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.

Image via Lecybros

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.

Remodeling A Basement? Ask Yourself These Questions

The average cost to remodel a basement now comes in at around $17,000. That means you’ll want to take your time and consider all of your options carefully before undertaking a project of this size and scope.

You will want to ask, and answer, a handful of questions before you start remodeling.

Think about why you will be remodeling your basement:

  • Are you wanting to add a rec room?
  • An additional bedroom?
  • Will the kids be spending more time downstairs? Adults? Both?
  • Is the intent to have more space to entertain guests?

Your answers to these questions will inform the types of changes you want to make.

Basements are by their very nature, dark and cold places, so the challenge in most remodels is to make your space seem warm, open and inviting.

You can go “cozy” by utilizing dark wood in paneling and furniture and by incorporating recessed or subtle lighting, an arrangement that works well if you desire an area for entertaining a few friends or watching movies on a big screen television.

You may want to go in the opposite direction, opting for bright colors, direct lighting and a minimal approach to furnishings if you anticipate the primary function of the room to be for hosting larger get-togethers or creating a kid-friendly zone.

In recent years, there’s been a marked trend towards consolidated families, with aging parents moving into their adult children’s home, but with all parties wanting to maintain distinctly separate living spaces.  Basements can serve this need admirably.  In most instances, it’s relatively easy to install a modest kitchen at one end of a designated living area, with a bedroom and bathroom at the opposite end.

Other questions to think about:

  • Does your basement have its own entrance? Would you like to have one?
  • Does the remodeling plan need to incorporate laundry or storage facilities?
  • Is it possible to include a fireplace in the re-do?
  • Is additional insulation necessary to make year-round occupancy comfortable?
  • Is your current power source (electrical, gas, solar) sufficient to handle the new use of the space, or is an upgrade necessary?

None of these questions are designed to discourage or intimidate would-be remodelers, only to inform.  Once you have a clear idea of the scope of the changes you’d like to make, and how you would like to use your finished space, it’s much easier to proceed.

You’ll have a much more specific idea of the budget required and the length of time the remodel is going to take. Be sure to take a look at our post on the hidden costs of basement remodels to make sure you consider everything.

A basement remodel can be a big job, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult one.  Capable and friendly craftsmen, like the ones at Handyman Matters can provide helpful information, guidance and expertise in giving your home improvement project the best possible outcome.  Call 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME to speak with a Handyman Matters location near you.

Considering the (Hidden) Costs of Finishing a Basement…


The popular concept is that refinishing your basement is a good way to obtain additional living space, as well as increasing your home’s resale value, and this is certainly true.  But before you plunge full-tilt into a remodeling project, it’s important to check carefully for all the possible—and expensive—stumbling blocks that you might not unearth until you are midway through the renovations.  When it comes to home improvement, research is key.  Consider these hidden costs before you begin finishing a basement…

  • How many support pillars are present in your basement?  What kind of remodeling do you have in mind, and will the current structure support the changes you want to make?
  • Window egress.  If your remodel plans include adding a guest or bedroom, ample egress is legally required.  There must be easy escape from these rooms, so if the basement doesn’t already have these, add the cost of installing additional windows to your bottom line.
  • Are the floors level and the walls straight?  How much reconfiguration will be needed to install flooring, paneling, etc. so that it doesn’t warp or shift with time?
  • What potential drainage and ventilation issues might you encounter?  Particularly humid climates may require the addition of a dehumidifier to keep the location dry and usable.
  • How much of the pre-existing materials can be used in the remodel?  How much new materials will be required?

Know what you’re up against before you begin finishing a basement.  When you have the answers to these questions, you’ll have a much clearer idea of how much you need to budget for the home improvement project, and whether the ultimate cost can support your plans.

And remember that Handyman Matters stands ready to assist you with this and with any other remodeling or repair projects around your home.  Contact us at 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code on our website to start your home improvement project’s free estimate!

