Basements, depending on the state, are either non-existent, used as storage spaces, or add a whole new dimension to the house. If you have a basement and are thinking of remodeling it to serve a new purpose, then read on before you pick up a hammer.
Home on a Hill
One of the biggest risks of having a basement is water damage, which can creep in stealthily and not be discovered until it’s too late. Houses positioned higher on the street or an a slight incline typically fare okay, as excess water will pass them by on route to seeking the lowest point.
For other homes, though, a sump pump is as necessary to the basement remodeling process as ketchup is to grilled cheese sandwiches: it’s not an absolute must, but it just makes the whole thing better.
When to Start?
No work should begin until everything is dry. This tip applies to all remodeling projects, but is particularly useful for basements. The things you want to check for are that the ground slopes down away from the wall, unclogged downspouts, and no moisture or water damage on the exterior walls. If everything isn’t dry, moisture will get trapped and almost always lead to mold, which can cause serious breathing problems.
How High Can You Go?
Basements tend to be the forgotten spaces in a home and consequently, many of them have low ceilings. It’s possible to raise the ceiling height, but that takes a lot of work, including obtaining permits, licenses, contractors, materials, and compromising the integrity of the house.
Just Go With It
Instead of worrying about the ceiling height, it’s easier just to forge ahead based on how high or low it actually is. Finishing the ceiling can be addressed in one of two ways:
Higher than 8 feet: A suspended ceiling is a good idea in this case, as a grid is installed to hang from the ceiling and cover it. It can also be decorated in a variety of colors and designs, and comes in 2’ x 2’ panels that cover the wires and pipes above it. Lower than 8 feet: Low ceilings need to be covered, too, albeit in a different way. Installing panels is a good idea because it’s a quick and easy way to access the wires and pipes above it, and can work in conjunction with Gyprock or sheetrock.
These are important in any part of the house, but more so in the basement because they’re the only barrier between the inner contents and the damp earth. Because moisture is always a risk, install furring so there’s at least ½” of space between moisture and the wall.
Walls also need to be insulated from the cold, but traditional fibers can cause severe itchiness during the installation process. As an alternative, use polyurethane sheeting to create a vapor barrier that keeps moisture out.
This can almost be considered the easy part of the basement remodeling process, as you can do just about anything your heart and budget allows. Do you want your own movie theater? Go ahead and stick a huge screen TV down there, along with a deluxe speaker system and comfortable seating.
If it’s storage you’re after, that’s easy, too. Invest in furniture, shelves and cabinetry that’s of better quality so you can assemble and disassemble the parts easily in case you move homes. Tip: keep valuables, like photo albums, furniture or other goods, on risers so that if there is water damage, your items will be safe.