Basement Finishing

Cost-Effective Solution for Adding Living Space

Take advantage of existing basement structures and increase living space at nearly half the construction cost compared to building an addition. Basement finishing and remodeling allows homeowners to utilize the existing floor, walls, and ceiling structures. Another added benefit of refinishing the basement is lowering energy bills by up to 30 percent. Despite the costs of adding recommended safety and comfort features, basement finishing provides the most benefits for the effort in comparison to new construction.

Finished Basement There is no limit to how you can refinish a basement as long as you plan ahead and consider the unique basement properties

Challenges must be identified and addressed prior to considering a basement refinishing contractor. Many basements contain heating, plumbing, water, laundry, and electrical equipment that either must be accommodated in the design or camouflaged with easy-access panels to maximize the use of space. Basements are naturally prone to moisture, dampness, water vapor, and leaking water concerns, and even flooding. Constant exposure to hydrostatic pressure leaves the basement susceptible to mold, mildew, rot, bad odors, and resulting damage to floor coverings, furniture, and personal items.

Choosing a Basement Finishing Expert

Your basement can be comfortable living space Homeowners ideally seek to find basement finishing experts who offer dedicated and consistent customer service. Because of the unique moisture issues and possibility of water penetration in basements, it may be an advantage to choose a waterproofing and foundation repair specialist offering basement refinishing services.

If no contractor offers this combination of services, it would be to your advantage to begin asking for referrals from a waterproofing and foundation repair specialist because they would be familiar with the quality of work of basement refinishing services in your surrounding geographical area.

At the very least, you will want to speak with the chosen contractor on several occasions to judge how well the company follows through on contacting you prior to hiring them. If issues arise during or after remodeling, getting ahold of the contractor promptly could result in expensive cleanup or damage of personal possessions. Customer service should be at the same level before, during, and after the sale. Ask for references on projects completed in the area and question the homeowners.

The Truth About Basement Finishing

Unless proper measures are taken with maintenance and repairs, most basements will experience either water penetration or outright flooding. Keeping the basement dry is the most important objective.

Finished Basement Home entertainment rooms are common basement refinishing ideas.

Consulting with a waterproofing and foundation repair specialist to prepare the basement will ensure that homeowners are fully aware of any existing structural concerns prior to the project launch. Even if there have not been any water seepage concerns in the past, it is most likely worth taking the precaution to at least have an evaluation.

Water seepage, moisture, and flooding can cause inconveniences and catastrophic expenses. Water penetration can be caused from cosmetic issues or a structural problem with the foundation. It can cause indoor air quality issues, mold, mildew, and fungus infestations, and damage to mechanical, decorative, and personal belongings. Recommendations may include:

While dedication to customer service may not always be easy to assess, there are indications of contractors dedicated to customer satisfaction. A fully transferable lifetime warranty offers 100 percent guaranteed satisfaction and ensures the company is confident of the technical abilities of their crews. Other indications may be reflected in the breadth of service promises offered:

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Finishing the basement is one of the top remodeling projects. It is less expensive and labor intensive than an addition and has a higher profit potential. However, finishing the basement is more than nailing up sheetrock. In order to create a well-designed space, it takes planning. With a good architectural design, even shelf basements with low ceilings and small windows, or basements that have already been poorly "finished," can be remodeled into wonderful, usable space.

Making the Basement Livable

Before you turn the basement into living space, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests addressing six areas of concern: moisture control issues, radon, ventilation, combustion appliances, flooring and windows.

Dealing with existing and potential moisture, radon and ventilation problems is crucial to preparing the basement to be converted into living space. Address all these areas before you start the basement remodel. Most interior drainage systems and radon mitigation systems involve cutting into the concrete floor so it makes sense to do this work first. It follows a natural construction sequence and will be less expensive than doing it after the fact.

Once you have addressed these issues the basement is ready to be finished.

Finished Basement
Designing a Basement Floorplan

If you are working with a basement that has never been finished or a basement that was not remodeled properly, you will need a good floor plan. Once you define the desired function of the space, consider the architectural principle of "flow" or "circulation." How will people get from one space to another? Open floor plans work well and are popular, but don't be afraid to include an attractive hallway to allow people to easily move from one space to another.

In older homes, furnaces and water heaters are often in the center of the basement, which obstructs circulation. Rather than trying to work around these utilities, it may be possible to move them to a more remote location in the basement. If you move the appliances make sure they are properly vented to avoid any combustion pollutant back drafting.

Moving the stairs may be necessary to achieve an ideal floor plan. If you alter the stairs in any way, you will be required to bring them up to current building code standards. Remember that you'll need approximately 3 feet by 16 feet of floor space for a safe, usable staircase. Moving the stairs will also change the main floor flow. Consider how the new entrance to the basement will affect the rest of the house. If the house has two-stories, it may work well to piggy back the staircases.

Installing a Basement Bathroom

If you are installing a bathroom in the basement, the easiest place to install one is under an existing bathroom on the main floor. If this location does not work for the basement floor plan, drains can be relocated by trenching into the concrete floor.

Egress Windows

Safety codes require that each basement bedroom have a window whose lower ledge is not more than 44 inches from the floor and has at least 5.7 square-feet of clear opening space. The window well itself must be a minimum of three feet away from the foundation wall. New or enlarged basement windows also offer an element of design: natural light. Enlarging the windows will not only make the basement safer but it will also make the space more comfortable. In some cases, large window wells can be terraced away from the window to give the room even more light and a feeling of connection with the outside. With the right windows and window wells, you can be in your basement without it feeling like a basement.

Finishing a basement is one of the easiest ways to add more living space to your home. But what if you have a shallow, partial or shelf basement? Is a basement remodel still an option then?

The answer is yes. It will take more planning and a bigger budget but a basement excavation is a viable option for you.

A basement excavation, or digging out a basement, is essentially the process of making the basement deeper. It involves tearing out the existing concrete floor (and shelf, if there is one), excavating the dirt from the additional space you want to capture, then pouring a new concrete foundation and floor.

Digging out a basement

If you are making a main floor addition, the excavation equipment can be driven through the space where the addition will be built. If not, you will need to cut an entry into the lower side of your house for the construction equipment to enter. This might sound a little scary, but you can actually turn that "hole" into a ground-level entry into your basement - increasing your basement's safety and the amount of natural light it receives.

Get a structural engineer involved to plan the basement excavation as well as an experienced structural repair contractor to properly support the walls during the excavation. While a brave do-it-yourselfer can accomplish this job, there is a risk of the basement collapsing. It is much safer to involve professionals.

In this process you will be disturbing the soil, which may affect the radon and other soil gas levels in the home. Test for radon before and after the remodel. If you discover a radon problem, install a radon mitigation system. It is much easier to install a radon mitigation system before the basement is finished. Same goes for a waterproofing and drainage system. It is important to handle any moisture problems, radon issues, deal with any leaks, and fix any cracks in the existing foundation walls to make sure the area is safe.

A sump pump system is a necessity for any basement but especially when you are digging out for a basement remodel. One homeowner who had successfully excavated his basement said the renovators installed a sump pump system as part of the remodel. After six years since the remodel, he has never had a water problem.

Digging out a basement will be more expensive than a typical basement remodel. There are some additional costs you should be prepared for beyond the actual excavation costs. You'll need to consider the cost of rebuilding a staircase and any existing interior walls of your basement, lowering plumbing and possibly the main sewer if you are lowering the floors of your basement, and enlarging any basement bedroom windows to code.

This is not a project to take lightly. Remember to involve professionals, waterproof, test for radon, and never forget the sump pump.

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