Anyone with an unfinished basement sits atop a potential gold mine of extra living space. True, raw rooms below deck are great for storing your holiday decorations and serve as an exile destination for rambunctious children on rainy days, but they could be so much more. A well-designed basement can contain rowdy offspring and offer a comfortable haven for home entertainment, extra bedrooms, baths and storage, too.
If you're considering remodeling your basement, consider these do's and don'ts so you enter the project with your eyes wide open.
Things You'll Want to Do
- Test for moisture. Any below-grade space will have more humidity and potential for flooding. Make sure your foundation and floor have no unsealed cracks. Get a read on the dampness with a humidity meter. Check for any existing mold problems and remediate them (whether you finish the basement or not).
- Install a good sump pump and pit. If your area has a high water table already, you'll want to have a good sump pump operation installed, if you don't already.
- Have better-than-adequate exterior drainage. Make sure all runoff can drain far away from your foundation. Plan on at least one good hundred-year downpour happening sometime during your possession of the home. Poor drainage could create an unplanned indoor swimming pool.
- Check for insect infestation. Planning a basement remodel is a great time to check for signs of termites and other insect invasions. You'll want to eradicate any problems no matter what you do with the space.
- Test for carbon monoxide and radon. Radon occurs naturally, but if it collects in your basement, it could spell serious health damage. Also, you want to make sure your gas-fed appliances aren't leaking carbon monoxide if they live in the basement.
- Insulate foundation walls. To help keep dampness to a minimum, insulate the foundation with products that aren't susceptible to mold.
- Choose the right finishes. Use treated lumber for any framing that will attach directly to concrete so it doesn't wick moisture, develop mold and rot. Be careful with moisture barrier products as they can trap moisture and create their own set of problems.
- Build an alternative means of escape. Bedrooms may require large windows and a ladder in the window well. Some jurisdictions may require an outside door.
- Make sure your heating system will handle the extra living space. Don't forget air supply requirements, too.
- Consider the staircase. How will you move furniture in and out?
- Map your wire, pipes and ducting. If you finish your ceilings with Sheetrock, you'll thank yourself later for knowing where the utility lines run.
- Understand building codes. If you plan to do your own work, don't think you won't get caught not pulling permits. If you ever try to sell the house, you'll be toast. Besides, your neighbors will see a lot of material moving in. Can you trust them all not to report you?
Things You Don't Want to Do
- Your own plumbing and wiring. Unless you're very experienced and do know the codes, call the pros for the really technical stuff. You want a nice, finished basement, not a smoking hole in the ground.
- Eliminate all your storage space. You still need a place to hold those holiday decorations. The triangular space under the stairs is perfect, but be sure to add a light fixture or two.
- Hesitate to call in the professionals. Finishing a basement can appear pretty easy to do yourself even if you have little experience at major DIY projects. If all you want to do is build a wall, you're probably fine. But if you'd rather have a multi-functional finished basement that you and your future buyers will love, you're looking at a serious amount of trial and error, not to mention frustration, time spent and money wasted.
At Quality Craftsmen, basement remodeling is one of our many expert talents. Check out some of our jobs here and what our customers have to say. We know how to evaluate your basement for its potential and its problems. Building codes are no mystery to us, either. From the design to the build, Quality Craftsmen can create a finished basement to delight you for decades to come. Contact us today for a free consultation.