Whether you’re designing a new basement from scratch or trying to remodel one into something truly amazing, finishing your basement the right way can be a real pain. If you’re looking for some help with that difficult task, you’re in a right place.
There are a lot of things that have to be taken into consideration when finishing a basement – and some of them are exclusive to the basement alone. After all, your ordinary interiors, such as your living room or a bedroom rarely experience problems with moisture and escape routes, right?
While troublesome, remodeling your basement is usually worth it. That’s why I consider it to be a high risk, high reward kind of interior – as long as you do it the right way, your basement will become a true gem of your house. However, for that, you need not only plenty of determination, but also a lot of time and money. Let’s try to take a closer look at all the matters you have to take care of when remodeling your basement.
Check where does the main drain runs
If you want to connect your basement to the water line of your house, it’s crucial to check whether the main drain runs below the level of your basement, or above it.
If you’re lucky, the main drain will be below the basement level, or at least as a height that allows you to create a slight slope, enough for the waste to exit your basement by the force of gravity. However, if you’re not so lucky, the main drain will be above your basement, which makes it impossible.
In that case, you will need a suction pump, which you will have to use to get rid of all the filthy water and waste. This option is obviously more expensive, as not only do you have to buy the pump, but also maintain it and use it, which means higher electricity bills.
Of course, this is important only for these of you who want to install a sink or a whole new bathroom in your basement. While it’s one of the more costly remodels, it offers some amazing possibilities, from the designers point of view.
Your basement doesn’t have to match the design of the rest of your house
Think of it like that – the main advantage of remodeling your basement into something much more than it currently is, is the fact that are is nothing restricting you. For example, if you live in a wooden house, it’s hard to install a heavy, luxurious bathroom or an entire sauna, somewhere on the upper floors – without additional support, the construction of your house might have a hard time surviving such remodel. However, when we’re talking about the basement, apart from the costs there is absolutely nothing restricting you.
And then, there is the case of being cohesive with the rest of your houses design – but your basement doesn’t have to match any of your other interiors, which are above the ground. Think of it as if it was a whole new dimension – why not remodel the basement into a spa-like sanctuary, even if the house above it is something entirely different? There are no limits when it comes to the bathroom.
Letting some daylight inside can be hard, but necessary
Okay so first of all, there is nothing better than daylight when it comes to illuminating your interiors, and I’m quite sure we’re all well aware of it. However, when talking about your basement, you might be thinking there are no windows and there shouldn’t be any anyway because it’s a basement after all. Wrong.
This is where it gets costly – you will likely have to install a window in your basement. The thing is, most of the building codes say that you’re obligated to provide an additional escape route from your basement if you want to remodel it to be something more than a basement.
To make the long story short, if you want to keep your potatoes in a concrete, unfinished basement, then you’re fine without a window – but if you want to remodel your basement into what resembles a normal interior, just like any of the ones above ground, then it has to have at least one window, big enough to escape through it.
While it might sound scary at first, it’s not all that bad – at least, it’s possible to do it, but it doesn’t come cheap. If your basement is entirely below the ground, because I know people also have basements that are sticking above it in some parts of them, then you will have to create a window well.
I did mention the window has to be somewhat big, so don’t forget about that or else the city hall might want to have a word with you, and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to have a word with them. Be it as it may, there is one more problem – the window well might be catching too much water, so you’ll need a pump to get rid of that problem for you.
Yeah, I know it’s not very cool, but if anything happens, you’ll be happy they made you create that window. Safety should always be your first priority. And then there is the case of daylight, so when you’re done with all the remodel, an additional window is never a bad thing, right?
Mind your ducts
If you want to create a truly awesome basement which will make all of your guests drop dead from envy, then all the wires, ducts and pipes and whatnot shouldn’t be left visible. Unless you’re going for an industrial vibe because you’ll be inviting your heavy-metal friends over, that is.
Hiding all the practical stuff is not very easy, but it’s not all that scary either. All you need is a crew of contractors who know what they are doing – in case they don’t, you can always show them this article. I’ll try to explain it really fast.
So basically, you should conceal all the ugly stuff behind a fake ceiling. Such a lower ceiling will be your actual ceiling, visually, while behind it there will be enough space to cover all the pipes and wires.
