By now, most of you know that I live in Florida. Here in Florida, there are rarely any basements…anywhere. (Although I’m fairly convinced that I might have some neighbors who have installed an underground bunker in their backyard – that’s gotta count for something! HA!)
Even so, I’ve always loved the idea of a basement. A duplicate of your house that you can turn into whatever you want – amazing! And when I watch House Hunters (yes, I am quite an avid fan) my favorite parts is when they discover a cool basement. And when I watch almost any other show on HGTV, I just LOVE seeing what people DO to their basements!
Yes, it’s true. I WISH we had a basement! And if we ever go anywhere other than Florida, one of my must-have items in a home will definitely be a basement!
So when Shivani from Apex Waterproofing contacted me about publishing this post…I first hesitated. Because I don’t have first-hand basement experience. But then I thought of all you lovely readers…and I imagine that most of you probably DO have a basement. So…let’s see how you can make the most of yours!
Basements can be uncomfortable places, especially if they have not been used for a while. Dark, possibly damp, filled with junk and maybe even spiders – there is a reason why people avoid basements that are unfinished. But basements can also be extremely inviting. With the right renovations, you can often add considerable square footage to your home, creating a basement that draws people instead of repelling them.
Tips For Basement Renovations You Can Be Happy With
Know What You Want
The first and probably most important part of the basement renovation is the planning stage. Your basement is essentially an empty canvas, one you can turn into a number of different things. Home owners renovate basements to create bedrooms, play rooms, entertainment areas, media rooms, home gyms, home offices and more. Some people even choose to create separate housing in the basement, adding an entrance and a kitchen area.
As you can see, you have a lot of options. Depending on your specific space, you may be limited in what you can do. But you want to get an idea of where you are going now, before you do anything else. This can be a good time to bring in a contractor, even if you plan to do the work yourself, just to get a second opinion. Many offer consultation services, where they look over your space and listen to your plan, then advise you on how to move forward.
Clear The Space
If you have had the house for long, the basement has probably accumulated boxes and junk over time. You need to decide where to put this stuff. Now is the time to get serious about separating out these things into different categories – trash, donation, storage. The quicker you get through this part, the quicker you can get started on the actual renovation.
Light It Up
Most un-renovated basements are pretty dismal, with only the minimum lighting needed to navigate the area. If you or someone else is going to be working down there, you need to light the place up. Since you have a good idea of what you are going to be using the renovate basement for, you can install the lighting now, along with any additional outlets you will need.
Keep in mind that a well-lit space is much more comfortable to live and work in. Unless your basement has large windows – which most don’t – you are going to need a fair bit of light to make the space feel inviting. Don’t cut corners with the lighting in your renovations.
In most instances, electrical work is best done by a licensed electrician. Depending on where you live, you may have to have the work checked over by a professional anyway to ensure it is up to code. If you ever want to sell the house, this is extremely important. It is a good idea for safety as well.
Address Moisture And Structural Issues
The extra lighting is going to expose all the flaws in the basement, including moisture accumulation and cracks. Water can penetrate from outside along the walls, or along the floor. This is something that must be dealt with. You can have the floor waterproofed and cracks filled if necessary. Moisture will lead to mold in most cases, so make sure you address all problems thoroughly before adding framing, drywall or flooring.
Review Your Plan
Now that everything is emptied out, lighting has been added and moisture problems have been addressed, look over your plan again. Sometimes you will discover that the ideas you have originally will need to be adjusted, depending on what you found in the initial renovation stages. Double check everything before moving forward.
It can be helpful to draw out your plan on graph paper, so that you have an accurate idea of the scale. You can adjust these drawing as needed, but they provide a helpful reference as you continue with your project.
If you are adding a bathroom, utility sinks or other fixtures, now is the time to install the necessary plumbing. This is another area where the help of a qualified contractor can be really useful. You want to be sure that everything will work properly before you finalize the renovations.
Walls and Flooring
Once all the guts of the project have been handled, you can add in any extra framing, drywall and flooring you want. This is when the project starts to really come together.
Most modern basement renovations try to minimize extra walls in general, as basements already tend to give off a cramped feeling. However, if you have the space, design it as you like.
