Time to Finish the Basement

By: Virginia Wherland

So, you're thinking of adding a fourth bedroom, but your main floor space is all maxed out. It looks like it's time to do something about that unfinished basement; maybe add a small exercise room and an office, while you're at it. A basement renovation is perfect for these cooler months, as you'll find yourself being drawn to working on indoor projects.

Here are a few things to keep in mind before you start the renovation:

Create a project plan that outlines your projected schedule, estimated costs, budget and the type of work to be completed. This will be updated as you progress through the different stages of the renovation and will provide a valuable tool to keep you on track.

Start looking through magazines, the internet and home improvement stores to get a good idea of what you expect your basement to look like. Decide what types of rooms you require, such as an exercise room, TV room, games room, etc. If you shop around, it can be surprisingly reasonable to hire a designer for a consultation; in a few hours they can provide valuable information regarding paint colors and design ideas to get you started.

Designate a file folder for paint chips and design ideas.

If you plan on doing the work yourself, then the following points need to be considered. If you are hiring a contractor, make certain you understand the following issues so that you can ask the right questions. Ensure that you get at least three quotes and that all of the required changes are documented. If the contractor will not be dealing with a certain area, that also needs to be documented.

Inspect your basement for any of the following problems:

Do you have to duck to avoid bumping your head on a beam or duct?
Are there traces of moisture or mold on the floor or walls?
Does the basement smell musty?
Look for cracks as wide as a pencil in the walls or floors?

If you answered "yes", to any of the above, then the costs of fixing these issues should be added to your budget.

Obtain a building permit if you are altering the structure of your house, the size of windows, exterior doors or changing occupancy needs by adding an apartment. Find out the required heights for a basement ceiling from your local building official, as this needs to be taken into account.

Look for moisture: Dampness in the floors or walls must be corrected before you begin to cover these areas with carpeting and insulation. Common sources may include, cracks, poor drainage, over flowing eaves troughs and downspouts.

Air circulation: Determine if the basement will require extra heating, a dehumidifier or additional ventilation.

Bathroom: Do you plan on adding a bathroom? If so, additional plumbing requirements will need to be taken into account.

Electrical: Will you have additional outlets, heat registers, etc. Also, in the case of a laundry room or stove, you may require high voltage outlets or vents. Also, ensure the wiring is in place for cable, computers, phone lines, etc.

Smoke Detectors: Decide on the best location for an additional smoke detector, as they are required on every floor of the house. Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed near any gas appliance, fireplace or furnace, and near a doorway to an attached garage.

Windows: Decide on the location of any additional windows and consider their effectiveness as a source of light, escape route and energy efficiency.

Escape route: Determine whether all family members have a safe means of escape during a fire or emergency.

Furnace room: Do you require an enclosure for your furnace, hot water heater, etc. Also, ensure that there is adequate air flow for your type of furnace.

Sound-proofing: Adding that family entertainment center is a great idea, but what about the speakers located directly under the upstairs bedroom? You will need to determine whether additional sound-proofing materials will be required.

Storage: You can't have enough storage; will you require additional closets, shelving, bins or other means of storing stuff.

Additional bathroom: It would be awfully handy to have a small two-piece bathroom downstairs; make sure you decide this before you start.

Wall systems: Traditionally, basement walls are built by insulating, adding vapor barrier, wood studs, drywall, taping and finishing with paint or wall covering. Although widely used, and cheaper than some other alternatives, this can be time consuming and messy. Make certain you have investigated other wall systems such as the Owens Corning basement finishing system. This is sort of like paneling that combines all of these layers in one panel. Slightly more expensive, you can visit their web site at www.franchising.owenscorning.com/bfs/products for more information.

I know this seems like a lot to think about, but the more prepared you are the smoother the project will be. Have fun and enjoy your new living space.

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