.

I forgot to mention, that we did hire a professional to install the boiler and the new manifolds for the radiant heating system.  In the photos below are the shutoffs that our pro installed for the various mechanics that require natural gas such as the boiler, stove, etc. as well as the radiant heat manifolds.  Both of these are nicely hidden under the landing as well.

I'll quickly show you what Tech Guy and my brother-in-law did themselves which was lay all the tubing for the radiant heat.  For the upstairs the tubes were hung to the underside of the subfloor using aluminum heat transfer plates.  The tubes were layer in long continuous loops in four sections for the whole main floor.

We still need to add this foil to all the joist spaces to help reflect the heat upwards.  We're planning to add some insulation as well.  We are also planning to only drywall the spaces between the joists to create a beamed ceiling effect.

In order to attach the tubing to the basement floor,  a metal grid was attached to the concrete.  The tubes themselves were attached to the grid using zip ties.  This was all important to keep the tubes from floating up when the concrete was poured over them.


We hired another pro to do our concrete pour.  Our concrete is a special mix of portland, sand and gypsum that is self-leveling and it is designed to transfer the heat well.  To finish the floors to look like polished concrete, they were first sanded and then a densifier was applied followed by several coats of a satin acrylic sealer.  The whole basement now has these lovely shiny floors.  The colour is a little off right now since the pink insulation is casting a weird tone on them.  I think with the final white walls the floors will be a light grey colour.

Phew!  That was a pretty technical post.  Hopefully, I didn't bore you to tears.  Overall, we're super happy with our new heating system and concrete floors.  The boys have been down there testing them out quite a bit.  They're great for running and not slippery at all (something I was a little worried about).     Now, I'm super excited to see some drywall on those walls (hint, hint, Tech Guy!).

11 comments:

  1. Floor heat is the best :) I can't wait to see more :)

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    1. We have loved the in floor heat. We can go around in bare feet most days even during our cold winter.

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  2. Sounds wonderful to have radiant floor heat

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    1. It is! I'm so glad we invested in it.

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  3. I'm very curious how you feel about your floors in a couple of months. We are building a custom house (it'll be Seattle modern in style) and are debating concrete floors with built in heating. We have had so many problems with our current hardwood floors - which is likely just related to this particular house we are in currently- but we are thinking of branching out into something different. Maybe even aggregate rock floors. I'm curious a) how good the heat is, can you really feel it? And b) how does walking on concrete effect the body. I hear stories back and forth that it's bad for your body and it's not bad. I think maintenance wise it's win-win and it would really look nice with a modern house.

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    1. So exciting to be building a custom house. Congratulations!

      The concrete that we poured is a special mix designed to transfer the radiant heat. It works really well. We can definitely feel the heat. The floors are in our basement so we won't be walking/standing on them as much as a main floor, but the gypsum in the concrete we poured does make them feel a little softer than traditional concrete. The radiant heating tubes required the over pour, but if we decide that it's too hard or we don't end up liking it in the long run, there's always the option of adding an engineered floor on top. I do think that radiant heat is a wonderful choice though, especially if you're building new.

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  4. oh, the radiant heat sounds so lovely and cozy! and I love concrete floors :)

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    1. I'm really liking the look of the concrete floors and I think I'll like them even more once the pink insulation is covered up. :)

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  5. I wish we had radiant heat. Sounds like a perfect solution. Toasty toes.

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  6. I just stumbled across your blog and I love the information you have here! Do you happen to know how much height you gave up by pouring the concrete over the radiant heat pipes? We have a very similar setup in our basement and I am really fighting for poured concrete floors but I'm worried it will make the ceiling seem much lower than it already is... Also, I love the idea of drywall between the joists - do you happen to have any inspiration photos?

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    1. Hi Sara, the radiant tubing and concrete took about 1.5" of height. I don't think it's that noticeable. We still haven't finished the drywall work in the ceiling in our basement, but hopefully soon! The inspiration images that I've come across all have the exposed joists without any drywall in-between. We need the drywall in-between to cover up the pipes and insulation in our basement because we went with radiant heat upstairs as well. We've really enjoyed our radiant heating system thus far. I highly recommend it.

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