Preparing Your Home for a Storm

Home Repair

It’s on the weather channel, it’s a storm, and it’s headed your way.  Is your home ready?  Especially when it comes to nature, certain events can seem overwhelming and totally out of your control.  While you may not be able to change the forecast, you can take measures to prepare your house.  Handyman Matters has helpful insights for equipping your home for a storm.

  • Step 1:  Landscape

There should always be a clear path leading from the entrances and exits of your home.  This means pruning trees and removing potentially problematic branches.  It also means laying down some preparatory rock salt (if needed), and removing any potential obstacles.  Additionally, check your gutters and downspouts to see that they’re functioning correctly – you don’t want water build up or any flooding.

  • Step 2: Bunker

You don’t necessarily need a storm shelter, but you and your family do need to find a safe meeting spot within the home.  An ideal safe spot would be on the lowest floor (preferably in the basement), with no windows, and without any shared walls with the outside.  This will be the place where you wait out the storm.

  • Step 3: Stock Up

Turn your safe space into a true bunker by stocking it with the emergency essentials.  Think non-perishable foods; back up essentials like medications, batteries, and first aid; and lots of water.  The ratio is one gallon per day per person.  You also want to stash a change of clothing – layers in case it’s cold – and sturdy shoes.  If you have any animals, remember to keep some of their basics in the room as well: food, leashes, and a carrier.  Lastly, trash bags are a must to keep things from getting too gross.

  • Step 4: Heating

Think about the heat sources in your house if you’re facing cold weather.  More specifically, think about the heating that doesn’t require electricity to function.  If you’re in a rural area, a backup generator may be a great investment for your home so you don’t have to worry.  If you’re in a city, think smaller, less noisy, alternatives. Does your home have a wood burning stove or fireplace?  If so, stock up on wood.  If not, consider getting some battery powered space heaters to store in your safe room.

  • Step 5: Lighting

Anything that does not require electricity will fulfill this need: candles (just have the fire extinguisher nearby), battery powered/solar/crank lanterns or flashlights.  There’s a blackout light that’s especially handy in weather related scenarios because it’s a light that stays plugged in, and only turns on when the power is out.  Place these around your home so you can easily navigate through the dark during a blackout.

  • Step 6: Emergency Gear

The last items to consider keeping in your safe rooms are the ones that may come in handy in inclement conditions.  Chainsaws may be necessary to cut apart fallen trees blocking exits. Shovels for the snow, a fire extinguisher for unexpected fires.  Finally weatherseal tape is great for sealing cracks in your home as they happen during a specifically rough storm.

  • Step 7: Reinforcements

When a storm hits, the last thing you want is a leak in your home.  Reinforce your home by making sure it has a secure roof, sturdy walls, and sealed windows.  If you have a crack – now is the time to fill it.

 

Handyman Matters is here to help you prepare for the everyday and the unexpected.  Don’t wait until the day-of a storm to try and prepare your home, think ahead, and save yourself time and money.  For help weather proofing your house, give us a call 866-FIX-MY-HOME.

 

 

 

 

How to Replace Basement Windows

Installing your own replacement basement windows is a great way to save money, especially when you’re in the process of remodeling your home.  With the right supplies and tools, it is possible to replace a basement window in under ten minutes.

Measure the dimensions of both your old windows and the replacement ones to be certain the new window will align perfectly.  An improperly fitted window can cause a variety of problems.

When removing the old window, use a dry towel or a brush to sweep away any debris that might have settled around the area.  This will help ensure that your new window fits properly and seals to prevent drafts, leaks or any outside moisture from escaping into your home.

  • First, install your replacement basement window’s molding on the inside. Make sure that it’s properly seated so that it stays stable during the next step.
  • Next, install your window and molding from the outside.  Push the window in place from the outside. If you notice a small gap of 0.5 inches (1.27 centimeters) between the molding and the window, don’t be alarmed. This is normal and will happen.
  • At this point, take the window back out and begin adding caulking.  You should start by caulking the windows on the inside, following the instructions that your replacement basement window provides.
  • Then place the window back in the frame. If you need to adjust how the window is situated, use shims to keep it level. Once you’re satisfied with how the window appears on the inside, secure it in with screws in the way your window’s instructions specify.
  • Next, caulk the outside of the window.  Do this to prevent any air or water leaks around the outside of your window.  This can be the difference between a dry and a flooded basement in the summertime.

