What is a Michigan Basement?

Growing up or living in Michigan, you have likely heard the term “Michigan basement.” While it is likely you have heard the term, do you know what it means? In this article, we will explore what a Michigan basement is and how you can enhance the space to make it usable.

What is a Michigan basement?

In simple terms, a Michigan basement is a crawlspace that is converted into a basement. According to the State of Michigan’s building glossary, a Michigan basement is a former crawlspace which has been dug out, generally to a depth of 5 to 7 feet to allow for a basement. The excavation begins approximately 2 feet in from the inside of the existing foundation walls in order to preserve the soundness of the existing foundation wall and footings.

Why is it called a Michigan basement?

The term Michigan basement is believed to have originated due to the prevalence of this particular style of basement construction in Michigan. Michigan basements are typically shallow and have a partial or low ceiling height compared to standard basements. They are often used for storage or utility purposes rather than as livable space.

The term Michigan basement is not a technical or official construction term. Similar types of basements with low ceilings or shallow depths can be found in other regions, but they are referred to by different names.

How do you insulate a Michigan basement?

There are multiple ways to insulate a Michigan basement. The most common options are closed cell spray foam, rigid foam board and open cell spray foam.

Closed Cell Spray Foam Insulation

At Ecotelligent Homes, we recommend using closed cell spray foam insulation for a Michigan basement. With the way Michigan basements are built, there are often awkward angles and small spaces that need to be filled with insulation. Closed cell spray foam has the ability to get into these areas making it one of the best options for a Michigan basement.

Closed cell spray foam insulation filling the smallest gaps in a Michigan basement has multiple benefits:

  • The floor of a Michigan basement is often unfinished and left as dirt or has poured concrete over it. If the floor is left as dirt, pests can take a liking to it. Closed cell spray foam can help prevent this from happening by covering the small areas where these bugs are likely to enter your home.
  • Closed cell spray foam insulation in your Michigan basement can help enhance your home’s air quality due to its air sealing properties and creating a vapor barrier. It will prevent unwanted pollutants from entering your home through the purous basement walls.
  • The small areas in your basement rim joists can be filled with closed cell spray foam insulation to help prevent cold floors during Michigan’s cooler months.

Moisture is a common issue in Michigan basements which is another reason why closed cell spray foam is a good choice for it. Using closed cell spray foam insulation can help create a moisture barrier and prevent mold and mildew from becoming an issue in your basement.

Rigid Foam Board Insulation

Rigid foam board insulation is a lightweight rigid panel made from various types of foam like expanded polystyrene (EPS), extruded polystyrene (XPS) or polyisocyanurate. Rigid foam board is easy to install but has downsides.

As mentioned, rigid foam board is easy to install as it is lightweight and can be cut into various sizes. Michigan basements typically do not have smooth walls meaning there will likely be gaps that allow unwanted air to enter or exit your home where the ridge material does not sit flush on the bumpy rock walls.

Open Cell Spray Foam Insulation 

Open cell spray foam insulation has many of the same benefits as closed cell spray foam insulation with one major exception. Open cell spray foam insulation is vapor-permeable, meaning it allows moisture to pass through the material. If your Michigan basement is susceptible to water, open cell spray foam insulation will likely cause more problems for your home.  

Open cell spray foam insulation can be installed directly on walls, but since it is less dense than closed cell spray foam, it will show wear and tear if left exposed and not covered by drywall.

Can you finish a Michigan basement?

Yes, you can finish a Michigan basement to make it a livable space as opposed to a storage area. A few things to consider when deciding to finish a Michigan basement:

  • Ceiling height: Michigan basements have a lower ceiling height meaning excavation or lowering the floor, a costly endeavor, may be necessary.
  • Egress requirements: A finished Michigan basement must have an emergency egress exit such as a window or door to make it habitable.
  • Moisture: As mentioned, Michigan basements are known for moisture issues. These problems need to be addressed with closed cell spray foam prior to adding insulation.
  • Heating and ventilation: Basements tend to be cooler than the upper levels of a home, so it is essential to consider heating and ventilation systems to maintain a comfortable temperature and adequate airflow in the finished space.

Is it time to insulate your Michigan basement?

Contact the Ecotelligent Homes team if you are interested in improving your home’s comfort and storage space by insulating your Michigan basement.