Home Spa Renovation

Contractor Facing Custom Master Bathroom Drawing and Photo Gradation.

Written by Sarah Duquette, Zenergy Communications

Cold, dark and musty, the basement is often just a place to store boxes of old knick-knacks, long-forgotten projects and holiday decorations. But, for those looking to create additional living space and increase the value of their home a basement renovation can accomplish both, while costing far less than building an addition might. In fact, basement renovation projects can yield up to a 70 per cent return on investment at the time of resale, according to the last annual “Cost vs. Value” Report from Remodelling Magazine. Transforming an unfinished basement into a comfortable and inviting living area comes with a few challenges, however, not the least of which is determining how to add plumbing for a new bathroom, wet bar, kitchenette or laundry.

This was the challenge faced by Tamara McBride, a home and business owner in Kitchener, Ontario, when she decided to sell her successful spa business and open a new skin care aesthetics spa and nail salon out of her home.

“When I decided to renovate my home’s basement to be my new Spa business, I knew I wanted to add a new bathroom, but I wasn’t sure how to go about adding or moving the plumbing and that was the biggest challenge holding me back from doing this years ago,” says Tamara McBride, owner of Freda Aesthetics Spa.
The basement was unfinished with an existing laundry and a large floor drain in the middle of the room handling the current washer, water heater, softener and laundry sink that did not meet code to drain grey water. Additionally, the space was limited to 220 square feet, making it challenging to comfortably layout the new spa equipment, and then to add a new, full-size bathroom.
“The original plan was to build around the existing floor drain, not realizing that it didn’t meet the provincial plumbing code. Then I was going to purchase a composting toilet, assuming it was my only other option, however, it was quite expensive and was going to require disposing of human waste manually and also needed to be properly vented, which was not possible given the location of the existing vent stack.”

Not wanting to delay her renovation plans, or exceed her budget by having to hire a plumbing company to cut through her basement floor to install new pipes, Tamara started researching alternative solutions.
“I was searching for a solution to my plumbing problem and had heard about Saniflo from a friend. I asked my contractor to investigate whether it could be a good fit for my spa renovation and after speaking with a technician from Saniflo, I learned that their products can all be installed on top of the floor without having to break the concrete up. I was ecstatic!”

“After discussing the renovation, I decided I wanted to create a powder room for my spa clients to use, which would save them having to use my main bathroom upstairs in the house. Saniflo recommended I install their Sanicompact® toilet, which my contractor was able to fit underneath the basement stairs, taking advantage of what would normally be unusable space. The toilet is self-venting, dual-flush and tankless, so it saves a lot of space. My clients are so impressed with it and love the convenience of having a dedicated bathroom they can use.”

“Next, we installed Saniflo’s Sanivite drain pump to move the grey water from my washer, hot water tank, softener and laundry sink to beside the new powder room, which allowed my contractor to plumb behind the wall and remove the old floor drain for a clean, safe and code-approved installation. Both the Sanicompact and Sanivite were connected to the main drain stack directly above the stairs.”
“Using Saniflo in my spa has given me great peace of mind. All the plumbing now meets code and I saved several thousands of dollars by not breaking the concrete in my basement to have this new plumbing installed. I’m happy, and my clients love it too.”

Plumbing and Concrete Challenges

It’s most likely your home’s existing wastewater lines exit the house above the basement floor, which makes adding a new bathroom or other plumbing one of the most challenging obstacles in basement conversions. Additionally, your basement probably wasn’t built with future plumbing needs in mind so there may be no rough ins for new fixtures.
Traditionally speaking, to install plumbing in the basement requires cutting through concrete to run new lines, which must be located close to a main drain stack. Not only is this expensive, but cutting through concrete, no matter how carefully it is done, weakens the structural integrity of the slab and can cause stress cracks, which, over time, can extend across the entire room and allow groundwater to seep in. Cutting concrete is also extremely messy, noisy and labour-intensive.

Above-floor plumbing systems do not require installers to cut through the concrete or dig down. These systems, including drain pumps and macerators/grinders, are a more cost-effective and time-friendly alternative to traditional below-floor plumbing. They can be installed right on top of the existing floor.
Unlike a sewage ejector system that stores waste in a holding tank, the waste and grey water from a toilet, sink or shower connected to an above-floor “up-flush” system is pumped up and away through small-diameter piping, rather than flowing down and out like conventional plumbing. This allows for the creation of a new bathroom, wet bar, kitchenette or laundry anywhere in your future basement living space, regardless of where the main drain stack or existing pipes are located.
Here are some additional key considerations for a basement conversion and tips for how to overcome them to achieve your renovation goals.

Controlling Moisture

Basements are known to be damp and humid. In addition, flooding may be a problem if there are cracks in the foundation or the proper waterproofing hasn’t been done. Most flooding issues are caused by inadequate control of water running off the roof. Repairing cracks, keeping the gutters clear and making sure that water is sloping away from the house will help solve minor flooding issues, such as these.
To keep moisture at bay inside and reduce the changes of mold growth, ensure that your basement has the correct insulation and water barrier products installed. For example, a spray foam insulation is typically best to fill in cracks and seal windows and doors.

Adding Ventilation

Since there are few (if any) windows in the basement, homeowners cannot rely on natural air flow to help with ventilation and humidity control. That’s why it’s important to ventilate the basement. Proper ventilation will help remove humidity, which will help reduce excess moisture and prevent toxic mould.
There are a number of solutions including extending your existing HVAC system, installing exhaust fans or an air exchanger to push damp air out while circulating the air inside, and adding a dehumidifier or two.

Improving Lighting

No one will want to spend time in your new basement if it’s as dark as a dungeon. The simplest solution for improving lower level lighting is to choose track lighting or pot lights (also called “can” lights), which can be recessed by installing them between the joists in the ceiling. Because the ceiling height in the basement is often limited, it’s best to avoid ceiling-mounted or hanging fixtures.
To allow as much natural light to fill the space, opt for glass doors where possible and trim back any shrubs or plants that may be blocking sunshine from reaching the window wells.

Meeting Building Code

Building codes vary by province. It’s best to contact your local city building department before starting any renovation work.
Generally, you will need to ensure that the following meet code:

  • Finished ceiling height
  • Emergency exit windows and/or doors
  • Stairways (minimum height for risers and treads)
  • Electrical and wiring
  • Plumbing and mechanical

Depending on how you plan to renovate and use the space will also determine which building codes apply to your project. Remember to consult an inspector early in the process to avoid running into major issues.


About the Author

Sarah Duquette combines her passion for entrepreneurship, innovation and storytelling with her knack for copywriting and perceptive understanding of audience targeting to ideate, develop and execute holistic marketing campaigns at Zenergy Communications.
A Ryerson University graduate, Sarah holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Creative Industries (creative business management) with a specialization in media business and professional communications.

About Saniflo

From residential to commercial and industrial installs, above-floor plumbing technology, Saniflo provides numerous possibilities for creating new bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, or other wet areas. Have questions about renovating your home’s basement? Want to learn more about the benefits of above-floor plumbing systems? Contact Saniflo Canada at 1-800-363-5874 or visit saniflo.ca.  You can also follow Saniflo on Facebook.