Saving a few dollars by installing your own basement window and gaining a bit of window installation experience can be more than worth it.  But if that’s more of a challenge than you want to undertake, you can always call 866-FIX-MY-HOME or go to enter your zip code above to find a location nearest you to arrange for a professional to do the job for you.

 

 

 

Value-Added Remodeling Projects

Before you undertake a home remodeling project, there are a few things to consider.

How long do you plan to remain in your home?  How will your remodeling project affect the resale value if you plan to move within the next few years?  The remodeling project that seems wonderful to you may not be considered a value-added project for potential buyers.

Keep within the bounds of your neighborhood.  For example, a $50,000 home theatre is neat to have, but if you live in a $100K-$200K neighborhood, this will not add much to your resale value, as you are outpacing and outpricing the area in which you live.

Similarly, game rooms, saunas, pool and bars generally have much lower resale values, since these aren’t every homeowner’s cup of tea.  If you plan to remain in your home for years to come and want to enjoy such amenities, they can be a great add-on.  If, however, you anticipate moving within two or three years or your career might easily take you to another city, these won’t be great investments.

Home offices, screened porches and refurbished basements are somewhat better choices, but experts advise using caution when undertaking projects such as these.  The return on investment is higher; some of these are partially tax deductible, and trends indicate a greater appeal for these items.  However, the general rule is to stick with the traditional; check with local furniture stores or even local realtors before adding something avant garde or unique.

Decks, fences and bathrooms are better value-added remodeling projects, increasing your home’s appeal and averaging an 80-90% return on investment.  Some of these are costlier undertakings, but compensate by increasing a property’s functionality.

Kitchens and bathrooms are considered the absolute top-of-the-line upgrades, with a return on investment somewhere around the 100-110% level.  Though again, analysts recommend caution.  Don’t outprice your home by installing appliances or high-end materials that far outstrip other homes in the area if there’s a good chance you won’t be staying there long enough to take full advantage of them.

Bottom line, of course, is to go with what your heart desires and what your pocketbook can tolerate.  But it’s always a good idea to proceed with caution and only after having done some careful research.

Source

Practical Remodeling Ideas

With the real estate market still sluggish, homeowners have been forced to think about remodeling to increase the value of their home.  Property upgrades and renovations are some of the best ways to attract qualified buyers, and many can be achieved for $15,000 or less.

The 2009-2010 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report indicated a return to practical, basic renovations, and this trend continues.  Exterior replacement projects are at the top of the ratings.  One reason is that curb appeal has a strong effect on prospective buyers.  Jobs such as replacing a front door, touching up the paint, fixing walkways and even adding better plants greatly increases appeal for potential buyers.

Another trend is toward attic and basement renovations.  A solid way to increase the worth of a home is to increase the amount of livable space.  Remodeling a basement into a bonus room or bedroom is a solid means of accomplishing this.  The Cost vs. Value Reports lists attic bedroom and basement remodels as to of the most popular mid-range projects homeowners are currently undertaking.

Kitchen and bathrooms are always strong selling points and never go out of style as valuable real estate innovations.  Even small changes such as a shower upgrade or upgraded appliances can be a nice touch.  Simple ways to give an old bathroom new life include a coat of paint, new shower curtain, and new sink.

Other possible remodeling plans to consider include adding a sunroom, upgrading the garage, or replacing siding.  These things are key to the success of any seller’s real estate transactions:  Make a great first impression, and invest in projects that add real value for the home buyer.