It’s really a great thing, visually, because your basement will lose the basement feeling, and resemble any other interior as if it was your true living room.
While you’re at it, always remember to leave access panels – you still need to have access to all the shutoffs and whatnot, in case something happens. Don’t cover this stuff without any means of getting to them later, without the use of a sledgehammer.
One more thing – because the shutoffs will most likely be cover behind a drywall, it’s important that you install said drywall a bit higher than you normally would – leave an inch or so of a gap between it and the floor, and fill the gap with something else that you’ll be able to reapply later. This is because basements are known for being flooded, and you don’t want your entire drywall ruined if something like that happens.
The drywall itself can be a fiberglass-faced one or a paper-faced one – I suggest you invest a bit more into it and get yourself the fiberglass one, which is moisture-resistant and that’s what’s needed in a basement.
What should the ceiling be made from?
Basically, people used to use drywall for their basement ceilings, but they no more do. Why?
There are a plethora of things that can happen above the basement which will cause troubles below. For example, if your dishwasher malfunctions or you child forgets to turn off the water when taking a bath, that’s a ready recipe for a flood. The water starts soaking through the floor, and guess what’s under your floor? That’s right, the ceiling of your basement.
A wet drywall means a lot of hassle – you have to cut off big parts of it, replace them, things get ugly, you make a mistake and before you know it, the whole ceiling is just ruined. Who wants that?
Because of this, people started using tile ceilings in their basements, and I’m a huge fan myself – if anything goes wrong, all you have to do is take out a tile or two and replace them, easy as that.
The height of your basement
You can make your basement as high as you want it to be, all it takes to make it higher is digging down and removing the ground. However, the as you keep digging, problems with water and moisture might be a problem. When to say ” enough” ?
Basically, the height of your basement is determined by the way you want to use it. Of course, if you want to make it an interior that’s convenient for all sorts of activities, that’s at least your size plus a stretched out arm. If you want to be able to get on a chair or something, for any reason, that’s additional space required.
Some people have basketball courts in their basement, so just imagine how high it has to be for that to be possible. Still, if you need something more ordinary, then you won’t have to dig so low.
However, a treadmill, for example, is a more common sight in a basement, so always measure what you want to have in your basement before you start finishing it.
The problems with water and moisture levels
The most common problem in every basement – moisture. How to make sure your basement is perfectly waterproof?
Of course, there are moisture barriers, pumps, and whatnot to make sure you’re not in for a flood anytime soon. However, that’s expensive and not everyone can afford to buy all the equipment. Because of that, some people just pray nothing will happen and wish for the best.
However, some solutions do not cost almost anything extra, and should always be used when finishing a basement – for example, water resistant flooring materials. Basement floorings can vary in price, but you should consider only the ones that are water resistant – some of them aren’t really more expensive than their non-water resistant counterparts, and you’ll thank me in the comments if the water somewhat does get into your basement.
Another possible solution is installing a floor drain – while this solution costs a bit more, that’s still not as bad as having to remove all of your furniture, flooring, textiles and whatnot if anything happens.
The bottom line is, your basement remodel is not the cheapest of remodels out there, so don’t start one before you save enough money to do it properly, or else you might regret it later.
Illuminating your basement
I’ve already told you about installing a window in your basement, both because of the daylight and the building codes, but daylight coming through such a window is usually not enough to cover all your needs.
In my opinion, it’s best if you install indirect sources of light in your basement. First of all, the ceiling is usually lower here than it is in any interior above the ground – which means the reflections of light cast by your ceiling are usually enough to illuminate it evenly. Not only that, but the basement usually has no more than one window, which means it’s a rather dim interior – which makes the ambient lights play much of a role here.
Directing your light down, right on the faces of your guests might not be the best solution – we want to illuminate the interior, and not blind your guests.
The bottom line is, tray ceiling, ambient lights and indirect sources of light are the way to go. Also, LED systems aren’t too bad either.
That’s it I suppose – now you should be able to pull off a great basement remodel, knowing all the possible problems, as well as all the advantages of a beautifully finished basement. Good luck!