Don’t Relocate: Renovate!

The kids are growing bigger by the day (and maybe there’s even more on the way!). Perhaps you’ve just plain outgrown your current square footage and you’re ready to upgrade. Either way, before you hire a realtor and start shopping for a new home, consider expanding upon what you already have beneath your feet.


Finishing your basement can provide the added space you need at a fraction of the cost of relocating. Also, depending on your floorplan and local MLS rules, a finished basement can even add square footage—and value—to your home’s listing, if and when you do decide to sell.

Baby Steps

The first baby step when planning a basement renovation is to determine what you want to turn it into—and whether or not the space can accommodate.

The first step in planning your basement renovation project involves evaluating the space to determine what—if any—kind of project your basement is best suited for.

Moisture levels, adequate ceiling height and overall stability of the construction all affect the potential of your unfinished basement space.

This is where the experience and expertise of a professional can save you a lot of future headaches. 

Slippery When Wet

If your basement requires galoshes every time it rains, you’ll need to fix the drainage and humidity problems before you can proceed with your remodeling project.

If humidity and/or condensation is a problem, a dehumidifier or special drainage channels may need to be installed. Monitoring humidity over a period of time that includes rain will help identify any issues. If the humidity never rises above 60%, chances are you’re in the clear. 

If, however, dark moisture spots form on the walls or floors, or if those surfaces feel damp to the touch, it may be necessary to install a moisture barrier. A general stagnant, muggy feeling in the air means either an in-line or freestanding dehumidifying might be necessary

Since basements are, by definition, below grade, they can be prone to flooding. Evaluating for this potential is especially important if you plan to place expensive electronics, such as computers or TVs, and nice furniture, such as theater seating or a sectional, in your newly finished basement.

It’s not just nature that poses a flooding risk. If you have large sources of water, such as a water heater, washing machine or boiler, are they sitting in pans? Is there a wet room, such as a kitchen or bathroom, over your finished space that could potentially overflow?

A drain with a sump pump goes a long way to protecting basements from flooding. If your basement doesn’t already have this feature, it doesn’t take much for a professional to install one. 

The Low-Down on Ceiling Height

How high (or low) your basement ceilings are will determine many of your design choices, such as whether you go with exposed ductwork or a drywall or drop ceiling.

Ceiling height is fairly easy to evaluate, but it’s one of the make-or-break factors in your basement remodeling project. Ideally, ceilings should allow for eight or nine feet of clearance, however as little as seven feet is still doable. 

Any less than that, though, and your money is better spent on shelves and plastic bins, because your basement isn’t going to be good for much more than storage. 

If plumbing or ductwork obstructions limit ceiling space, they either need to be rerouted or soffits must be constructed to cover them up. Rerouting is by far the more invasive (and expensive) option, so it’s usually best to either install soffits or simply limit your renovation to the unobstructed portions of the basement.

Wall-to-Wall Structural Integrity

It’s critical to examine the basement’s infrastructure while it’s still exposed for problems, including damage. Once the drywall, ceiling and flooring cover everything, repairs become far more difficult and costly.

Next, it’s time to look at walls and floors. If any structural issues are discovered, now is the time to fix them (and be glad you discovered them before they created further problems down the road). 

Issues with load-bearing walls will probably already be obvious just by looking around on the first floor. Is there anywhere that the floors sag, especially in corners? Are there cracks in any tile work indicating shifts in the foundation? Such problems could signal significant issues, which are best addressed before covering up infrastructure with drywall and drop ceiling. 

Next, the overall level and stability of your basement floor needs to be evaluated. Does the floor have any cracks that would indicate shifting? What about high or low spots? In the (hopefully) unlikely event of a flood, it’s critical that floors are leveled properly so that water can drain efficiently. 

Leveling the floor with cement-based floor leveling materials or by laying a subfloor of 2x4s and plywood can correct most imperfections and create the stability necessary for tile or wood flooring. An even better solution would be subfloor panels that have both insulation anda moisture barrier integrated in the system. 

The more effort that goes into making your basement floor flat, dry and insulated, the nicer the finished flooring—and project as a whole—will turn out.

Add it all Up

Wet bar? Water feature? There are many creative options available when finishing your basement.

Once all of these areas have been evaluated, it’s time to determine how open or limited your basement is to the possibilities. Worst-case scenario, if the ceiling is too low, the humidity too high, and the floor too unlevel, a few minor improvements, such as moisture barriers, a dehumidifier and/or a sump, can create the perfect storage room. 

If, however, the ceilings are high, the floor a perfect plane, and the humidity consistently below 60%, there’s practically no limit beyond your imagination to what your basement can become. 

Theaters, gaming zones, “man caves,” and family rooms are the most common uses for finished basements, but see our article on basement finishing ideas  for even more creative projects, such as grottos, speakeasies, and even a luxury hotel-inspired couples’ retreat. 

A finished basement may be the perfect upgrade for many homeowners, but the specialized requirements of such a project require a high degree of expertise. Flooring Masters & Professional Remodelers have extensive experience transforming basements into world-class work, entertainment, and family zones. Our certified installers have the ingenuity and know-how to assist you in discovering your basement’s true potential. Call or email today for a consultation and let our expertise guide your next project.

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