Finishing a Basement: What You Need to Know

Do you wish you could add tons of usable square footage to your home without the hassle of a large-scale remodel and addition? For many lucky homeowners, the solution could be right beneath their feet – in their basement. This untapped source of potential could add significant square footage and value to your home. Consider all of the possibilities finishing a basement could offer such as transforming it into a small apartment, game room, or just extra storage space.

finishing a basement

Before you sign up to immediately finish your basement, there are a few things you’ll need to know. Savvy homeowners should prepare themselves for what could lie ahead before they start hanging the first layers of sheetrock. Take these tips into consideration before you pick up that hammer.

Do Things the Right Way – with Permits

Some homeowners feel like obtaining permits is really a waste of time and money. While you may plan on doing everything by the book, it’s still important to make sure that the county is aware of the changes you’re making to the property.

Trying to perform the work without the right permits and inspections is extremely risky. In the end, you may be forced to dismantle all of the work you’ve completed because it wasn’t done “up to code.”

Obtaining the right paperwork is actually very beneficial for you as a homeowner. It allows you to market your house with the expanded square footage later on and could boost the resale value of your home. It also gives you a second set of professional and expertly-trained eyes to spot any potential issues with your handiwork.

Eliminate Moisture Problems First

You may already know that you have a damp basement because you can feel and smell it when you descend the staircase. Other homeowners may not be able to properly identify it, but moisture could still be a persistent problem.

By allowing the moisture to stay in the home, you could be setting yourself up for failure in the years ahead. For example, pervasive moisture may cause failure with certain types of flooring or could lead to mold growth.

If you aren’t sure whether you need to remedy this issue, take a sheet of plastic to your sub-flooring for a few days. Make sure it’s well sealed to the sub-floor so no air can get in or out.

If water droplets form over the next two to three days, you have a moisture problem in your basement. Depending on severity, a simple dehumidifier may quickly correct the problem.

Don’t Forget About Head-Space

While you may initially think it’ll be okay to duck and stoop down when you walk in the basement, your local building inspector may feel otherwise. Be sure to check with your local codes to ensure that you’ll have the proper amount of head-space in your basement once the ceiling is finished in.

If not, you may need to make time and room in the budget for other necessary changes.

You could dig out the concrete of your foundation and move the home lower, but this is extremely extensive and expensive. Most homeowners will choose to talk with their contractors about moving plumbing or duct-work to another location to secure the head-space they need.

Either way, this will require a lot of planning prior to the point where you start putting up walls. Finishing a basement should be done by taking the proper steps at the right time, and this one should definitely come first.

Don’t Completely Box in Your Appliances

Does your basement currently house your hot water heater or furnace? Many basements are home to all of the unsightly appliances in order to have more usable square footage upstairs in the main living areas.

This isn’t necessarily a problem when it comes to finishing your basement, but you’ll need to make sure you box them in appropriately.

When it comes to laying sheetrock around your appliances, you need to ensure that you’re leaving two to three feet on all sides whenever possible. This enables a repair person to come in and make changes if they’re ever necessary in the future.

Don’t skimp on the amount of space included in this little “closet.” If you shortchange yourself on the space, a wall may need to come down in the future in order for a necessary repair to be made.

You should also consider installing a drop ceiling to make plumbing and duct-work more accessible. While you won’t be able to use the same two- to three-foot rule, you can definitely benefit from the ability to remove ceiling tiles in order to work on these critical elements.

Insulate Your Space

Want to make your space more comfortable and help to eliminate a moisture problem? Installing a layer of insulation in your home can be the quick and easy answer to many of your issues.

Whether you install traditional fiberglass insulation or one of the new spray versions, you can help to make the climate-controlled space of your basement far more comfortable.

As an added bonus, the insulation will also help with some of the sound absorption. Insulation can help to dampen the sounds of the outside world before they filter into your home. Installing insulation into your ceiling can help muffle sounds from the levels above as well.

This may be one key area where you should allocate a sufficient budget. Insulation can be expensive but ultimately worth the price. Once the walls are up, it’s difficult to go back and make this change later on down the road. It’s best to do this step right the first time to avoid any regrets moving into the future.

Look for Lighting

You don’t want your newly-finished basement to fall into the immediate stereotype of being a relatively dark space. Light, whether it’s natural or artificial, can help to open a space and make it feel more inviting.

Keep things bright and airy by paying careful attention to the lighting sources you have available in your basement.

Make good use of any windows that are already installed by making sure they remain open and available. Invest in high-quality lamps or overhead lights that can brighten up the space with high-wattage fluorescent light bulbs.

Can lights could be a minimally-invasive way to dramatically light up a space without much expense. All of these little steps can work together to create a better space in your basement.

Get Natural Light With Windows

If you have a walk out basement or part of your basement is above ground level, there’s another way to get light – windows. Windows allow natural light into your home which is good for your mood and productivity.

basement windows

Plus, you can save money on your energy bills usually natural light rather than artificial light during the day. If you have double pane, insulated windows, they’ll trap heat into your home which will save you more money on your heating and cooling bills.

The question is, what kind of windows are best for your home. We suggest getting vinyl windows – they’re durable, energy efficient and beautiful with many color options including wood grain finishes.

There are many window styles that would look great in a basement. The most common option used is a hopper window, but double hung and slider windows would also look great.

Finishing a Basement Can Add More Living Space to Your Home

When you follow a few key design steps, it’s easy to transform an entire level of your home into more usable space. Finishing a basement can be done on your own or with the help of professionals, but ensure that you take care to finish the job well. Your home could benefit from added value and the comfort that comes with having all of this extra space.

It’ll require some intense advance planning to make sure that your basement is adequately prepared and ready to be finished. However, you won’t want to miss out on the opportunity to create a space that is uniquely your own by finishing a basement your way.

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