Gearing up for renovations

We’re almost completely moved into the house, and while it’s still cluttered, we’re already looking to renovating the basement.

We have to renovate, really. The basement isn’t set up for what Alex and I need. We want another full bathroom, and a spare bedroom (yes, we have three already, but when you’re thinking of having two kids…). Plus an office. And heated floors.

Then factor in the fun stuff: 1950s plumbing, wiring, and heating. The stuff is ancient, inefficient, and insufficient.

So we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. And the work needs to be done soon, before our first child arrives at the end of August. No pressure.

We started research with the biggest component of the whole thing: heating. Long ago, we decided that our next house would have heated floors. No more dealing with forced air furnaces. That’s the reason we bought the new house — because we could put in heated floors.

Why heated floors? Ever had that moment when you realize that all the air in your house is bone dry in the middle of the winter? That’s because of your furnace drying everything out. Heated floors tend to be warmer (concrete is an excellent heat dissipater) and there’s no drying out of the air.

Of importance is whether you’re using electrical heat or hydronic heat. Both will do the trick, but electric can get very expensive if you’re trying to heat an entire floor. That’s when you use hydronic. Which is what we’re planning to do. Instead of a furnace, you have a boiler that heats the water to send through pipes encased in 1.5 inches of concrete. That keeps the pipes in place, protects them from wear, and allows you to do all sorts of floor coverings.

But we can’t put them all in at once. We also plan to expand the square footage upstairs, meaning heated floors will have to wait a couple of years for the main floor. But that’s easier to contend with for now.

Thanks to a short segment on Breakfast Television, a morning program on the local CityTV station, we learned of a company out in Blackie called Goose Creek Renewable Energy, which teaches efficient living. Wind power, solar power, high-efficiency appliances, and heating. We learned of the 90% efficient non-condensing heating system made by Conematic.

The Goose Creek website led us to Canyon Plumbing, a local outfit that’s going to do the work. For the record, it’s not cheap. This isn’t easy to do, and some of the equipment is expensive. But Alex and I aren’t concerned about initial expense. The goal is reduction of the overall ecological footprint. Allen — Alex’s dad — is urging us to also consider geothermal (buring pipes in the ground to act as a sort of heat pump), but it’s too awkward with the yard configuration, and that’s a cost we simply can’t afford right now.

The plan, at least as it currently stands, is to get a Laars Mascot boiler to handle the actual heating work. That would provide heated fluid for the pipes in the floor, and for an Aeroso RVT75 Stainless Steel Indirect Heater. The latter is similar to a regular hot water heater, but doesn’t have any direct flame — the heating comes from a heat exchanger provided from the boiler. That means less calcification that normally is found in direct heat hot water heaters.

But this covers only our basement for heat. The upstairs will remain cold without forced air (at least until we can install radiant heat up there). That’s where the boiler comes in handy a third time — we use the hot water to heat air, which is then pumped through the upstairs.

The only hindrance in all of this is our basement. Namely, it needs to be torn apart. We need to determine where our walls will be, and frame it in. This has to be done before any piping is laid and concrete poured. You don’t erect walls on top of a radiant heat floor. I suspected this from the beginning, and got confirmation of that today.

It seems that RenoBoy is going to be coming to life soon. I just hope I can channel enough of my father to keep me from making any mistrakes.

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