Finishing a basement is a great way to add to your home’s livable square footage, and it can serve as a major selling point when you put your house on the market.
If you want to begin using that below-grade area confidently for storage, living or entertainment purposes, be aware that finishing a basement is no small project. Basements can be tricky. Any below-grade space is prone to take on water. Plus, working around a furnace, water heater or other mechanicals housed in the basement takes some creativity.
So, before we start hanging drywall, let’s examine your basement and address the concerns you could find.
1. Identify water issues. Start by checking for potential problems. Look for:
a. Pools of water
b. Dripping walls
c. Water stains on walls
d. Cracks in the foundation
e. Check on appliances, such as water heaters and washing machines, and exposed water lines.
f. Try taping squares of plastic sheeting to the floors and walls of the space. After a couple of weeks, if condensation has developed UNDER the plastic, you may need to seal your foundation. Moisture on TOP of the plastic, however, may suggest you need to dehumidify the basement.
Need a solution? Some possibilities include a sump pump, concrete sealer, vapor barriers, and mold-resistant drywall.
2. Check permit requirements.
As with many home improvement projects, a basement renovation may require a permit. Why is this important? Local ordinances are in place to ensure any space you build – or improve – is done correctly and safely. Should you decide to sell your home, you’ll avoid problems with potential buyers and the expense of additional inspections if your space is properly permitted and inspected.
3. Test for radon.
Second only to smoking, elevated levels of radon gas is a leading cause of lung cancer, according to the EPA. If you haven’t tested for radon in two years, it’s time to do it again. Focus the test on the basement area, since radon gas enters the home through the foundation.
Need a solution? Fixing a radon problem is usually easier and less expensive BEFORE the basement is finished, so testing now may help keep expenses in check. Do-it-yourself test kits are commonly found in home improvement stores, or give one of our Home Show experts a call. They're listed at the end of this post.
4. Don’t box in your furnace.
When you’re creating a beautiful new space, it’s tempting to want to cover up the furnace and other unsightly appliances. But be aware of what you’re boxing in so you don’t create a serious danger to everyone in the home. A furnace that’s trapped in a tight space doesn’t have enough fresh air for combustion, and that can create a carbon monoxide poisoning issue. As easy way to hide your furnace is to put a door with a vent on the the furnace room, ensuring air can always flow in and out.
5. And speaking of accessibility, the furnace isn’t the only thing in your basement you want easily accessible.
A basement is the home to most systems – from water shutoff valves to your heat, electric panels and other mechanicals – that keep your home running properly.