Basement Remodeling Tips

Basement remodeling

Here is a modern day conundrum: You own a great house in a great location, your kids have many friends and the neighbors are outstanding. It's a spot right out of TV land. However, you didn't count on another addition to the family and suddenly that cozy three-bedroom bungalow is looking like more and more like a mobile home.

The obvious answer would be to go house hunting. In a soft real estate market a four-bedroom Cape Cod with a big back yard would be just the answer and you might be able to get it for not much more than the price you could get for your present home. But then you would have to move and maybe this great new house is in an older neighborhood where there are no families and the schools are miles away. This is the time when you stand outside your home and imagine a home addition and your question might be: “Do I go up a story or out the side of the house?”

Going Down?

Many renovators will attest to the fact that renovating “up” is both costly and comes with its own set of problems. Taking the roof off a home requires demolition and, in almost all case, requires the homeowners to relocate during the long process. And think of all the wasted building materials that will inevitably turn up at the landfill.

Now, look at a room addition on the side or back of the home. In wintry parts of the country a new basement or pad would have to be excavated. Although not quite the job of adding another story it still requires machines digging up your yard and enduring a long building process.

However, the answer to your problem might be to renovate the basement. Even if you are squeamish about the idea of being below ground there are some great points to consider:

1. Natural Insulation: Basements below ground level, even unfinished ones, are naturally insulated, holding in warmth in the winter and being cooler in the summer.

2. Noise Factor: Rooms in the basement are quieter. You can have you private space there - home office, home theater - or you can have the kids' play are down there. Either way you will have some quiet space.

3. Warm House: A finished basement with proper heating will make the whole house warmer in the winter without using excess energy.

Beware of Moisture

The downside to being below ground is that moisture is a concern. This is because of the physical properties of cement that, unbeknownst to many, is a porous substance that can transfer water through an osmosis process. In fact studies have shown that in some times of the year an average concrete basement can let in between 15 and 20 gallons of moisture a day. This is 2 to 3 times more than all other areas of the home.

This water invasion is more pronounced if there are cracks in the foundation and these should be assessed. Even if your basement is already finished you can make a quick assessment of the moisture situation: rust on metal implements, peeling paint, a musty odor, mold and mildew in the corners of the wall. If this is the case then the best course of action is to call a waterproofing professional to assess the basement walls. You may have a drainage problem as simple as redoing the gutter system on the roof or, more costly, the need to excavate around the perimeter of the basement and put in a new drainage system.

Other Remodeling Considerations

1. Inside Drainage: In all basements there should be an inside drain even if you do not have a laundry room or bathroom in the space. This is to drain any spillage in case there is break in a pipe upstairs or water gets in the home from outside. Check for a backwater valve to prevent outside water from coming into the basement in the case of a heavy rain or flood.

2. Below-Grade: If you plan to put a bathroom or laundry room in the basement check to see that there is a gravity flow to the sewer lines. This means that the waste water can flow freely out to the main sewer pipe. If not then you have to add a pumping system to get the waste water to the main line.

3. Heating:  A good central home heating system should be able to handle the basement area. If not, you may consider in-floor heating. A study from Europe concludes that there was a drastic decline in moisture levels and insect pests such as mites in homes with basements with heat in the floor. A dehumidifier capability should be included with any central heating option.

4. Layout: All basements have load-bearing walls and many have isolated beams. Try to work around these obstacles as they might be expensive to relocate. Put ductwork, electrical and plumbing in ceiling areas where they are out of the way but easily reached. If the basement has a low ceiling then you are stuck with fitting in the essentials where you can.

5. Insulation: Many basement remodeling contractors prefer rigid polystyrene foam over the fiberglass batts for insulating a basement. In the case of an unexpected moisture problem the batts may get wet and sag whereas the foam will be fine. However, fiberglass batts have a better R-value.

6. Flooring: It is not advisable to put down carpet, hardwood or laminate on bare cement floors. However you can out down a sub floor of OSB sheets with foam backing that will suffice and be another form of basement insulation.

A basement addition can be almost anything you want it to be. All it takes is a bit of planning and the right advice from a qualified professional.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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