For many homeowners, even new builders, finishing the basement is usually down on the list of remodels for their home. Of course this all changes for some when the family grows and space becomes a precious commodity, or if there is an interest in building a mother-in-law suite or basement apartment. Others see the space for a home office with an entrance door where clients can come in without going through the home.
Subterranean living requires that the basement area is completely waterproofed and that the ventilation will remove moisture in the air on a continuous basis so that mold will not have a chance to embed in the walls. Basement waterproofing and proper preparation before the walls and flooring are installed will save an expensive job down the road. In addition there should be a drain (some older homes do not have these) in case a water heater or pipe joint fails.
Just because most of the pipes are found in the basement doesn't mean that the plumbing will be a piece of cake, especially if a small bathroom and kitchen are in the plans. In many cases the basement may be below grade, which means that the regular sewer line for the home runs by gravity to the main line, but any lower drains may have to be pumped up to street level. Actually, this is not such a big job but a pumping system can cost upwards of $2,000. And even if the discharge from the basement drains will feed into the main sewer this pipe, in many cases, is under the cement and the floor may have to be jack-hammered to reach it.
Hot and cold water pipes can be run along the ceiling and, if necessary, plastic piping can be fit into any tight spots in the wall.
The only major consideration with the electrical system is if the electrical panel can handle the increase in load from outlets, lights and other energy-drawing appliances and fixtures. In many cases older homes require more capacity and a new electrical panel may have to be installed. This is especially true if a baseboard electric heater system is going to be used as the heat source. A radiant infloor electric heat draws less power if the floor below it is insulated with foam preventing the heat from being drawn into the concrete.
Like the plumbing the electrical can be run in the ceiling and then passed through the new walls. Conduit is more malleable than water pipe and the wiring can be run in the same manner as if you were doing a room addition upstairs.
As most basements are heated the expansion of a heat source into the basement will probably only require an extension of the ductwork or, in the case of electric heat, new baseboard heaters. Ductwork can be run down the new walls quite easily and the excess heat cost should only be minimal because an insulated basement will require less energy.
If radiant in-floor pipes using hot water are being installed the heat source can either be the central hot water system or, if there isn't one, a separate water heater. If the latter is installed properly this can be a very efficient heat source that, down the road, can be supplemented by solar-assist heated water.
A very important part of your basement living area, or intended apartment, are the windows. If the home is over 20 years old you may have the old wood frame windows and these may be failing. Because they are so close to the ground the moisture in the ground and humidity in the air affect wood. In addition, sometimes the sills don't get a chance to dry off after a rain or are submerged in snow for a part of the year. These should be changed out to vinyl and, depending on how close to the ground they are, there may be a need for a corrugated-metal window well.
The other consideration is more windows as they can improve the quality in the area with more natural light. This entails planning where you want the windows to and then hiring a someone to drill out the window openings. As this will be going into the foundation it is best to get a professional to do it.
Another entrance into the home through the basement can be great addition to the home as it isolate any mud or snow away from the main living area. Sometimes the ground level is low and a doorway can be dug out by hand. Then main idea here is to make sure the area around has a retaining well and that a drainage pipe can be run into a weeping tile to prevent water from running in the basement.
If the complete basement is underground except for a two feet below the ceiling then an excavator will have to be brought in. In this case the whole area around can be landscaped so that the foundation wall is completely exposed. The retaining walls could run up the edges leaving a gentle slop to the basement entrance. This could work for the partially-covered basement as well.
With the infrastructure plans in place the finishing can now be completed without having to go back and redo something because of a missed pipe or no room in the panel for new wiring. Not paying attention to the basic arteries for the space upsets the time frame of your project and always ends up costing money.Posted by: TrustedPros