Typical Challenges of Basement Renovations and What to Do About Them

Basement renovation

Basement renovations offer excellent value for the money, and add comfortable living space to any home. But homeowners face many different challenges during this home improvement project. Learn what to expect and how to deal with these common challenges the right way.

Challenge 1-Low Beams or Ductwork

Basement living spaces tend to be darker, unless the elevation of your home allows for larger windows or a sliding patio door. For this reason, you want to maximize ceiling height. Low beams or ductwork make this a challenge, as bulkheads tend to block light and cast shadows.

You have several options when dealing with this challenge:

  • Hire a mechanical contractor to rework the layout, moving the lowest sections to the unfinished area of your basement
  • Hire a contractor to replace a low beam with something higher, and often stronger
  • Build out only the sections that require a bulkhead and leave the balance of your ceiling as high as possible

Depending on your budget and the scope of work, one of these options should stand out to you. Plan to spend more than the average ceiling cost in any case, as all three of these options require additional labor and/or materials.

Consider drop ceilings for basements with substantial ductwork, as this type of ceiling provides easy access to mechanical and electrical work between the first floor joists.

Challenge 2-Posts in Awkward Locations

You may be able to work around a post or two using furniture placement and some creativity, but in many cases, post location ruins the flow of your basement living space. They remain part of the structure of your house and cannot be simply removed for looks or interior design.

Posts hold up the weight of your home and builders must install them at certain locations for stability, based on current building codes. Removing them requires a redesign of the support system, and often ends up costing a significant amount of money.

A double beam or specially designed structural beam can be installed in place of posts. This may lower your finished ceiling height and might require more joists and blocking as well. Speak to a general contractor or basement renovation specialist about how to tackle this particular challenge with minimal cost and maximum safety.

Challenge 3-Musty Smells in the Area

Moisture creates various problems in your home, and a musty odor in the basement is a sure sign of moisture issues. Can you detect a musty, dank smell on boxes stored downstairs? How about on sports equipment, clothing, linens and upholstery? Any soft material absorbs moisture and gives off this distinct smell after a certain length of time.

Several steps are required to deal with this problem, and all must be completed before you begin basement renovations in order to eradicate the problem.

  • Remove any items with the smell—they can be thoroughly cleaned and replaced in the basement, but only once the moisture problems have been addressed
  • Locate the source of moisture and determine whether or not this is a persistent or exclusive problem.
  • Schedule an inspection by a mold remediation firm to determine the level of harmful mold in your living space.
  • Follow the direction given by the contractor to repair moisture issues and reduce the risk of further problems in the future.

Tackle this issue before you close off the basement walls with framing and drywall. Remember to include a vapor barrier and the proper type of insulation within those walls in order to maintain a comfortable living space below grade.

Challenge 4-Cracking in the Foundation Walls or Flooring

All foundations crack. Concrete shifts, expanding and contracting with varying temperatures and reacting to water run off and soil conditions. Cracks of a certain size and in certain locations need to be dealt with before moisture problems occur.

Inspect the size and shape of your foundation cracks. If you can fit a pencil in the space, or the cracks extends across a substantial portion of your floor or wall, it's time to call in a foundation repair specialist.

Some cracks present an alligator pattern, while others merely branch off in a fan shape. Pay attention to the condition of the concrete between cracks. Is it holding together? Can you easily chip the concrete away with your fingers? These conditions indicate a breakdown in the form; more cracking will follow.

You may want to consider applying a sealer to the concrete before finishing the basement. This product will not prevent cracking, but may provide another layer of protection against condensation and other conditions that result from foundation cracks.

Remember to inspect the exterior walls as well, paying special attention to areas around your basement windows and any entrance doors. If you detect large cracks on the outer wall, call a professional for an assessment. You may need to plan for excavation. Consider installing a membrane around the foundation or correcting any grading issues that could contribute to basement water problems in the future.

Excavation and foundation repair come with a high price tag, but remember that your entire home sits on this foundation. Cracks can lead to settling and moisture problems that cost much more to repair and create potentially harmful conditions. Repairing foundation cracks before completing your basement renovations makes sense, and helps to protect your home improvement investment as a whole.

You will face many challenges during your basement renovations, including low beams, support posts in the way, musty smells and foundation cracks. Each of these problems need to be addressed before construction on your living space begins, and all repairs should be handled by a seasoned professional for top results. Take the time to plan your basement remodeling project well and you'll finish with a comfortable, safe and well designed space.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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