A Finished Basement Done Right
Basements are tricky. These large spaces beg for a new use, but they often become dumping grounds for all of life’s extras. If selling your house in this market isn’t an option but you want extra living space, you might find yourself pacing back and forth in the basement wondering if you can convert it to the room of your dreams. YOU CAN! And we can help.
When you think of a finished basement, you probably think of a room that isn’t finished to the standards of the rooms upstairs. This doesn’t need to be the case. But the challenge of creating an inviting and beautiful space is greater in the basement, where the systems and infrastructure of your house need to be concealed tastefully.
A finished basement definitely adds value to your home, but be sure to check with your insurance agent. Some finished basements may not be insured — and don’t expect a bedroom there to count in the total of bedrooms when you sell the house.
Things to Consider About a Finished Basement…
If you want to add a bathroom in the basement, find your soil stack and see whether the main drain for the house goes underground or runs aboveground.
- Underground Pipes: as long as you put the new bathroom near it, plumbing shouldn’t be much more difficult than upstairs.
- Above-ground Pipes: you will most likely need a grinder and a pump. Water runs down via gravity, so if you want it to go back up after you flush, it takes special equipment.
Try to consolidate the obstructions to one area and then create a space with a lower ceiling. Continue the dropped ceiling to the walls for a natural transition. Boxing in pipes and ducts with soffits and chases tells people that there’s something hidden.Use of drywall is essential too. You’ll need to place access panels where shutoffs, junction boxes or meters are. Make sure to install the drywall ½ inch off the ground and use moisture-resistant drywall. There is a chance that your basements can flood, so this will help.
Fiberglass-faced drywall is even better than paper-faced drywall, because it’s the paper that harbors mold. Be prepared to pay extra for finishing the fiberglass drywall, because the whole face should be skim coated with joint compound.
Finished basements traditionally had ceiling tiles in a grid rather than a drywall ceiling. Most people don’t like this look, so we’re seeing more and more drywall ceilings. If you want easy access to the space above the basement ceiling but want a more interesting look, consider sculptural ceiling tiles.
Because a basement is below the bathrooms, kitchen and other sources of water in the house, when a basement floods it often comes through the ceiling. If you have a drywall ceiling, you’ll need to cut out a section and repair it. If you have ceiling tiles it may be as simple as replacing a tile or two.
Think about how you plan to use your finished basement. If you want to exercise down there, you may need more headroom. Often the height just isn’t there.
Protect your valued new finished basement. If you don’t have a system in place to deal with water intrusion, choose a flooring material that can handle getting wet, such as the tile shown in this basement. If you don’t have a floor drain, get one installed. It’s best to get a drain that ties into the storm drain directly or that drains into a pit with a sump pump in it. If you pay for these systems up front, you won’t be paying to replace furniture, rugs and appliances later.
The most critical component to making a basement a place people want to hang out is good lighting. Here’s another example of a well-planned ceiling layout. The tray ceiling in the middle is surrounded by lower areas that can conceal duct work and piping. It also gave the builder a spot to install indirect lighting. Because the ceilings in a basement are usually lower than elsewhere in the house, light reflected up off the ceiling — like the ambient lighting in this tray ceiling or the sconces on the wall — is better than light directed down.
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