Dos and Don’ts of Finishing a Basement Like a Pro
A finished basement adds value to a home in many ways. In addition to increasing the living space and potentially raising the home’s value, turning an unused part of the house into valuable real estate for a home office or workshop, a play or hobby area for kids and family, a home theater or guest quarters, improves the homeowners’ enjoyment of the home. These basement remodeling dos and don’ts will help DIYers interested in tackling this project stay on the right track.
Check for water issues and add a vapor barrier
Resolve any water issues before beginning construction. Look for pools of water or drips coming through below-grade walls. Make sure the area around the home is graded properly so water flows away from the foundation. Repair any cracks in the foundation walls. Avoid ongoing dampness by adding a vapor barrier to the walls and floors before finishing these surfaces.
Proper insulation helps control the temperature in the basement and can provide additional moisture control when you choose insulation with a vapor barrier on both sides. Insulation also helps dampen noise from the outside.
Properly locate heating vents; consider baseboard heating
Because warm air rises, install heating vents at floor level. Baseboard heating, if properly tied into the existing HVAC system, can be a good option for heating a basement.
Run a radon test
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is linked to health risks. The EPA recommends testing for radon and fixing any problems. Doing so before construction is much easier and less expensive than it is once construction is completed. Radon kits are readily available in home improvement stores.
Research finishing materials
Several materials available today make finishing a basement easier and can save money. One example is interlocking insulation panels that have studs for drywall and channels for electrical wiring built-in. Another option is a basement system designed and pre-cut for your project that incorporates a range of components from insulated ceilings and walls to trim and lighting.
Focus on functionality
Remember to allow for the utilitarian requirements of the basement, such as laundry facilities, storage and of course, the area or room housing the furnace and water heater, as you are designing the rest of the space. The utility area should remain unfinished in case of water leaks, and be separate from the rest of the space. Wall off other areas that need privacy, such as the guest rooms and home office.
Get familiar with designing open-concept spaces
Most basements incorporate some open-concept floor plan. Create distinct groupings based on how you plan to use the space, such as a TV area or a kids’ play area. Each grouping should have it’s own light fixture. Area rugs can also help define the various sections of the larger space. Leave room between the groupings to visually separate them and to allow for walking.
Underestimate the construction
Basement finishing has a number of unique steps that require significant construction experience, such as shoring up foundation cracks and framing around existing ductwork, plumbing and electrical work. These tasks should be handled by a professional.
Ignore building codes and permits
Know the codes and be sure to obtain any required permits. Electrical and plumbing work needs to be inspected. This is important for safety as well as the longevity of the work. Skipping this step could result in problems down the road when selling the home.
Finish the utility room
The space containing the HVAC equipment and water heater needs a clear, unfinished space. This allows access for inspection and repairs, and limits damage in the event of a water leak. Utility areas have specific code requirements as well.
Forget about the aesthetics
Carefully choosing colors and accessories for a cohesive look enhances the sense of the basement as a part of the entire house rather than an afterthought. Wall art, throw pillows and other decor elements create a cozy space and also add personality.