Do’s and Don’ts of Finishing a Basement

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DO start with a detailed plan. Measure out the basement and mark any items that cannot be moved, such as a furnace, water heater or pipes. Think about ways you plan to arrange furniture and consider all of the possible uses for the room. Will it be a home theater? Will someone be sleeping down there? Each scenario will require certain amenities and safety requirements.

DON’T plan to finish the entire basement. Doing so will leave you without a storage or utility area where you house holiday decorations, tools, luggage and similar items.

DO get the scoop on building codes. Knowing what your municipality allows in basement remodeling will help you customize a plan that is functional, safe and legal. It pays to follow the chain of command and secure permits while having all work inspected.

DON’T overlook adequate lighting in your plan. A basement is an area of the house that often has limited natural light pouring in. With traditionally small windows, or no windows at all, a basement needs ample lighting in its design scheme. This may include a combination of overhead and task lighting. Ample lighting will help the room feel like part of the house.

DO take into consideration moisture issues in the basement. Many basements are plagued by moisture issues ranging from water seepage to condensation forming on walls. Certain materials may need to be used to mitigate water issues before finishing can take place. It is essential to have a professional assess the basement water issues prior to starting any finishing work.

DON’T simply cover up potential hazards, such as mold or mildew. Have them treated instead. Otherwise, you could have a breeding ground behind drywall that could lead to unsafe conditions in the home.

DO have a radon test. Radon is a hidden killer that can cause lung cancer. Because it occurs naturally in the soil and water surrounding a home and is impossible to detect without a specialized test, many people are unaware of the presence of radon until it is too late. If you have radon, install a radon remediation system.

DON’T limit furniture choices to one type. You may need to be flexible in your furniture choices, even selecting modular pieces, like sectionals, because entryways to basements may have small doorways or obstructions that make adding furniture more challenging.

DO keep the possibility of flooding in mind. Homes that are near waterways or at low elevation may be at risk of flooding. If you have a risk of flooding and decide to move ahead, take precautionary measures; keep electrical wiring up higher and use a more water-resistant flooring material, like tile. Put important electronics and items on shelves so they are not at ground-level.

Finishing a basement is a job that can add a lot of usable space to a home. Go about the project in the right way to keep within budget and have a room that is safe and functional.