Don’t wing it. Many people start basement remodeing projects without a plan and end up making mistakes that drive up costs and affect the long term safety and functionality of their lower level living space.
The nice thing about adding space in a basement is it can save money vs. a room addition since the perimeter walls and foundation are already in place. The challenge with this project can be obstructions (support beams), wet or damp basements, code requirements for egress, and how to work with and around the utilities. These problems require careful design and planning before beginning construction.
In this article learn 5 ½ steps for a successful lower level remodeling design.
Step 1 – Fix what’s broken – Do not begin this project without an inspection of the basement. First clean out the basement of unnecessary junk (this may be the toughest part of the project for many people). Once the basement is clean – look for dampness, mold, leaks and fungus. If there is a problem contact professional waterproofing contractors to identify the best solution to your problem. If you see cracks in the walls and floors make sure they are sealed. Check for the existence of radon gas.
Step 2 – Make a layout of your existing space- Create a floor plan of your lower level as it exists right now. Include in your drawing the following:
- Poles or obstructions
- Location of windows and doors
- Location of utilities – fuse box/circuit breaker, shutoff valves for gas, water
- Appliances – furnace, water heater, washers/dryers, slop sinks
- Pencil in where the heat/air ducts are located
Step 3 – Design it and then it will work- You’re not building a field of dreams here – so design it and then they will come doesn’t really make sense. The key is to think through what you need and want and then to overlay your future design with your existing structure (what you completed in step 2) of the basement. Here are some questions to help you prioritize:
- What type of room(s) do you need?-Separate your needs from your wants. Yes -everyone would love the coolest looking basement with all the bells and whistles but if you’re like most you’re working on a budget. To address your needs think about what pain is driving you to investigate doing this project. Do you need a bedroom because a family member is moving in or a teenage needs their own space? Is an extra bathroom required? Are you looking to save money in a small business and looking to move your office into the home?
- What type of room(s) would you want – Depending on your budget you may spend on your needs first and then continue the remodeling project with your wants in the future. Some common wants for a basement remodeling project include creating a ” man cave ” (a recreation/entertainment room for the big games), adding a home theater, a hobby/craft area, or a gym and workout room.
Step 4 – Look for ways to reduce costs, improve your design, and make sure your project is done correctly and safely the first time- The reason to design first and start your demo and construction second is to properly plan before spending money or creating a finished space that is unsafe. Here’s a few ideas to cut costs and make sure you’re project’s done right the first time:
- Find the plumbing– Locate your bathroom, kitchen or laundry rooms as close to existing plumbing as possible.
- Know the egress codes– improve light and air flow– In most local building codes an operable emergency exit window or door is required for each bedroom and also for common use areas like TV and exercise rooms. The open space for this window needs to equal or exceed 5.7 square feet. Adding additional light and ventilation can make a huge difference in how the lower level living space feels and can improve your future resale value for this improvement. Also if you’re doing your crafts and hobbies in the basement you may need to design in improved air flow.
- Identify cool ways to work around poles and pipes– Coolness will be in the details. You may want to buy fiberglass columns, decoratively box around poles, or include the obstructions inside the finished walls.
- Add sound deadening insulation between rooms– If you’re going to use one of the rooms for a home office or bedroom you’ll want to make sure to use the right type of insulation between the walls to deaden the sound between different areas of the basement.
Step 5 – Have a little fun – What would a basement remodeling project be without a little bit of fun? At least design in one or two fun elements into your project. Would you like a steam room or glass block walk in shower in the bathroom? Would adjustable tray type lighting provide a nicer mood in the space? Perhaps you want to add a wet bar with a granite countertop?
Step 5 1/2- Don’t be afraid to call for help – As you can see there are a lot of decisions and design considerations in a lower level home improvement project. Don’t be afraid to call a qualified design/build contractor to help you out – this can save you a lot of money in the long run and you’ll Basement Remodel Quincy MA get a guarantee as well. Check out their rankings with the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List as well.
Know that you’ve equipped with these 5 ½ steps to basement remodeling success you’re ready to add that much needed space for your family.
Mike Foti is President of Cleveland Design & Remodeling, Columbus Design & Remodeling and The Bath Doctor of Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati Ohio. These companies specialize in basement, bathroom and kitchen remodeling projects of all sizes. In addition through Mike’s Columbus Glass Block division the company serves as nationwide factory direct suppliers & installers of bathroom remodeling products including glass block shower wall, base and accessory products.