Many homeowners think basement finishing will be a simple project. It's just putting down some flooring and hanging drywall, right? Well, that's a small part of it. There's a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to creating a new below-ground space. Find out eight essential questions to ask before you finish your basement.
1. How will you utilize your new space?
The most important thing to consider before setting a plan for your basement remodel is how you will use the space. Do you need an extra bedroom suite for guests, would you like an upscale bar area to entertain friends, or are you looking for a playroom for the kids? How you plan to use the space will ultimately guide the price, design, and construction. When you choose to work with a full-service remodeler like Brothers, professional designers help you plan your basement layout so you can get the most out of it.
2. What are the codes, and will you be required to obtain permits?
Your county likely has codes that need to be met for details like electrical work, HVAC, plumbing, and space requirements. For example, Maryland code calls for 7 feet of clearance on most basement ceilings. If your basement does not reach that height, your remodeler may be able to move ducts and pipes to raise the ceiling, something you'll need to consider well in advance of construction.
While applying for permits can take some extra time and adds some cost, it is essential to avoid legal and structural issues later. Full-service remodeling companies like Brothers obtain permits and schedule inspections for their clients to ensure that all work is up to code. That way, homeowners don't have to waste time learning and navigating the system.
3. Is there a safe way for people to enter and exit?
Basement living spaces and bedrooms require a way to exit in case of an emergency, called an egress. Egress code requirements vary based on the type of basement, but you will likely need to plan for a door or appropriately sized window. For example, on some homes a casement window will suffice, saving space, whereas in others a larger double-hung window is needed to meet building code requirements.
4. How will you keep moisture out?
Nothing is more detrimental to a basement than moisture, leading to rot and mold. Water may have already gotten into your basement before your project even begins. Your remodeler should check for this and fix the issue before beginning construction, as well as take the proper precautions to make sure that it doesn't happen again in the future.
If your basement is already moisture-free, you still need to take the proper steps to insulate it from future water damage. Vapor barriers should be installed both behind the drywall and under the flooring prior to finishing the surfaces. Additionally, a moisture barrier can be added against the basement wall and behind the insulation and framing.
5. Is your waste management system ready for an extra bathroom?
Many homeowners choose to add a bedroom and bathroom suite when finishing their basement. But you have to consider how water supply lines come into the house and how the additional wastewater will be eliminated. Do you have a septic tank and is it big enough to handle the new bathroom while remaining up to code? For example, if you have a septic tank running on gravity but your new bathroom is below the pipes, your remodeler will need to install a sewer ejector to push out the waste water.
6. Will you need to make changes to the HVAC system?
Is your HVAC system big enough to heat and cool the new space? If not, you will need to boost it by doing things like tapping into existing lines or supplementing heat with a gas fireplace or electric baseboard.
Another thing to consider is the space where the HVAC units and water heater are. Many homeowners choose to leave this area unfinished as there are specific code requirements for space and framing. However, you can make adjustments like finishing a concrete floor with an epoxy coating to improve the space.
7. Can your electrical system support the extra circuits that will be required?
Another important consideration for code compliance, electric systems must be able to carry the significantly increased load from the finished basement. Your remodeler will determine if the circuit breaker and strength of the electrical current, called amperage, is sufficient. If not, you may need to install a subpanel or upgrade the amperage service.
8. How can you stay within budget?
Knowing the scope of your project will help you, and your remodeler, keep costs within your predefined budget. While there are often unforeseen issues that could add to the cost, one thing you can control is the level of finish. Again, consider how you wish to use the space. Will you be including a wet bar and using the basement as your primary space for entertaining friends? If so, you may want to choose higher end flooring and unique ceiling treatments. Or is it simply a place for the family to relax and watch TV? In that case, skip the expensive finish and save on your remodel.
After learning all the intricacies of finishing a basement, is it really worth it to undertake this project? According to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value analysis, homeowners can expect to recoup 70% of their basement finishing project cost in home value. So, when you finish your basement, you not only gain new space to enjoy, but you could also substantially increase your home's value.
When you work with a full-service remodeler like Brothers, experienced consultants can help you answer all of the important questions above. If you're ready to finish your basement, let the remodeling experts at Brothers guide you through the process. Schedule a no-pressure consultation to learn more.