Becoming a basement dweller

Posted by on December 18th, 2015


There’s a way of expanding living space that’s making a modern-day resurgence, and it’s really on the down-low.

Basements were first intended for utility – underground is a perfect place to store temperature and light-sensitive perishable goods, and a great place to wait out a storm.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that some intrepid, creative types figured out there was a real opportunity down there. A place that could be an extra room for family, or just for the guys.

Many today who are blessed with basements aren’t aware of what they have – but a finished basement can really add to the value of a home.

Those who have the desire and the drive can make much more out of the subterranean space.

Besides increasing living area, you can add a bathroom or customize the space for specialty use.

Take the steps:

Even if it’s just a cold, concrete floor and bare walls right now, your basement probably has a lot of potential. To get a good idea of what that potential is, commit to moving everything that’s being stored down there out of the way, at least for the time being.

Once the floor is cleared, sweep and vacuum.

Ensure the basement is watertight before beginning the next phase. Being that it’s downstairs, and mostly underground, mold issues or water leaks can ruin the remodel. Left unchecked, these kinds of problems can be a lot more expensive to fix down the road.

Check all the interiors walls and floors for areas of standing water, drippy pipes, cracks or leaks, and make sure to inspect the exterior foundation for potential problems as well.

If you find no water or mold problems, take steps to prevent them from ever coming. Protect the floor with a special waterproof epoxy sealant and cover walls with a vapor barrier or special insulation that is already enclosed in the material.

Paint the walls with mold-resistant primer. After it’s dry, walls may be re-painted to any color.

Budget wisely

Now that everything is up off the floor, and the basement has passed basic quality review, determine which features are most important to you.

People who aim for something vague and spectacular are apt to be disappointed. Plan ahead on a budget, with known expenditures on each stage. Design a realistic layout to accommodate new additions. A professional contractor can help, if desired.

Start with the appliances that have to be down there. A water heater and a furnace, for example, are necessary, but you can section off the area with walls to keep these appliances concealed. Same with washer-dryer sets.

When determining a budget, only make cuts where making cuts makes sense. It’s cold down there, so you are going to want to spend generously on insulation. With furniture and flooring you can be a little thrifty.

Start at the bottom floor

There are many options for flooring. The longer you plan to stay in the home, the more flexibility you have in budgeting. If you’re going to be there a while, there’s no reason not to spend.

Laminate and engineered floors are sturdy and flexible, but because they float, meaning they aren’t attached to the basement floor or the walls, they might not work well if the floor is not perfectly level.

Ceramic tile and Vinyl are good ways to cover the entire floor without worrying about the floor being level. Ceramic is quite a bit more expensive.

A super-cool remove-able option is customizable gym flooring. The gym flooring is durable and flexible, and would be particularly appealing to someone planning to make a home workout space.

Install indoor-outdoor carpeting to give the basement a warmer, homey feel. Use double-faced carpet tape or adhesive to tack down the indoor-outdoor carpet. Removable carpet squares are also a great option. You can change your mind later, leave them, and even pack them up when you leave.

Plug it in

Now’s the time to begin choosing furniture and appliances for the basement. Most basements are wired for electricity, so there should be little limitation on the kind of things you can do.

Most will choose to add significant lighting to brighten up the space, and it’s an excellent place to store an extra fridge or freezer. Maybe you’d like a sewing room, a craft room, a room for processing your collectibles or a project workshop. The options are almost limitless.

Maybe throw in a billiard or foosball table – and add a TV, sound system and a wet bar, and suddenly you have a nice man cave. And ladies, don’t forget the newest trend in basement renovations – the “she shed.”

Basement Bathroom

When you need an extra bathroom in your home, but don’t want to add square footage to the exterior, the basement can be the perfect way out.

In the basement, you can save money on by already having one existing wall built, even two if you build in a corner. This can be a full-fledged luxury bathroom or just a shower and a utility sink. You’re bounded only by your imagination and your budget – the biggest cost is going to be the plumbing.

For a job as big as this, you’re not going to want to DIY unless you are a plumbing contractor. A professional will work closely with the homeowner to select the right fixtures and products to fit your needs and budget.

The bottom line

Basement remodeling is a large project for any home, but can add a welcoming touch to any living space. Whether a rec-room, family room or workshop, a basement makeover done well can be a longtime source of entertainment, while still maintaining most of its utility.

The key to achieving a basement remodel is to never leave it half-finished. Make sure the plan is workable and you work it all the way through. Don’t stop until you realize your underlying dream.

In this case, it’s worse to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.