What You Need to Know Before Finishing a Basement

finishing-a-basementNeed more space? Finishing a basement increases the living space in your home, which can be a huge advantage when the whole family is couped up during the winter months. However, there are a lot of things that homeowners tend to overlook when finishing their basements that really must be done if it is to be a truly successful remodel. You want to protect your investment and make sure that you are creating a useful space that will last and last, so it’s worth it to take your time and do it right the first time.

When it comes to finishing a basement, the additional square footage can increase your living space by as much as 33 percent, on average between 600-800 square feet. While a basement can be a great place to house your laundry appliances, stash extra freezers, pantries and storage, it can be very beneficial to you, your family and the overall value of your home when you choose to have it professionally finished.

Benefits to Finishing a Basement Versus Adding a Room
While there are plenty of other ways to increase living space in your home, finishing a basement will give you the biggest return on your investment. Compared to other popular options, such as adding on a room, creating a loft room or using the space in an attic, finishing a basement truly has the most advantages.

Some of these advantages include:

  • no need to excavate or be concerned with structural loads
  • usually no increased need for heating and cooling
  • stairs are already built-in, unlike attics or loft room additions
  • utilities are already installed and can just be moved or accessed easily

Things to Remember When Finishing a Basement
No home remodeling project is without reason for concern – or at least warning. Converting your basement to increase living space does have its challenges, especially in the northeastern states where cold winters, freezing pipes and leaky basements are all commonplace as the seasons chnage.

Some things to consider when finishing a basement include:

  • natural light is limited so more lamps/lighting will be required
  • basements are subject to moisture and water – this must be addressed
  • overhead ductwork, pipes and bulkheads can present challenges
  • plumbing for basement bathrooms can be tricky

Step One – Control Moisture
Now is the time to get very serious about waterproofing. Hire a professional to ensure that your basement is watertight and properly sealed against cracks, holes and foundation issues before you do any other work. If water appears between the slab and the foundation wall you will need to have your basement professional waterproofed. Additional waterproofing work, including the installation of seamless aluminum gutters to prevent water from pooling up near the home and seeping into the basement, should also be done.

If water is really a problem in your home and in your area, you may need to install a below-slab perimeter drain that leads to a sump pit. Primary and backup pumps are recommended to ensure adequate pumping power during heavy rains and springtime thaws. Make sure that your waterproofing contractor checks for plumbing issues or leaks that could cause damage to your newly increased living space.

Step Two – Insulate Your Space
The basement is one of those areas where insulation is overlooked. Adding insulation to a basement can help to improve the overall efficiency of the entire house. Basement insulation materials work to prevent unwanted air filtration from entering the home, which can affect the overall thermal management of the structure. Speak with a professional insulation installer about the best basement insulation materials for your remodeling project to ensure that you provide your increased living space with adequate protection.

A well-insulated basement will also include insulation around box sills to prevent cold air from coming into the living area. This area must be considered in both new and existing residential construction. Your professional insulation installer should include spray foam insulation in the box sill area to seal against leaks and cracks to improve temperature control. Basement insulation materials should be chosen based upon area of use and R-value requirements or goals.

Step Three – Choosing Your Materials
In addition to picking the best basement insulation materials, you will also need to choose waterproof materials when finishing a basement. Drywall and wood framing are not the best choices for basement remodeling projects. A professional waterproofing company or contractor will suggest that you use waterproof wall panels, moisture-proof ceilings and mold-proof PVC materials to reduce the risk of water damage.

Drop ceilings and underfloor systems that are moisture-proof and water-resistant are also a great choice for finishing a basement. Ask your professional insulation installer about insulated wall panels or other recommendations that can help to boost R-value while providing additional moisture control and waterproofing throughout the project. Most of these panels do not support mold, are designed to resist water vapor, are impact-resistant and non-flammable.

Step Four – Ducts, Beams and Other Important Objects
Ducts, beams, bulkheads, wires, plumbing and other objects are typically found on the ceiling of most basements in the northeastern states. It can be a challenge to work around them, but with a little creativity, you can make them a part of your newly increased living space. Drop ceilings still allow access to these objects, while covering them from view. Another option is to paint the ducts, beams, bulkheads and other objects to make them look better.

Wood framed enclosures similar to bulkheads, which are often called soffits, can also be used. Make sure that you and your contractor pay close attention to the amount of space that these objects take up, as there are building codes and other requirements that could restrict some of the things you want to do. For example, duct enclosures cannot extend more than 6 inches below the minimum 7 foot allowable ceiling height for safety purposes. Make sure you check with your local building department before you get too stuck on any single idea.

Step Five – Decor and Other Additions
When it comes to adding carpet, paint, shelving, dividing walls, lighting and plumbing for bathrooms or other appliances, each basement should be considered on a case-by-case basis. This is why it is important to hire a professional contractor when you are finishing a basement to increase living space. Professional contracts should also be used to install seamless aluminum gutters on the outside of your home to prevent water build-up and to install basement insulation materials to help control temperature.

Bathrooms, kitchens, laundry areas and other common basement features can be tricky, especially when drains need to be made to flow “up” instead of down. When it comes to complex work like this, you will be very happy that you hired a professional contractor to take care of it for you. Finishing a basement can be a pleasure – or a nightmare – depending on how you decide to approach it.

Call Richie’s Insulation Before Finishing a Basement
Richie’s Insulation serves residential and commercial clients throughout the South Coast region, including Southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Contact Richie’s for a free evaluation of your proposed remodeling project before you begin finishing a basement and get a quote on installing basement insulation materials, seamless aluminum gutters and additional professional quality sealing and waterproofing work.