Basement Remodel: Considerations Before Starting

Homeowners often look at their basements as the ideal spot for adding for living space to their house.  It makes sense—the space is already there, probably used for little more besides laundry facilities and storage.  Converting it to something else is likely to be less expensive or disruptive than adding on a space somewhere else in the home.  But there can be pitfalls, as well, and it’s important to do some due diligence before you make extensive plans or spend a lot of money.

Typically, utilities are already in place (water, gas, electricity, sewer lines) in a basement, which can be a great cost savings.  Heating and cooling costs are generally less for basement areas, as well.  However, these advantages need to be weighed against the possible pitfalls of opening up this space for additional use.

  • Do ductwork and/or overhead pipes need to be concealed?
  • How much natural light filters through the windows?
  • How much additional lighting may be required to create a warm and comfortable space?
  • How much ventilation is available, and have there ever been any indications of mold, mildew or leaks?

Below-grade spaces are subject to water and moisture.  Water can build up between the slab and foundation wall.  If so, this may be an easy fix, provided its source is something like defective gutters and downspouts.  If the issue is more involved than this, the solution will be, as well.

In any event, a basement remodel should utilize water-resistant materials such as mold-proof PVC moldings, compressed fiberglass wall panels, and moisture-proof drop ceilings.

Lighting can be upgraded with fluorescent overhead fixtures or perimeter lighting like sconces or recessed spotlights.

And don’t overlook safety concerns:  Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are a must, as are extinguishers and fire-resistant materials.  Even with stairs leading to the upper level, easy egress through windows is a not just a precaution, but is dictated by safety codes.

Re-making your basement space into something more inviting and user-friendly can be a rewarding experience, so long as you proceed with caution and with all the available information at your fingertips.  Consult with a licensed, reputable contractor, and be aware that you cannot convert a basement without you or the contractor obtaining permits.

For consultation and assistance with a basement remodel, talk to your local Handyman Matters office.  They can be reached by calling 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME.

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Creating An Entertainment Room

A recent trend in home remodels has been the choice to convert a room into an entertainment space.  Whether it’s the departure of the last child for college or the realization that a certain area of living space has been underutilized for years, more homeowners are indicating a preference for a place they can relax, host guests, play games, or pursue physical fitness.

In many instances, it’s relatively easy to re-purpose a sewing room, den or spare bedroom, depending upon the sort of conversion you have in mind.  New flooring, fresh wall paint and the elimination of some furnishing and decoration may be all that’s required to effect the transformation.  Relocate the television or spring for a larger one (or for an entire entertainment center), and you’ve created a home theater.

Maybe you want a more interactive space—an area in which you can play card or board games, a studio to record music or podcasts (if that’s the case, you might want to get a new USB microphone and microphone desk stand), assemble jigsaw puzzles, or do crafts projects.   Or you might desire a room that can accommodate a ping-pong or pool table.  These are additions that require more thoughtful planning, since they demand more space and more specific lighting concerns.

The same holds true if you’d like the room to include a wet bar, or workout equipment.  A bar and ice-maker require access to water pipes, and heavy gym equipment may demand additional floor support.  Basements are well-suited to both these needs, and are removed enough that noise and activity are less likely to be a distraction to the rest of the house.  At the same time, they may require more effort, time and expense to transform them into something brighter and more welcoming.

In any event, you will achieve your best-desired results by considering how you are most likely to spend your “down” time.  As with diets and New Year’s resolutions, your tendency will be to “dream big,” rather than realistically.  Your aspirations may not match exactly the outcome, leaving you with gymnasium equipment going untested or an expensive billiard table that gathers cobwebs after just one or two outings.

It’s far better to begin by asking yourself, “What do I like to do to relax in my own home?” rather than “What do I think might be fun to try?”  If you’ve had a gym membership, for example, and made good use of it, then a home workout center is a viable option.  If your thought is, “I might work out more, if it was just easier,” then you may be overreaching.  Similarly, if you don’t have guests over regularly but think you might if you just had a more inviting space, you may be headed down the wrong path.  Start hosting company first, and if you find the only thing hampering your efforts is limited space, then a designated new entertainment space will probably see a lot of use.  But if you find it exhausting or otherwise unrewarding, then a sparkling new area dedicated to being sociable is unlikely to change your outlook.

Consider an entertainment room as an extension of the interests you have already, and you are much less likely to be spending money on a remodel that will likely go underused and unappreciated.

For guidance in all home improvement and home remodel projects, remember that you can always call 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code at handymanmatters.com to find the Handyman Matters office nearest you, where qualified craftsmen stand ready to answer your questions and assist with any repair or improvement project you may be considering.