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Basics Of Renovating Your Basement Into A Living Space

Updated on January 3, 2015

The basement of a home can offer homeowners plenty of potential for additional space, even if it is currently crammed with boxes and lined with cold concrete. Basement remodeling can be a far cheaper way to add space than extending our home above ground. If treated as your above-ground rooms, you can turn the basement into a place that might just become the most popular area in the house, where you enjoy spending time. At the same time, basement finishing needs more preparation and planning than the rest of the house.

Benefits of Basement Renovation

There are several benefits to increasing living space by making a basement livable, rather than adding new rooms at floor level.

· With a basement, you don't have to worry about structural load or excavate the ground for new footings.

· Since the basement is below ground and not subject to the elements as much, your heating and cooling loads will be lighter for this area.

· All your utilities, such as gas, water, electricity and sewer lines, are near at hand, so there won't be the extra expense of pulling connections as there may be for new above-ground additions.

· Home additions can disrupt your daily life and you may even need to move out, which may mean additional expenses. Basement remodeling on the other hand can be carried out with very little impact on your daily life. Another advantage is that basement remodeling can be done in all weather, while above-ground additions should be ideally carried out in summer, early fall or late spring.

However, there are a few challenges facing this type of remodeling. Basements are subject to water and moisture, which can attract mildew and mold. There is also limited natural light. Ductwork and overhead pipes may pose some additional challenges. Also, if no bathroom was added when the house was originally built, you may need to add one that flushes up.

Things to consider when renovating the basement

Protecting against wet and damp: Moisture is one of the enemies of home construction, so you should be careful to deal with the wet and damp before you begin renovating the lower levels of your house. This means checking for water welling up between the foundation wall and the slabs or cracks in the foundation. If these issues exist, you should call in a waterproofing company to tell you if the water source can be easily stemmed.

Making sure downspouts and gutters are doing their job can be simplest solution to removing excess moisture that could seep in. If the problem is more serious, a perimeter drain below the slabs that lead to a sump pit can be another solution. You could have an accessible closet built around the sump pit for concealment.

In case the water source is not just groundwater but condensation and plumbing leaks, then water alerts near your water heater tank and in your laundry area can help identify leaks before they get serious. A high-capacity, self-draining humidifier can also work to solve moisture-related problems.

Choosing waterproof materials: While drywall is a common choice for cellar finishing and basements, they may not be the best option for a perfectly water-tight solution. More suitable options include basement finishing systems with water-proof and moisture-resistant drop ceilings, wall panels, under floor systems and mold-proof PVC moldings. Water-proof wall panels may be made of vinyl-lined compressed fiber glass, vinyl-covered cement panels with rigid foam insulation backing etc.

If you want to save money, you can also opt for wall panels of magnesium oxide, which can be backed with polystyrene insulation to offer an impressive R-11 insulation level. These MgO boards are easy to cut, are resistant to mold and mildew and suit damp areas.

Tackling limited lighting: If your basement can't accommodate glazed doors and large windows on above-grade walls, then suspended or drop ceilings is the best option to compensate for natural light. These ceilings can accommodate recessed lights, track lights, fluorescent troffer fixtures etc.

Concealing beams and ductwork: You can paint ductwork and beams to match the ceiling for a cheap and easy solution. You can also paint them in bright, vibrant colors as an alternative. Using soffits to box ducts or using wood-framed cases covered with MDF or drywall are other solutions to concealing ducts and beams.

Basement renovations add to the value of your home. You may not be able to recoup 100 percent of your costs, but you can expect a return on your investment of about 60 to 70 percent.

When renovating your basement, make sure to check the building codes for safety, depending on what you're going to use your basement for. Your basement can be used as an entertainment area, a laundry room, home theater, game room, etc. Make sure to use the smoke detectors, CO detectors, outside combustion air for boiler of furnace etc. A basement remodeling contractor will be able to help you with the permits required for your safety.

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