Guide to Finishing Your Basement
Do you need more liveable square footage out of your home? Finishing your basement is a cost-effective way to get what you want by using what you have.
A basement renovation costs less than an addition since the structure and the footings/foundation are already in place. There is little, if any, impact on the exterior finishings of your house so it’s not likely that you will need to spend money on items like roofing and siding. Utilities are already near the construction area, and sometimes even roughed in, reducing the cost of labor and supplies.
Have you been thinking about renovating your basement but aren’t sure where to start or what’s involved? We’ve put together a guide to get you from start to finish.
Ask yourself why you want to renovate or finish your basement?
Are you hoping to gain living space for your family? Whether it’s your family growing in size or your family members, a basement can provide much-needed relief to a crowded home. If your kids need some room to be kids, you could consider putting in a designated playroom if they are young or a theater-room if they are older. Maybe you already have the hangout space down and just need to give that teenager his or her own room? A basement is a perfect place, especially given the different hours and intense sleep schedules teenagers tend to keep.
Are you looking to expand your storage and utility capabilities? It’s true, a basement is a great place for a full-sized laundry room with all the bells and whistles. And storage? How about rolling shelving units, walk-in cold rooms, or off-season closets? If you work from home or are self-employed, why not treat yourself to a distraction-free work environment and build a home office? The term utility doesn’t have to stop at practical though. Get to the gym in under 5 minutes by dedicating a room in your basement as a home gym. Or, get inspired by the rich and famous. Wine cellars, pools, and full-size bars might be the splurge you’ve been dreaming of.
Do you want a rental unit? If you don’t use your basement and don’t feel the need for more usable space for those living there, why let it sit empty? You may want to explore the idea of converting it into a basement suite. Basement suites can deliver an excellent return on investment: you can earn rent and your home resale value will increase. Make sure to check with your city zoning laws to confirm this is allowable before starting.
Are you selling your home or plan to in the future? Developing your basement can both increase the value of your home and make it more appealing to potential buyers. The key to making your basement a selling feature is to be practical. Bedrooms, bathrooms, family rooms, and tenant suites are all viewed as beneficial additions to any home. When it comes to aesthetics and decor, it’s best to keep things simple and neutral to appeal to a wider audience.
Once you can answer why it’s time to answer how.
Make a list to define how you will use the basement to meet your main goal of renovating. Be specific. Daydream in detail. Do you see your family playing games and watching movies in a cozy media room? Will your kids love spending time in their own bedrooms? Is a home gym going to keep you working out more regularly because it’s so convenient? Will laundry become more enjoyable in an actual laundry room as opposed to a mudroom/laundry combo?
The more details you add to your vision, the more likely your renovation will stay on track.
Now that you know what you want to get out of your basement, it’s time to find out if there are any construction considerations that might pose any problems.
A basement renovation requires in-depth groundwork and research to establish if it is structurally feasible. The main concerns are usually foundation cracks, ductwork, existing framing, and moisture problems.
It’s true, these preliminary steps aren’t very exciting, but making them a priority will prevent the wrong kind of excitement in the future. You know the kind we’re talking about. Leaking windows, uneven floors, musty smells, or, worst of all, compromised structural integrity of your home.
How to know if there’s a moisture issue in your basement
The most obvious sign is a pool of water on the floor, but there are a few other signs you might find if you know what to look for. Watch for mold and mildew, stained floors, rust stains, wet/rotting wood, and wall cracks. Other clues include drylock flake (when concrete sealer bubbles and flakes) and efflorescence (a white mineral deposit buildup).
What to expect if there is an issue.
Often, addressing moisture issues can be a simple fix such as adjusting downspouts or checking the backflow valve. Other times, you might be looking at something much bigger. You might need to install an exterior waterproofing barrier or consider putting in a sump pit.
Want peace of mind? Hire a qualified contractor to assess your basement. Even if you are making changes to an already finished basement. Foundation leaks and moisture issues are at the root of many basement renovations.
Once you are confident your basement doesn’t have moisture issues, it’s time to shift your focus to prevention. The materials you choose for insulation and drywall should be appropriate for the conditions of the space. The goal is to avoid mold. Research the best R-value for your area and invest in the best form of insulation you can afford. Many contractors today have moved away from fiberglass. Spray foam, foam board or mineral wool are the top choices today. Consult a professional like Green Touch Home Improvement to learn the advantages and disadvantages of each.
