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Dirt floor basement, moisture issues, cracking concrete blocks. What to do?

Owner seeks contractor advice on insulating 1930s era homestead in Alberta


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September 21, 2018 by canadiancontractor

We have an old family homestead in central Alberta. Circa 1930s or 1940s. No heat, unless we use the fireplace or the old wood stove. The floor is wood, the basement floor is dirt, the walls are concrete block, probably, and are cracking – typical for this area. What we are trying to do is to keep the dirt smell from rising into the house: it’s not wet but it’s not pleasant. There are four window holes that have been boarded up which we are going to put windows in.

Here’s the thing. In the past, the family put fiberglass insulation into the ceiling joists of the basement and then put vapor barrier over that. Well, of course, the squirrels burrowed into it and made their home there. They had gotten into the basement through those unfinished windows. And there was mildew and moisture where the insulation met the vapor barrier. So we tore it all out. Now we have the problem of no insulation in the ceiling of the basement.

Some people say put poly on the walls and insulate the walls. Some people say put poly on the dirt and put blocks around it to hold it down – or use silicone. Some people say run vapor barrier through the joists back and forth similar to insulating mobile homes, then put insulation into the joists and then strap the insulation to the joists. We’re just confused as to what to do.

Remember there is no heat and no one goes out here in winter.

We need an economical, quick way to insulate this basement. There is no furnace. Please help us keep the cold from the basement rising and the stink from the dirt. Thank you so much.

T. Lowry


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1 Comment » for Dirt floor basement, moisture issues, cracking concrete blocks. What to do?
  1. This sort of situation, in these old style homes, is very common; so is the solution.

    Traditionally, vapour barrier always goes on the warm side. Therefore the basement ceiling needs vapour barrier (6 mil minimum) that goes from wall to wall and wraps each floor joist, up to the ceiling/floor and then around the next joist …and so on. All joints and ends in the vapour barrier need to be sealed with Tuck Tape. Then the insulation goes in and is strapped in place with metal or wood strapping.

    All that said, the best thing to do is have the basement ceiling spray foamed and have an exterior vent installed and treat the entire basement as a cold room/exterior room. This also means an exterior grade door for the basement entrance and proper windows.