Improving–and water-proofing–Your Basement

If you’ve been giving some thought to updating or remodeling your basement—particularly as an area that will see more frequent use as, say, a playroom, den or entertainment area, you’ll want to take some precautions before beginning, once in particular:

Check for excessive moisture—and take steps to prevent it.  You can make a simple moisture test to ensure there aren’t hidden water hazards.  Place a piece of cardboard about two feet square on the basement floor with its edges held down by bricks or other heavy objects.  If the cardboard remains dry for several days after a heavy rainfall, you can be confident that you don’t have an underground water hazard.  Make the same test on the walls by taping cardboard to the foundation about two feet above floor level and after a storm, remove it and check to see if the side pressed against the wall has remained dry.

Water proofing of basement walls has been simplified by the development of easy-to-apply paints with a cement base.  They are typically sold in powdered form and can be mixed with water and brushed on.

If your basement walls are bare, cement paint can be applied directly.  But if the wall has previously been painted, then that paint should be scraped off first.  A water-soluble remover will do the job with wall paint.  And muriatic acid, scrubbed on with a brush and rinsed off several times, will remove whitewash.

It is not difficult to apply cement-based paint.  Wet the walls thoroughly with either a brush of spray.  Then apply the waterproofing paint, working from the bottom up.  After the wall has dried thoroughly—in two days or so—add another coat.

 Once the walls are effectively water-proofed, you can begin making more specific plans for transforming your basement into something more appealing.

8 Tips to Help Organize your Home

home-organizationHere are 8 very useful tips on organizing your home. Taking that first step is the most important part of organizing your home. So now let’s get started on step one. This is critical because you can’t get to where you want to go unless you know what that “where” looks like. How do you want this room to function? How do you want to feel when you’re in it? What do you want to do in this room? What is the real purpose of this room?

Tip #1

Get a pad of paper and pen and walk through each room of your home and write down what you see. It is important not to be overwhelmed. Try doing this systematically.

For example, here is what you might see in your home entry way: shoes, unopened newspapers, mail and circulars that are left at your door, keys, pet toys, coats, sweaters and more. Now write down what can be done to eliminate this clutter.

Tip #2- Get into a Routine

Sounds simple doesn’t it – well take it from me it’s one of the hardest tasks to do. As a teacher, I have always found this has helped me “organize” my day at school for lessons planning, staff meetings and have always found it effective – so, guess what? I now do it for organizing the home. For example, with the children if they have left any toys lying around after playing with them I encourage them to put them away in their “tidy box” or on the shelf.

Tip #3 – Organize Storage

All things in the home must have a “Home” that’s one of the things I say to my kids. Why? Because when something is not seen (in the closet) you can get the False Feeling of it’s all organized. On the shelves divide up sweaters, blouses, the clothes you wear now. As for racks – great for shoes.

Tip #4 – Organize your kitchen

Organize you cabinets for plates, Tupperware, guest tableware – separately if possible, if not, separate shelves. Another great (often overlooked) storage facility is the “Dishwasher” – storage and “purpose” rolled into one!

Tip #5 – Organize the Bathrooms

Ideally, if you have the space and children two bathrooms are great. Make sure that shelves for the toothpaste are just the ‘right’ height for the children in their bathroom. In addition, keep no make up or any potentially dangerous articles in the children’s bathroom within reach!

Tip #6 – The master grocery list

It’s been one the greatest time savers in our home. Basically I have a ‘general list’ that includes the ‘basics’ then ‘specifics’ including favorite items that my children would like in the week and then ‘luxuries’ the items that we would like but don’t need.

Tip #7 – Organize the Garage

Start out by making piles, for example: Yard tools, hand tools etc. Begin by clearing off the work bench if you have one. You might want to purchase some storage containers for the things you have in the house you want to save. Label the containers and stack them in the garage. You can buy hooks to hang rakes, shovels, hoses, bicycles and more. Don’t have room? Try using a company that will store a few extra boxes or those seasonal items you don’t always need access to.

Tip #8 – Have a garage sale

After you go through the house and garage, you will end up with many things you no longer want. The most fun way to get rid of these items is by having a garage sale. You will be amazed at the amount of money you can possibly earn and what you don’t sell you can give away or donate.