If you do not want to deal with the hassle of adding carpeting or wood flooring, finishing the concrete is always an option.
If you want to increase the living space in your home, look to your basement. Renovating your basement can transform a dark, dingy storage space into one of the most vibrant rooms in your home. Improving this little-used space can even increase the value of your home, and it’s way cheaper than adding on. Follow these 10 simple tips to ensure an amazing basement renovation:
- Keep It Dry. It’s a good idea to seek out and deal with moisture issues before you begin the renovation process. That way, you’re less likely to have to deal with leaks, flooding and water damage later on. Look for water stains, drips and puddles around below-grade walls, and check outside to make sure the ground is sloped away from the foundation. Install diverters on your gutters to send runoff water well away from your foundation.
- Check the Codes. Depending on the local regulations where you live, you might need to get a permit for basement renovations, and you’ll probably have to comply with certain building codes. This is especially likely if your basement plans involve plumbing. Check with your local municipality before you start building.
- Design a Layout. If you can plan out your new basement on your own, that’s great. If not, you should hire a professional to draw up the plans. Having a well-planned basement layout when you get started will ensure that you don’t run into too many surprises down the road.
- Check the Height. Headroom can be an issue in some basements, and how you use this space may partially depend on the height of the room. If you’re planning to use your basement as an exercise room, for example, make sure you can comfortably jog along on your treadmill without bumping your head on the ceiling. Some areas of your basement may be taller than others, and there are probably pipes and vents to be navigated around. It’s a good idea to design the most-used part of your basement in the area with the highest ceilings.
- Don’t Skimp on Insulation. Once your basement remodel is complete, you’re going to want to spend a lot of time down there, so it’s best if your basement isn’t freezing cold. Adding extra insulation will keep your basement cozy and provide an extra barrier against moisture. Choose a type of insulation that has a vapor barrier on both sides for added moisture protection.
- Finish Foundation Walls. You don’t want to be faced with bare concrete walls when your remodel is done, so choose the method of wall finishing that works for you. Interlocking wall panels are a good option, and some types include a layer of insulation. Avoid traditional drywall, which can become a mold magnet in a basement. If you want partition walls, use them sparingly and place them between columns so that support posts become part of the design.
- Harness Natural Light. Lighting is often an issue in a basement, and you may have only one or two small windows that provide natural light. However you plan to design your new basement, place the main socializing area in a spot that receives the most natural light. TV viewing areas can be in a less lighted area to prevent glare on the screen.
- Leave Room for Appliances. Basements are typically the home of utility appliances like your water heater and furnace, and you need to leave plenty of open space (at least 2 to 3 feet) of clearance around them. You might want to add a partition wall to keep these appliances separate and out of sight from your main basement room.
- Prepare for a Flood. Even the most perfectly waterproofed basement will probably flood at some point. It’s almost inevitable, so you want to be as prepared as you can be. Choose a flooring material that can handle getting wet, like vinyl or tile. If you don’t already have a floor drain in your basement, you should have one installed. It’s also a good idea to double up on sump pumps with a battery backup for your main pump and a secondary sump pump in case the main one gives out.
- Leave Room for Fun. Your remodeled basement should be a place where you and your guests can enjoy yourselves, so leave plenty of space to simply have fun. Want a pool table? Make sure there’s enough space for all the players to walk around the table and line up their shots. Planning on a gaming area? Leave room between the TV and chairs for everybody to move around. If you have the space, a mini-kitchen is a great addition to your basement as well. You don’t need a full-sized kitchen, but a microwave, a cabinet for snacks and a mini-fridge for drinks are great to have.
This article has been submitted by Apex Waterproofing, a basement and crawl space waterproofing company in Arlington, Virginia.
WOW. There is SO much that goes into a basement renovation, but I’m still convinced it would be totally worth it! Do YOU have a basement? What do you use it for?
Due to the amount of comments from all of my wonderful readers, it is not always possible for me to respond to each one. However, I absolutely do read them all, and if you’d like to address something specific, or have a question for me, please don’t hesitate to email me at Kristen@theroadtodomestication.com. I will respond to your email as soon as possible! Thank you for visiting the blog!