Your home improvement questions, answered by professionals from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), an association of remodeling professionals committed to providing consumers with high standards of quality, honesty, integrity, and responsibility.
Q. We're running out of room in our small house and are considering a basement remodel to add living space. How do I assess my basement to determine if it is worth finishing? Are there cases in which a basement should not be finished? What obstacles might I run into during the process? What types of projects would I have to call in a professional for?
A. Finishing a basement is a great way to add space and value to a home. There are, however, several things to consider.
First, is the basement is dry? If not, this must be dealt with. You don't want any water entering behind walls or under flooring for obvious reasons. If the space is not reliably dry, it should not be finished.
The next thing to consider is how the space will be used. Is there a source of natural light? If you are using the space as a family room, what's above it? You might not want the noises directly below a bedroom, for instance. If you intend to add a bedroom, there are specific requirements for egress. There needs to be a direct escape point to the outside of the house. Your local building inspection department can tell you what the requirements are for your area.
The most difficult things to deal with are typically the existing mechanical systems, such as heating ducts, plumbing pipes, and electrical wiring. Structural elements such as beams and posts are also common items to work around. Sometimes they can be relocated economically. Other times they must be built around and incorporated into the space.
The best advice I can offer is to have a well-designed plan that will account for the specific needs and realities of your space. A good designer is often a smart investment. Basements have some unique obstacles as well as possibilities. A thoughtful design will help make the most of your space, while minimizing the obstacles.
As for when to use a professional, that depends on how comfortable you are with your skills. There are many areas of work to be done: carpentry, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, drywall, etc. You will need to determine how much you are able/ willing to do, and what you will need to hire someone to do for you. A great resource for professional remodelers is your local NARI chapter. There you will find a list of qualified people who can help from design to completion.
Jay Statz, certified remodeler, owns Statz Construction Services LLC, in Middleton, Wisconsin. His company has been specializing in full-service residential remodeling since 1995. He is past president of National Associate of the Remodeling Industry of Madison, Wisconsin, and currently serves as the chairman of the board. Statz is also a member of the Wisconsin Licensing Council, helping to establish the rules that will govern this new licensing program. You can learn more about his company at statzconstruction.com.