What else stops mold from growing in your basement? Adequate ventilation. Windows provide temporary ventilation but aren’t very reliable. They are dependent on weather conditions and need constant monitoring. They also aren’t very helpful if you live somewhere where there is high humidity in the air. A good quality HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilation) system will reduce high humidity, odors, and pollutants. They work by replacing stagnant air with fresh warm air.
Another worthwhile preventative measure is checking for exterior pest points of entry and sealing them off. Rodents and insects love to live in your walls and can cause a lot of issues. They are also one of the top deterrents for potential buyers. Preventing an infestation can save you money, time, and a lot of stress.
Noise can really influence the enjoyability factor of your basement. Soundproofing your basement ceiling with insulation will eliminate vibration noise from above. Placing mechanical equipment on antivibration mats helps dampen their operating noise. Fewer connections between ducts decreases the sound that travels between the basement and upper floor.
PERMITS, CODES & INSPECTIONS
Designers today are better than ever at creating basements that look like anything but a basement. The options for how you want to use your basement are practically limitless. Keep in mind though, that a long list of options means a long list of building codes.
Whether it’s the use of CO2 and smoke detectors or GFI receptacles, you should look for a contractor who is knowledgeable about local building codes. They can help you meet the specifications for everything from room sizes and emergency window well egresses to outside combustion air for a furnace or boiler.
If your contractor recommends proceeding without pulling permits, run. Aside from the obvious reason that doing so puts your family at risk, it could also create more (expensive) work in the future if you decide to sell your house.
Take photos and inform your realtor if you do invest in hidden upgrades. When it comes to the competitive world of real estate, every little bit helps.
Now it’s time for the fun stuff — planning the layout and design of your basement.
Look for inspiration pictures that reflect your vision and flow with the rest of your home.
When you draw up your floor plan, a good starting point is to place the fixtures that are already there. This makes it much easier to work around them. Staircases, windows, doorways, closets, mechanical equipment, and existing lighting all influence wall and furniture placement. Look at where your bulkheads are. An experienced designer can make them blend in.
If your basement is on the smaller side, opt for open concept design to make it feel bigger. Define different zones using furniture and decor. This will help keep things from feeling disorganized. It also leaves room for flexibility if you need to change things around.
Using bold colors in your basement can add drama, but it can also make it feel small. Light, neutral colors will make the room feel bigger. If you really need color in your basement, add pops of color with textiles and accessories.
Avoid having your renovation look obvious by keeping it in tune with the rest of your home’s style and decor. This doesn’t mean you need to spend the same amount on finishings and decor though. You just have to know when to splurge and when to save. A contractor or designer can help you invest in the right materials.
A nice cushy carpet can do wonders in upping the coziness factor in a basement. And real hardwood is beautiful and durable. But the unstable humidity levels of a basement can make certain types of flooring a difficult reality. Real hardwood expands and contracts beyond their engineered capacity in high moisture areas. Newer luxury vinyl tile flooring is designed to withstand moisture and water. And if carpet is a non-negotiable, do your research or consider throw rugs.
Add unexpected touches to areas of compromise to make things flow. For example, different flooring paired with the same beautiful baseboard trim and crown molding from upstairs can disguise the differences.
If you are going to go through all this effort to create a beautifully designed and beautifully finished basement, you’ll want to make sure people can see it.
A basement needs more fixtures than the other spaces in your home. Pot lights have a low-profile design that makes them the perfect choice for basements. If they are out of your budget, a great alternative is track lighting.
The secret to great lighting in any space is layers. Put dimmers on ceiling lights to adjust the lighting to match the mood. Add plenty of electrical outlets to allow for strategic lamp placement. After all, it’s hard to play ping pong in the dark and no one wants to watch a movie in bright light.
A basement renovation can take homeowners down many paths, some bumpier than others. When planning your budget, it’s a good idea to create a range. Decide how much you’d like the entire project to cost and how much you can afford if things go awry. Do this before getting quotes and doing research. Being prepared will help your contractor set realistic expectations and deliverables. Remember, once the space is finished, you still have to be able to furnish it.
Are You Ready To Remodel Or Finish Your Basement?
Green Touch Home Improvement is a full service home remodeling contractor serving Hunterdon County NJ and the surrounding area. We can remodel or finish your basement in Annandale, Califon, Chester, Clinton, Flemington, High Bridge, Lebanon, Tewksbury, Union Township, and Washington. Whether you want to build an amazing new media room, more bedrooms for a growing family, an in-law suite, or a home office our team of craftsman will be able to make it happen for you.
If you’d like to discuss your basement remodeling project please give Green Touch Home Improvement a call today (908) 437-8170 or fill out our online contact form and we’ll help you transform your basement into the space you’ve always wanted it to be!