Revamp your lower level to add high style, function, and major value to your home.
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Advertisement

While an unfinished basement works great as extra storage space, a basement refinishing could make it much more useful for your family. A lower-level remodel can transform that under-utilized space into an additional living area, such as a home theater, craft room, or playroom. However you plan to use the extra space, a finished basement ensures your home's lower level doesn't go to waste. Besides expanding your home's functional square feet, finishing a basement can significantly boost the property's value. For a successful basement refinish, proper planning is essential. Here's what to expect when you finish a basement.

remodeled basement crafting room
Credit: Marty Baldwin

1. Expect a Payback

Finishing a basement can be a good investment. According to cost versus value surveys conducted annually by Remodeling magazine, nationally, the average return on investment for a basement project is around 75 cents on the dollar. Besides the financial gains, refinishing a basement will add new functionality to your home: more bedrooms, more efficient storage, and more space for entertaining.

2. Flex Your DIY Muscle

Plumbing and wiring are best left to professionals. Still, some basement refinishing projects (such as framing walls, installing insulation, and hanging drywall) are within the capabilities of experienced DIYers. Remember to line up proper building permits first; failure to do so could result in delays.

3. Add Light Sources

Plan for as many windows and doors as possible to let natural light when you do your basement refinishing. Make sure openings are cut before other work begins and seal off the rest of the house from the resulting masonry dust. Before creating any new windows or doors, have a building professional ensure the surrounding walls can take on the increased structural load.

remodeled basement with blue couch
Credit: David A Land

4. Put Safety First in Stairwells

Create beautiful and safe access to your finished basement with stylish stair handrails. You should also beef up the walls supporting the handrails and keep them in place after the building inspector has signed off on the project.

5. Make Moisture Worries Evaporate

Installing a dehumidifier won't fix moisture problems. In fact, it can create problems by drawing water through foundation walls. To prevent moisture in a finished basement, ensure good drainage off your roof and away from your foundation, provide good ventilation of bathrooms and kitchens to the outside, and don't open windows during humid months. Along with breathable insulation, a vapor retardant should be installed between interior stud walls and floors and between foundation walls and floor slabs.

6. Find the Right Flooring Option

Not all flooring can (or should) be used in a finished basement. Solid wood is one example; even minor fluctuations in moisture levels can cause buckling and splitting. Instead, shop for products such as vinyl planks, ceramic tile, and engineered wood flooring that can be used below grade and still achieve the look you want.

remodeled basement childrens play area
Credit: David A Land

7. Decide How to Finish the Ceiling

Drop ceiling tiles work well in basements because it's easy to move them individually to access plumbing pipes or electrical hookups if needed. An installed drywall ceiling is another good option, but remember that ceiling textures can easily flake off. Regardless of the style you select, remember that the highest level of your basement ceiling is the same height as the lowest hanging pipe, duct, or wire.

8. Check Your Heating Capabilities

Your home's heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems may have been installed depending on upper-level requirements. Have an HVAC contractor verify that you also have the right equipment to serve the basement. Otherwise, you could reduce the equipment's life span.

9. Rein in Radon

When planning a basement refinishing, it's essential to test for radon. Radon is an odorless radioactive gas that seeps into basements from surrounding soils. Uncontrolled, it can expose you and your family to the equivalent of 200 chest x-rays annually. Test for it with charcoal-base collectors, or hire a licensed radon contractor. Or you can check if your local utility company offers radon testing. Mitigating radon may involve sealing cracks and surfaces or installing ventilators.

10. Have an Escape Route

You should plan ahead for emergencies when refinishing a basement. Local building codes may demand egress windows for a basement room to be considered a bedroom. An enclosed closet may also be required. Egress windows must be large enough for a firefighter in full gear to get into a burning house and for occupants to safely escape if stairways are blocked by fire. Another egress option is to add hinged outside access doors.

Comments

Be the first to comment!