Is a basement apartment legal in Toronto
Living in the basement: unhealthy or okay?
"You have to pay attention to this when sleeping in the basement"
Living in the basement is unhealthy: is that right? Some people think so. They fear too much moisture or too much radon pollution in the air, which, for example, is unhealthy while sleeping. Such fears are not always wrong. If they apply - for example with regard to excessively high humidity - simple measures are often sufficient to live and sleep healthily in the basement.
Live in the basement: only if it has been expanded to do so.
You can't just use every basement room for living if you want to. The respective state building regulations decide which requirements the rooms must meet. The specifications relate, for example, to the natural incidence of light in the rooms, ventilation and the minimum room height. Anyone who does not comply with the guidelines and does not obtain any necessary permits must give up the use of the basement as living space in the worst case.
For example, the Dorint Hotel in Sylt had problems in 2011 due to 25 unapproved basement units for guests. It is not classified as “living” in the narrower sense when people sleep temporarily in basement rooms in hot summers. Such a thing can of course be more problematic in an apartment building than in a single family home. However, in rare cases it can also be the case in the home that construction law is disregarded and punished.
There are often special conditions in the basement
The question remains: Living in the basement is unhealthy - is this statement true? It can be right because there are often specific conditions in basement rooms. The outer walls of the cellar are mostly completely or partially underground. This has an influence on the temperature and, indirectly, often also on the humidity. In summer it is often a little cooler in basement rooms than in rooms on the upper floors. This makes it easier to sleep, especially on hot summer days. A number of experts recommend 16 to 18 degrees Celsius as the ideal temperature for a good night's sleep. Others are more cautious with specific figures and generally recommend a room temperature that is individually perceived as neither too cold nor too warm. The basement temperatures in winter depend, for example, on the insulation of the walls and how intensively the basement rooms are heated.
The air humidity depends, among other things, on the room temperature and the ventilation behavior. Especially in summer, the moisture content can quickly rise above the optimal range for living spaces. This is 40 to 60 percent in living rooms and bedrooms. However, if warm air flows into the basement during ventilation and cools down there, it can store less moisture than before.
Relative to the maximum storage capacity, the moisture content of the air increases and often reaches values above 60 percent. In addition to all of this, everyone loses water and is themselves a source of moisture. For example, if you sleep, you sweat out at least a liter of sweat. This can further increase the moisture content of the room air if sufficient moisture is not removed at the same time.
Is health in the basement at risk?
If the moisture content of the indoor air in the living rooms and bedrooms of a basement apartment often exceeds the upper optimal value of 60 percent, it can be unhealthy to stay there for a long time and sleep. On the one hand, this increases the risk of mold forming. It doesn't just look ugly on walls and ceilings. It damages the structure of the building and also endangers the health of the people in the basement. A lot of moisture in the room air can also contribute to the spread of mites and other parasites. And there is another risk from time to time: a high radon content in the air is unhealthy.
A few words about radon
Radon is a radioactive chemical element. Together with radon decay products, this element is suspected of increasing the risk of lung cancer. Radon levels vary in different regions of Germany. In March 2018, the Süddeutsche Zeitung named the Ore Mountains and the Black Forest as well as the Bavarian Forest to the Alps, Saxon Switzerland and parts of Thuringia as typical radon areas.
Through cracks in walls, leaky foundations or shafts for cables and pipes, radon gets into the interior of the room, whereby the concentration is usually highest in the basement.
The Radiation Protection Act defines an upper limit for indoor radon exposure of 300 Becquerel per cubic meter. According to the Süddeutscher Zeitung, the cancer risk already rises at 100 Becquerel per cubic meter (Bq / m3), so something should be done. Most homeowners don't need to worry too much, though. This is proven by the brochure “Radon - a hardly perceived risk” from the Federal Office for Radiation Protection.
According to her, there are values of over 100 Bq / m3 in common rooms of “only” around five to ten percent of all apartments in Germany. In only 0.04 percent of all apartments there are very problematic values of over 1,000 Bq / m3.
What can you do for healthy living in the basement?
In order to move into the basement without any problems, some measures are useful when the conditions are rather unfavorable. Renovation work can improve the situation. Sensible work can include interior insulation or new sealing, for example. While internal insulation is comparatively easy to implement, new sealing or external insulation is much more complex. If the humidity is too high, changing the ventilation behavior is sometimes sufficient for improvements.
Correct ventilation reduces the humidity in the basement. The moisture content should not be higher when ventilating in the outside air than in the room air. That is why we recommend airing the room early in the morning, for example.
In some cases, dehumidifiers are a useful tool to reduce the moisture content of the air in a basement room. Devices such as the Dehumid 9 from Brune are suitable for apartments. If moisture penetrates the basement due to structural damage, more complex renovation work may be necessary to rectify the problem. If you have to reduce the radon content of the air for healthy sleep, a modified ventilation behavior is also recommended.
Of course, ventilation cannot be done just by opening windows. If you want to opt for an automated solution, you can have a ventilation system installed.
Structurally, high levels of radon can also be counteracted, for example, by integrating radon drainage into the house or sealing cracks.
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