Homeowners often look at their basements as the ideal spot for adding for living space to their house. It makes sense—the space is already there, probably used for little more besides laundry facilities and storage. Converting it to something else is likely to be less expensive or disruptive than adding on a space somewhere else in the home. But there can be pitfalls, as well, and it’s important to do some due diligence before you make extensive plans or spend a lot of money.
Typically, utilities are already in place (water, gas, electricity, sewer lines) in a basement, which can be a great cost savings. Heating and cooling costs are generally less for basement areas, as well. However, these advantages need to be weighed against the possible pitfalls of opening up this space for additional use.
- Do ductwork and/or overhead pipes need to be concealed?
- How much natural light filters through the windows?
- How much additional lighting may be required to create a warm and comfortable space?
- How much ventilation is available, and have there ever been any indications of mold, mildew or leaks?
Below-grade spaces are subject to water and moisture. Water can build up between the slab and foundation wall. If so, this may be an easy fix, provided its source is something like defective gutters and downspouts. If the issue is more involved than this, the solution will be, as well.
In any event, a basement remodel should utilize water-resistant materials such as mold-proof PVC moldings, compressed fiberglass wall panels, and moisture-proof drop ceilings.
Lighting can be upgraded with fluorescent overhead fixtures or perimeter lighting like sconces or recessed spotlights.
And don’t overlook safety concerns: Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are a must, as are extinguishers and fire-resistant materials. Even with stairs leading to the upper level, easy egress through windows is a not just a precaution, but is dictated by safety codes.
Re-making your basement space into something more inviting and user-friendly can be a rewarding experience, so long as you proceed with caution and with all the available information at your fingertips. Consult with a licensed, reputable contractor, and be aware that you cannot convert a basement without you or the contractor obtaining permits.
For consultation and assistance with a basement remodel, talk to your local Handyman Matters office. They can be reached by calling 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME.